THE TEXAS FALL SALE! Here in south central Texas fall lasts about two days, so that’s about how long the sale is. We’re never sure when exactly it’s going to happen, and most of you weren’t even expecting this. So if I caught you napping with the flannel shirts still in the closet there, welcome to the club! But we can be cool together, see? Me here with a nice day in the 70s with my favorite flannel ready for the evening and the windows open… and you there knowing one of the coolest, most comfy basses in the world is on its way to your hands from ours! Or a lap steel, there’s TWO in inventory as I write this. So what’s the deal, you ask? And what are the DEALS? Read on, brethren.

2017 has been the greatest year of my building life, certainly of the company that became. And I want to end the year on an absolute high note with a fantastic 4th quarter – just SEAL THE DEAL, you know? So to be absolutely CERTAIN that this has been the best year for Birdsong EVER, it’s “Random Pop-up SALE” time! That’s right, with no notice except this right here (and teasers all week on Facebook)...

I want to sell 11 instruments this weekend. 

TO DO IT the deals will be offers you can’t refuse. There are 8 READY (or almost ready) in inventory including a couple of Texas Lap Steels, there are 6 basses in progress to claim and have fitted & finished to order, and there will be deep discounts & option comps on every new custom build order SATURDAY THE 21st! (and Sunday too, for the stragglers…)

That’s right, that’s tomorrow. Someone once told me “It’s easier to say you’re sorry sometimes than to get permission in the first place” and that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Use it as needed, friends - there will probably never be deals like this again. If you see something you want or there is something we can make for you, now is the time. The July sale is always big, but it won’t be this deep. These are “CALL ME” prices, one time deals. 512-395-5126. 

((Please note these will be new sale prices, no existing order substitutions or trades))

ALSO – a lot of the crazy stuff you’ve seen happen this year (2017 was the year of “Yes, I’ll do it!”), next year might not. At least not so many. But it’s not next year yet, is it? No, it’s not. So we could get something really outrageous on the build books for you AND lock you in at a sale price! Sort of a giving back to all of you watching and wanting (and waiting) while we get to absolutely seriously CRUSH our 13th year. Stuff like this... what's your dream in a short, balanced, comfy bass?

AND I’ll even do Gift Certificates this weekend that will be worth 30% more when they get applied.


If you want to treat yourself to a real comfy hand built mojo filled Birdsong, if you want to make that cool buddy or special someone bass player really happy, or that lap steel player, here you go! Some of these INVENTORY instruments and the remaining orders already on the books I’m aiming for the end of the year on are all that will leave the shop in 2017. Hide it for Christmas or your Holiday of tradition. Store it for a birthday. And what a truly fantabulous anniversary gift! They work hard, they give you love. Give them a Birdsong.

OK, I’m out to get some pizza with my puppy dog. I’ll talk to y’all tomorrow. Any time after sunrise, the phone will be on ALL THE WAY THROUGH to Sunday evening. Saturday midnight? Fair game. If you want a Birdsong, I have the time for you whatever hour. If you leave a message PLEASE LEAVE YOUR NUMBER. Thanks so much! 

Listening to: ‘70s Aerosmith, Delta blues, dub reggae, and a great recording from 1974 of Keith Richards & Ronnie Woods’ “Barbarians” side project. 

My bass!

Well I finished up my latest bass for myself and I’d really like to make a few of these “Signatures” next year, it was REALLY fun to create, so I figured I’d share it with you – if something like this is of interest, please get in touch and let me know. What we have here is a Birdsong Especial Supremo – functionally and tonally a Fusion model, but crafted far beyond even that wood lover’s model. 

The pickup and control specs of the Fusion give the bass a tone that almost has some upright bass mixed in there with its very woody electric voice. It’s a special recipe and my favorite bass tone – to my ear what “bass” is. Like when someone says “Wood” my brain pictures walnut; when “Bass” comes to mind, this is the tone I think of. In fact when I designed the Fusion I wanted it to look like it sounded – so it got plenty of dark wood with all wood covers & plates and some sharp curves.

The Especial model was a combination of the tone & trim of the Fusion and the body shape of our Cortobass body, our original model. It built the company; the first Cortobass was sold in 2004. Anyone who took the chance on us early on could not believe a short scale bass could work so well or sound so rich. It still makes converts to this day and all of our other offerings have used its basic specs as a starting point. 

