What exactly is “Bill-gebra”? On our 70th podcast, the always entertaining Bill Collings of Collings Guitars explains the concept to us and a lot more. We talk about the diverse Collings offerings, which include acoustics and electrics, mandolins and ukuleles. We also discuss Bill’s current obsession, creating the perfect guitar case. As Bill puts it, “whatever I like is whatever I do.”
All told, it’s a frank and funny half-hour discussion with one of the world’s best fretted instrument builders. Like this FJ podcast? We hope you’ll subscribe to them on iTunes.
Photo of Bill Collings taken by Alex Rueb.
A North American-built, handmade acoustic guitar for around $1,000? As unlikely as that sounds, Ed Bond of Halcyon Guitars is making it a reality. Bond, a former employee of Larrivee and a maker of high-end Tinker Guitars, has set out to make lutherie-made guitars affordable. His Halcyon line offers a variety of body styles, scale lengths and nut widths (and limitless customization) with a satin finish and other stripped down adornments. On this week’s podcast, the Vancouver-based builder talks about the influence of David C. Hurd’s Left Brain Lutherie book and discusses some of his favorite woods to work with. Bond is pleased with how his no-frills Halcyon creations play and sound. “It makes every guitar come out sounding really, really good,” he says.
Follow Halcyon Guitars via their Facebook page.
As a member of the legendary Romero family, Pepe Romero, Jr. grew up in a self-described classical guitar “gypsy camp.” Instead of following in the footsteps of his father and relatives, however, Pepe decided at an early age to become an instrument maker. On this week’s podcast, he talks to the Fretboard Journal about his nylon-string guitar creations, as well as his latest passion: ukuleles.
He also describes the nylon-string guitar he built for Jack Johnson (which was used extensively on Johnson’s From Here to Now to Here); his work for the Climate Reality Project; the reverse fan-bracing that he utilizes and more. “It’s a new angle on my family tradition,” Romero says of his career in lutherie, “but it’s perfect for me.”
Learn more about Pepe Romero, Jr. handmade ukuleles and guitars via his website here. Pepe has started a production line of ukuleles called Romero Creations. To learn more about the Climate Reality Project and the beetle-kill guitar that Romero made for Jack Johnson, watch this video.
Martin Guitars is celebrating its 180th year in business. The venerable, family-owned company is also the subject of two new books and a forthcoming 2014 exhibit at the Met. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Martin CEO Chris Martin (C.F. Martin IV) about Martin’s place in guitar history and much more. We discuss the groundbreaking Hal Leonard book Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and his Contemporaries and how Martin’s earliest creations were truly a melting pot of different guitar construction styles and techniques. Chris also discusses Martin’s important role in the world of ukuleles (a new book on Martin ukuleles is now available), what he’s excited about guitar-wise and much more.
Greg Leisz is prolific, to say the least. For decades, the Southern California-based multi-instrumentalist has been a go-to guitarist and pedal steel player for musicians such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Miller, John Mayer, Bill Frisell, k.d. lang, Robert Plant and others. Leisz recently contributed a track to the wonderful Big E: A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons. On this week’s podcast, we talk to him about the tune he performed on the tribute record (“Wild Mountain Thyme”), the impact Emmons’ playing had on his own music education, his gear of choice and more.
In early 2014, Leisz will be the subject of a lengthy Fretboard Journal magazine feature, penned by producer and singer-songwriter Joe Henry. As always, subscribe if you’d like to get that issue delivered to your home. We have a lot more pedal steel and steel guitar coverage in the works, too.
For our 65th podcast, we talk to banjo musician and educator Bill Evans and old-time fiddler Fletcher Bright. The duo recently released an album entitled Fine Times at Fletcher’s House.
Despite their varied backgrounds – Evans is a Bay area bluegrass powerhouse while Bright is an old-time fiddler from Tennessee – the duo sound like they’ve been performing together for years. Each of the 16 traditional tunes on the album were recorded in three or four takes with no editing – just two guys making great music. Evans plays a 1930 Gibson Granada that formerly belonged to Sonny Osborne, while Bright uses a contemporary fiddle built by Jonathan Cooper of Portland, Maine.
Evans is no stranger to the FJ. You may remember his great 14-minute crash course on the evolution of the banjo that we filmed here. And, though it’s hard to believe based on his playing, Bright is 82 years old this year. He’s been a member of the same band – the Dismembered Tennesseans – since 1945 (when he was in high school). He’s also a successful real estate developer.
At the end of our interview, the duo perform two songs from the record: “Yellow Barber” and “Polly Put the Kettle On.”
Folk music icon Richie Havens passed away on April 22, 2013. On this week's podcast, we listen in to an interview we conducted with Havens in 2010 at the Guild Guitars factory in New Hartford, Connecticut. This informal conversation covered Havens' earliest days as a folk musician, his love for Doo-wop, his appreciation for Guilds and a lot more.
During our visit, Havens performed a few tunes for the Guild employees. Below, is some shaky footage we took of the musician performing "Here Comes the Sun."
As one of the founding members of the Fireballs, George Tomsco is a true rock & roll pioneer. In the late ‘50s and ‘60s, his guitar playing was ubiquitous on the radio waves with hits as “Torquay,” “Bulldog,” “Sugar Shack” and “Quite a Party.”
Tomsco is the subject of a comprehensive, 18-page interview in the Fretboard Journal #28, where he talks about the sessions the Fireballs did at Norm Petty’s studios, his gear and his influences. On this week’s podcast, we ask Tomsco a bit more about those early sessions, how the classic surf instrumental “Torquay” got its name and how he stumbled upon the Fender Jazzmaster. We also hear about what Tomsco is up to these days and the future of the Fireballs. Also on the podcast: Fretboard Journal updates and much more.
Running an independent guitar store is no small task, but Reuben Cox of Los Angeles’ Old Style Guitar Shop has found success with an unusual formula. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Cox about his unique store, which is filled with vintage gear from the ‘40s and ‘50s, along with funky old guitars that Cox has personally rebuilt for playability. It’s quickly become a cult favorite with both famous indie rock musicians and area players who just need a new set of strings or accessories. Interview conducted by the FJ’s Ryan Richter.
Be sure to check out Old Style’s Facebook page for their latest creations.
Seattle artists David Lasky and Frank M. Young have produced one of the most impressive graphic novels of 2012, a 200-page tome following the history of the Carter Family entitled Don't Forget This Song. On this week’s podcast, the Fretboard Journal's Michael Simmons talks to the duo about the book and the years of work that went into it.