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Portraits of Texas Tele Pickers

ut74Austinites can breath a sigh of relief—SXSW 2015 has come to a close. Some 2,000 artists and bands played the festival, but it’s worth noting that even after they’ve gone, local performers still make Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World.” For decades, professional photographer Matthew Sturtevant has called Austin home; during that time he’s soaked up the scene like a sponge. Recently, he turned his lens on these musicians for a book called “The Sound of Austin: Portraits by Matthew Sturtevant.”
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How did you come up with the concept?

I was meditating one day after four months of daily meditation, and the idea just occurred to me. I immediately went to the bookstore; sure enough—there was nothing like it. There were a few poorly done books with concert shots, but nothing with actual portraits of Austin’s musicians.

RickBroussardkRick Broussard from Two Hoots and a Holler

How did you decide who to include?

From about 1990 till 2010 Austin was blessed with a radio station that—for once— assumed the audience had a brain. They played everything from Hank Williams to Marley, but more importantly, they focused on the local scene. What Nirvana did for rock and roll, I felt Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen and Lucinda Williams were doing for folk. There was world-class music being made all around us, and you’d see these people while you were at the grocery store: James McMurtry, Shawn Colvin, Alejandro Escovedo, and on and on. These people created music that became the soundtrack of my life. I couldn’t have been prouder of them and wanted to tell the world about them.

4ReddRedd Volkeart

How difficult was it to get musicians to sign on?

I would compare it to political campaigning. I did have to win over many of the bigger names. Lyle Lovett’s management turned us down five times until we got Guy Clark, then they got on board. With Jimmie Vaughan, I already had Billy Gibbons, Gary Clark, Jr., Eric Johnson, David Grissom, Junior Brown, and Redd Volkaert. After all those guitar slingers, they kinda want to be included. Willie Nelson was impossible to schedule. We wrote hundreds of emails and made countless phone calls, but ultimately Dan Rather—who is from Texas—helped get Willie. No hard feelings about Willie, he’s a superstar. If he said yes to every request, he’d never have time to eat or sleep.

DaleWatsonkDale Watson

RosiefkRosie Flores

How long did the project take from first photo to last?

Nine months of 14 hour days, and it was worth every minute.

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“The Sound of Austin: Portraits by Matthew Sturtevant” includes portraits of Billy Joe Shaver, Chris Layton, Roky Erickson, Ray Benson, Doyle Bramall II, Joe Ely and many, many others.

To purchase a signed copy, head to Matthew’s website:

A portion of the proceeds benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which provides access to affordable health care of Austin’s low income, uninsured, working musicians with a focus on prevention and wellness.

 

 

 

For behind-the-scenes footage and more portraits, check out this video:

 

 

This Guitar is Built from What?

DSC_0103The Telecaster is a versatile enough instrument that you can make it out of a variety of woods and it’s still a Telecaster. James Trussart makes his with steel, Fender has used aluminum; some TDPRI’ers have even tried carbon fiber and another used Popsicle sticks(!). One material you don’t see very often (or at all) is glass. Building a glass guitar seem impossible, or at best, impractical, but that hasn’t stopped North Carolina builder Nick Eggert from making “glassical creations” like this:

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A glassblower for years, Nick had a lightbulb moment one day when he realized he could combine all of his favorite arts—music, glass, and guitars—and make one object. “Now,” Nick says, ” I can’t get them out of my head.”

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It goes without saying that these builds aren’t exactly standard. Making one is a “great big puzzle without any directions,” Nick says. He generally begins with woodwork before blowing the borosilicate glass—also known as pyrex. To connect the two materials, two large diameter solid glass posts slide into the wood; one bolt with a series of rubber washers keeps them from sliding out.

Now, the big question: are these guitars art pieces, or something more? Nick has a definitive answer: “I made them to be played.” He adds that when the glass is “annealed” properly (cooled slowly), it can be very strong. “They are not as fragile as most people think,” Nick says. “These guitars have been traveling around the country from show-to-show for a few years now, and I haven’t had any problems with any of them.” All told, he’s built two dozen; Joe Walsh even has one in his collection.

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As with any handmade instrument, the price depends on the complexity of the build. Nick’s start at $5,000 and have gone up to $20,000.

