The Fretboard Journal Guitar Podcast

Each week, the Fretboard Journal interviews some of our favorite musicians, instrument builders and historians.
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May 4, 2017

The first time Matt Hampton sought out to harvest Red spruce for guitar tops, he, quite simply, "searched Google Earth for dark patches on top of tall mountains." Matt and his brother Nate are now continuing the legacy started by Ted Davis and John Arnold and making a full-time living hunting down Adirondack red spruce for luthiers and larger-scale guitar manufacturers. 

Matt describes the process and how one tree can yield up to 500 tops, their unlikely start in the world of guitarmaking, their relationship with John Arnold and more. He also busts a few myths about spruce. We also hear about the brothers’ quest to find quality domestic back and side tonewoods. It’s a fascinating story, they sound almost like the American Pickers of trees.

Watch the Brothers harvest a Red spruce tree here on YouTube

You can contact the Hampton Brothers via email ( or eBay

Our sponsors today are Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Dying Breed Music. Check them out and tell them the Fretboard Journal sent you.

Subscribe to our magazine here

Apr 26, 2017

Today we’re talking to the one-and-only Ben Harper. Ben tells us about a very special guitar he just received from luthier John Monteleone. It's the first lap steel guitar that Monteleone has ever made, a guitar that John has dubbed a Radio City Special Deluxe (see pictures and video at 

In addition to talking about the origin of his Monteleone guitar, we talk to Ben about his new Reverb store, some recent recording projects (including a session with jazz player Bruce Bishop) and a lot more.

Ben Harper's Official Site: 

Please subscribe to the Fretboard Journal Podcast on iTunes if you haven't yet and don't forget to leave us a review. 

Want our print edition? Go to and use the coupon code PODCAST and save $5.00 off any subscription or order. 

Want to support our digital efforts even further? Click here to donate and support our ever-growing (and always free) podcast, video and digital content.   

Lastly, this episode is sponsored by Retrofret, one of our favorite vintage instrument dealers in the country. Visit them online or at their Brooklyn showroom. 

Apr 20, 2017

On today’s podcast, acclaimed luthiers Linda Manzer, David Wren and Tony Duggan-Smith gather around Manzer's kitchen table to talk to us about their new Group of Seven guitar project. 

The Group of Seven consisted of Canadian landscape painters Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Franklin Carmichael, Frank Johnston, F.H. Varley and A.Y. Jackson. These seven artist friends were prolific through the 1920s and early '30s and are now considered highly influential. 

Manzer saw similarities between the bond these seven legendary artists had and the one she shares with fellow luthiers and friends who studied under Jean Larrivee, decades ago. She decided to pay homage by having seven guitars built. Each luthier would focus on a different Group of Seven member.

The luthiers participating include Manzer, Sergi de Jonge, Duggan-Smith, Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and Jean Larrivée. The luthiers also built an eighth guitar as a group to pay tribute to painter Tom Thomson. 

The project launches May 6, 2017 at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection outside of Toronto and the guitars will be on display through October in a room right next to the art that inspired them.

This episode is sponsored by our friends at Retrofret and Dying Breed Music.

Apr 7, 2017

Andy Powers is a force of nature. He’s a gifted musician, an avid surfer and, of course, a stellar guitarmaker. As Andy tells us on this week’s podcast, he’s always had the guitarmaking bug. In fact, he attempted to build his first instrument when he was still in elementary school and, when he was barely a teenager, he had enough of a guitar repair business brewing that he earned himself a letter from the IRS.

As an adult, Powers had a bustling business building archtops, guitars, ukuleles and mandolins and doing restorations out of his Oceanside, California workshop when he decided to switch gears and become a full-time Taylor employee. At Taylor, Powers has tirelessly worked on new lines and improvements, including the Grand Orchestra model, revamping the 600 and 800 series lines of guitars, the new Academy series of instruments and the GS Mini-e Bass. During our chat, we talk about these models, the recruitment offer he received from Bob Taylor, the state of affairs when it comes to Taylor sourcing wood, his R&D process and much more.

This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars in Brooklyn, New York.


