2014 - Wandré Expo Cavriago

Mai 2014 - Wandré-Event in Cavriago

From Marco Ballestri came the news that a large Wandré exhibition will be held in Cavriago in May. However, not in the former company, but in a closed furniture factory not far from it. More than 100 guitars, a tour of the former factory, lectures and musical events awaited the fans. So a most welcome occasion for a trip to Italy, which we started from Madrid by car.

Also Heinz Rebellius, Trevor Wilkinson, Willy Davoli and many more followed this Wandré-Lockruf. And it was impressive: on all walls, even on the workbenches and in stands, there was an incredible collection of these ingenious objects to marvel at. In addition, various art objects by the master, Antonio "Wandré" Pioli, who after his bankruptcy at the end of the 1960s devoted himself exclusively to art itself and even became a member of the FLUXUS Circle.

Fluxus is an art movement founded by George Maciunas, in which it is not the work of art that counts, but the creative idea. After Dadaism, Fluxus was the second elementary attack on the work of art in the conventional sense, which was negated and considered a bourgeois fetish.

Fluxus was significantly influenced by renowned avant-garde artists, the most famous of which were John Cage and Joseph Beuys. Fluxus was simultaneously a form of action art, a movement among artists against elitist high art, and the attempt to create new collective forms of life. More in Wikipedia ...

Here a few people ...

Cavriago is a small village in Reggio Emilia, between Parma and Modena, with a nice square and a good osteria, where Mr. Pioli often dined. Reggio Emilia is the original province of the cooperatives (as well as the COOP supermarkets), so politically it is very "left-wing". And Pioli was also a communist-oriented person, who gave his employees a lot of freedom both in assembling and painting. He always treated his people well, also with the lovable and praiseworthy aim that they could feel at least a little bit like "artists" in their work. That already says a lot!

The first thing he did was to have this round factory built, with a cylindrical rain drain of at least one meter in diameter in the middle of the roof. Apart from that, there were hardly any walls inside so that the workers could communicate and see each other.

Here the old factory, or what is left of it ...

Gianfranco Borghi

The "old" painter Gianfranco Borghi was also present. At that time 74 years young at the exhibition, he is still totally fit today, six years later. And that after all the paint fumes he may have inhaled! You can see this "burst" effect on many Wandré guitars. Gianfranco achieved this effect by hanging the bodies under the top and then using the soot from a burning candle to create this "marbling burst". This is truly unique!


And then they all came, fans, collectors and many former employees.

All these sometimes crazy creations, which were created over the ten years of the company's existence. After all, about thirty-five thousand instruments were produced during these years!

My "favorite" model, the WAID! This is such a different, very feminine aesthetic. See here my shy adaptation in the lower right corner!
And another favorite, the model "Scarabeo", also called "lucky beetle" or "pill-popper" as an insect.

And more creations ...

Marco absolutely wanted my "adaptations" there. They also caused quite a stir as ovations, and recently a Frenchman offered me quite good money for the green "Wandrella".

Otherwise, lectures and evening music ...

And here we come to Wandrés artistic work ...

There he is buried in the beautiful cemetery of Cavriago.

A Wandré speech

Here is a lecture "Wandré and Italian guitars from my point of view", which I gave on one of these days:

Here is a lecture "Wandré and Italian guitars I don't have much to tell. It's all in Marco's Ballestri's book. But I am a Wandré fan, and I would like to add a few little things from my point of view. So first of all: We all wouldn't have come together here if we didn't share the same devotion to his creations. And this includes one very important fact: Wandré's instruments sound very good and can also be played well - if you have adjusted them correctly. And we all know that adjusting these creations is not without problems. But when the technology finally works, you can enjoy Pioli's design all the more. You play something that sounds great and individual, and you find yourself equally at ease on an art object.

First of all: Some people would like to celebrate Wandré in general as a figurehead for Italian guitar design. In my opinion this is absolutely wrong, because Wandré is simply not a synonym for "Italian" guitars. In my opinion the Italian companies EKO, Cruccianelli, Bartolini, Benelli, Galanti etc. stand for it. All these guitars, which were produced in the south near Recanati in orders of hundreds of thousands. That was a different construction site.

