Swingin' Into Year 14

Well hello there and welcome to Friday, or as we call it, “Weekend eve.” We’re back into the swing of things after the July 4th 14th anniversary of our little guitar company and it has been a good and busy week, very productive. Which always feels good. Every day here is a list of different tasks along the way from the wood to the drive out of the nest for a FedEx hand-off; each day is different, its own combination, its own medley. The Bosch Colt router put into service a few years ago routed its 200th instrument this week... a wonderful machine.  

As I talked about in the anniversary video, I slowed my pace a bit this year. I still write ball busters of daily lists and attack them, but I've slowed down to about one and a half good men… working my way back down to just one good man. Maybe next year. This year there’s still a ton going on and things are rocking and rolling - this week a run of three “PB3” 2-pickup versions of the EB-inspired PB bass landed in sanding hands. A couple of interesting inventory builds and a Fusion & custom guitar are right behind them. A batch of Hy5s is getting the bodies prepped, glued and cut and their necks are now prepped and sanded ready for finishing. Three instruments took the honorable drive out from the nest this week, headed for waiting hands and homes. Fun talks with now new clients and other folks just interested for now – we appreciate all of you and the chance to make you that special instrument! Indeed, a fun week in the workshop.

Got to visit with a great guy and long-time Birdsong client Bobby, out on a road trip, who detoured down to visit. He had his Cortobass with him so I got to lay a little love & adjustment onto Cortobass #117 from 2008.

And then there was this visitor just this morning... hello, little face!

Have been listening to a lot of music, and filling in between the albums & CDs with a fantastic radio station out of San Antonio. KRTU is, for most of the day, the perfect jazz station – actual DJs playing albums, talking about the cuts and giving info on the artists. It’s so fantastic and I know it can be streamed – enjoy it. It goes weirdo alternative overnight, but I remember some great college stations that used to go free form anything goes overnight and I used to love it, so I can dig a lot of this too. But the jazz mornings, days, and evenings? FANTASTIC. I have a list of albums to pick up from listening to the radio, always a mark of quality music spinning to me, and that hasn’t happened in years. 

Hope you spin some good music this weekend, no matter what else is going on in life around you – it’s medicine. And if I’m a guy that really means it when I say I wish you well, I’ll wish you music!

Listening to: KRTU San Antonio; Morphine, Cure For Pain; Smashing Pumpkins, live in San Francisco ’91; John Coltrane, Live at Newport; .38 Special, Flashback (Greatest Hits); Rage Against The Machine, Evil Empire; Big Sugar, 500 Pounds (that’s what Gordie’s guitar tone weighs I think); The Who, Quadrophenia disc 2; The Jazz Mandolin Project, Xenoblast; and last but certainly not least, BOTH discs of the live Arista Jerry Garcia Band release. Variety is the spice of life! Step up to the buffet and make your plate into a rainbow. 


UPDATED July 5, 12:01 AM

Here is what stays...
the rest was a blast, hope you enjoyed it! The 14th Anniversary brouhaha was glorious... thank you for all these years, here's to 14 more! No update this Friday, back to our regular schedule on Monday. Thanks for being with us!

It’s long but has ALL the announcements. Watch Scott get singed by 14 sauces, give the State Of The Workshop address, tell you about the sales and specials, and talk about hot sauce. All from inside the actual workshop this year! Grab a beverage and settle in for the entertainment – it’s 5:00 somewhere. (Note: some of these specials were one day only).

TAKING THE NEXT 3 SHORTBASS ORDERS – had to stop taking orders on our basic budget beauties because I’m so busy with Birdsongs. These are $1250 w/bag, your choice mahogany, walnut, or Spanish cedar. Shipping included (continental USA). SHORTBASS PAGE


*** NEW MODELS *** Surprise, they’re the rebirth of the SD CURLEE Standard bass! Best of all, they got a neck very close to Birdsong spec, which means they’re the best playing SD Curlees ever and the necks are STRONG. The rest of the bass? Pure refined vintage goodness – original shape traced off original templates, original DiMarzio pickups, mahogany& maple or walnut & maple. A little shorter, a little lighter, better balanced & playing, but BACK TO THE ROOTS as a simple, strong, workingman’s boutique bass. INTRODUCTORY PRICING is $1500 including gig bag & shipping! These are offered as they’re built. The prototypes are ser. # 33 and 34, a mahogany “Standard76” and a walnut (butcher block!) “Standard78” and are available too! SD CURLEE PAGE

Thanks again so much!