Apr 6, 2017

On today’s podcast, we talk to Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett. Chris tells us about growing up in Santa Barbara; starting out on guitar; his early love for metal; how he landed the Foo Fighters gig; why he started playing Telecasters; and the making of his new solo country album, ‘West Coast Town.’ Chris also talks to us about his weekly podcast, ‘Walking the Floor,’ where he’s interviewed a wide array of artists including Marty Stuart, Bob Mould, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller and others.

Watch our video with Chris playing "Goodnight Little Rock" from the new album here

For a limited time, use the coupon code PODCAST and save $5 off any Fretboard Journal subscription or order.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Dying Breed Music

Tune in next week when we interview Andy Powers of Taylor Guitars. And don't forget to leave us a review on iTunes

Mar 29, 2017

On this week’s podcast, we talk to Ethan Gruska (Belle Brigade) about his 2017 solo album, Slowmotionary. As Gruska tells it, he innocently recorded a handful of songs thinking they would serve as a sort of business card to remind musician pals that he could do session work for them. Little did he know he'd eventually synch up with producer Tony Berg, record an entire album steeped in ‘60s and ‘70s singer-songwriter sounds and end up releasing it on Sire records. Gruska talks to us about working with Berg on the project, Blake Mills (who plays guitar on the album's second track) and what it was like to co-write a song for John Legend ("Right by You" on Legend’s Darkness and Light). Though Gruska says “the guitar is a series of happy accidents for me,” he’s a stellar player. Watch our video with him playing “Reoccurring Dream” on

This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is sponsored by Retrofret Guitars. Visit their website or Instagram and tell them the FJ sent you!

Mar 24, 2017

This week, we have a fun talk with Doug Kauer of Kauer Guitars, Titan Guitars and DRS racks. Doug tells us about how his family’s cabinetry business gave him the experience he needed to build instruments, why he utilizes CNC machines in his production facility and the unique business model behind the Titan line (an American-made electric guitar starting at $1300 with plenty of customization options).

This episode is brought to you by Dying Breed Music. Dying Breed has an amazing selection of Golden Era Martins, Gibsons and other instruments available:

Mar 16, 2017

Another highlight from the 2016 Fretboard Summit: Rick Turner, Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna) and Dan Schwarz have a candid talk about the evolution of instrument amplification and tone from the 1960s to today. Casady talks about his desire for higher fidelity bass sounds, even as rock concert sound systems got bigger and bigger, and the electronic experimentation that ensued. Schwarz talks about the fateful day in 1973 when he walked into the Alembic guitar factory. Meanwhile, Rick Turner discusses the back-and-forth collaborations that happen between luthiers and their clients. It's a deep (two hours long) talk that covers a lot of ground...  

This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is sponsored by Dying Breed Music

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal print magazine here.

Mar 7, 2017

Banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny joins us on this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast to talk about his new (and excellent) solo album 'Universal Favorite', some of the instruments in his growing collection (including his 1930 Gibson Granada, his 1941 Gibson TB-7, his 1953 Martin D-28 and his 1953 Fender Telecaster) and a lot more. 

Get Noam's tour dates and order 'Universal Favorite' here:

This episode is sponsored by Dying Breed Music:

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal Podcast via iTunes:


Mar 2, 2017

Relic’d guitars are nothing new in the world of electric instruments, but they’re relatively unheard of when it comes to acoustics. Pre-War Guitars – the duo of Wes Lambe and Ben Maschal – hopes to change that. The pair of veteran luthiers are creating guitars that tap into the vintage sound and feel of Martins and Gibsons of the 1930s and ‘40s with hide glue, ultra-thin finishes and torrefied top woods. But they’re also adding scratches, dents and play wear to each of their new guitars (they offer a variety of distress levels based on a customer's preference). On this week’s podcast, you can hear about how this company came together, how they're constructing these instruments and why sometimes a little wear can result in a better sounding guitar. 

This week’s episode is sponsored by Dying Breed Music. Check out their Gbase page here:

Don't forget to subscribe to us via iTunes and please leave us a review if you can. Our 38th issue of the Fretboard Journal is now mailing... with features on Daniel Lanois, Leo Kottke, the first "Loar" mandolin and a lot more. 

