I set out with a back pack in September 1976, hitch hiking.
I journeyed to Vermont to attend a six week guitar making school run by Charles Fox. After I received this brief guitar building education, I set out on my life long journey. I'm not sure there is a better education in life than guitar making. I am always challenged and only succeed through achieving mastery.
Before sticking my thumb out that Sept. day I had thrown a board over a bed frame, putting the matress on the floor, creating my first work place where I attempted to build a guitar that I was never able to finish.
I grew up in five locations: Jacksonville, Florida where I was born; Fort Lauderdale; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Miami for the longest stretch of eight years; and lastly West Point, Georgia. I then lived in Athens, Georgia, for 18 months before moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to work a summer job in 1978, where I remained until Thanksgiving of 1985, before moving to Nashville.
My years up north where difficult developmental years, doing anything I could for the local guitarists I developed my abilities. I made steel string guitars for two acts that were either regional acts or later to become major recording acts. One was Barbara Kooyman of Timbuk 3 and 2 of the 3 members of the upper midwest's hugely popular performance act, Free Hot Lunch.
I worked with a bow maker for a while and had my shop in his violin shop.
I became acquainted with classical guitar maker Robert Ruck who let me use his drum sander. I learned a great deal from him but it was probably what he did not offer that inspired me most and I think being driven to find out on my own was much better for me in the long run.
My first guitar was a classical and I was driven to build fine classical guitars in my early career, a skill I mastered over many years.
In 1985 I arrived in Nashville to work in the restoration shop of George Gruhn. They had been looking for a person to replace a departing repairman and the guitar I sent was positively received. I visited Nashville for a week, working in the repair shop, then was offered the job.
The memories of the cast of characters from that experience was memorable and it may have been one of the only places I could ever have been employed. There was a host of great players always around and many talented people working there, like the incomparable Alan Woody who went on to perform with the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Goverment Mule. Kim Walker worked on the bench next to me and has gone on to do well as a steel string guitar builder.
The history of American guitar making was always in front of me on those benches, a great opportunity to understand the work that came before. I saw the guitars inside and out, and the intent of how they were made was clear. I worked at Gruhn's until April, 1987, then I left to pursue getting ready for a guitar festival. I returned in the winter of 1988 and I was done there in the late spring of that year. I was always building my own guitars even though I was employed to repair and restore vintage instruments.
I had an apartment in an old building and was allowed to use the basement for my power tools. It was in this location that I made a guitar that later became the guitar Earl Klugh used to record "Solo Guitar". Today that building is a parking lot at 1910 Broadway in Nashville.
I bought a house in 1987 and while away on a winter night it caught fire, in February of 1989, it was pretty much a loss. I salvaged my tools and set up my business in the Berry Hill area of Nashville, where many of Nashville's best recording studios are located.
From the spring of 1989 to the winter of 1997 I worked in Berry Hill, it was a very creative period of my life. I found myself exposed to guitarists I would describe as artists and creators. In 1989 one of my classical guitars was used by the winner of the Winfield National Fingerstyle Championship. Also Earl Klugh released "Solo guitar" that year. I was becoming known in a more contemporary genre, or outside the classical guitar world by association.
In 1992 Klugh asked me to make him a Del Vecchio style resonator guitar, a sound favored by Chet Atkins and used by him for many recordings, as well as by Garoto and Nato Lima of Los Indios Tabajaras. Building resonator guitars was an education in guitar design and expanded my perception of the guitar.
For four years I focused on these instruments and made them for many notable performers. When Chet Atkins' last book was published , "Me and My Guitars" , it was an honor to be prominently featured in it. He did not have long to work with my guitars but he did record with one on " Almost Alone". My guitar takes up two pages of the book and was one the few guitars that the Atkins family has kept from Chet's collection.
Here is a video of Chet and Nato Lima playing together at my house on February 15, 1995. Nato had come down from NYC to visit me and I threw a party for him. I asked Chet to come that afternoon and to my surprise he did.
I made resonator guitars for Earl Klugh, Chet Atkins, Don Potter (guitarist/producer for the Judds), Jim Stafford, Steve Earle, John Standerfer (2003 National Fingerstyle Champion) and Nato Lima, who brought the Brazilian resonator to the forefront in the 1960s and was Chet's inspiration for the instrument.
My focus during the 1990s was conceptual guitar design, though I still had the classical guitar as a foundation.
In the summer of 1996 I met Richard McClish, who inspired me in the potential of the amplified acoustic guitar. For two years I imagined an acoustic stage instrument that could produce a great acoustic sound at high volume but without feeding back. I was preoccupied with other things after moving my shop in 1997. After getting my shop installed it was nearly 1998.
I then set out to fulfill my vision of the nylon string electric guitar. I never lost the desire to see the excited looks like I experienced making resonator guitars and I followed this new concept of combining acoustic and electric sound.
In the beginning I thought I was building a stage guitar, but from the very first note it was an acoustic guitar with its own voice and that was an exciting outcome. It was more than I had hoped for. I made the first three Super Aces in June of 1998 and one of them became Peter White's touring guitar in 1999.
That summer Peter was on the road with Marc Antoine and Marc was taken with the Super Ace and had me make him one as well.
I just delivered a new white Super Ace for Peter in 2013, White On White
Peter had learned about my guitar from the then editor of Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine, Tom Gannaway. John Schroeter founded Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine in 1993. It was a great publication for many years. I helped John acquire a transcript of Earl's arrangement of "If I only had a Brain" . He was up against a deadline and I hooked him up with Bill Piburn who did the transcrption for the publication.
I have made four Super Ace guitars for Peter over the years, and two for Marc. I also made Marc a classical he has used extensively. So many people have contacted me over the years about Super Ace guitars, having seen them on stages from NYC to Indonesia and beyond.
Nato Lima once told me, "I would rather be the first to do it badly than the last to do it perfectly", it is not that anyone would desire to be bad, but originality is not about detail -- it's about the overall novelty. Finding the aesthetic that attracts is the challenge, even if that aesthetic could be refined over time.
It was through my friend David Oakes that the Los Angeles guitar legend Jimmy Wyble became aware of my guitars in 2007.
The next year I made Jimmy a Super Ace. It was a thrill to go meet him, He was a wonderful guy. He was mostly interested in getting the Super Ace for his protege Larry Koonse and within almost no time Larry was using it on a recording project with singer Luzianna Souza.
You can see Larry here --- Larry Koonse
I started expanding the Super Ace concept to Steel Strings many years ago. In 2011 I redesigned the size of the pattern to make a 15 inch lower bout. You can see the Super Steel played by guitarist, composer and arranger, John Mock. John is a multi- instrumentalist who performed with the Dixie chicks and Kathy Mattea.
I apologize for the long prose. It has been a long and rewarding journey and I am very grateful to so many who have made the journey a great adventure for me through all of these years.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy my web site.
I'd like to mention many who have been part of my guitarmaking life starting with Susan Trent who has been living this dream with me for the last 28 years and my folks who never disuaded me even though I'm sure they had their doubts.