#14 Comin' Up!

Well well well… looks like we’re coming up on the anniversary celebration! July 4th is Birdsong’s 14th Anniversary, and as more of you come aboard you may not have witnessed what happens. As we plunge headlong through time past this mile marker sign, expect to see some kind of “State Of The Workshop” address video with probably 14 announcements, perhaps an equal number of interesting things showing up in inventory, maybe some kind of sale. OK, definitely SOME kind of sale… put it this way, if you’re thinking about it this is the time to do it. So buy the kids shoes and get permission from your significant other NOW, because this year the 4th is a Wednesday and we’re doing ONE DAY ONLY on the actual day. 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM. 

There is usually some sort of new model introduction, I open the vault to offer some historic builds, and this year I’m cleaning house – shop, more accurately - lots of unearthed surprises and personal instruments, some prototypes & R&D instruments; LOTS of fun things to have, for sure, unless you have all of them and other plans for one of the storage areas! And oh yeah – Anniversary basses! Usually a “Here they are” unveiling, this year a bit different. You’ll see. Sometimes it’s good to counter the expected with the unexpected!

It’s so exciting to think about being a part of your music, your tone – your voice. What you offer to musical and magical moments. The tools of music have fascinated me for just as long as music itself. And I know what it feels like to find your missing piece – the tool that turns into your Excalibur. It took until just recently, but I have my Excalibi and I’ve stopped even looking at other guitars or basses. I’ve heard that from some of you too, many times over the years, and that’s powerful. I know what the right instrument brings out of me and how it translates that into my part of the music. And I know what having inspiration and music a part of it does for my life. So happy a Birdsong does this for folks… for the rest of you, maybe a Birdsong or SD Curlee will do it for you?

Listening to: John Abercrombie Quartet live at the Skopje Jazz Festival 2013; Herb Ellis Softly… But With That Feeling; Grateful Dead Live Dead.

A Bit 'n a Bench

A hundred degree shop will give you a truthful evaluation of your up-to-snuffness that simply can’t be ignored. And so adjustments are made, as with any tool in the shop. Your humble scribe woodgnome is down 8 pounds. Sweating it off in the shop, taking a walk every day right in the hottest part of it, staying hydrated, and keeping my addictions away. Namely anything to do with olive-oily 'mater sauce, bread (especially spread out into large disc form with a nice crust around the edge), and cheese. And, of course, the lovely golden brewed fizzy beverage that compliments it so nicely. The hardest part is getting started, which is actually getting stopped. Actually reaching for that half avocado or a friggin’ strawberry, and some sparkling water on ice instead of some fiiiine-ass creamy microbrew. Once the scale number starts diminishing, it’s like “Awww maaaan… now I REALLY can’t… I have too much invested now.” We’re not talking a lot here but I’m only 5’3” so keep that in mind. The difference so far is in stamina, and I’ll keep you posted. I will tell you this – a cruise in the old Pontiac up to Canyon Lake to sit out on a deck with a faaaah-rossssteh mug of beer and a pizza the size of my thorax sounds mighty good right now. When my goals are met I will give in, but only in moderation. Not now. For now its radishes and farts like pure little pillows made from springtime garden blossoms.  

Speaking of tools, I want to give some shine to my finishing bench. The metal parts go way back to the basement of my aunt & uncle’s house in Everett, Mass in the 1970s. There was a little work room where my uncle kept his tools and this was his bench, I remember it as a kid. Along the way it came to me and the particle board top disintegrated so I made another out of better material. This was a repair bench in two music shops and the wiring bench in the original Birdsong workshop in town, making its way out here in 2008 to become the finishing bench. On the right leg is what's left of a "Juan y Tu" local band magnet from its years up in Melrose, MA at my first shop.

