Goodbye, Spongebob... and catch you on the flipside!

*** Special reminder, especially this time of year when I can't answer the phone every time. VERBALLY leave your number for a call back. My message asks for that. My phone doesn't know who you are and yours just goes in with a bunch other numbers. Thanks! ***

I never watched SpongeBob
– honestly my path has kept my attention on other things than TV or most movies, let alone cartoons… so I haven’t heard of actors everybody knows or seen movies the whole world has watched. But I do have a Spongebob story…

In the late ‘90s I tracked down a formative musical hero, guitarist Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer. Their cover of Summertime Blues popped me like a kernel and put me on a sonic path. As a kid it made me want to make big sound with a guitar and turned me on to a whole era and scene of music I still love. So years later I found him online, made him a guitar - and MORE years later in 2005 flew out to see the original Blue Cheer reunite in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with a bunch of other San-Fran bands from the late ‘60s. I got to see Leigh… with Blue Cheer… in San Francisco… play Summertime Blues… on a guitar I built. Let that sink in; so it was already a VERY surreal day. Who opened the show? A solo set by James Gurley – long ago the wild, feathers-in-the-hair, out there feedback shaman of Big Brother & The Holding Company. Just go listen to the first minute and four seconds of “Ball and Chain” off of Cheap Thrills and… I mean eloquent it’s not but it definitely left a mark. So the Leigh connection gets me behind the stage at the “Chet Helms Memorial Tribal Stomp” with the artists, though I still maintain the fake press laminate I packed in helped too.

I wander off back there during the It’s a Beautiful Day set and some 20 minute rendition of “White Bird” and over in a corner, giggling to himself, is none other than James Gurley. Older but of the same ether as all the pictures, and I mean just everything about being a trippy guitar god spirit still radiated from this guy. Including a stare that had to be seen to be believed. I walked over and offered him some incense with outstretched hands, saying “Mr. Gurley, a humble offering back to you for the ripples of music into the world and influence on my path,” something like that. He laughed warmly. “Well thank you, ahaha. Hey, you wait right here – heh heh – I got something for you too, ahaha… be right back… don’t go away!” And with that he strolled into an artist dressing room tent and came back with something in his hand. He was a tall man, of course everyone’s tall when you’re five foot three. But his presence was a towering presence. He might have even been levitating slightly; I don’t know. He stood in front of me, smiling down, pupils that looked like something out of the cosmos.

This is quite a moment. What’s he gonna hand me, I thought. There are lots of possibilities, none of which I partake of. How would I get it back on the plane? Would I receive it as sacrament? Was my life about to change? Or… would it be a folded note with wisdom from some sacred oracle? A code from the universe? A name bestowed by mystic I would then forever-on be known as? He smiled and slowly raised his hand up by his head. Swinging from his thumb and forefinger back and forth… was a Spongebob keychain. Slightly hypnotized in the moment by its swinging, I could only softly muster “What is it?”

“Spongebob Squarepants! You oughta check him out sometime.” And with that, he put it in my hand. It hangs by the assembly bench with other sacred items brought to me by this journey music has taken.

And with that, I sign off of weekly site updates until after the new year. It takes more time to execute all these words every week than it may look like, and I need to take every bit of me and time I have to get as much work done as possible before the shop goes on break for Christmas and a few weeks after. I also need to recharge and replenish and just be Scott for a while. No screen, no tools, no list. I’ll keep posting progress pics on the builds page, and there will still be Facebook updates since those can happen quickly. Follow Birdsong Guitars and friend me; I’m this Scott Beckwith... not the others.

The “EOY” group (that’s “End Of Year” on the order sheet), I made a lot of them, there is a handful I’m building up to be ready and go, and there are some I just couldn’t get as far on as I would have liked (I’ll be giving you a call). But that’s the flow of the work through the shop, and in that river I can only be one very sharp tool in the process. I make sure it’s always worth the wait for you and I thank you VERY much for your patience with the process. Same goes for the “Early ‘19” folks – once we’re through the Holidays and recharged from some down time, some fixing things & cleaning around the shop, and crank back up (looking at last week of January / 1st of Feb.)… I’ll be all over your builds like a bad suit!

