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.
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:
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!
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.
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!