The year was 1992. I went to see Jukka Tolonen Trio play in Riihimäki. The gig was fantastic, and afterwards I had a chance to shake hands with Jukka. I gave him my card and told him: “One day I’ll make a guitar for you”. He said something polite – and walked away. At that time I was in the very beginning of my studies to become a guitar maker. I didn’t know too much, but I was determined as hell to learn.
Years went by, and I got my first original guitar design, the Duke, ready in 1997. I thought it was a great guitar – but I couldn’t be sure… I wanted to show the guitar to someone who could tell – and I came to think of Jukka. I’m a great fan of prog rock and fusion jazz, and Jukka stands out in my book of guitar heroes on the same top level as John McLaughlin and Jeff Beck. I found out Jukka lives in Sweden, and I called his record company to get a telephone number. They gave me his home number, and I started bugging Jukka with voicemails – until one day he finally answered my call. I told who I was, and that I would just want to hear his opinion of my guitar, that’s all. Finally Jukka agreed to meet, after I told a little while lie that I’m coming over to Stockholm anyways – so no pressure. I was totally broke, but I managed to get a free ferry ticket from a friend, and off I went.
I remember having tea at Jukka’s place, and he was noodling away with the guitar, sometimes mumbling a word or two… and then drifting off, playing along. He wanted to try the guitar with different amps so we ended up at Halkans guitar shop where Jukka continued playing. I was kind of starting to think that maybe he really likes the guitar even though he doesn’t say much… At the end of the day Jukka says to me: “I gotta buy this. It’s great. Good job.” – and we shake hands. On the way back home I was in seventh heaven. I was a novice guitar maker – nobody knew about me – and now I had sold a guitar to Finland’s national guitar hero number one of all time.
Jukka has played in a number of successful bands over the past 4 decades, including Tasavallan Presidentti, Piirpauke and Wigwam. Jukka is, however, best known of his spectacular solo recordings such as ‘Summer sGames’, ‘The Hook’, ‘Hysterica’ and the self titled debut ‘Jukka Tolonen’. Some of his other projects include ‘Guitarras Del Norte’, ‘Trio Tolonen’ and ‘JTB’ (Jukka Tolonen Band featuring Coste Apetrea), SF Blues – and more.
You can find Jukka’s music online for example on Spotify or Apple Music. Check out the song Windermere Avenue. My personal favourite piece – music just doesn’t get more beautiful than that…
Jukka has played that first Duke since 1997 – until in 2003 we built him the Duke JT Custom. The first Duke returned back home to me.
"This is superb. The Duke is the best electric guitar I’ve ever had."
- Jukka Tolonen