Rubbing the oil blend into the wood is a very special moment; my woodcraft mentor Johnny felt that was when the wood came back to life. I try to be mindful of this when I work the coats into the instruments-to-be and work in a place of gratitude and wishing the best of this tree, this bench, this workshop, and the best of me to all go out with this bass or guitar, or piece of woodcraft made from cutoffs of the process. I’m not just sending product, I’m furthering ripples of life and lives, of others’ work, and hopefully contributing to new inspirations and their ripples outward. From the bench of my uncle Pat Petipas, long ago and far away, yet here now with me on this journey of wood and wire and good vibrations, we all – present and passed – wish you well. Thanks for being with us!

Listening to: Bob Seger Like a Rock; Aerosmith’s 1st album and Pandora’s Box Disc 1; Pat Metheney Group Quartet.

Recent Questions... and One Big "Why?"

Recently asked random questions…

I’m in town, could I could come tour the workshop?
For years the answer was yes, though never on such short notice. This is a work environment. It’s funky, fun, and magical – but it’s a work environment. To show someone around it means work has to stop, the spaces need to be neatened, hazards need to be addressed, I need to make myself presentable, and then the next couple of hours is show and tell and questions. I love it, but for the time being there’s so much going on I’m not really able to accommodate. I rarely have anything kicking around to play that doesn’t belong to a client and even those leave as soon as they’re ready, and right now my focus is on steady work and progress for my waiting clients. I’m happy to talk on the phone for any questions, and you can feel confident ordering sight unseen; our reputation is all over the internet, it’s how 90% of our clients order, and I would never make you keep something you found unsatisfactory (our return rate is well under 1% for 14 years). I do understand if that doesn’t work for you – but please understand I’m stacked high working for those it does. 

When are you going to finish your guitar?
Ha ha, yours come first! I sneak in work on my personal projects as I have it extra to sneak in. This year I stopped doing night shifts and I’m trying to pace myself a little better for the long haul. So time working is a little tighter and you are my priority. I am building a custom guitar order right now, and once it catches up to where mine is I’m going to try to companion build them both together since the pickup setup will be very similar. For those watching, mine is "D'AQUILA #007" on the builds page, and I would think it holds the record for amount of time on there!

Do you still have Sarge?!
YES. I occasionally talk about the machines I have relationships with; I love old cars. They’re all I drive – the newest year model I have is a 1983. Joe the Truck is a ’74 Dodge pickup that has helped build Birdsong since day one, sometimes literally whether hauling lumber for the workshop or nudging a wall into place in the big shop we had down in town for a chapter. It’s amazing how much of a “Bigger hammer” the front bumper of a 1974 Dodge truck is! My main ride is a ’74 Roadrunner named Sarge, and on Facebook (and here) I posted about my latest American Beauty, a 1960 Pontiac. More of you than I even thought read this asked me about Sarge once you saw another car being talked about… a big, classic, sculpted old battleship for cruising was on the bucket list BUT I will ride it in, fate willing, with Sarge. He’s not going anywhere by choice.

What’s happening for the Anniversary this year?
Every year around July 4th while we celebrate freedom & independence, we also celebrate Birdsong’s anniversary. We launched our website (and realistically the company with it) on July 4, 2004. This year for #14? Oh some specials, some inventory basses, a cool little funky fretless prototype, a few anniversary basses of some special wood but I’ll let YOU decide the model & trim (there’s a good story coming with this!) – and maybe a video or two. What I need from YOU are questions! Send me questions you’ve always wanted to ask a luthier or Birdsong or me specifically. I’ll get to them all one way or another! Perhaps while eating random hot sauce laced pizza again. I don’t know. And DEFINITELY find & friend Scott Beckwith and follow Birdsong Guitars on Facebook – there WILL be Facebook-only deals too popping up and down throughout that day, which is on a Wednesday. So this year it will be ONE DAY ONLY and on the actual day of JULY 4th. 

And, since she gets asked about too, here’s MAGGIE MAE. Our little Mae, the fuzzy girl, etc. She’s got to be 10 years old now, still a total character, still loves rides in the car to maybe see some cows more than anything. One of the sweetest beings I have ever known.