Combining the Cortobass body and the Fusion features into the Especial model happened a ways back when working up a design for Marciano of Los Enanitos Verdes. The Especial also used different woods and combinations than the Fusion recipe. Here are a few Especials. (Especii?)

So when we take that and add a German carved edge, hand carved scroll, brass & gold hardware, and all that rosewood (board, headstock, nut, truss rod cover, pickup cover top, control plate, knobs, body center stringer)? Supremo, amigos. Meet my bass. What does the guy who makes Birdsongs happen play? This right here. 

This particular bass has some very meaningful materials in it, so here’s the scoop on those - the body wood is an imperfect piece of Wimberley flood cypress. After the devastating flood of 2015 that tore through anything near the banks of the Blanco river (which runs right through our little town), I knew I couldn’t fix what had happened but I could do my part to heal it. So a plank from one hundreds-of-years-old tree found its way to my shop where I could turn it into musical instruments to sing and bring people together. After putting the best pieces of this plank aside for client builds, I didn’t want any to go to waste (and I have a soft spot for imperfect wood, pardon the pun)… so, this. 

The neck is an old cosmetic B-stock test neck that has helped me mock up models & builds & test things in the workshop for years and deserved a promotion. There are still scribbles and markings from its prior lives on the back. The brass screws are NOS 1970s SD Curlee bits, and the unplated brass bridge is special order from Hipshot - a further SD Curlee connection because I use it on some of those to mimic the old ‘70s bridges’ look but with modern quality & adjustability. (For those who don’t know, SD Curlee was a ‘70s brand of medium scale basses very influential on me that I revived & refined several years ago). The two wood visual theme is a favorite of mine too, in this case the golden cypress (and maple of the basic neck) and the brown rosewood; what is not one is the other. 

You’d think with all the fancy stuff something would poke or prod you somewhere but no – the way the curves of the bass are it just tucks up against the body and in balance & form this is the most comfortable bass I’ve ever played. It’s so alive - it makes me want to go turn up an amp and jam out. And isn’t that what an instrument is supposed to be? Not just a tool that can be price-shopped for features but in addition to that some sort of talisman? Some kind of divining rod with strings? That’s what they are to me, so that’s what I try to craft for you… whether it’ll be a full-dress exotic carved Especial Supremo or a simple mahogany Cortobass. It’s in there.

Whoa... what the hell is THAT?! Well, before I sign off this week I want to mention and tip my hat to Carvin. Carvin has been a maker of good American built gear for 70 years – a few years back the family spun the guitar division off as Keisel (a different company which is doing fine), and kept the Carvin name for the amps and PA. Well, Carvin has closed its factory doors. I’m sad to see it - my first big 100 watt rock ‘n roll amp was a Carvin X100B head, shown here with a bunch of hoodlums making quite a racket. I can’t believe that was 32 years ago, but that’s another blog entirely. I came of age drooling over the big glossy Carvin catalogs of that era, more than likely learned a bit about guitar & bass features from them, and have only known a world where Rome’s in the dirt, God’s in the sky, and Carvin’s in California. Well… things certainly do change. Thanks for helping the music happen for so long, Carvin – and so long! I wish everyone involved the best.

Listening to: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Songs and Music from She’s The One; Miles Davis Kind of Blue; Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers; fantastic interview with Steve Vai on Make Weird Music; a Neil Young interview from 1988.


Notes on the passing of Tom Petty. It’s 2:25 AM Tuesday and – officially – about 6 hours ago we entered into a world without Tom Petty. He is part of the reason I am who I am, a definitive part of the soundtrack of my coming of age in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when you could turn on the radio and rock stations played guitar-driven songs like his that popped us like kernels to pick up guitars and follow. It is uncountable the times since when I’ve played those songs on small stages or taught them to students in small rooms. Woman In Love. Breakdown. American Girl. Refugee. I Need To Know. Mary Jane's Last Dance. Running Down a Dream. Listen To Her Heart. Here Comes My Girl. You Got Lucky. The Waiting. The list goes on and on and on. A personal favorite song is Southern Accents. He, as man on point and name up top, delivered the goods and rocked so many millions of people with one of the greatest bands of our time, for 40 years

