GUITAR nerd PAGE
My obsession with guitars goes way back, though no particular instruments imprinted themselves on my brain until Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline came out, and I saw his Gibson J-200 on the cover. I went out and bought a Gibson Hummingbird as soon as I could put together the money, a $400.00 cherry sunburst stamped “2nd” on the rear of the headstock.
I went on to learn about guitarmaking from Roger Borys and Jimmy D’Aquisto, and built somewhere close to 200 guitars with Roger and independently. They taught me to appreciate maple.
In my daily life as a New Orleans guitarist, singer/songwriter, entertainer, whatever it is that I do, I use several guitars depending on the engagement. I have too many guitars, but most of them do get used.
One favorite is a 1966 Favilla F-5, built in Farmingdale, NY, I believe. Herk Favilla was a friend of D’Aquisto’s, and Jimmy always said he liked the Favillas. The Favilla is ladder braced, meaning crosswise bracing as opposed to the typical and popular Martin-style x-brace. The entire guitar, other than the rosewood bridge and fingerboard, is mahogany. This guitar had an uncanny sound that was altered to a degree by my adjustment of the neck angle to make it more playable. But before I “improved” the guitar, Brian Camelio and I recorded it for NOLA, my ArtistShare release, with me playing slide. Beautiful. The Favilla is amplified by the cheapest available soundhole pickup found online one evening, which had to be rewired with shielded cable.
Another guitar that gets a lot of use is this Jay Turser (does he really exist?) JT-900 RES dobro style guitar. This instrument was given to me by Dan Harrison, who runs a studio in Northwest Connecticut. Dan and I played our first gigs together, and have maintained a 50 year relationship, so this little guitar is dear to me. I tinkered with it endlessly until it started to, first. play in tune, and second, not buzz and rattle too enthusiastically. Then, getting the mini-humbucker and piezo to sound good, blended by a center detent blend pot, took a lot of experimentation. Now, I use the guitar a lot, and honestly, I get a ton of comments on it, including “Wow, that’s cool, is that a custom job?” Almost, with the amount of work it took to get it to play and sound great, but no, this is an otherwise-off-the-rack-internet-bought-guitar-not-worth-a-ton-of-money. Except to me. I found a nearly identical guitar with a cutaway online for $199.00 plus shipping and bought it to supplement this axe.
The Nouvelle guitar top pictured here is in the Guitar Circle photo, bottom left hand corner, blond archtop.
GUITAR CIRCLE, photo copyright Chip Wilson, photo treatment Mark McGrain.
Click HERE for Chip's articles at Vintage Guitar Magazine.