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Tampa guitar maker pulls strings with 'Idol'

Luna Guitars gave guitars to American Idol’s final five and judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

Photo courtesy of Luna Guitars

Luna Guitars gave guitars to American Idol’s final five and judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

TAMPA — Jason Castro may have had an excuse for forgetting his lines on Tuesday's American Idol: He was too focused on his shiny new guitar from Luna Guitars.

The Tampa-based guitar maker last week gave Idol's final five their own Luna guitars. Castro used his, a Luna Trinity, to perform I Shot the Sheriff and Mr. Tambourine Man, songs that led to his elimination Wednesday night.

Luna founder Yvonne de Villiers selected the guitars to fit each singer's personality. Syesha Mercado got a Fauna Dolphin in recognition of her Florida roots. Brooke White, who was later voted off the show, received a Flora Lotus to match her sunny disposition.

Luna had to special order guitars for David Archuleta and David Cook, who are both lefties. For Cook, Luna is building an Apollo electric guitar that incorporates his artwork and the initials, A.C., after his two brothers. Archuleta is getting a Neo Your Space.

The guitar gifts were a first for American Idol, which this season allowed contestants to perform with musical instruments. All are acoustic, except for Cook's, which is electric. Available at local guitar stores, they sell for about $800 to a few thousand dollars.

Three of the five finalists — Castro, Cook and White — played guitars during some of their songs. Mercado plays a little, and Archuleta has said he wants to learn, said Derek Badala, division manager for Luna Guitars.

Badala delivered the guitars in person, along with a note of encouragement from Luna's founder. He also met judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and gave each a guitar.

"We were honored to have that kind of access," said Badala, who until meeting the contestants was an occasional Idol watcher. "I got to see the human side of it."

So who's his pick to be the next American Idol? "I could never vote any one of them off because I liked them so much."

Susan Thurston can be reached

at (813) 225-3110 or sthurston@tampabay.com.

Tampa guitar maker pulls strings with 'Idol' 05/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 4:56pm]
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