Willy Davoli once told me that his father was fascinated by Pioli's ideas and wanted to use them to enhance his brand name Krundaal even more. And he was enthusiastic enough to support his ideas financially. Let's have a look at a bikini guitar! To make all its components, you need a lot of really expensive tools and molds. This metal pickguard housing alone for pickups and controls costs a fortune. And this speaker unit with the metal grille cover and the whole internal structure of the amplifier. All of this has to be pressed and punched with expensive metal molds. my view", which I have given my best on one of these days:

Bass tailpiece: super brilliant! The material is the same D-profile that is used for the necks. Cut diagonally to length, then four holes for the ball ends to insert and four slots for the strings to pass through, and the tailpiece is ready. And that looks very aesthetic!

Note also the slotted window head plate of the WAID bass! On the backside underneath is a rectangular aluminum plate welded on, which holds the machine heads in its four holes. And the headstock, which contains these two slightly offset cut-outs from which the strings emerge: ingenious design! Also the volume knob, which is located at the left end of the aluminium D-profile - really cool!

For comparison, let us take Recanti mass-produced goods vs. Wandé.  First of all the pickups: Pretty much all Recanti" pickups were pretty much junk. In contrast, the first Meazzi pickups used by Wandré, for example, are a difference like day and night. If you take a Meazzi pickup apart, you'll find that it's practically the same design as a Gibson P-90. They just sound good. And what more do you want?

The construction of the quasi continuous neck and the simultaneous installation of a pickup on the neck was only possible due to the equally ingenious, especially flat construction of the Davoli pickups that were soon used. The coil body with Alnico magnets is located in a U-shaped base plate, which amplifies the magnetic field very well. This sheet metal also has two small knobs on both narrow sides, which snap into the pickup cap under pressure. "The Italian is`a Fox!", my friend Pierro Terracina once said.

The tremolo: absolutely simple and ingenious ... and technically perfect. The two needle tip bearing system is the most frictionless method! By the way, there is another Italian tremolo with the same bearing system that you find on some Zerosette JG guitars. Not exactly the same, but once again it's Italian cunning, and once again the Zerosette pickups are practically useless. I rebuilt the tremolo and took the opportunity to slightly change a few small spots on the lever mounting. And for Wandré guitars where the tremolo lever is lost, I found a solution to fix this and even mount a better lever than the original.

Wandré - or how should I say "Pioli" had nothing to do with this Recanati industry. Cavriago is located in northern Italy. And for me, the most fascinating thing about Wandré is that this man has gone his own way in a completely different place. And that at a time when people were not necessarily emulating possible role models. Whenever I deal with Wandrés, it seems to me as if someone developed the electric guitar in parallel on another planet. This can be seen in his designs and body shapes as well as in the use of aluminum and plywood and in the special originality with which he composed details.

However it may have come about that he came up with the idea of building guitars, I can imagine that Pioli, as a motorcyclist, was the first to think of it: "A motorcycle is a sturdy construction made of metal. So why not build a guitar mainly out of metal?"

I think a main element of his ideas is exactly the fact that he practically didn't use wood. Wood always works (opposite of the officials), splinters in its fiber structure, breaks and holds threaded holes only poorly. Aluminium, on the other hand, has no essential structure (at best in the direction in which the profile material is drawn), yet it is very rigid (more rigid than wood of the same quantity), it can be welded, machined (sawing, milling), drilled, threaded, bent, bent and inexpensively surface treated, i.e. polished and anodized and today even galvanically refined, i.e. nickel-plated, chrome-plated or gold-plated.

In addition, there is the certain simplicity! The guitar must be easy to use. Not a hundred knobs and switches. A guitar actually only has a maximum of four relevant sounds that can be extracted from the construction and the pickups, and they must be "clack-klack" retrievable.

Wandré would certainly not have called himself a "guitar maker". He was someone (as I see myself) whose goal was to create products ready for serial production (even if a certain individuality was possible through the paint job). But since Pioli was an artist as well as a developer and designer, he farsightedly gave his employees enough freedom for their own ideas. This applies to various color effects in the painting of the instruments, as well as the choice of which components are mounted on certain instruments. In this way, he simultaneously gave his employees the feeling of being a bit of an artist themselves. Design is also art! Design means creating something with a visual, visual value that goes beyond the practical.