But for now, this little wood elf has still got a Santa’s sack-sized load of work to do, so I’ll sign off. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, Happy Holidays to the rest, and Happy New Year. Thank you – YOU, whether I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with you or notso much. Celebrate the good, muster some magic, make some moments, and share some music. Be kind to each other and give the gift of yourself. On behalf of all the hands that help this all to happen, this is one Chief Woodgnome Scottibus, Bean of Padouk, Head Cheese, Highway Song and Captain of the Ship, wishing blessings to you & your circles from ours, out and on the side.

Listening to: Bob Seger, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Slash autobiography readings.

Thankful To See Thanksgiving

Putting this up today, Thursday, Thanksgiving day - it feels right. If you have any need to contact me, please call anytime. I don’t punch out as Scott the Birdsong Guy, it’s who I am. I’m happy to talk with you anytime about what we do and why or be of service with suggestions and any kind of help. Hey, even if it’s just a pep talk. I mean it. If I’m out of service I won’t answer - but leave your number and I will call you back ASAP… please make sure your voice mail isn’t full, OK?

The California fires… what can one say. I’ve seen up close what scorched earth and smoldering neighborhoods look like. It leaves a mark and you never forget the smell, even if it wasn’t yours and you were just coming through for a bit to help. It’s way bigger than the safe distance of pictures, however wide the shot, can convey. It’s a perspective shifter for sure. But it’s a whole different kind of scar when all you knew is lost – when it was your town. Your home. Your neighbors. This thankfully I can only imagine. Along with the ultimate tragedy of loss of life, which of course no possessions compare to, the collector car and musical instrument worlds are very much reeling from the material loss. One example among many, an elder in our line of business, Wayne Charvel has lost his shop, his tooling, all of his history, his home. His son lost his home as well. Big, big tragedy for the Charvel family and a loss we feel in our own way through the luthier world and rock & roll community. To all who suffered loss of any kind in these fires - from all of us here to each of you, Birdsong Guitars sends its deepest sympathies.

Gratitude… this day of giving of thanks. It is more than one day and this day is more than just that. It is a complicated day for complex people. Bless the simple bliss, but Lord knows that’s not me. Hopefully in your heart there is some of what makes the ceremony – gratitude, coming together to share in life’s bounty – always there through ALL days of the year. It doesn’t take an easy life to be grateful for the gifts, just as it does not take a large full table to share something in ceremony. It is easy for any of us to see in life and gatherings what and who is not there, but this day is about what and who IS. The food and the story, some of it I swallow and some of it I don’t. It’s a heavy day for many people in many different ways, and in that we’re together too. Frame a day in gratitude though, and I can definitely work with it from there! I’m grateful for the freedom to have such decisions, happy to be here at all, and offer all of you – whatever yours and wherever you are in your journey – peace in your circle today, this weekend, and always.

Listening to: Paul Stanley autobiography audiobook; John Lee Hooker & Canned Heat Hooker & Heat.

Boston Brain, Texas Fall

The weather has turned cool here, but as I write this there is not a cloud in the sky and it will be warming back up into the 60s today. This is what I love about south central Texas – there might not be such thing as fall, but when winter comes, it generally comes in mild doses and feeds it to you in bite size portions with breaks for sunshine and flannel shirts.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately after so many years of relentlessly pushing onward; I don’t know, maybe it’s the colder weather, or just that feeling in the bones looking into the autumn of a life. Maybe it’s both and the fall takes on different meaning when you are the late summer. The first half or so introduces new paths and discoveries; the second trims away – little by little… things you don’t do again, faces you won’t see anymore, retired old jokes, forgotten memories, responsibilities resolved, quests conquered.

