Doing some setup work on an older build, a guitar. If you find your Birdsongs seem to hold tune, feel solid and really take road punishment, it does have something to do with the guy who owns this. Long before my life layered into the garden I tend now, and he had any of “my” guitars because making them wasn't even a thought for me yet, I went over to a new friend’s house out in the Texas Hill Country woods. Hanging right by the wood stove was a beat up old guitar, and I offered that it might not be the best place for it. The guy was from New York City, so imagine this in the proper accent: “Man, if something’s gonna stay in my life it’s got to be able to handle the way I live.” I made this for him about seven years ago - so far so good!
One of a cherished handful of profound and wide-reaching nuggets he would launch into my world in the years to come, I immediately got it – that a tool should be able to withstand the way I swing it and survive in my environment. Otherwise it’s worthless to me as a tool. This had a major impact on how I view an instrument and thus as my life and chapters progressed how I design and build them for you. Impact.
There is a Facebook post circulating about listing 10 albums that had an impact on you as a teenager. It said you can only list an artist or band once and they had to have a real impact on you; of course it has degraded through reposting into “Listened the shit out of” or something, but that’s what happens whether it’s whispers in a line in kindergarten or Van Halen to Winger… it all distorts and dilutes eventually. Here is my list to suit the original gravity and guidelines, in no specific order although #10 was my first album and I think #1 was my second:
1. Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps
2. Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum
3. The Woodstock Movie soundtrack
4. Journey - Escape
5. Black Sabbath - Vol. 4
6. John Lee Hooker & Canned Heat - Hooker 'n Heat
7. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle
8. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of a Madman
9. The Cars - The Cars
10. REO Speedwagon - Hi Infidelity
#11 and 12 would have been The Ramones Rocket To Russia and Andreas Vollenweider Caverna Magica; season heavily with listening to the Dr. Demento show every week and it all makes sense. One huge track was the playing in “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel… but that’s not an album. What are yours?
Lastly (but certainly not leastly) I wish to acknowledge a truly great man the luthier community lost this week. I remember Jim Mouradian in a tiny workshop above a music store in Cambridge, MA where he repaired & modified uncountable guitars over the decades, being very generous with his time and very free with his advice. Way back in the journey I brought him my third guitar, “The Bean” (above) and asked him to critique it and basic questions about small batch production. I really didn’t even know what to ask, but I went to the mountain and climbed to the top to seek the master. The narrow stairs might have a big block Chevy intake manifold leaned up or something, so you stepped carefully. I climbed them and went in past the cases and and a carburetor on a box, into a workshop absolutely packed with tools and jigs and projects and instruments in various states of repair. I walked in with this weird little guitar that somehow had come together and worked amazingly well as its own design, and maybe 45 minutes later came out with a head full of how to make it happen over and over again. He made that wild green bass played in Yes among many others, truly served a wide circle of players, passed on a lot along on the way, and this week’s work was dedicated to him. Also in his honor... those old Studebaker hubcaps are staying on my stairs for at least another few days.
Go help something good happen,
Listening to: Jim Hall & Tom Harrell These Rooms – all week. Amazing.