Feb 16, 2017

If you love a good story, you’ll want to tune into this week’s podcast with luthier Wyatt Wilkie. Though he comes from a musical family, Wilkie is a completely self-taught instrument maker. He built his very first instrument, a mandocello, while working in New Mexico as a gravedigger. He then moved to a small town in Wales where he honed his craft and eventually found himself in Georgia apprenticing for archtop guitar icon Bob Benedetto. Wilkie is now nestled in the Comox Valley on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, where he divides his time today between mandolins and archtop guitars. Nearly all of his work is exquisite and custom… and no two guitars are alike.

This week’s episode is sponsored by Dying Breed Music:

Links mentioned:

Feb 11, 2017

On today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to Jason and Pharis Romero of J. Romero Banjo Co. From the tiny town of Horsefly, British Columbia, the Romeros craft some of the most coveted new fretted instruments being made. They currently have a five year waitlist and, as they describe it, even getting on the waitlist is a bit of a challenge. The duo are also exceptional musicians and won the 2016 Juno Award for Best Traditional Album of the Year. 

In June 2016, a fire swept through the Romeros entire shop, destroying many of their new instruments as well as some of the prized vintage possessions. During our conversation, we talk to them about the fire, the help they received from the music community and how their rebuild process is going. We also chat about some of their latest banjo creations and innovations.
 (our film on the Romeros original shop) 
Subscribe to the Journal here: (use the coupon code PODCAST and save an additional $5 off your order) 

Feb 2, 2017

On this week’s podcast, we talk to luthier Maegen Wells. After years of working alongside famed archtop guitar and bass builder Tom Ribbecke, Maegen is now building her own guitar and mandolin creations out of her Forestville, California workshop.   

Wells has devoted nearly her entire adult life to learning the craft of lutherie and woodworking. Straight out of high school, she enrolled in Bryan Galloup’s Galloup School of Guitar Building and Professional Guitar Repair. She then went on to work at the Reverend Guitars warehouse and served as an apprentice to both Andrew White and Ribbecke.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Fretboard Journal Podcast via iTunes and, if you can, leave us a review on iTunes to help us with our search rankings:

The Fretboard Journal’s latest issue, #38, is now mailing worldwide. Subscribe via and we’ll start you off with this edition.

This episode is brought to you via sponsor TR Crandall. Check out their amazing inventory of vintage archtops, electrics and flattop acoustic guitars. And tell them the Fretboard Journal sent you:

Links: (StewMac video featuring Maegen Wells creating a tortoloid pickguard for a Gibson archtop) 

Jan 27, 2017

On today's podcast, we talk to William Seeders Mosheim, the owner of Seeders Instruments. Seeders is an open-back banjo builder who has found success combining old world designs with new world craftsmanship. The Vermont-based luthier honed his woodworking craft at his father's furniture business but now has a multi-year wait list for his banjos. His custom creations can incorporate any number of tone ring styles, wood options and levels of ornamentation. 

This episode is sponsored once again by TR Crandall. If you're visiting their store or website, don't forget to tell them that the Fretboard Journal sent you.

Don't forget to subscribe to all of the Fretboard Journal podcasts via iTunes. And leave us a review if you can! 


Jan 12, 2017

This week, we talk to recording engineer Larry Crane of Portland’s Jackpot! Recording Studio about the new and expanded 20th anniversary reissue of Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, his friendship with Smith and what those original recording sessions were like. Larry tells us about Smith’s in-studio work habits, the gear they used, the work that went into remastering these songs and a lot more. We also discuss the economics of running a recording studio and Tape Op, the magazine that Crane co-founded with John Baccigaluppi. 

This week's episode is sponsored by TR Crandall in New York. 

Links Discussed: 

Elliott Smith's Either / Or (Expanded Edition) on Amazon

Elliott Smith helping build Jackpot! (pics)

Tape Op magazine

The Fretboard Journal

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal podcast via iTunes and leave us a review, please. 

Jan 6, 2017

This week: A double-episode of sorts! First off, we talk to Michael James Adams (aka by his social media handle, puisheen) about interviewing Nels Cline for us for issue 37. Michael walks through the interview process, Nels’ gear selections and more. Around the 20 minute mark, we share another session from the 2016 Fretboard Summit, this one on the next generation of guitar stores. On the panel: Adams (co-founder of Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar), Mark Stutman (Folkway Music), Reuben Cox (Old Style Guitar Shop), Will Lowe (Lowe Vintage) and Paul Heumiller (Dream Guitars). Topics covered: Using social media to sell guitars, finding your niche, and how these stores find their inventory.