One may choose a path of simplicity at any stage, but at some point life will begin to clear your plate for you. It is bittersweet, but the sweet is absolutely there - I am feeling like the simmering down of my aunt’s pasta sauce from full pot to half, the diminishing of the vastness of life into something a bit smaller and shorter, but far more rich and flavorful. And the slowing of myself into someone who can really savor every bite, if for no other reason than I can’t gobble and go as if it were springtime.

So… what’s on your bucket list? For you really young folks, that’s the list of things to do before you kick the bucket. Before you go down for the big dirt nap. Before you check out of the Life Motel. Everyone should have a bucket list and be chasing down a couple of things on it at all times, because you never know for sure when the hands of fate are going to grab your ticket and punch it while you’re not looking, like some silly game show and guess what? You’re off the island. Don’t even bother packing. I mean, of all things, we actually had a meteor boom over central Texas last night, how about that? And it could have crash landed right smack dab down on my very balls on the living room couch with the same odds it as anywhere else had it made it all the way in. “Well Mr. Beckwth, actually, the mean vector average trajectory calculation of the –“ BOOM. Splat. “But you see we’re connected and ordained to be the rightful Godly inheritors of –“ BABOOM! Whoosh. “Fake. Horrible Photoshop. The Earth is flat and there’s no such thing as –“ KERPOW. Eat it, pal. One cosmic delete key, right there Fred. Goodnight nurse, ghost given, chips cashed, big one bitten. Hasta la vista, baby. Argue with the spaceball.

Now if you dodge the meteors and give the slip to entropy a few times, you live long enough and all you have left is that list, but most of it you can’t do anymore! So start one now. I think a good mix is one of certain things to have, things to experience, and things to have deliberately cultivated to leave behind when you go. When you bite the dust. Buy the farm, metaphorically. Go “tits up” as they say on the east coast. (We do have a way wit woids…)

Mine has a few things on it – a big one is a road trip. No surprise there really, but THIS one will be all across Rt. 66, bang a right in Cali, and head on up the Pacific coast. A late ‘50s style battleship of a cruiser was on it but that’s crossed off now - this 1960 Pontiac took care of that, and ol’ “American Beauty” is now the car I want to do it in. So I’m gaining on that one.

Another was to own a Martin D35 – man, I lusted after one for years. And a few years back, one practically dropped into my lap in a deal I couldn’t say no to. Far too fragile and vulnerable for the life I live, I wrote & recorded with it and sold it down the road – but I had the experience. I got my dance. Same with a spectacular used ’58 re-issue black Les Paul custom. Check… aaaaand out. Next!

I wouldn’t mind going to Sicily. I’m working on getting four books together and put out, and three more albums of music. But back to you – what are YOU doing? Where are YOU going? What do you WANT? Listen, if a Birdsong bass or a D’Aquila electric jazz guitar is anywhere on your bucket list, I want to know this! I’ve been privileged to build the “This is the last instrument I’m ever going to buy, so I’m treating myself” basses for a number of old timers, short timers, and visitors on a time schedule if you catch my drift. It’s not morbid – it’s a celebration. It’s a victory lap in the face of the end of the ride, the only sure thing. It’s a good stiff arm up right at that hooded bastard with the scythe. “You’ll be prying my hands off THIS bass. You’ll be chasing me in THIS hot rod. You’re going to take me down in flight, not sitting around counting regrets and waiting for you. Get the hell away from me until you got your papers signed and it’s time.”

If ANYTHING I do is part of a stand like that, you let me know. Sure there are some numbers involved, but I’m in reeeeal good with the guy that runs this joint, see? Arrangements can be made. I’d love to hear from you and I will move this mountain to serve that stand. Maybe you can meet me out on the Mother Road and pick it up over a cold one. The pizza’s on me. Maybe literally! Restaurants have been known to be troublesome to more than a few Italians over the years. Ha ha, who knows. All I know is I’ll enjoy every bite, and I hope you will too. Happy fall. Get out there and make some moments, will you?

