The Origin of the Warmoth Turtle

If you have ever purchased a Warmoth guitar or bass neck, you have no doubt noticed the little cartoon turtle branded into the heel. You’ve probably seen him in ads and on our website as well. The turtle has been around since Warmoth’s beginning. In fact, he has been around since before our beginning. To discover his origin we must journey back to a time before Warmoth: the 1970’s.

In 1976 a company named Boogie Bodies became one of the first to offer replacement bodies and necks. The idea of the turtle as a mascot began there. The slogan that originally accompanied the turtle was “we don’t make them fast, we make them right,” and in the late 70’s that worked. It was a time when many guitar manufacturers were cutting corners, churning out guitars with thick poly finishes, three-bolt neck joints, and a host of other cost-cutting measures. Cheap, imported knock-offs were also flooding the market, and people wanted the means to improve their guitars with high quality replacement parts. They weren’t as concerned with speedy delivery as we are now, because they weren’t yet accustomed to the immediate gratification today’s online shopping experience provides. It was still a mail-order world.

Boogie
The earliest turtle sketches, and his first public appearance: a Boogie Bodies magazine ad. Note the original slogan near the bottom.

In 1980, not long after the turtle’s introduction, Ken Warmoth left Boogie Bodies to form Warmoth Guitar Products. The turtle went along for the ride, and as the years progressed he became the company’s most recognized trademark. His slogan, however, didn’t fare so well. Over time, as customer’s expectations of quick manufacturing and delivery increased, the words “we don’t make them fast” became less and less desirable. Having already invested considerable money promoting the turtle, however, Warmoth could not simply abandon him. The slogan was dropped, while the turtle – guitar in hand – played on.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Warmoth’s main advertising vehicles were print ads and catalogs, and the turtle helped to make them more interesting. He has been depicted in a variety of activities. In fact, over the years he has become quite the Renaissance turtle. Among other things, he is a college graduate, a multi-instrumentalist, a jogger, a weight-lifter, a sea-food connoisseur, a pirate, a patriot, and a painter. Here are just a few of the sketches in the Warmoth archives:

Assorted

The images below are two of my personal favorites. The one on the left was used any time our scalloped fretboard option was mentioned. Scallops…get it? The drawing on the right is the only one in which the turtle isn’t smiling, and the only turtle that has been given a name. We call him Grouchy the Hoarder, and his job was to collect and sell blemished items in our “Thrift Shop”. The Thrift Shop was Warmoth’s first foray into online sales of pre-built inventory, and eventually grew into our massive In-Stock Showcase, where the majority of our sales now happen. Thanks Grouchy!

Grouchy

The official turtle graphic – the one that is branded into every neck and body Warmoth makes – has undergone just a few slight changes over its lifetime. The earliest, hand-drawn sketch was eventually replaced with one created on a computer. That version was later enhanced to show depth, and to finally make the guitar structurally correct.

Turtle_lineage

Turtles enjoy long lives, often over a hundred years. At almost 40, the Warmoth turtle is already well on his way, and with any luck he will live to a ripe old age. And as mentioned earlier, the turtle does not have an official name….but we would love to hear your suggestions!

WantsYou

 

60 thoughts on “The Origin of the Warmoth Turtle

  1. I love warmoth neck’s and body’s. the craftsmanship is big top. i have been a long time player going back to the early 60’s and i will have to say. i feel right at home with a warmoth bass. you just do it right. Tim marshall . Nashville Tn. It’s gotta be Timmy turtle.

  2. Well, as my name is Tony, I like Gary’s suggestion, but as I have 3 Warmoth guitars that I built, all with tortoise shell pickguards, the Warmoth turtles name should “Pickguard”. Too easy.

  3. Eltrut the turtle. Twang turtle. War-turtle. Mookie the bastard. Jim. Shelly. Boogers. Eddie Van Tortise. Eric Claptle. The Turtlator.

  4. “The truth (or turtle, in this case) that can be named is not the greatest truth.”

    Simply calling him The Turtle is enough…

  5. playing narrow necks cramped my style. couldn’t find anything wide enough except a classical. i had an old strat. i replaced the original neck with a warmoth 1-7/8″. it’s great for me.

  6. What was the original name of the tortoise in “the tortoise and the hare” (or the Tortoise and the Hair . . .) ? That is the real beginning of his work isn’t it? Or maybe the one in Disney cartoon in the 30’s as so much of our imagery is from that era.

  7. A renaissance turtle, eh? Perhaps Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello or Raphael (brace for the lawsuits)? Definitely not Shredder though…

  8. Why not ‘WARMOTH’ the original meaning of the name ‘WARMOTH’ is: war ‘guard’ + mut ‘spirit’.

    Being that the Turtle has a shell it guards it’s inner self or the essence of the important parts that are the function for life and being. WARMOTH guitars are really a synergy of all that goes into them. It’s a process of protecting the important elements to make up the whole. Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual parts. The Turtle and the name Warmoth are strangely connected and sometimes it is the obvious that escapes us the most. Perhaps the turtle has been ‘warmoth’ all along? In my experience when someone plays my ‘Warmoth’ guitars they are surprised and it is as though there’s something more to them than what is immediately perceived. That’s the heart of the thing! I think the name ‘WARMOTH fits. It does so not so much as ‘hi my name is Warmoth the turtle’ but rather in the sense – ‘See the Turtle, the Turtle is the WARMOTH’. The turtle symbol is the embodiment of Warmoth guitars just as Warmoth is the turtle. When I see Warmoth I think turtle, when I see the turtle I think Warmoth.

    The Warmoth Turtle symbol isn’t in the shell, it has emerged, but the parts that make the up the turtle are protected and guarded, not a secret, however without them the turtle isn’t complete.

    A bit like our guitars, the parts are important but the essence of ourselves are in them and our control over the creation of them is guarded by our own inner thoughts and expression.

    That’s the Turtle! That’s Warmoth!

  9. Slight correction : It was Jim Warmoth who left Boogie Bodies to form Warmoth guitars. I remember it well as we used to order from Warmoth parts by fax and the staff had a lot of time for us customers and often writing long personal letters. I used to welcome Gayle Warmoth’s (Jim’s wife and Ken’s mother) correspondences. One time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a big craze, I teased Gayle about the likeness of the turtle image. She smartly replied that they were there before the cartoon characters were even conceived. She said it was free advertising for Warmoth abd no point suing them for copyrights.

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