This episode is brought to you by another relatively new store, TR Crandall.

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal Podcast via iTunes here.  

Dec 29, 2016

On today's Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to singer-songwriter Paul Burch, who went from performing in rock and indie bands in the Midwest to working the honky tonks on Lower Broadway. Burch tells us about his years performing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, focusing on “post-war, pre-Elvis” music; his classic country music influences; how his songwriting and singing evolved; and his latest project, Meridian Rising, an imagined, musical autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers.

Read about Burch on here:

This episode is sponsored by TR Crandall

Dec 23, 2016

Yet another fun session from the 2016 Fretboard Summit! This week we hear John Thomas (Kalamazoo Gals), TJ Thompson, Mark Stutman (Folkway Music), Jim Baggett (Mass Street Music), Robb Lawrence (The Les Paul Legacy) and David Sheppard (Lowe Vintage) field questions on vintage Gibson acoustic guitars.

Topics include: the many variables found in most vintage Gibsons; solid linings versus kerfed linings; converting ladder-braced models to X-braced; repair headaches; finish thickness and much more. 

Sponsored by TR Crandall.

Use the coupon code FJHoliday when you check out at and get an additional 15% off any order. 

Dec 16, 2016

The wait is over!

Back on our 100th episode, we introduced you to T. Drew Heinonen, a young luthier who attended the first Fretboard Summit. We ended up ordering a guitar through Drew, using woods and materials we sourced through some of our favorite suppliers. Ever since, we’ve been checking in with Drew on the podcast as he builds the instrument. Well, the wait is over and at the second Summit (held in October 2016 in San Diego), Drew presented us with the finished guitar, a fine sounding koa/Lutz OM with surprising tone (for a koa instrument) and plenty of personal touches.

On today’s episode, we talk to Drew about how the guitar came together, how it’s opening up and what his plans are for 2017 and beyond. We also discuss the sister OM guitar that Drew built using Black locust and Red spruce. That instrument is currently for sale via Drew. 

Dec 9, 2016

Law professor, author and Fretboard Journal Field Editor John Thomas joins us once again to discuss some recent updates to CITES and the impact they will have on musicians, instrument collectors and builders. Specifically, beginning January 2017, all remaining species of Rosewood (beyond Brazilian, which was already protected) will be added to CITES Appendix II. This may not affect you at all if you keep your guitars in United States but if you ever plan on taking an instrument with rosewood across the border (or selling one to someone outside the country), you may have some work to do.  

We discuss the various steps that collectors, luthiers and dealers should take if they want to transport guitars with rosewood internationally; how builders can protect their wood stockpile; the expenses and timing needed to file all this paperwork; and a lot more.

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal podcast for free via iTunes: and please consider leaving us a review or sharing the podcast with friends. 

If you’re holiday shopping and want to give the Fretboard Journal as a gift this year, use the coupon code FJHOLIDAY when you check out. You’ll get 15% off any order:

Intro/Outro music by Jon Rauhouse. 

Links Mentioned:

Today’s podcast is sponsored by TR Crandall: 

US Fish & Wildlife Link for Musical Instrument Passports:

NAMM on CITES Updates:

The Fretboard Journal’s Guide to Musical Instrument Passports:

The FJ’s Guitar Lover’s Guide to CITES: 

League of American Orchestra’s CITES Protected Species Travel Tips:

Dec 1, 2016

On December 5, 1927, the day after Blind Willie Johnson recorded some of his most influential blues sides at an impromptu Columbia Records recording studio in Dallas, in walked an equally mysterious and haunting musician, Washington Phillips. Phillips carried a homebrew instrument - later described as a “dulceola” but, as we learn on today’s podcast, actually two zithers he fabricated together. The otherworldly music coming out of those zithers, combined with Phillips’ powerful singing and songwriting, created some of the most awe-inspiring and mysterious sounds ever recorded. It’s no wonder Phillips has been covered by Ry Cooder, Jorma Kaukonen, Will Oldham and others.

