An all aluminum guitar that started life as a mailbox.
Tony Veleno was a machinist by trade, guitar instructor at night. In his day job he worked with solid aluminum billets and routed them into boxes that housed electric components for rockets.
Veleno taught guitar lessons from his home in St.Petersburg, FL. That was the mid 1960s and he wasn’t allowed to have any large signs on his property advertising his guitar lessons. Circumventing the neighborhood covenants, Veleno used his metalworking skills to fabricate a guitar shaped mailbox.
That simple gesture was the beginning of his accidental luthier career beginning in 1967.
Veleno shopped his all aluminum creation to rock bands at local clubs with no success. He hung up the idea until 1970 when a friend urged him to show his guitar to higher profile acts.
That worked! His first customer was Marc Bolan of T-Rex.
Bolan bought two guitars and sent one to Clapton. The rest is history.
The Veleno Original is completely aluminum, zero wood whatsoever. The body is carved from two solid pieces of 6061 aluminum so it’s actually a hollowbody. The neck is cast aluminum and the “V” headstock is for his last name.
Many of the Originals have a single red ruby in the center- Mrs. Veleno’s birthstone.
The finished guitar weighs about 8.5 lbs. Pickups, tuners, bridge, and tailpiece were outsourced from various manufacturers depending on availability: Gibson, Guild, DeArmond, and DiMarzio.
John suffered a couple of strokes in 1974, but managed to eke out a handful of guitars before his physical disabilities forced an early retirement in 1977. All told he made less than 200.
The retail price of the Original was $600 in the early 70s. I stumbled across in Nashville back in December and it was being offered at $29,500.