Syracuse’s Dan Dishaw hopes new guitar line takes a Great White leap

As he prepared for his last semester at SUNY Potsdam last winter, Peter Dishaw pitched a new venture to his father.

Why not start building custom guitars in the 3,400-square-foot shop behind the family home on Bellevue Avenue in Syracuse, where the elder Dishaw for more than 20 years has made billiard cues of such acclaim that one of them is on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution?

Dan Dishaw was no stranger to the musical instrument. The Syracuse native, 60, did service work on guitars, keyboards and amplifiers for Gerber Music in Syracuse and became an authorized technician who worked for himself when that store closed in 1982.

Building guitars merged those worlds. He could work with wood for the guitar bodies and electronics for their sound.

Besides, he says, in his time spent servicing musical equipment and running his Custom Cues business,  “I got to know a lot of collectors and performers.”

One of those collectors was Jay Helfert, a pool player of some note from California. And one of Helfert’s friends was fellow Californian Kendall.

“He e-mailed me and said, ‘There’s a master cue-maker guy who’s interested in working with you,” recalls Kendall. “I went on (Dishaw’s) website and liked what I saw.” Beginning in January, Dishaw and Kendall traded more than 20 e-mails, specifying just what Kendall wanted in his electric guitars.

“He asked a lot of questions. I asked a lot of questions. I answered all of his, and he answered all of mine,” Kendall says. The result is three guitars: a white one (for Great White, says Dishaw), a gray one and a golden one the builder calls tobacco sunburst. Great White is in Syracuse to play at the Inner Harbor on Wednesday night. Dishaw says he’ll pick up the musician that morning and bring him to the shop for his first look at the guitars. “I’ll just pick them up and kind of noodle,” Kendall says. “I’ll grab it and play some chords and listen for tone.” It’ll be a personal experience. “When I play certain guitars, like a Strat(ocaster) or Gibson, it’s like the guitar makes me write songs a certain way,” Kendall says. “The tone of a guitar will make me write a piece of music a certain way.”Kendall says he’ll know if he likes Dishaw’s work in a matter of five minutes or so. “In that amount of time I’ll be able to tell if it’s musical or not,” he says. If it’s musical, expect the guitar to make its debut that night at the Inner Harbor.

Dishaw says he’ll give two of the guitars to Kendall if he likes them, in exchange for his endorsement. The two will be worth about $7,000, Dishaw says. “We’ll come up with a business model,” Dishaw says. “I’ll make a series of guitars and sell them, and he’ll get a percentage. “I don’t think I can buy advertising that would be worth as much as his name attached,” says Dishaw, who’s also in the process of building guitars for Syracuse native Joe Jewell, who lives and performs in Los Angeles, and of doing guitar restoration work for Spyro Gyra’s original guitarist, Chet Catallo.

Kendall says he’s worked with the Kramer and TTM guitar companies in the past but is open to a new deal.“Absolutely,” he says. “If the quality and everything is what I like, I’ll go to the wall for the guy. I still do interviews with guitar magazines. We tour in Europe. Maybe I can get people interested, and he can move guitars.”

Build it and they will come!

What: Syracusan Dan Dishaw, known for his custom billiard cues, has started a line of guitars.
Where: Dishaw and his son, Peter, work in the shop Dan constructed behind the family home.
Connection: Dishaw has three guitars constructed to the specifications of Great White lead guitarist Mark Kendall. Kendall will visit the shop Wednesday to see the guitars for the first time.
Online: Dishaw’s website is:

Mark Bialczak can be reached at 315-470-2175 or

He posts frequently at

Published by Dan

Manufacture of Fine Billiard Cues, Custom Guitars/Basses, Restoration work on most string Instruments, DanBuilt Cases, the ultimate in road case protection.

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