Sometimes as children, we make choices which seem inconsequential at the time, yet mark the beginning of a journey that shapes the whole of our lives. The choice of giving up youth hockey in favor of playing guitar in garage bands and working on his buddies’ instruments after moving to sunny California from Detroit marked this turning point for an 11 year old Gene Baker.
Just a few years later and at only 20 years old, Gene had built a fully functional guitar repair shop in his parents’ garage, created his own lead guitar instructional book, spent his free time teaching lessons, and continued to play guitar in several local bands.
Building and selling his own “Mean Gene” custom guitars began a series of events which soon found Gene apprenticing under fabled luthier Roger Giffin, head of Gibson’s west coast Custom Shop in those days, so impressed was he with Gene’s work.
With two years under Roger, his passion fully ignited, and his skills finely honed, Gene moved to the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, California in 1993. Known as the “Golden Age” of the Fender Custom Shop, there Gene was mentored by the likes of George Amicay, Jay Black, Larry Brooks, Jason Davis, John English, Kenny Gin, Alan Hamel, Yasuhiko Iwanade, Mark Kendrick, Todd Krause, Alex Perez, Steve Stern, Fred Stuart, John Suhr, and John Page, some of which he later joined together with in other ventures.
Gene quickly rose to the position of Senior Master Builder at Fender. Some highlights include his close collaborations with Robben Ford and Jeff Rivera, while others include the first contemporary carved Strats, the reissue of mid-late 60’s large headstock Strats, the production of round-lam necks, twelve strings, double necks, bajo sextos, the Showmaster Strats, and the John Jorgenson signature model.
The next decade saw Gene overseeing production, master building, and partnering with companies like Ernie Ball, D’Angelico, and others. But in 2003 Gene made yet another decision which was to bring into focus his lasting and true calling – the decision to craft his own fully custom guitars and offer them to players from all walks of life. At the summit of his skills as a master builder, he wanted to offer players, without limitation, the very finest in what could be accomplished with the electric guitar.
Drawing on his own experience hand building some of the most storied guitar models in history and having been, in many cases, present at their genesis, Gene created b3 Guitars. The Legacy line features two of the most iconic silhouettes in guitar history, the Phoenix and SL. The UltraModern offers up a familiar platform and blends flawless playability with endless tonal versatility. The Ringmaster line features four models based on a modern and completely contemporary design.
Having gone through several iterations and business models along his journey and having overcome the challenges often faced by many small independent builders, Gene is proud to announce the reformation of b3 Guitars, thanks in part to the addition of his new partner and owner, Mike Rinkenberger.
Bringing more than 25 years of MI industry acumen to the partnership, Mike began his career at the ripe age of 15 and has thrived in a variety of progressively prominent positions. This includes key accounts buyer of a leading national retailer and manager of two highly respected Illinois fretted instrument dealers. He brings an experienced, diverse, and well-rounded skill set to the table and is truly passionate about and well versed in all things guitar, bass, amps, and rock n’ roll. Having seen nearly everything there is to see in the world of boutique instruments, Mike jumped at the opportunity to partner with Gene and bring these guitars to the public’s eye in a very big way, venturing past the 40th anniversary of Gene’s guitar building career with a boom.
“There are some amazing things happening in the boutique guitar world and b3 is going to be a big part of that,” said Mike. “We’re bringing something truly special to the table; inspired and unique hand built instruments of the finest quality, each built to order for passionate and discerning players alike.”
“Building these instruments, each one of them unique to the player I’m building it for, is really all I want to do,” Gene said. “And now I can finally do it the way I‘ve always wanted to! Be good humans, live, love, and play more guitar! Life is too short not to!”
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