History 1980’s

History – The 1980’s


USA – Tim Donahue designs & builds his first 6-string fretless guitar.

Tim Donahue Custom Fretless

Tim Donahue Custom Fretless

France – Vigier makes the first commercially available fretless guitar with Delta Metal fingerboard. This was part of the Arpège series.


USA, Spring 1981 – Jim Kimsey wilfully unfrets a Supro ‘Super model 3/4 size guitar.

May – Andy Summers features on the cover of Guitar World magazine with his Custom Fretless Hamer.

andy summers fretless hammer guitar world may 1981

Rick Nielson gets Hamer to build him a Five neck guitar, one of which is fretless.(The neck on the right is fretless)

hammer five neck

Hamer Five Neck


April – Recording of Frank Zappa, changing guitar strings, chatting with roadies, mentions a black Fretless Fender Strat, then plays it, and tries the new Floyd Rose during rehearsals in the UMRK 20th April.


Quote from a 1984 film – “There’s no such thing as a fretless guitar. You’re bloody making it up. Get out.” – Nigel Tufnel, This Is Spinal Tap.

Adrian Belew – uses fretless guitar on the King Crimson album “Three Of A Perfect Pair”, track; “Sleepless”


Throughout 1985-1986 Tim Donahue’s solo promotional videos “Image Music” & “Watching A Movie” were on medium rotation on the VH-1 channel (MTV) in the USA, exposing fretless guitar to a country wide audience for the first time.


Japan – The Selva Guitar company licence one of Tim Donahue’s designs and produce the first production fretless guitar; the Selva Tim Donahue Model. Tim also produces the first ever fretless guitar tutorial book, published in full, in Unfretted.com’s Masterclass section. His vinyl album “The Fifth Season” is released becoming the first totally fretless release featuring fretless guitar, fretless guitar synth, fretless acoustic and fretless harp guitar.


May – Guitar Player feature: Tim Donahue, Pioneering Fretless Guitar. Pages 1 to 4, thanks to WolfV11

Tim Donahue Guitar Player 1

Tim Donahue Guitar Player 2

Tim Donahue Guitar Player 3

Tim Donahue Guitar Player 4


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