Started in Detroit but since relocated to the Glass City, Reverend Guitars have been pleasing the ears of concert goers since the late nineties. Learn a little more about Toledo’s six-stringed holiness.
The road to Toledo
Joe Naylor, originally from Ann Arbor, started Reverend Guitars in a garage behind a bicycle shop in Detroit in the late nineties. The company has since moved to Toledo, where it’s run by the husband/wife team of Ken and Penny Haas, with Naylor still providing all the design work.
“In 2010, the opportunity presented itself for Penny and I to buy the company from Joe,” Ken Haas said. “That was when Penny came on full-time. Penny and I have been running the company ever since.”
“We moved the company to Livonia, first,” Penny Haas, company COO and Toledo native, said, “and we started hiring more people as we were expanding but the people we were hiring were all from Toledo.”
“Initially, we kept the company up there to be close to Joe,” Ken Haas said. “When our lease was up, we needed more space and looked all over the area until we found this building. We had about four people coming up from Toledo already, so it just made sense to move the company here.”
From humble beginnings
Naylor’s background in industrial design as well as his years of experience as a vintage guitar repairman and luthier enabled him to design and build unique guitars. Pushing instrument design boundaries, Reverend’s Airsonic HC sports radically thinner wings and thru-body f-holes for intense resonation, while a thick center ridge establishes solid sustain. As well, each instrument’s onboard electronics are the highest quality, including the patented Railhammer pickup.
Ken Haas stumbled upon one of Naylor’s creations, a used Commando that Haas still owns, in a music store in Novi, Michigan in 1998.
“I just thought it was cool looking,” Haas remembers, “then I saw that it said Eastpointe, Michigan on it. I asked the people that ran the store about it, but they didn’t know much. Back then, you couldn’t just Google ‘Reverend
Guitars.’ I had to ask people and do some research.”
Haas eventually tracked down Joe Naylor. The two became friends, Naylor bringing Haas, who was then selling automotive parts and playing in bands, with him to guitar trade shows.
“I started working for him part-time, taking his guitars to trade shows, like the Dallas Guitar Festival,” Haas said. “I sold some guitars to several notable people and after doing that for a few years, it turned into a full-time job for me as the sales director. That was when the company was in Warren.”
Playing to the future
Since those beginnings, the company has designed and produced signature guitars and basses for a diverse roster of talented musicians including Mike Watt of The Stooges, Kyle Shutt of The Sword, Reeves Gabrels of The Cure, Rick Vito of Fleetwood Mac, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, to name a few.
Their instruments are used by a vast array of artists from all genres, including Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Chris Funk of The Decemberists, Elliot Easton of The Cars, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, Billy Joel’s guitarist, Russell Javors, as well as local talent such as Josh Canode of Convictions and Ryland Oehlers of Citizen (check out their website for a complete list).
Today, Reverend Guitars are designed and built at the Circle R Ranch in Toledo. All the guitars are manufactured by a boutique guitar manufacturer, Mirr Music, in South Korea. Joe Naylor still designs the company’s instruments, while Ken and Penny Haas handle the business side of things.
To check out video demos of new and prototype guitars, visit reverendguitars.com.