Paul Reed Smith built his first guitar as a freshman math major in the basement of the art department building at St. Mary's College, about two hours southwest of Washington, DC. The project -- a challenge posed to his music professor for independent study credit -- would change not only Paul's future, but the future of guitars. After only 18 months of school, Paul dropped out of St. Mary's to pursue a career as a full-time luthier. Paul earned a reputation as a skilled luthier in the greater DC area throughout the late '70s and early '80s, while also building custom guitars between repair jobs. Since there were no schools for learning guitar-building secrets, Paul found himself turning to seasoned luthiers for advice, and looking to mentors like Ted McCarty to learn the tricks of the trade.
Once Paul had some designs under his belt, he began frequenting shows at local concert arenas. After plenty of persistence and determination, Smith was able to put his guitars in the hands of pros like Ted Nugent and Carlos Santana, who ordered and played their own PRS models. In 1984, Paul drove up and down the East Coast in a pickup truck with two prototype guitars: a vintage yellow Custom with a maple top and mahogany back, and a pearl white, all-mahogany Standard model. The orders Paul was able to place on this sales trip added value to his fledgling company and attracted investors who would provide much-needed support. This support fueled Paul's first trip to the winter NAMM show in 1985. where he showed off a small selection of guitars to the entire musical instrument industry. Within months of his return from California, Paul and around 15 dedicated employees began building guitars in a 5,500-square-foot, climate-controlled Annapolis factory.
Today, after thirty years of guitar innovation, PRS is a company that employs around 250 people throughout over 100,000 square feet of space. Paul's initial "Les Paul/Stratocaster hybrid" designs have stood the test of time while receiving ongoing improvements, in keeping with his drive to build a better-sounding, -looking, and -feeling guitar. It was for this reason, among others, that Paul Reed Smith was the recipient of the Music and Sound Retailer Magazine Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award at the 2014 Winter NAMM show. By no means does an award like this mean that Paul is finished innovating, and these 30th Anniversary offerings from PRS are a true testament to that.