Listening to: Al Caiola Italian Gold; Mississippi Fred McDowell, Type O Negative, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. That MIGHT be the first time those four have ever been put in the same sentence in the history of man. But I’m not real good with coloring in the lines.

The Thread

I’ve heard a few times recently that the little list of what I’m listening to while I work gets checked out every week. That’s fantastic. That’s my hope with ANYTHING I share, not that you think like me or listen to what I do… but that you do think about things a layer or two deeper and you listen to new-to-you music. I was gifted this podium along with my craftsman’s path, and part of that means I’m supposed to share and inspire. If a tiny bit of how music inspires and fills me somehow transfers to you by a recommendation or even something else you found in the used CD bin while you went LOOKING for something I was into, I mean that’s life right there! That’s how it all hooks together! That’s how little paths happen into other artists’ work, and musics, and even lives – go ahead and SAY hello to the person next to you. Stop at that bar or restaurant or shop on the way home you’ve driven by all those times but wanted to. Life is a tapestry of these thin threads somehow entwined. My whole path traces back to one thumbtack holding my first business card as a musician for hire at 17 years old into a cork bulletin board at a drugstore for two years. You think the guy went there to find my card? No, he was on a quest doing something else and picked up my thread, which I have followed through and to a thousand others over the past 32 years right to this moment typing this for you, light years from who, what, and where I was when that tack got pushed in... but somehow connected by that one thread. Now, I’m not going to send you out for shaving cream, but I will get you going for music. The rest is up to you and the universe.

When I write I was listening to Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic” SURE I’m hoping you’ll find something there that will season the flavor of your life. That’s a badass work that could blow your mind! Way more than that, way deeper than that though, I’m seeding a tiny little journey into your garden. A little quest! If it takes, Kamasi or not, you’re going to be out off looking for something and find a lot more on the way. It’s that “lot more” I really want to share, from the seeking to the path to the nuggets along the way to the new soundtracks you have for moments you might need to make now too. All uniquely yours, most of which I’ll never know… but I know you’re there, and I know music – in a world of viral spiraling lunacy from all sides – is a virus of connection and good vibration and inner health. It takes you on GOOD little journeys, sometimes where destiny can find you and plant her little seeds too. Your life doesn’t need to look anything like mine – but I’m here to inject you with the good musical virus so YOUR doings and feelings and ripplings come from the best place in YOU. This dis-dis-ease is spread by music, and that’s what it does. Share, spread, soothe, and inspire.

This is a busy time of year. Feed yourself well, but feed yourself wellness. That includes daily affirmations that whatever’s difficult you’ll get through it, whatever’s coming you’ll work around it, whatever’s happening you can handle it, whatever’s not working you can change it. AND TO all of that, and all the joys and magic moments, is a soundtrack, also taken in daily doses. Add to that. Share it with the people around YOU. Keep the music playing around you and it will keep the song in your heart.

Listening to: Kamasi Washington The Epic; Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua; Marcus Roberts As Serenity Approaches.

One For The Hands

One for the hands.

For those of you who didn’t see it in the Throwback Thursday post on Facebook this week, Halloween 2005 found first real Birdsong Guitars workshop help Tommy coming to work as… ME. Truly one of the greatest moments of the early first chapter! There have been some surreal moments in my life, but the realization that you have become someone else’s Halloween costume… that’s still difficult to even describe. Hilarious.

I might be the face, the mad scientist, the quarterback… but none of this happens without the helping hands. I wish some of them would have stuck around, some could have been Captain by now – and more surely been Captaining ships of their own – but not everybody is cut out for this kind of weirdness. It’s unpredictable. You wear so many hats. The all-in factor to maintain sail – let alone build the ship and get it off the shore to being with - is just beyond belief. It’s one of those things you can definitely be in love with the idea of but find, no matter how good you may be at the craft, the rest of it too much to handle. Being in business is a challenge – being in business as an artist / craftsperson is a challenge mixed with just enough of the creative madness so that if that’s you it’s the only thing that has ever felt so right… and if it’s not, you end up in the water. Jumped, pushed, or washed overboard by the hand of the universe. It is what it is.

