Updated: Dec 4, 2020
by Will Yannacoulias
Jack Facca of Fury Guitar Manufacturing honours the past while embracing the future.
Outside of Saskatchewan Fury Guitars is almost unknown, but to at least two generations of local musicians the brand represented the top of the mountain, a name celebrated for innovation, high quality and the embodiment of the DIY ethos. The brand was born when Glenn McDougall began manufacturing guitars in a tiny basement shop on Avenue J in Saskatoon. A blend of mad scientist and engineering genius, McDougall built instruments which are still admired for their design and construction today. Some 10,000 individual instruments were assembled in Fury’s little shop between 1962 and McDougall’s passing in 2017. Fury guitars then became the stuff of legend, highly collectible pieces of cherished prairie Canadiana, often as much works of art as musical instruments.
A buzz began this past summer when Janet McDougall, Glenn’s wife and business partner, posted a short video to the Fury website. The video announced that the company had been sold to a close friend, expressing her excitement that her husband’s dream would continue in the hands of “someone who Glenn knew well and felt was a very good candidate for taking over”. Fury fans were rewarded on September 12th when the official announcement was made that Fury would resume operations with longtime Saskatoon musician Jack Facca as the new owner. Jack was gracious enough to speak with us from his home in Martensville, where we discussed his relationship with Glenn McDougall and his vision for the future of Fury.
You Don’t Know Jack
The sixth of seven children, Facca grew up in a musical family in Wiseton, Saskatchewan. Three of his brothers played in a band together and his brother Donn, as fate would have it, played the first Fury guitar he ever laid eyes on. Jack himself began playing the guitar at the age of twelve and has never put the instrument down.
In 1994, 25-year-old Jack got his journeyman’s ticket and began working for Flexi-Coil/CASE New Holland before moving to Hitachi Canadian Industries to build steam & gas turbines. The demands of a decade of shift work on a young family eventually sent Facca looking for another position in HCI and encouraged him to entertain a long-time dream of building electric guitars.
As Jack tells it, “I was driving home from work, I got to Avenue J N & 30th Street, where Fury Guitars had been located since 1962. The situation was weird, it’s all a residential neighbourhood, it’s 2-3 in the morning, and I’m driving a Harley Davidson with giant pipes. I didn’t want to wake everyone up!”
Facca returned on a Saturday afternoon and knew he was in the right place when he saw unfinished guitar bodies leaning against the outside wall. Glenn and Jack spent 6 ½ hours together that fateful day, talking guitars and exploring the shop. Facca recalls leaving the shop “ten feet high off the ground” but also with the understanding that Fury was clearly set up as a one-man operation and he would not be able to work for the company.
That visit was the seed of a decade-plus friendship between the two men. Jack began playing in a band with Glenn’s son Kirt McDougall; visits to the shop with Kirt turned into coffees and dinners, and soon Glenn and Jack were fast friends. Glenn was impressed with Jack’s inclination to technical precision and saw a kindred spirit in the fellow machinist. “Glenn took a liking to me. It seemed like we were on the same frequency. I think he liked my background, the line of work I was in and my attention to detail, maybe the kind of things Glenn was looking for in someone who he could mentor for the future of Fury,” recounts Facca.
“Do I wanna play guitars or do I wanna build guitars? I wanna do both!” The Torch Is Passed
The Fury story took a tragic turn in Fall 2016 when McDougall was given a lung cancer diagnosis and urgently began the search for his successor. He invited Jack to become a partner in Fury and, despite being a dream come true, Facca hesitated because of uncertainty in the future of his own trade.
“To be asked to be in a partnership with a fella who you know has cancer and doesn’t have too many days ahead of him, there were a lot of hard thoughts that went through my head,” laments Facca.
McDougall’s illness worsened and he was hospitalized. It was at this time that Facca made his mind up to carry the company forward. “I’m sitting on Glenn’s bed beside him, we’re shoulder to shoulder in conversation, and I mustered the courage to tell him that I wanted to build guitars. Boy, he lit up like a lightbulb. I was stiff as a board, frozen, but I was so glad I said what I said. I would have always had regrets if he hadn’t known,” Facca continued.
McDougall immediately gave Facca a list of what he was and was not to do with the company and casually dismissed Facca’s fears that he wouldn’t build guitars worthy of the Fury name. “I pointed out to him ‘Glenn, you’ve been building guitars for fifty years’, and he replied ‘it’s not that hard!’”
“Glenn’s work is legendary, I’ve got big shoes to fill.” The Future Of Fury
When Facca concluded the deal to purchase the company, Janet McDougall sent him forward with one piece of advice; “Make it your own, Jack.” Facca is focused on balancing respect for tradition with keeping quality and precision on par with the most current industry practices. Glenn’s original machinery was cutting edge when it was designed, and in that spirit Fury manufacturing will be upgraded to the most current industry technology.
Facca teased an exciting bit of information, that there was a cache of original Fury components included in the purchase of the company. Instruments built entirely with these components will be available with a special GM (Glenn McDougall) serial number.
“GM models would denote that Glenn did most of the work building those instruments” Facca disclosed, “there is a good number of them.”
Any guitars crafted from entirely new components will bear a PGM (Post Glenn McDougall) serial number. Regarding the PGM instruments, Facca excitedly hinted “I’ve got a binder full of ideas, new headstocks, new body styles, things I have in mind that will still have iconic Fury aspects to them. I plan to offer different neck styles, fretboard radius options, compound fretboards, neck shapes. There’s to be new body and headstock styles, ideas and features I haven’t yet seen I’d like to implement. I don’t plan to continue building Glenn’s model line once his inventory is sold.”
The modern trend in the electric guitar industry is to produce most instruments in overseas factories where cheap labour drives prices down. Even iconic American guitar companies such as Fender do much of their manufacturing overseas, limiting domestic production to top-shelf models. Facca’s response to the possibility of Fury moving production was decisive. “NEVER. That will NEVER happen with Fury. It will be 100% Canadian always.”
The company will serve not only to sell guitars but to celebrate the legacy of it’s founder. The website is going to feature a virtual library detailing McDougall’s innovative machinery, historical photos, serial number data and photographs documenting classic Fury guitars. Saskatoon filmmaker Lisa Unrau (lisaunrau.com) has started a documentary about Glenn McDougall & the Fury Canadian story. Several well known Canadian music icons have already committed to participating in the film.
As a fan himself, Facca is as excited as anyone, but he’s more focused on taking his time and doing things properly. “I don’t want to rush this, I don’t want to rush anything of Glenn’s or do anything to hurt the Fury name. I want to make him proud. Build ‘em right, build ‘em to the highest quality possible.”
July 1st, Canada Day 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the original opening of Fury and is the date Facca has circled on the calendar to launch his new company. Jack Facca’s passion and commitment assure that the company is in the best of hands. The response from the Canadian music community has been unanimously positive. Hundreds of friends, colleagues and musicians have extended their congratulations and expressed their excitement for what the future holds. There’s no doubt that Glenn McDougall would be proud.
When Facca isn’t building guitars, he can be found putting them through their paces with his band Slick Gizmo.
*Photo #1 Courtesy of Kirt McDougall
*Photo #2 Courtesy of Jack Facca
*Photo #3 Courtesy of Jon Ravichander