This past Saturday, after soundcheck just prior to a concert Thunder Bay, I casually rested my guitar against the stage wall and headed to the back room to fetch some guitar picks. I had only taken a couple steps when I heard the slide and the crash. I spun around to see my beloved steed face down with the headstock snapped off just above the nut.
It’s very hard to relate all that went through my mind in that first split second. Like when a whole life flashes through ones eyes just before a car crash, the life of that guitar and the relationships and events associated with it were all suddenly present and re-membered; over a thousand concerts, treks through far away lands, the many songs co-authored, countless hours woodshedding, the pleasure… and the friendships that led to my acquisition of the guitar in the first place.
It was about a dozen years ago, I was performing in Sante Fe. My friends, Lou and Fran Bruno who were promoting the concert, took it upon themselves to fly the legendary guitar-maker Kevin Ryan and his wife Barb from LA to see the concert. I was well-aware of Kevin. He was a relatively new Luthier (guitar maker) but was already turning heads internationally with his aesthetic sensibilities, rich-toned instruments and technical/design innovations. It was such an honour to play for them and then afterward to head back to the Brunos for fine wines, elegant foods and rich conversation.
Certainly, guitars and guitar artistry were a huge part of that conversation as both Lou and Kevin are fine players in their own right. At one point, the three of us got into detailed discussion about what we like/dislike in guitars – wood preferences, tonality, aesthetic appointments and the like. I already had a couple great guitars with no real need of another, and certainly I was not in a financial position to even entertain getting Kevin to build me one. But none of that really mattered because six months later this one was delivered in a crate to my door.
Now, all these years later, close inspection of the guitar reveals the many scars of a faithful old warhorse. The surface laquer is checkered like a thousand-piece puzzle. Several large cracks have been glued and reglued – one which extends from the strap-pin about a foot and a half up along the outer bout and into the waist. The wood around the soundhole has worn away to the abalone inlay that Kevin’s father selected for me from his “private stash” of unique pieces. And there are gouges, dents and divots enough to prove the hundreds of flights, countless careless moments, and endless hours of playing.
Needless to say – accompanying this rush of memory was a significant nausea as I had to consider that the guitar may be irreparable. But apparently I need not have worried. “Jake the Guitar Whisperer” here in Winnipeg is confident he can fix it. It may not be pretty but it’ll play. But even if her days were indeed over, the echos of her voice would reverberate for some time in the recordings and memories of those blessed enough to hear her in concert and witness first-hand the results of master-craftsmanship, generosity and love.
Just ’cause I’m being all sentimental here – I’ve chosen a song for you to hear that I wrote and recorded on this guitar… it’s from my CD Sons and Daughters and the song is called Air Jam . Several years ago, my Chicago friend, Johnny Rutlege, asked me to write an instrumental piece for a film soundtrack he was producing. It had to have a decidedly “Marlborough Man” feel to it and so this is what I came up with. I titled it Air Jam simply because that was the name of Johnny’s production company.
Click song title to listen:
Visit Ryan Guitars HERE…
See Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s recent article on Ryan Guitars HERE…