And… it would not feel right, with this little podium life has for whatever reason loaned me, to not mention the sad passing of Anthony Bourdain this morning. Quoth Gordon Ramsay, "He brought the world into our homes and inspired so many people to explore cultures and cities through their food." Deepest condolences to his family and circle. It was really more of a punt than a pass however, with major reputable sources reporting suicide. Oh how our heroes fall. One would think if he was tired of his life, with his pocket change he could tithe a bit to those he’d feel guilty about if he stopped the gravy train and just go get healthy and live out his years somewhere he loved. My guess is that, by the time that’s an option, you’re so fragged by the drama and eaten from inside by the very quirks that made you that character in the first place… that there is only one way out to you. So sad the people of all walks we lose to hopelessness! The thing I’m most grateful of all for is that I still see the beauty in that first morning breath; the potential in what’s coming; the rebirth in awakening; the beauty in the dance, however difficult its moments. That tether to hope and springtime inside. That life is more OK than not, I’m more OK than not, that life’s waves are not always tsunami waves and tomorrow can be worked with into a garden. Without that, I don’t know. I just don’t know. 

But I do know this; as suicide rates continue to rise in startling numbers, it would behoove us to stop seeing them as just the selfish acts of troubled individuals. For future inheritees of this great experiment we might think about what kind of world we help seed with our postings and commentary, our priorities and our interactions with others – every one of which is fighting a battle you know nothing about – when we allow our stances and causes to overtake our humanity. We can take each tragedy and twist it to fit our agenda, every suicide and chalk it up to the medication or the mentality or the moment… or we can go deeper, beneath blame and bluster, and understand better why hopelessness is boiling the stew; because we’re simmering too. Anthony, thank you for the joys you brought and sorry for the pains you left with. Please my friends – if you are unhappy, start changing your life and see that through. There is plenty of OK to be found. If you are hopeless, talk to someone you respect for their perspective and trust them. There is hope in every sunrise.

Go make a great weekend happen. Go care. Go tell someone you love them. Go eat beautiful food, reverently, and be grateful. And play some Ramones for Anthony B.

Listening to: Aerosmith’s 1st album, Richard Betts Highway Call, Tom Waits Bone Machine, some live Joe Pass, Bob Marley & The Wailers Uprising.  

Music Moments Passed Along

Joe “Jem” Despagni has passed… I only exchanged a few posts with him on Facebook, but I remember as a teen music maniac when Steve Vai was playing in David Lee Roth’s "Eat 'Em and Smile" era band with all of these wacky guitars – flame shapes, Swiss cheese, prototypes in process for what would become his signature models – it fascinated me that some guitar builder was having so much fun with the form of the guitar. Those did not come from the store. What a concept! It wasn’t about whether I liked them or not, it was about my mind being blown that this was possible and some dude was doing it. This was around 1985. That was Joe, and Joe is no mo’… condolences to his family and friends. I dedicated a day of my work on instruments to his memory. 

In an unusual twist of context, I found myself in a furniture store the other day, one of the handful of times in my life, and while walking past a shelf one of the arranged display books caught my eye… Musical Instruments: Traditions and Craftsmanship from Prehistory to the Present by Lucie Rault.  After looking at the piece we were there to look at, I walked back by said shelf, proceeded to UN-arrange the book from the display, and asked the nice lady to sell it to me. It is a huge volume, a real coffee table book. Just amazing with lots of pictures and glossy paper and hundreds of pages of all kinds of instruments and the stories and history and rituals behind them. The Bible of tools of music. It was her book. Turns out she’s a guitar player and music fan, and was fascinated to find out what I do. Needless to say, the book came home.

Also this week a couple of dear friends passed their Paul Winter albums on to us. They love his work and even used one of his tunes as their wedding song many years ago. So this is quite a gift from them! I remember Paul Winter being one of, along with Andreas Vollenweider, the artists whose work introduced me to different, textural, ethereal music at a time when my ears were all hard rock. Once you’re 16 and segueing from Ozzy Osbourne to the Paul Winter Consort, it’s all over as to ever being one dimensional musically, and really the path to places deeper through music has begun. The music that grabs you first brings you in “that” door… and then you realize you’re inside a great room of thousands of doors where all kinds of music from all over the world and all through time is available to taste! As for these Paul Winter LPs, Jamie and I will caretake and enjoy them until it’s our time to hand them off.

Pass along some music moments... those of us to whom this is food thank you!

Listening to: Bobby Goldsboro (while inlaying the initials of a client’s late wife into a bass, do not listen to “Honey” – it makes it difficult to see); Earthmother off YouTube (Birdsong client, some great stuff);  Paul Winter Consort Icarus; misc. jazz.