Similar things can be said about anyone who comes aboard to help, to some extent. It’s like you have to be just the right mix of stable and nutty. Too regimented or nutty as squirrel poop and… over the rail you go. And let’s face it, life is to go build your dreams – not to stay building someone else’s. Unless it’s your dream to be that Captain. Even as a Captain though, you know well no ship sails by Captain alone. It’s one role for the one with the charts and the vision and the balls. When it comes to actually making things happen, the whole reason for all of any of it anyway, helping hands help it all happen… and we’ve had some great times with all of them over the years.

These are just some of the faces, but this one goes out to ALL of you who flew, swam away, fell off, or crawled under the fence at night. I hope you all are chasing your dreams and gaining ground. Birdsong Guitars salutes you and I, Captain by default, raise a frosty glass of mead in your honor. It is not autumnal.

Listening to: Yabby You, Dub It To The Top; Static X, because you just have to shuffle the deck occasionally; and my favorite radio station

Special gratitudes to Jamie, Birdsong co-pilot, still sanding on the side!

Simplify and Focus

Well, looks like they got a rock and roll guy heading up Gibson now, I wish him and the company good luck as they emerge from bankruptcy and hopefully onto a path back into solvency. I’ve loved the dances I’ve had with their guitars over the decades, and you can bet your left whatever that if I had won the lottery I’d have been buying a few. The basses? Meh, I have an old EB3 that’s beat but has a story and it did influence the Cortobass in ways, so I keep it around. Other than that one specific bass, their basses… meh. And I did offer to help in any way with short scale designs I KNOW work well but even with a connection inside I couldn’t even get near the moat. If anyone from the new regime even has a clue we exist, look up our reputation and know the offer still stands. I know we’re tiny but we’re pretty good. Give me 5 minutes in a room with someone who can make decisions and I’ll offer whatever I have that that may help that area. Good luck to all of you over there! Simplify and focus.

Sometimes design is not what’s added, but what is left off. Just like if you leave a few empty spots in a bass line, those rests give it groove. Composing with silence as an ingredient. In the sharpening of a knife, or a life for that matter, or even the ways of a giant guitar company - it’s what is removed by the process that hones it sharper to be more effective. A photograph with just the right amount of empty space can bring more focus to the main subject. You might ask yourself “What does this guy do for laughs?” I know that’s something I always wonder about people. And just how does this tie into what we were just talking about? We’ll save minimalist road travel, sitting in the woods until my bone marrow hums, and plain pizza for other times and go with a little tomfoolery on the ‘net, shall we?

To me, like in years past when I would send odd, random items back in the self-addressed stamped envelopes of junk mail that clogged my mailbox, and go right to bizarre-land with phone solicitors, if your ad shows up on my screen you’re fair game to have a little fun with. And this… this is a perfect example of refining out just a few superfluous things and suddenly the design is SO much better.

Here (above) we see the graphic that accompanied a marshal arts ad that showed up in my feed. A nice, if sketchy, kick to the side… pardon that pun. And below, by quickly removing just a few excess lines, now it’s a good square kick right in the applebag. Straight to the shenanigans! Right in the ol’ Paulie Walnuts.

Took all of three minutes, I laughed myself silly… and I reposted it in the comments underneath their ad. Just a little assistance; you know I try to be helpful. Anyhow, it still amazes me during the process how a small refinement can make such a vas deferens.

Moving along, the rain finally let up a bit so it’s been, well, balls out here catching up on the things we simply won’t do when it’s 90 per cent humidity outside. I like my routs to stay tight, my glue to stay strong, that sliced to stay straight and those sanded to stay smooth. We’re in high gear. It’s that time of year, too – the end of the year (“EOY” on the build sheets in here) push. Not faster, just more focused and longer hours at it, doing a few extra steps every day. I live for this. As I told one client, “I’m all over it like a bad suit!” The new camera is here and working, still putting pictures up on the builds page. Life is good. Go make it happen.