Pioli certainly started with the central element of all his guitars, namely the aluminum neck, which in the beginning usually goes all the way to the bridge. After all, Pioli's customers are happy to know that he obtained his D-profile from sources in aircraft construction - a particularly tight alloy. He then screwed the quite thick fingerboard onto the profile. All screws are located underneath the fingerboard inlays.

Conservatism of the clientele - something I have been annoyed about for many years: Nevertheless it is hardly out of question that the use of aluminum has reduced the sales success. Musicians are accustomed to wood - already from acoustic stringed instruments. Every collector of Wandré guitars will agree with me that nowadays a well-preserved model is hardly available for less than € 2.000. In my opinion this is reasonable and corresponds to the value of such an instrument.

Here again the book by Marco Ballestri:

a tastefull musician ...


Vintage Story

Or: Art is the religion of freedom

Wandre Rock Oval - By Heinz Rebellius

If you define the term "vintage" with "old & expensive", then there are only a handful of guitars that were able to break into the phalanx of the big American manufacturers. And if they did, then mostly only because well-known musicians had made use of them. A Framus Attila Zoller is certainly one of them, as is the Höfner 510 bass. But the fact that an Italian guitar can be found at the top of the lists of guitar collectors is more than interesting. Especially since this guitar - a Wandre Rock Oval - has been pleasantly remembered in the past not as a musical instrument, but as a design object. It's not for nothing that the American magazine Guitar Player named the Wandre Rock Oval the "flashiest and weirdest guitar of all time" a few years ago.


Get out of the way!

Antonio Pioli was born on June 6, 1926 in Cavriago in the Reggio Emilia region, somewhere in the countryside between Parma and Bologna. From childhood he had worked in the workshop of his father Roberto. Roberto seemed to have been an impatient man, constantly asking little Antonio to stay out of his way. "Vai indietro!" becomes "Va'ndre..." in the Emilian dialect of this region. - and already Antonio had his nickname gone. The tranquil life of the Piolis changed abruptly with the 2nd World War, in which Cavriago was dominated to a great extent by fascists. Just 14 years old, Antonio joined the resistance movement. It was here that he first began to use his craft skills creatively, making pointed objects out of strong sheet metal  that were thrown into the streets at night to destroy the tires of fascist convoys. After the war, he worked for many years as a bricklayer and construction manager, and it was not until the late 1950s that he began to devote himself to art and the construction of guitars.


Wandre, as he called himself for a long time, was one of the few Italian guitar builders of that time who did not learn to build guitars due to inheritance. He decided to reinvent guitars of his own free will, almost out of a pure artistic need, questioning old concepts and dreaming up new ones. His maxim "art is the religion of freedom" ran through his work, as well as his life, from then on. Wandre began his collaboration with Italy's most famous manufacturers in the 1950s, especially Athos Davoli, whose large, trapezoidal pickups can be found on almost all Wandre guitars. Wandre had set up his own production in his hometown of Cavriago in 1959 - not in a normal factory building, of course, but in an innovative, modern building that had the roundish shape of a doughnut and whose inner wall was made entirely of windows that looked out onto a small garden watered by a rainwater collection system.


It was here that the 35,000 or so instruments that were exported all over the world in the 1950s and 1960s were made, most of them, interestingly, to the Netherlands and Argentina. Wandre built both under his own name, but also for his distributors' own brands, which is why there is quite a bit of confusion surrounding his instruments. Wandre guitars have appeared, for example, under the labels Davoli (Italy), Framez (by Meazzi, Italy), Noble (USA), Orpheum (USA), Dallas (England), and others. Adding to the general confusion was the fact that the same model could have had as many as five different model names....


Rock Oval

Virtually all guitars produced by Wandre are characterized by a variety of shapes, finishes, unusual electrical features, unusual materials, and innovative construction methods. Wandre's production had only one constant - that there was no constant! Except for one, perhaps: The necks of the instruments were usually a construction of an aluminum rail with a plastic or fiberglass back. Most of his guitars were hollowbody types, the bulk had plastic or plywood bodies, although he also experimented with fiberglass - probably inspired by the Supro guitars of the American manufacturer Valco.