When I heard the news my first thoughts were for guitarist Mike Campbell, as identifiable a voice on his instrument as Tom was at the mic for many of the same reasons. Mike followed him everywhere through band, solo, and collaborations. After all the tapestry these two voices have woven together I can’t imagine one without the other; he’s been the man’s right hand for four decades and probably feels completely lost right now. Where do you sail when your north star goes out in the night? My heart goes out to all of Tom’s bandmates, all of his family and friends, and all of you. We are together in this loss. But what a life, what a way to go – finish your last tour and drop a week later. Truly job completed; mission accomplished. Another thought was this – our heroes are human and we have to let go. Sometimes it’s a shock for unexpected reasons… you expect people to die. You just don’t expect Tom Petty to be 66 years old! How is that possible?      

But a star like Petty’s going out as it did offers its last to us in reminding us that, for whatever shock and sorrow, there is something to be said for leaving while the party’s still going. No fade, no slow slide, no decline. Here rocking it one day… and gone the next. The man and his band finished up their 40th Anniversary tour – billed as the last – the week before. The big question as the icons pass is who will replace them? That garden has not exactly been re-seeded and the terrain has changed so much. But that is for the next generations to come up into and make something out of, as they will, as we did, as those before us did. We’ve had our times and  we’ve had our Toms. But have some integrity, kids – stand for what you believe in, not just what you're handed, not just what you believe will sell or score the best. Deliver something real and deliver it honestly. And refuse to be bullied.

My favorite Tom Petty work is not a song, but the scene in the Running Down a Dream documentary where he is just dogging this record company man in the studio with Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. It’s the early 90s. Tom’s reading the lyrics out loud to this awful paint-by-numbers Nashville cubicle nursery rhyme his hero has been handed to record by the company man. The disgust in his voice – you could cut it with a knife, and the rep is visibly uncomfortable as Petty drawls, “What, are you getting a kickback on this? This is a shit song.”

In an ever more spun world where it’s either-or and nobody will give an inch to come together in reality's vast shades of gray, and as the reap-what-we-sow results of this darker, divided garden we are seeding come to bloom as more tragedy and further lashing out, the music will be there for us as the friend who never leaves our side. The medicine that remains strong. The calming waters that help us maintain center in our lives we navigate as the world spins all around us. Tom Petty’s music will stay in there, and can there be a greater legacy to leave than to be a part of that? I don’t think so. But I don’t know; this is a much bigger stew than me carrot, you potato, and it’s going to get stirred now and then on the way to whatever it’s going to be. I’m not sure where it’s all going but I am, however, certain of this -  Tom, I speak for millions that you were a part of the soundtrack to my life and will be ‘til I sail that shore myself.

Listen. Don’t just hear.

Listening to: All things Tom Petty; Aerosmith Rocks; lots of Mississippi Fred McDowell; Grateful Dead Movie soundtrack; Dave Brubeck.

Art & Craft In The Woods

Whenever I listen to Eric Clapton I think of Ruthanne Arbeit. She was a big fan, and had everything he had done to that point – except for the bootleg cassette I got a hold of from a radio broadcast and copied for her. This was 1985. Looking back, not exactly peak era Clapton, but she loved it. She was an art teacher I had back in school, a bit of a hippy, from New York. She encouraged me endlessly in my creative process regardless of how I wanted to veer. The class was going to do batik but I really wanted to do a mug with a nose coming out of the front of it. “The schnoz mug” still exists, holding business cards on a shelf by the computer. “Miss Arbeit” though, she’s been gone many years now… boy the conversations I would like to have with her as an adult about art and calling and creativity. And Clapton. 

Some music I put on for purpose – Aerosmith “Rocks” is great to rout to, Alice In Chains serves the more physical and aggressive aspects of the instrument building craft. And there’s little better than a half hour Grateful Dead jam when something detailed and creative needs to happen and the sun’s shining in the windows of the workshop. I just felt like some Clapton. I’m not a huge fan, but I do like blues, and love George Harrison & JJ Cale. Put those in a blender and out comes ‘70s Eric. That’s the Clapton I like most, and a favorite from that time, right next to the ragged and glorious Rainbow Concert CD with the extra tracks, is the Eric Clapton album from 1970. To me it has seasonings of everything good about such music’s early, loose blendings from pure strains in that era. I feel good when I listen to it and it never gets old.