If you see a glass guitar in your future, head to Glassical Creations:

Here’s a demo:

 

Tim Bram’s Archtop T-Style Jazz Boxes

Tim Bram thumbnailWhen Leo Fender released first released the Telecaster to the world (via the Broadcaster and Esquire), his earliest customers were country and western musicians. Some, like Jimmy Wyble and Jimmy Bryant, came to C&W via the jazz world, where the archtop guitar ruled the roost. Or course, Leo’s solid body design took off, but what if he had taken the Telecaster shape and built it up like an old-school archtop?  If you’ve ever dreamed of such an instrument, then check out this guitar made by Maryland luthier Tim Bram:

 

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Tim got his start in solid bodies, making his first as a teen in 1976. For the next three decades, he worked a cabinet and furniture maker. Though he wasn’t primarily a luthier during that time, Bram continued to hone his craft. His love of the Telecaster began when a friend dropped off a repair job. “It was ’50s tele that was so beaten up that it was considered by many to be worthless,” Bram says. “I took my time and fixed it, but still left the patina only a guitar that old should have. Once it was playable again I couldn’t believe how incredible it sounded. It was hard to return it to the owner!”

 

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After discovering Robert Benedetto’s book Making an Archtop Guitar, a fire was lit.  “I loved the art, skill and challenge of a hand-carved archtop, but didn’t want to do the same traditional one that most archtops are modeled after. The Tele theme came to my mind again. This approach wasn’t done as a novelty, but more to create a guitar that can be played as an acoustic or an electric that was smaller than traditional archtops, and then of course as a tribute to the great ’50s Telecaster that I had to return.”

Bram builds his archtops the traditional way: the sides are heat bent and clamped into a mold. The top and back are contoured with a fish tail gouge, then radius-planed and scraped to achieve a shape that “looks good, feels good and most importantly, sounds good.”

 

The tops are made from Sitka spruce sourced from Alaska; sides come from special woods he has stored away over the years. “I am always looking for special pieces that others may overlook when I am at a supplier or lumber yard,” Bram says. He finishes each instrument with a nitrocellulose lacquer, and allows it to cure for at least 10 days before buffing and polishing.

 
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“Because I make each guitar by hand, the options can be great,” Bram says. “Tone woods all have different tonal qualities, but if a customer wants something out of the ordinary, I am willing to try something new.” When it comes to hardware and electronics, the sky’s the limit.

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The prices for the “Tribute Archtop” range from $4000.00 to $5000.00. “I enjoy discussing the options with the customer and establishing a price,” Bram says. “Custom instruments are very personal and all planning should be treated that way.”

Pair of Brams

If you think you have a Tim Bram archtop in your future, contact him by phone at 410-360-5179, or email tbneowood@aol.com.

Find out more about his guitars here:

Check out this video of Tim Lerch playing a Tim Bram:

 

G&L Guitars Meet Muscle Cars

G&L R:T Collection colorsGuitars and cars have always gone together. From Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” to Wilson Picket’s “Mustang Sally,” if you’ve got a six string, it’s not hard to link it to car culture. In the 1960s and 70s, a lot of this action was headquartered in Southern California, where hot rods and surf wagons tore through the streets, their big block engines rumbling all the way to Fullerton. Now G&L is cementing the link further with the R/T collection, featuring the ASAT Classic Bluesboy 90 and ASAT Special, painted with muscular MOPAR colors:

oie_transparent-2That color is called Go Mango, and if it rings a bell, perhaps you remember it from this:

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All of the colors from the R/T Collection come from the 1970 Dodge lineup, like Panther Pink:

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Plum Crazy:

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Sublime Green:
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To ensure the colors’ authenticity, G&L turned to Mitch Lanzini, owner of the world famous Lanzini Body Works (featured on TV’s Overhaulin’ show). For Lanzini, the project made perfect sense: “Back in the day, Leo Fender would go to the automotive paint store and look at the colors, and that’s where your Sherwood Forest Green, Seafoam Green, and Fiesta Red came from. Those are all car colors.”

Mitch Lanzini croppedSurprisingly, Lanzini says he’s always been more of a guitar guy than a car guy. His connection to G&L goes back decades. “I was in a band in the 1980s with a guy who worked at G&L,” Lanzini says. “I knew that G&L were good guitars. That was as about as close as you could get to Leo Fender.” Later, he worked on a car for David McLaren, VP of BBE Sound (G&L’s parent company), and when the talk turned to guitar, they cooked up the R/T series.

 

 

The ASAT Special retails for $1600 with a street price around $1220.

The ASAT Classic Bluesboy (not shown) features a Seymour Duncan Seth Lover alnico humbucker in the neck position. Retail price: $1750. Street price: $1312.50

Shipping will begin in mid-March, so gentlemen, start your engines!

For more on the R/T series, head to G&L:

 

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