The Rock Oval, possibly the flagship of Wandre's lab, sums up all the qualities that a typical Wandre guitar brings to the table!  It is not for nothing that this guitar was often put in the hands of the rich and beautiful of the 60s and 70s during photo shoots. A good example is also provided by the French artist Pascal Colrat, who in his interpretation of the famous painting of Marianne by Eugáne Delacroix (1830), that symbolic figure of the French Revolution, just pressed his Marianne a rock oval in the beautiful hand. As crazy as this guitar looks at first glance, it is clearly identifiable in many of its characteristics as a typical Wandre - with characteristics that many Wandres had. For example, these fingerboard inlays, which look like mysterious signs, were part of the standard equipment of the Wandre program. The asymmetrical oval in the third fret bears the Wandre logo, the fifth fret brings an African-looking image of a lion (the emblem of Cavriago), in the seventh is a stylized papyrus scroll with the model name, in the ninth a kind of pitted rectangle, in the twelfth fret something like a propeller, in the fifteenth a crown, in which here - for whatever reason - is written "Export".

The Rock Oval is a semi-acoustic guitar with a hollow body made of plywood that narrows at the sides, making the guitar look like a solidbody. An arrangement of blues, reds, yellows and blacks interwoven with gold glitter dust represents the unusually timeless-looking finish. The aluminum neck is bolted to this rather large body, just as the angled headstock is bolted to the side of the neck - as is almost always the case with Wandre, an aluminum frame with a rosewood centerpiece. The two Davoli pickups are mounted in the angular, "floating" pickguard and the strings run over a bridge that was very innovative for the time, offering adjustments not only for string height but also for octave purity. The regulator unit is a special feast for the eyes, colorful knobs on a raised chrome-plated plane. The presence of a 6.3mm jack indicates that this Rock Oval is not the first generation of this model, but the second - probably even the third, which does not appear in any documents, but its features are not entirely the same as the first two. The guitar was described in the catalog with a "deep cutaway" - which still seems moderately expressed, because in principle there is no cutaway at all, as the lower body part was simply amputated and sacrificed to the design. The Rock Oval was built from about 1960 to 1966.

Despite its unusual appearance, the Rock Oval is very easy to play - provided you have it wrapped around your neck! The neck has a strong, slightly V-shaped profile, the string action is perfect and the sound is full, round and musical.


Wandre away!

Yet Wandre guitars are extremely rarely seen on stages, Buddy Miller is one of the few celebrities who use Wandres. This reclusiveness has not only to do with the fact that these guitars look so extremely different, but also that just not that many have been built. About 35,000 !!! Wandre Pioli hung up the guitar business at the end of the 60s, just before the Japanese invasion turned the guitar market upside down. In 1970, he sold his round factory and turned his attention to a new field of activity: the design and manufacture of artistic leather clothing. Then, in the late '80s, Wandre focused on body art as a member of the Fluxus circle - a modern kind of a performance in which he played his body like a musical instrument.... At the same time, he opened a gallery and traveled around the world to meet artists and organize exhibitions. Then, quieter in his old age, he settled back in Cavriago - surrounded by his own and other people's works of art. The man whose life as a literally free-creating artist began as a partisan in the Italian mountains and led him through a career as a bricklayer, civil engineer, guitar maker, designer of leather clothing to modern performance artist and gallery owner, died in his hometown in 2004 at the age of 78. The friends of his guitars are left with his works as a guitar builder as a souvenir, of course, but unfortunately they appear in the trade only from time to time - and if so, then at high prices. The Rock Oval is estimated by connoisseurs to have a collector's value of at least 10,000 €, our vintage expert and Wandre maniac Scott Freilich from Buffalo/NY said he had already seen Rock Ovals offered for more than 15,000 $.

It would take a complete book to cover the full range of Wandre Pioli's work, a book that many would probably be eager to see come out.


Many thanks to Mike Christmann for making Wandre Rock Oval available to us.

At an art exhibition in Paris there were two paintings side by side in the matter of "French Revolution": Once a war painting, in the middle a half exposed symbol woman "Marianne" with the revolution flag in the right and a bayonet in the left hand. And as a modern variant, the photo of a very attractive "Marianne", also half exposed and with the revolutionary flag, but instead of the bayonet a Wandré oval in front of her in the right! If that is not a sign!

Finally my Wandré "Polyphon"

Just found this one: Adriano Celentano with Rock Oval