If asked, people usually agree that Cabot is in the firearms business. Sometimes, though, we wonder about that. For sure, making 1911 pistols is what we do, but we also deliver unique and personalized experiences. This time, the experience involves rock and roll icon Rick Nielsen.
Nielsen and the group he co-founded, Cheap Trick—inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016—are often cited as one of the hardest working bands in rock music. One reference shows they have performed nearly two thousand concerts. That’s a staggering number, which doesn’t even include the early days of gigging wherever they could in and around Rockford, IL.
If we could see the sound waves pulsing out of Nielsen’s signature checkerboard Hamer Standard guitar as he cuts straight into the chorus of “Dream Police,” they might appear similar to the ripples that pulse outward when a stone is dropped into a pool of water. The origin of Cabot’s relationship with Rick probably goes back to 2013 and the world famous gathering of motorcyclists in Sturgis, South Dakota and the Buffalo Chip®, home to some of the best rock and roll concerts in the country. It was at one such gathering that we met Pop Evil bassist Matt DiRito.
Ripples… several years after that chance meeting, Matt is now one of the Cabot production team, helping us craft Cabot’s world-renowned 1911 pistols.
Ripples… in the summer of 2018, Cheap Trick and Pop Evil toured together. Rick, a firearm collector and enthusiast, heard that Matt was a “gun guy.” As nearly always happens in the fraternity of arms (and music), they hit it off.
When you spend any time at all with Rick Nielsen, you quickly learn he is passionate about custom, and that usually—somehow—includes his instantly recognizable trademark checkerboard pattern.
During conversations between gigs that summer, Matt discovered Rick did not yet have a custom gun worthy of his iconic status. As the two veteran music makers bonded outside of their craft, Rick quickly warmed to the idea of an heirloom firearm that he could pass down through his children… ripples.
Matt and Rick brainstormed ideas in between sets and cities. Of course, any custom pistol would need the famous checkerboard print. Another, less well-known trademark of Rick’s is his vast array of custom guitar picks. He takes thousands of picks on tour to give away, throwing them into the crowds by the handful.
The genesis of an heirloom-quality custom had begun. Before a billet of steel is even considered, Cabot communicates extensively with those who commission a custom pistol. For Rick Nielsen, we incorporated two aspects that are near and dear to Rick’s heart: the ubiquitous checkerboard pattern and the unique guitar picks he designs himself.
Some might consider the custom pistol we built for Rick to be over the top, but we believe it’s the perfect combination of individuality, engineering, and quality. Table stakes are, of course, the checkerboard pattern, which adorns both the side and top surfaces of the slide as well as the trigger. Black sights featuring bright white dots front and rear are the perfect complement. But perhaps what really takes this custom Cabot over the top are the grips. The pistol features Nielsen’s actual custom-designed guitar picks. Obviously, we couldn’t just press these keepsakes into a standard grip. Matt DiRito took the lead here, thinking, ‘Everything works if you let it.’
Matt used his own custom picks for trial runs until he perfected the process. Setting the test picks in epoxy, he machined and polished them until the effect was just right. At this point, Matt looked over at a stack of Rick’s picks and said, “Tonight, it’s you!”
For the final design, Matt placed each pick strategically, starting in the center of the grip and working outward. The layout may appear random, but he put a lot of thought into where each one would be placed so that the picks’ colors and images would play off against each other to create an artistic homage to a great guitarist.
Last, but certainly not least, the pistol was created with a custom serial number: UncleDick13. Fans will recognize the name of Rick’s alter-ego—a caricature of the legendary guitarist that has appeared on his instruments, picks, and all sorts of other media throughout his career.
It is every inch a Cabot pistol—as much a “Rolls Royce” 1911 as every other gun we build. Only this Rolls Royce purrs, “I want you to want me.”
We are delighted that Rick Nielsen is thrilled with his custom designed, heirloom quality Cabot 1911. It’s a pistol that not only reflects the individual personality of the owner, but one that Rick will be proud to pass down through his family for generations. From our perspective, it’s the ultimate reward for what we do.
“The opportunity to help design and build an heirloom Cabot for not only a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but also a dear friend of mine, was an absolute honor and a joy.”
Matt DiRito, Cabot craftsman and rock & roll star
Interested in your very own full custom Cabot 1911? Complete the form below or call (724) 524-1002 to start your journey.