Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Funny Story I Tell For No Particular Reason

There's a real funny story in Allen St. John's book, Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument that I like to tell.  I first read this book in 2006 right after returning from the guitar-building workshop at Vermont Instruments, but it was a library copy.  Then last year for my birthday Quigley, in one of his less Quigleyish moments, gave me my own copy of the book.  That was nice, which is why I say it was one of his less Quigleyish moments.  And I ended up reading the book again.  It's a really good book and I think that anyone would enjoy reading it regardless of whether you are into guitar playing or building.

Anyway, Wayne Henderson is a retired postal carrier down in rural Rugby, Virginia who is also both a world-class guitar player--he's played Carnegie Hall, so that tells you something--as well as a world class guitar builder.  The book begins with Clapton playing a guitar made by Henderson and owned by a sound engineer at one of Clapton's recording sessions, and Clapton was amazed at both the tone and the playability of the guitar.  He had never heard of Henderson, but, long story short, ended up ordering a guitar.

Problem is, Henderson has a waiting list a ten years long (that he keeps in his head) and he wasn't inclined to move Clapton up the list.  When St. John, a NY journalist, caught wind of this, he convinced Henderson to build twin guitars--Clapton's and an identical one that would be auctioned off for Henderson's favorite charitiy, the Junior Appalachian Musician's program, which provides instruments for poor, rural students in the Allegheny County school system.

That's all just background.  So here's the funny story.  Seems that if you are on the waiting list, you have to remind Henderson periodically of that fact if you want him to get to your guitar sometime in your lifetime.  One guy, Joe Wilson, is a great friend of Wayne's and a benefactor as well.  Wilson was the Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and had hooked Wayne up for some tours and other gigs.  He had been reminding Wayne for over seven years about his guitar, but it wasn't happening, so he took a more direct route.  He mailed a postcard every day for three months.  They weren't all very nice.

Henderson kept every postcard, and indeed built him a guitar, one befitting a great friend like Wilson who could also be a pain in the rear: a 000 with beautiful Brazilian rosewood that had originally been the countertops on Truman Capote's yacht.

It's a tradition among luthiers before "closing the box"--gluing the top and back to the sides--to sign the underside of the guitar top down on the lower bout where no one will ever see unless the guitar is broken up or a laparoscope is used.

So Henderson signed, dated, and numbered the underside of the top.  Then, just to personalize it a bit more, wrote, "Joe Wilson Eats S**t and Likes It."

Isn't that a funny story?
I think it's a funny story.
A real funny story.
Real.  Funny.

So I thought I'd share that with everyone for your pleasure.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who are interested in the progress of the guitars I'm building, the other day I closed the box on Quigley's guitar.

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