About Us

Hottie Inc. Company History:

(Jean-Claude Escudie, April 2013)

Jean Claude EscudieIn early 2005 I was at the big vintage guitar show in Dallas Texas admiring a few guitar amps built from old tube radios from the ‘30s and ‘40s.  That’s when the idea came to me, I should build myself a battery operated guitar amp from an early ‘60s transistor pocket radio.  Great idea, right?  The beauty of the idea was in the simplicity of the build.  The amp, power source, and speaker are already there.  Just bypass the radio and attach a 1/4″ jack to the existing amp circuit.  The problem was, I had a very hard time finding old transistor radios.  Whether they worked or not, they were all ridiculously expensive.  While searching through various pawn shops and junk stores I kept coming across old vintage toasters.  I was at a thrift shop when the thought popped into my head; I can turn one of these toasters into an amp!  The idea was perfect.  Not only were toasters solid enough to work with but they could also provide excellent sonic qualities.

I came home with about ten toasters and strong determination to build a guitar amp.  I decided to call the amps “Hotties.”  The first prototypes were crudely built but sounded killer.  I sent one to my friend who lives in Atlanta.  He’s a professional musician.  Of course, he loved it.  I made a few more for myself and other friends.  My toaster amp quickly became popular.  Hottie Amplifiers Inc. was born soon after that.

We’ll soon build Hottie Amp® #450.  We mostly find unusable or broken toasters from the 1930s through the 1960s – the golden days of American manufacturing.  We buy toasters from pawnshops, antique shops, thrift stores, and sometimes eBay.  We pick them up in various conditions.  Obviously, broken ones are less expensive.  Some have never toasted a slice of bread.  Other toasters look as if they’d burned a house down, and probably the only thing left intact after the firemen drove away!  Personally, I like the fried ones better.  It seems that the aesthetic qualities of the toasters from the mid 20th century took design elements from wartime manufacturing, art deco styling, the auto industry, and the space age craze.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the toasters we’ve worked on were made from recycled WWII surplus aircraft.  General Electric, Sunbeam, and Hamilton Beach are just a few of the companies that designed these iconic American toasters.  Every part of the toaster that we don’t use is recycled or sent to toaster collectors.

Not all toasters can be made into Hottie Amps®.  Modern toasters, for example, don’t utilize a strong enough metal gauge to support a speaker.  I’m kind of obsessive about using American made products so the newer imported toasters are out of the question.  Many older toasters simply fall apart when we remove the inner machinery so they can’t be used.  The toaster must be large enough to house a 6″ speaker.  We remove most of the toaster machinery, give the shell an industrial wash, and install the amp circuit, the speaker, and a few other parts.  The amp runs on a 9-volt battery so we cut the cords (so to speak).  In the beginning it took a few hours to make a Hottie Amp.  Today the whole process takes around an hour.  I’ve built waffle iron amps and pizza oven amps.  I’m waiting for someone to ask me to build a Hottie Amp from a full size oven or a refrigerator with rows of 12″ speakers.  Shipping might make it expensive, but if someone wants one, our little hot-rod shop is up to the task.  Painted Hottie Custom Amps® involve much more work.  I’m involved in every step of the process.

The best part of my work is testing Hottie Amps®.  We have various speaker cabinets in our workshop.  After a few hours of shredding my hands and suffering from solder burns, I like to plug in my electric guitar (Hottie 429 Prototype) and get loud.

I get many questions via the internet asking: “Cool idea, but how do they sound?”  Hottie Amps® sound fantastic.  I wouldn’t consider making an amp that sounded otherwise.  We start with a very simple solid state amp circuit that provides classic overdrive and sweet sustain.  Hotties have an input jack and an output jack … that’s it.  Volume and tone can be adjusted via your guitar’s volume and tone controls.  Dialing back the volume on your guitar will clean up your sound considerably. Dialing back your guitar’s tone knob will warm up your sound providing a fat bluesy tone.  The 6″ Jensen® “MOD” speaker breaks up nicely and provides enough volume for practice, travel, or home use.  We also offer a Weber® speaker upgrade for a reasonable price.  Sound from the speaker bounces around inside the toaster and creates a natural reverberation before exiting through the bread slots.  I’m sort of an audiophile.  Hottie Amps® have a very organic tone with lots of feedback and natural harmonics.  Each type of toaster has its own unique sonic qualities.  You’d be surprised how loud Hottie Amps® are when played through a speaker cabinet.  Visit YouTube and search “Hottie Amps” for proof!  Hottie Amps® will power any 4, 8, or 16ohm cab.  A fresh 9-volt battery will provide you with hours of power.

Mike Bernards

In 2007, after great success with Hottie Amps®, I decided to take a little time off from my career as Breedlove Guitar Company’s VP of Sales & Marketing and launch Hottie Guitars® under the corporate name Hottie Inc.  The goal was to design, create, and bring to market my vision of the finest American made electric guitars.  I’d spent years searching for the perfect electric without luck, so I decided to design my own.  I enlisted my good friend, industry veteran Mike Bernards, to raise capital and assume all executive functions.  Mike joined the company as an investor and owner.  This freed me up to focus on design and production.

