Grover Allman, based in Adelaide, are a world leader when it comes to guitar picks. Operating since 1991, their list of clients to date is essentially a who’s who of rock ‘n’ roll, from Alice Cooper to Jimmy Barnes and even Prince.
Any career which goes for so long encounters a few oddities along the way, and we know all too well that the music business knows how to turn up the weirdness. We reached out to Grover Allman to chat their livelihood to date, and some of the strangest requests they’ve ever received.
Grover Allman have been making guitar picks for more than 25 years. You’d better bet that they have some interesting stories to tell.
HAPPY: Hey guys, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?
GROVER ALLMAN: All good here – prepping for the upcoming craziness that is the Christmas season!
HAPPY: Can you tell us a bit about how Grover Allman got started?
GROVER ALLMAN: Way back in 1992 Kevin Grover and Jason Allman had the idea of making their own brand of guitar picks. Jason made the design and the first run of 25,000 ‘Performer’ picks was a success. This led to printed collectible picks in 1993 and offering customised printing to retail stores. Shortly after that anyone could order printed picks.
We gradually improved our printing processes and increased our range of pick materials, shapes and gauges. In the early 2000s we started producing licensed picks for The Simpsons which propelled us to the world stage. More recently we offer custom printed leather guitar straps and Tru Grip picks. We have produced in excess of 50 million guitar picks in the last 25 years. We have a four part blog post detailing our history here.
HAPPY: Can you tell us a bit about the pick-making process? What are they made out of? How do different materials affect playability?
GROVER ALLMAN: There are two main methods of pick-making that we use. The first is injection moulding – hot molten plastic is injected into pick moulds to form their shape. We have two different materials that are injection moulded, G-Poly, which is polycarbonate, and Delrinex, which is an acetal polymer. The other method is used to make our celluloid picks. The picks are stamped out of sheets of celluloid plastic, and then tumbled in industrial machines to smooth out the edges and polish the picks. This is the oldest method of making modern picks, celluloid is now used as a replacement to tortoiseshell.
Generally celluloid picks produce a warmer tone and are a softer material, which wears out quicker. Delrinex and G-Poly are high-wearing and produce a slightly brighter tone. Delrinex is a favourite for many touring musicians and the matte finish provides a good grip for sweaty fingers.
HAPPY: How has pick technology changed since you’ve been in the game?
GROVER ALLMAN: It really hasn’t changed much, by the early ’90s most of the best materials had already started to be used. Every now and then you see new pick designs pop up with varying degrees of popularity, but they’re generally for a niche market of particular guitarists. The biggest change for us is the technology behind the printing, we started with slow single colour printers, now we are able to print full colour easily, so the options for the customer are almost unlimited.
From the archives: this @bigdayout guitar pick from 1999. The Big Day Out was an annual music festival that debuted in Sydney in 1992, expanding to Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast and Auckland (NZ) by 1994. It showcased the biggest names in music each year since, until this year, when it was announced that it was cancelled for 2015 😔 #tbt #bigdayout #guitar #guitarpick #plectrum #custompicks #groverallman
HAPPY: Tell us about the Tru-Grip picks. How were they developed?
GROVER ALLMAN: Tru-Grip picks came about from us experimenting with one of our new printing machines. For a long time you have been able to buy guitar picks with inbuilt grip, but it was moulded into the plastic itself. This meant we couldn’t print onto the existing grip as it would break up the image. We developed a way of taking any smooth pick, printing a custom design on it, then applying the Tru-Grip layer on top. We were the first in the world to do this and it has proven to be extremely popular.
HAPPY: What are some of your personal favourite designs you’ve printed?
GROVER ALLMAN: It’s always great to print designs for artists we really admire. The Alice Cooper band have been long time endorsees of ours, their designs are always fun. Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Paul Dempsey, Parkway Drive, The Jacksons, even the range of designs for the Big Day Out and Soundwave were always really cool. We still get a kick out of it every day.
HAPPY: You’ve sure worked with some incredible artists. Who are some career highlights?
GROVER ALLMAN: In addition to those mentioned above, we’ve been fortunate to print for a tonne of amazing artists, such as The Misfits, Hollywood Vampires, Diesel, Air Supply, Jimmy Barnes, Orianthi, Prince, Richie Sambora, Rick Springfield, RÜFÜS, Roxette, Tonight Alive, Wolfmother and You Am I.
HAPPY: We just did a batch of rainbow picks with you guys, which are amazing. Do you get many political or pop-culture related requests for customs prints?
GROVER ALLMAN: All the time. Memes mostly, but we’ve done a few related to elections, and remember KONY 2012? But mostly memes.
HAPPY: What are some of the weirdest requests you’ve ever gotten?
GROVER ALLMAN: Nudity generally. Not sure why some people want their bits on guitar picks, but they do!
HAPPY: What’s next for Grover Allman? Anything in the works?
GROVER ALLMAN: We’re ticking along nicely right now, sometimes barely keeping up with demand – maybe another printer or two!