Paul Reed Smith… Treasure of the Chesapeake Region

Paul Reed Smith and the Bay Bridge… two treasures of the DMV. The Bay Bridge changed the economic development of the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Paul Reed Smith redefined guitar making.

Kent Island Maryland is the landing spot of the Bay Bridge. If you drive from Washington DC to the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the Bay Bridge, you will come to Kent Island. If you took the first exit, to Stephensville MD, in 3 minutes you would arrive at the Paul Reed Smith. PRS Guitar Factory.

If you’re like me, or more accurately like I was a year ago… you never heard of PRS. But if you are a devotee of guitars, guitar players, and music… especially electric guitars… Paul Reed Smith is a legend.  If you are one of the other two leading US manufacturers of electric guitars, if you are Fender, founded in 1946 or Gibson, founded in 1902, you wish you never heard of the guy. Paul Reed Smith has been opening up a can of WhoopSss on his competition since

Some background, Mr. Cranky, started playing guitar in 1963, I started with a Spanish Classical Guitar and moved to Electric Guitar and finally playing Bass guitar. I played in “Bands” from 3rd grade until I was a sophomore in High School (band’s you probably never heard of… The Casuals, Rest In Peace, RIP, Concrete Banana, and Concrete). I put my Guitars down and moved on to sports, girls and then business. But a few years ago I walked into Pawn Shop and saw an old 1986 Guild D40 Acoustic Guitar. I picked it up, played it, loved it, bought it.

A year later, I looked for an additional Guitar and purchased the iconic folk guitar, a slightly used Martin D28. A few months later I was in Memphis and I went on a tour of the Gibson Factory and thought… maybe I’d want a Gibson Electric Guitar. But I didn’t know much about electric guitars. I hadn’t played one in 40 years. So before buying a Gibson, I did what I do when I investigate Startup Execs… I did a little google search.  I was surprised to find that there was a company making great guitars just 50 miles from my home.

I signed up and went on the PRS Guitar Factory Tour (if you get a chance… do the tour! see tour info here). And I was blown away by the craftsmanship and the artisans producing the product. I saw the folks on the factory floor had pride in their work. They were dedicated to being the best. I was blown away by the sheer art of the product. I felt like I was in the workshop of a modern Stradivarius.

During the tour, the guide filled in the group on the origins of the company. Paul Reed Smith started as a Luthier, a person who builds and/or repairs guitars.  He began working out of his bedroom in Bowie Md, eventually moving his shop to his Bedroom in Annapolis. One day in 1985, Carlos Santana was playing at Merryweather Post Pavillion in Columbia Md. Paul brought one of his homemade guitars and convinced a roadie to bring the guitar back to Carlos. Carlos was impressed, invited Paul back into his backstage room at the concert and the rest is history (see more on the founding and background of the company here). PRS Guitars was born.

Just take a look at examples of the work PRS work product.

These things play as well as they look. That’s why some of the world’s greatest guitarists like, Carlos Santana, John Mayer, and Mark Tremonti (lead guitarist of Creed), play PRS.

While most guitar maker’s put little dots to mark their frets.. Paul uses his trademark birds..

And now one of the world’s worst guitarists, Mr. Cranky plays PRS.

and my newest!!! Purchased after I published this.

There’s something special happening on Kent Island. PRS Guitar has gone from nothing to global phenomenon in a relatively short time compared to the competition. Guitar aficionados all over the world recognize this company as a major force. No other DCTech Company is held in such reverence by the industry in which it competes. The PRS Guitar Owners Worldwide Facebook Group has over 20,000 rabid fan members. In a highly competitive market, PRS keeps gaining market share on their competitors.

Last week, I sat down with Paul Reed Smith to find out what is the magic behind this secret sauce. Look for that interview to be published in the next week (see the interview here).

If you love guitars, art, or great businesses, go on the factory tour. Even better, you have another exceptional opportunity to learn more about PRS at the upcoming Annual Experience PRS festival. This year’s festival is scheduled for June 8 – 9, 2018 (learn more here).  You can find information on prior festivals here.

You can now read the Paul Reed Smith interview here and in addition check out these videos:

Paul’s Ted Talk on the pursuit of the perfect reproduction of sound.


He doesn’t just make guitars, sell guitars… but the man can also play.


PRS is a music company, a technology company and should not only be on the list of 100 DCTech companies I don’t hate. PRS should be on the list of the 3 or 4 DCTech companies I love!