Listening to: Boz Scaggs Live 2004 (on YouTube) (it’s awesome); WTF podcasts; a mixtape CD called “Eclectic” a neighbor gave me of everything from Sting to Fever Tree, Chris Isaak, Redbone and Tina Turner); and some live Jerry Garcia Band.

Random Thoughts

My inbox is an interesting place. Most public addresses are… but in amongst the whole lot of emails from places I’ve bought parts from here and there sending their latest sales pitches (sometimes 5 or 6 times in a line, thanks BBG – I know you’re there OK?) are the steady stream from folks who somehow think I’m “Birdsong Builders”… as in houses… the best of which came through this week. Reminder: Your 0% offer is waiting. Take advantage of our latest…” Thank you, thanks very much. I really appreciate that.

Well, there aren’t any new pics up on the builds page this week but it’s sure not because we’ve been slacking or anything. The old digital camera gave up the ghost. I know, “Camera? What’s that?” Well it’s what I, Scott, luddite, take pictures with. Because my phone is a phone. A new one is on the way to me but for a few days here I’ll have plenty to show but no pics to share. We’re getting that taken care of as quick as we can.

It’s mid-October and this is where I realistically look and refocus on what can possibly be done by the end of the year. We’re blessed to be busy, but things flow through here from orders in to instruments out how they need to in order to get the most done the most efficiently for how it happens in here. All of you are – of course – equally important to me to serve and work for, but at the end of the year there are always a few who get surprised with basses a little earlier than expected, and those who get apologetic call from me that it’s going to be on the other side of the Holidays instead, as no matter how hard or efficient we run we do run out of road. December ALWAYS comes quicker than expected. All I can promise, other than always to do my best and offer the highest of those who help, is that whatever is being worked on for you will be worth the wait, and the cost, completely. That’s the reputation – 15 years worth almost – and it’s like that for a reason. You will get it, you will be happy, and you will plug it in and put it on and be inspired. And the wait and the numbers will be forgotten. That is my main priority… time, time has to flex a little. It’s just the nature of it, and the nature of attempting to do things like we do them and apply that to a time grid six or seven months in advance. Time flexes - it does out there and it certainly does in here. Thanks for your patience with the process!

The calls and questions are coming in about the weather, there is some flooding in this part of Texas but we’re not near any of it here in the hills. Someone did put a life vest on the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue up in Austin, though! We’ve had plenty of rain for sure, but it’s hard around these parts to be serious when we wish it away because there are months it doesn’t come at all. Wimberley flooded a few years back but even then – we’re on high ground. I grew up around the Atlantic and weathered plenty of what that can be like. When it came time to look for land far faaaar away, I didn’t want anything to do with unpredictable water. Don’t get me wrong, I love the water – some of the best memories of my life involve parking down at the beach and watching the sunset. But to have it as a neighbor? Hell no, it’s even crazier than that Jason guy who used to headbang out front of his trailer to Dead Horse. So when I went looking for land, Mr. man with the maps would say “And this is a property with a creek coming through it” and I was like “Thanks, I’ll pass. You have something up on a hill?” He’d say “Here’s one closer to town, by the river…” “Mmmm, show me a few out where the roads aren’t even paved yet OK?” So no worries here other than concern for those in the areas affected. You know, it’s a strange balance – once you’ve been without water, you never have enough. But once you’ve seen a flood up close, hard rain does put a little dread in you. So it’s been a bit of “Thank the Lord” and “Ho-leee SHIT” at the same time. But isn’t that life most of the time? We do thank you for your checking up on us though, friends!

And as always thanks for checking in! Have a great weekend. Pour some music on what’s happening, good or bad – it’ll make it better.

Listening to: Steely Dan Pretzel Logic and The Royal Scam; Kyuss Welcome To Sky Valley.