And I never get tired of thinking about someone that had such a profound impact on my path. At the time it was just a nudge, but it was the nudge I needed in a young life full of other nudges from all sides. This far out as a ripple I can't imagine I'd even be the same guy had I not been on the receiving end of that little nudge. 

There’s a stack of wood that’s been waiting a few weeks for me – poplar and mesquite, mahogany and walnut – to help it (them) out of the plank. Planing to thickness, laying out body halves & pieces from template tracings onto them (with your instrument’s serial number written in the neck pocket area), then cutting – at which point they’re no longer tree – and dressing where the pieces will be glued together. Then once the glue is spread and the clamps are on, each has taken its first real step as a guitar or bass to be. It has crossed over from what it used to be to what it IS BECOMING. That’s huge. If we’re lucky in life we get to feel that a few times and find ourselves and fix ourselves where we’re supposed to be. Wood needs a little more help with that, but it’s a similar journey metaphorically. I was aiming for last or this week to get about a dozen going but sometimes life takes its own schedule with your plans. So long as you’re ready when it’s ready, a little dose of acceptance goes a long way. That and a whole other list of things to do!

It’s been raining all week so I’ve shuffled around the to-do lists a few times, one of those things that happens when you work out of a backwoods workshop with a front porch. The porch is where most of the planing and raw lumber dimensioning gets done. Yes, your Birdsong gets partly made outdoors – the little green workshop is one of the most inspiring places I know, but the porch of the little green workshop is the best spot out here in the mostly great south Texas weather. This is the way it works best, way out down a dirt road. Well let’s say that’s where I work best! I've tried in the past to carry enough of the backwoods good vibes into a big industrial work building every day to fill it, and there’s never any question enough basses could be made to keep something like that humming, but things change and years ago we went to that edge. There’s a middle spot when building using small workshop process has to evolve into smoother, more efficient production to get bigger better. Otherwise it’s chaos. It can be done, it’s done all the time. But I decided the way was just as important to me as the results, and I like the rural workshop way. Look at it this way – the result is yours, you live with that every day as your instrument... as soon as it’s truly done and dialed in it’s off to you. The process – how these come to be – that’s where I live. That’s what I am a part of every day. I send you the destination; I get the journey. And if you’re not enjoying the journey…

So these years are really the dream, for me at least; not a factory. The green workshop in the woods. And plenty of  instruments have and continue to come to life this way too, even if nature occasionally has to be worked around. I’ll work with the character of the hand built workshop these get made in just like I work with the character of the wood, and keep it working into the basses & guitars as part of their character as well. I want them to have a good life, to go out and serve well; and I know that’s helped greatly by knowing where you came from and waking up where you belong. 

Thank YOU for being along on the journey with us!

Listening to: Eric Clapton Eric Clapton; (among other cool stations - like from Georgetown, Saint Helena and some great music from Ghana - worldwide on this AMAZING site); dub reggae by King Tubby.

"Steel" Away The Night

LAP STEELS! How much fun can one simple plank be? Well that depends on a few things but I’ll tell you this, a lap steel is like pizza – at its very worst it’s still pizza, I call that “Utility pizza.” I’ve eaten a LOT of pizza in my time on this rock and it’s very rare it has sucked to where I wouldn’t eat it. It’s pizza! If it’s cooked dough and sauce and melted cheese, how bad can it be? Simple joys are that way, and when done really right they’re pure bliss. That is a lap steel. Now add art and craft and mojo from there. I love these things. 

A lap steel can have different numbers of strings and different tunings for different styles of music, but I like the ones that relate to the guitar – six strings and tuned to an open E chord. Lap steels trickle out of the Wingfeather Workshop, snuck in between the Birdsong basses and other instruments growing across the benches like a wood & wire garden. What we have here is my latest batch of Texas Lap Steel Co. steels. This is unusual to see a batch, and is a chance to grab one – if you’re interested, now’s the time. Everybody should have one of these things to play on.