On today’s podcast, we talk to writer Michael Corcoran, whose research helped fill in the gaps of who, exactly, Phillips was, where he lived and when he died. We also talk about Phillips instrument of choice and how the dulceola theory was finally debunked.
All of Corcoran’s findings on Phillips can be found on the new Dust to Digital book/CD recording called Washington Phillips and his Manzarene Dreams. It’s great music and great writing (the liner notes are actually a 76-page book)… we can’t recommend it enough.

“Where did this come from? That still remains the mystery,” Corcoran concludes. “I still don’t know that… you really will never know the motivation of the artist…”

Discussed in this podcast: (page dedicated to Washington Phillips’ instrument) (Washington Phillips and his Manzarene Dreams)

Nov 22, 2016

You don’t need to be an offset guitar connoisseur to appreciate the beauty of Nels Cline’s beat 1960 Fender Jazzmaster, affectionately dubbed “Watt.” On today’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to the former owner of that guitar, Mike Watt himself. Watt reflects on his ongoing friendship with Cline, his ownership stint with the Jazzmaster (which was briefly owned by J Mascis before Watt bought it via Rick King at Guitar Maniacs), the Minutemen and more. We ask Watt about the recent release of Ring Spiel Tour ‘95, an amazing live document featuring Watt with Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and William Goldsmith.

Also discussed: D. Boon, EMG pickups, Floored by Four, the Black Gang, a potential signature model Mike Watt bass and more.

Referenced in the discussion: 
Nels’ tour diaries: 
Nels’ tour diaries, pt 2: 
Nels Cline’s Goo Pedal:
Watts' Gear:
Ring Spiel Tour '95:
Nikon Coolpix LX830:

Nels Cline is on the cover of the new Fretboard Journal #37, available now. Podcast listeners: Use the coupon code "podcast" when you check out. 

Nov 18, 2016

On this week’s podcast, we talk to guitarist Jon Herington. For the last several years, Herrington has performed guitar duties for Steely Dan, but his credits go far beyond that. He’s also an accomplished singer-songwriter and session musician. We also discuss his 2016 solo album Adult Entertainment, his Wysocki Telecaster, the rigors of touring and a bunch more. 

Nov 11, 2016

On this week’s podcast, we’re sharing the vintage Martin guitar panel that took place at the 2016 Fretboard Summit. Included on this panel were guitar experts Mark Stutman (Folkway Music), TJ Thompson, Jim Baggett (Mass Street Music), David Sheppard (Lowe Vintage), Eric Schoenberg and Joe Glaser (Glaser Instruments). Also joining in is Dick Boak from Martin. This episode makes for a nice bookend with Fretboard Journal Podcast #122 with TJ Thompson. Topics include: TJ’s background, the Martin “longscale” myth, proper intonation, hide glue, popsicle braces, slotted bridge pins, why you can’t make a new guitar exactly like an old one and much more. All-told, a fun and informative chat with six of the world’s best-known vintage instrument experts. 

Note: The audience was un-mic’d for this informal session so questions are hard to hear on this podcast. You should be able to figure out all the questions asked via the panel’s responses.

This episode is sponsored by TR Crandall Guitars

Nov 4, 2016

On this week’s Fretboard Journal podcast, we’re sharing the talk that acclaimed luthier TJ Thompson gave at the 2016 Fretboard Summit in San Diego. This talk was billed as “Myth Busting with TJ Thompson” and had the following description in our program:

Adirondack you say? What makes you think so? Is it possible to build a new guitar just like the old guitars? How long is long scale? Is hide glue really better? Should you have that popsicle brace removed? Internet bloggers who believe they know the answers to these questions beware, this lecture may not be for you. 

This was easily one of the most candid talks at the Summit. By popular demand (and with his permission), we’re sharing it today. At the 2016 Summit, TJ was also on panels discussing vintage Martin guitars, vintage acoustic Gibson guitars and the merits of the PLEK machine. We’ll be sharing those in the near future, too.

Please review us on iTunes if you haven’t yet and don’t forget to subscribe to the Fretboard Journal print edition. Our new issue (#37) is now mailing with Nels Cline on the cover. 

This week’s podcast sponsor is TR Crandall, a must-see vintage guitar shop in New York City.

The Fretboard Journal Podcast on iTunes: click here 
TJ Thompson:
TR Crandall:

Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal magazine here

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