Of all the accolades that Adkins has under his belt, from platinum records and singles to top-five Billboard debuts, one of the most unique is his signature model from Fender Musical Instrument Corporation, whose corporate headquarters and amplification research & development program is located just off the 101 Loop and Pima Road. Adkins is the only Arizona-based musician to ever receive a signature guitar from the guitar manufacturer, the first of which rolled off the assembly line seven years ago this month. Dubbed the JA-90, the singular model is an extension of Adkins' favorite childhood guitar.
"As a kid, I really liked Telecasters," he says. "I don't know if it was people that played them or if I just saw them everywhere but I just thought it was just a rad body style and sound, and I finally ended up getting one that I played for a really long time."
What started as a a chance relationship between Fender Vice President of Marketing Justin Norvell and Adkins, in which he initially played test subject for Fender's short-lived TC-90 model, soon grew into a working rapport. A self-proclaimed "music nerd," Adkins' extensive input into Fender's design resulted in the the company presenting him with a Fender Custom Shop one-off guitar. The simple, no-frills aesthetic of the guitar and its combination of Gibson Les Paul features and classic Telecaster elements brought the design to the center of a debate over a production model soon thereafter.
"My thinking was, with my model specifically, was that it has to be something that I'll play," Adkins says. "Nothing makes me more pissed off than when I see someone's signature model with some crap that they don't use. The place that we have our rehearsal space and studio is right down the 101 from where they are, and I'm there every day almost so it's easy to meet up with them, we just went back and forth about the changes."
Seven years later, the JA-90 remains virtually unchanged, sporting a semi-hollow body, Gibson-style controls and hardware, and a Telecaster body shape. Like Jimmy Eat World's music, the JA-90 is approachable and unfettered. Though Adkins "didn't expect them to run it this long," he does feel that the lack of changes to the guitar is an indication of getting a design right the first time around.
Adkins has also had the surreal experience of seeing other artists and budding guitarists playing the model, but at heart, he's honored to even be bestowed with a signature guitar, saying that even today the "metal kid" part him is still "really stoked" on it. Platinum-selling band or not, and local legend status aside, Adkins is simply a guitar guy's guitar guy whose name has happened to grace the headstock of a Fender guitar for almost a decade.
"You get me talking about gear and pretty much you can clear the room of women that way and I'll talk for four hours," Adkins says, laughing. "That's a horrible generalization but it's true, when my buddies come over with their wives and girlfriends, then it's pretty much just me and them talking about effect pedals. In that spirit, you can't wait to show someone something you think is cool."
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