For the perfect pickup I turned to Seymour Duncan®.  If you ever get a chance to pass through Santa Barbara be sure to drop by their little factory.  Simply stated, they are a large scale boutique pickup shop.  The amount of handwork and attention to detail that goes into each pickup they wind is stunning.  Over many months I worked closely with Seymour Duncan, Derek Duncan, and Evan Skopp (VP Business Development) to develop our Hottie Bridge®, Hottie Neck®, and high-output Bettie® Bridge pickups.  I wanted to bring to market lower output Alnico II pickups with vintage tone and remarkable touch sensitivity.  Seymour Duncan® nailed it: modeled after the finest PAF humbuckers of the late ’50s, original Hottie Bridge® pickups offer bright and airy highs, warm mids, focused lows, and sound brilliant when overdriven. They’re dynamic, articulate, and crunchy when pushed. Hottie Neck® pickups have honey-sweet tone, touch sensitivity, and a perfect blend of warmth and presence. They’re clear and pure and great for open chords. Wound hotter than original Hottie Bridge® pickups, high output Bettie® Bridge pickups have clear highs, boosted midrange, and a thick bottom end. Players who need authentic vintage tone with increased output and sustain will love our “Bettie®”. Bettie® pickups are hot and creamy but with clarity and presence; they’re exceptional for soloing. Hottie Pickups® are custom-built by the Seymour Duncan® Custom Shop in sunny Santa Barbara, California.

Saul Koll

After designing Hottie Pickups® I turned to my longtime friend, Portland Oregon Master Luthier Saul Koll, to collaborate on a line of electric guitars.  Saul is well known as one of the finest builders in our industry.  His knowledge, dedication, and passion are inspiring.  Saul has been hand building solidbody electric and archtop guitars under the Koll Guitar Company® name since 1990.  Together, we set out to build the finest American guitars available today.  Our first model was the Limited Edition Hottie 454®.  The Hottie 327® and Hottie 429® soon followed.  Design elements of Hottie Guitars® are heavily inspired by early ’70s muscle cars and the beautiful women of that era.  Hottie Guitars® are substantial, voluptuous, and built-for-speed.  The deep dish carved maple tops and rounded upper bouts result in very feminine designs.  When holding a Hottie Guitar® you’ll notice that the appointments are purposeful and subdued, the nitrocellulose lacquer finish is especially light, and the quality and attention to detail is stunning.  Each guitar is hand-made by Saul Koll in his personal Portland Oregon workshop.  Original fittings including pickup rings, backplates and pickguards are crafted in-house.  The fretwork is impeccable.  For outsourced components we partner with the best manufacturers in the industry and always choose American made parts when possible: Seymour Duncan®, Switchcraft®, CTS®, Bigsby®, TonePros®, G&G Quality Case®, Dunlop Strings®, etc…

Hottie Guitars® are built for tone, sustain, and maximum resonance.  We source the finest woods to build one-piece bodies and one-piece necks that are matched, voiced, and balanced to transfer the energy and nuance from your hands to the amplifier.

Hottie Guitars® have been very well-reviewed by Guitar Player®, Premier Guitar®, Vintage Guitar®, Guitar World®, and other prominent magazines.  They’ve been highlighted in Rolling Stone®, Maxim®, etc … and have been in the hands of a few of today’s most influential guitarists.  Look closely and you’ll see them on the TBS sitcom “The Wedding Band” and ABC’s hit show “Nashville”.

Saul builds only twelve Hottie Guitars® a year so they’re very exclusive and collectable.  We have no plans to expand production.

 Hottie Guitars Workshop

What’s next?  We’re trying our best to get our guitars and amps into the hands of some of our guitar heroes.  We actually have two sweet Hottie Custom Amps® set aside for Jimmy Page and Keith Richards.  I’d like them to have one of our amps as my way of saying thanks for all the incredible music.  Maybe they’ll find us one day.  We have a new Hottie Guitar® being prototyped, the double cutaway Hottie 383®.  And we’re also designing a small low wattage, Class-A, boutique tube amp that we hope to introduce in 2014.

It should be noted that along the way I’ve depended on the friendship, professional advice, and mentoring of these good people and many others: Steve McKinley, Bob Stull, Bruce Zinky, Joe Naylor, Corey Oliver, Evan Skopp, Tom Bedell, Joey Brasler, Shannon Aprahamian, Jon Levy, Art Thompson, Paul Riario, Danny Rowe, Jayson Bowerman, Jim Normandy, and Ron Moreno.

We sell Hottie Guitars®, Hottie Amps®, And Hottie Pickups® through a small group of high quality dealers and international distributors.  Custom Build Cards are available at www.hottieguitars.com   Our current backorder is 6 months.  One day we may expand beyond our small shop … stay tuned!  Our sole ambition is to build the best American-made electric guitars and amps available today.  We hope you’ll have the chance to own one.

We’re Hottie Inc.  We Update, Innovate, Hot-Rod, and Mod.