Gear Review: Bonvillain Custom Fender Telecaster at Auction

This year marks the 21st Anniversary of the Lucky Hearts Gala that supports Hearts & Horses programs that serve those in need: veterans; people with physical and cognitive disabilities; seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia; and at-risk youth.

The event has become one of Northern Colorado’s premier charity events and is well-known for its robust live and silent auctions, and inspirational program. This year’s event promises to be one to remember for many reasons, not least of which is a very special guitar—a custom Fender Telecaster from Bonvillain Design Studio. 

David Bonvillain’s Bonvillain Design Studio has turned out guitars for some of the most famous and influential guitarists of all time, including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kerry King, Bob Weir, John Mayer, Yvette Young, and Jen Majura of Evanescence, but the studio has grown from humble beginnings. 

As a longtime fan of heavy music, Bonvillain was inspired by shredders like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and the flashy guitars they played. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in music with a focus in the music industry, he worked as a guitar tech for Slayer’s Kerry King and, over time, amassed a collection of appealing, multi-colored instruments of his own. To fix up some that were road-worn, he started doing research on paint and finish techniques. What started as a refinishing project became a passion. When the pandemic and subsequent lockdown of 2020 hit, Bonvillain found himself in a position to expand his research and dedicate the necessary time in both the laboratory as well as the paint studio. Ultimately, with the encouragement and praise of guitar icon Steve Vai, Bonvillain Design Studio was born.

All Bonvillain guitars are special, the designers work exclusively with premium manufacturers on limited runs of guitar designs, as well as produce a handful of their own builds per year, but the custom-designed guitar that will go to the highest bidder at this year’s Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center Silent Auction might be the most special of all.

This unique guitar is a blend of the 2021 Telecaster UltraLuxe (the sister Telecaster to the one being played by Mark Morton on the current Lamb Of God tour) with an ash body and birdseye maple neck borrowed from a 2013 US Select series. The stand-out vision for the popular Fender Telecaster was specially considered for the auction with a unique, ‘Western saddle brown’ feel and contrasting streaks of UV/blacklight reactive pink to match the Hearts & Horses logo emblazoned below the string insert holes on the back. It comes in a factory tweed hardshell case and a full load of “case candy” from Bonvillain Design, including picks, photo print, and a certificate of authenticity. Of interest to collectors is that this is the first Bonvillain piece being offered to the general public—the winner could be the only Bonvillain owner who is not already a guitar great.

Each year Hearts & Horses serves over 1,000 participants and they’ve never turned a participant away due to inability to pay, thanks to the success of the yearly auction and donations from generous supporters. The organization's goal this year is to raise $350,000. 

Learn more about Bonvillain Design Studio here and Hearts & Horses here.

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