I always wanted to build more and get them into small-batch crafting like the basses, but there’s only one of me and I’m so busy making Birdsongs I haven’t been able to. As Birdsong has attained flight over the past 13 plus years I’ve tried to help others get their own things going with a nudge, some work, some advice and a part of all of this they could take over as their own and go from there. I’ve got guitars, basses, steels, brands, ideas I’ll never get to… Birdsong is what flew, so that’s who I am now. Not just to you, but to me. My whole world is different than it was pre-Birdsong. Same path but further down the road. I wish some of these guys would have just plugged in and held their course, they’d have little companies of their own by now. But it’s not for everybody once they realize there’s no “trick” but endless lists of hard work, an ethic to stay on top of things, lots of numbers to deal with, and a belief that refuses to be shaken or taken. It’s not playing with stocks – YOU have to make what you sell, and YOU have to sell what you make. Then you find help, and then you help them. It’s really simple… but it’s not easy. 

Well, batches of beautiful mojo-filled singing steels from the Texas Hill Country might bloom nearby shortly, as I’ve been working with a local woodworker who has been crafting his first few and they are really something. He’s really something. I’m hopeful to be able to tell you more soon on that as it develops. Meanwhile if you’d like one from the Wingfeather Workshop with all of that Birdsong mojo in it, here’s your chance! These are headed into finishing for layers of hand rubbed oil & wax, then they go together to sing in assembly. The first two pics are of steels that are available – a mahogany & maple 22-1/4” scale with inlays, and a 23” scale “Sweet Singer” model of Spanish cedar, spalted Texas pecan & bloodwood. The third is a client build of mesquite; the last is mine from Wimberley flood cypress. I pour every bit of love into these as I do the basses. Satisfaction guaranteed! 

Slidin’ on into fall,

Listening to: Alice In Chains Alice In Chains; lots of Doug Raney; Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond, and KUOZ Ozarks Radio on this amazing thing where you can spin the globe and tune in to radio everywhere: - I’ll be zoning out to this later, you can be sure of that.

This Week's Update!

Jamie got back home a few days ago, thank you folks who gave to her fund for the people she was able to do something for, and thank all who gave to the other funds for the flood victims of Harvey in southeast Texas. Out thoughts are with all Harvey – and Irma – impacted everywhere.

On the one hand the scope of such events and the depth of impact changing so many lives is completely overwhelming to see close up; but given some time and perspective, you know another came and grabbed the skillet, you saw the next waters were handed out, another container of clothes was opened by cleaner hands just arrived to take over… and you realize it truly is coming together that makes the difference. You cannot fix it but you do what you can as a part of what’s needed. That you are one tiny temporary potential partial answer connected to others, in a chain, twisted like strands, woven like a blanket, and it adds up. It means more than many much larger accomplishments to hand someone who has just lost everything some food, a little encouragement, and your presence. They are not alone… and you are not alone. 

I salute my wife, other civilian volunteers, first responders, and all those who act with selfless valor in the face of tragedy the world over… the everyday saviors. While some just bicker and blame and others exploit the darker scenes in life and take advantage in such moments, there are still more who give of themselves in some way, who try to be part of a solution when and where it is needed most. They give the hope to those on the sidelines with hearts as well, that however our winds blow there’s always the chance it’s going to be OK too. 


Found this cool shot in the archives of what was hanging in final assembly at this time in September 2012. Can’t wrap my head around that being five years ago! Like I said on the Birdsong Guitars Facebook page (where you get a Throwback Thursday post every week), “Looks like another one of those years I said yes to a lot of unusual stuff! Hope it was as fun as 2017 has been. I know I was there, that's over my bench!”

Here’s a “Yes” for this year, just about to get sanded & go into finishing. The neck? Matching. Stay tuned over on the builds page where you can see what’s in process and maybe start dreaming up one I can make for YOU! 

Also on the Facebook page (go like and follow us already, will you?) there’s Woodcraft Wednesday, where I offer up some little piece of rustic woodcraft made from a cutoff or scrap wood from the workshop. Like this – a Texas mesquite miniature oil lamp with a natural edge. They’re usually around $35 including shipping and they usually sell. This little one’s still available.

Thanks & have a great weekend!

Listening to: Grateful Dead American Beauty; Frank Zappa Road Tapes; some Mississippi Fred McDowell; Aerosmith Rocks.  


September 11th... a quick note on this important day. I encourage all of you to do something positive and creative today, something beautiful that can be shared. Bake some cookies for friends, write some music, give someone a hug. Notice the beauty of the little things. When life spares you, live. Enjoy something for the others.Make amends. Let something go. Feed a stray. Water a random plant somewhere and wish it well. Toss some good seed out into the field.