Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas time's a coming...

The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us and Christmas times’ a coming.

Christmas time's a coming
Christmas time's a coming
Christmas time's a coming

And I know I'm going home

Can't you hear them bells
A ringing, ringing
Joy to all oh hear them singing
When it's snowing I'll be going
Back to my country home

The workshop is all a buzz right now with basses AND banjo’s. We can tell the economy is improving as folks are visiting the website, workshop and the pace of sales inquires is increasing. These are all good signs for our economy…finally. We had a nice break over the holiday with a quick trip to the sunny south. The sky was clear blue and the temperatures in the mid 70’s. What a nice way to extend the fall season and get a break from the rain.

Now, on to the business at hand. The King Mortone is coming down the homestretch. We left off with the G string breaking as Lonnie was bringing it up to tune for some final tweaking. The new replacement string arrived while we were on vacation and it has been installed. Lonnie was busy working last evening on final details with some color touch up and in general “fussing” over the small details. This bass is very close to being done…Mike & Sharon, I know you are tuned in and watching. Popeye will be home for Christmas…if not sooner!

The next small project is some set up adjustments on the 1939 American Standard bass that is heading to “Music City USA” for Christmas. I wish we were delivering this bass in person. We love Nashville and can’t wait to visit there again real soon. The 1939 AS bass is going to live with Alan Bartram of the Del McCoury and the Travelin’ McCourys. The bass is destine for a good bluegrass recording with that old school gut sound. Alan chose this bass as an opposite to his 1950’s Kay M-1-B bass strung with Spiro mediums. The AS should give him a totally different sound and feel for his future studio recordings. We are honored and delighted to have helped Alan find his new musical friend…Harvey.

And finally a new banjo project. Lonnie is not only skilled with basses, making custom finger picks, but he loves banjos too. Especially the Frank Neat Stanleytone banjos. We have a fabulous banjo playing friend who fell in love with Lonnie’s “super tuned” Stanleytone banjo over a year ago. So much so he never forgot how this banjo sounded or played and longed to have a banjo just like Lonnie’s. After a year of waiting and watching the banjo gods have shined down when a Stanleytone became available for sale on the secondary market. 

Lonnie’s friend got the banjo on a Friday afternoon and had it in Lonnie’s hands on Saturday and basically said, “I don’t want it back until it sounds and plays like your banjo”. WOW, there is a vote of confidence and a challenge from an excellent, hard driving, traditional banjo player…sweet! As soon as the two basses are finished he will jump on the Stanleytone banjo project. It needs a good overall cleaning, polishing, detailing, new head, new custom bridge, strings and Lonnie’s “super tuning” adjustments that will bring the banjo to life with that Ralph Stanley arch top RING. The Stanleytone banjos are a limited edition arch top banjo made exclusively by Frank Neat, they must be purchased directly from Ralph Stanley at a performance or find them on the secondary market.  

Lonnie loves a challenge and he has great confidence that he can pull that classic Ralph Stanley mountain music tone from this banjo. If you love banjos, stay tune. If you don’t, come back in a few weeks and we will be back to bass restorations. I think next bass in line will be the 1956 American Standard; this bass will be going to a young bluegrass student studying at ETSU…very cool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A hydrant sorta day for the King Mortone...

Some days you are the dog and some days you are the hydrant…today Lonnie was the hydrant…SIGHS!
He has been pushing hard to get the final touches completed on this King Bass before the holiday.  The screws have proven to be a royal pain in the butt.  Thinning the tops down makes them fit nicely but also make them prone to weakness if you go too far.  Last night I heard more four letter, compound words come from the workshop then I have heard in a long time.  Lonnie was completely beside himself when one of the screws broke off in the tuner plate.  Needless to say I found some house cleaning and dusting that needed done just to stay occupied and out of the line of fire.  Tonight I came home from work and Lonnie was already busy in the workshop still chasing the high spots on that hard fingerboard.  I swear the smallest things will drive you mad.  All of this was capped off with the sound of bringing the G string up to tune…boing…boing…boing…snap…son of a #%+#%.  Yep the G string broke mid tune. 

Sigh…today was a hydrant sorta day…SIGH.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The King Mortone and a loose screw...

I am always saying…the devil is in the details. 

So if you follow the workshop blog you know Lonnie is annul about details and has the persistence of a dog with a bone.  He will play with a piece of metal or wood for hours on end for no other reason then…because he can. 

The screws we searched and found for the King Mortone tuners were the right length, shaft, head shape but the head of the screws were a bit larger then the old one.  Well true to form, Lonnie does not let it stop him…I’ll let the pictures do the talking but basically he filed down the circumference of the screw head so it would be a perfect match to the vintage screws…I think he has a screw loose.  He is a crazy, crazy boy!

Original screw top left, new screw top right

Yeah...this is the genious at work

All things are possible with imagination

This side is done and looking good

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alan Bartram of the Del McCoury Band and The Travelin' McCoury's

You just never know what direction the day will take you when your eyes open at sunrise. 

Thursday 11/10/11, (full moon) I woke up earlier then normal and could not sleep so I leaped out of bed at 5:00 am and caught up on some laundry and dishes…wonderful way to start the day…NOT!  

Late afternoon I checked my e-mails and had “Hello from Alan Bartram”…unh?...Alan Bartram!  The Alan Bartram that plays bass for Del McCoury and the Travelin' McCoury’s?!?  Yep, it was THEE Alan Bartram.  We met Alan two years ago, back stage at Merlefest where we offered for him to come by and visit the workshop...when he is travelin' through.  

I return his call to have him answer the phone by saying…”yeah, we are in Del’s driveway (Del’s old home place in PA is a few miles from our house) trying to decide what we are doing this evening.  “Can I stop by the workshop and look around?”  Say no more, boy howdy, come on over.  

Lonnie rushed around the shop cleaning up the sawdust and putting away his tools and I whipped up a batch of homemade brownies from my special reserve imported dark chocolate.  Alan and fiddle player Jason Carter showed up at our door and we invited them in for warm brownies and milk.  What a delightful visit with two super nice guys.  We talked about all kinds of stuff from basses, to repair, to stories about Del and Jerry.  It was a great evening. 

Alan walked through the workshop and looked over the collection of basses.  He played all the basses that were set up and playable.  Feeling left out, Jason asked if we had a friend or neighbors with this many fiddles…nope.  The guys were in awe of the bass collection, when two full time musicians from Nashville tell us we have some thing special going on…well it makes you feel pretty darn good.  Upon gazing at the collection of American Standard basses, Jason relayed a story about the one time he played with Roy Huskey, Jr.  He said he did not amplify the bass, Jason was disappointed.  The one time he would get to play with Roy and he would not be able to hear the bass…wrong…unamplified Jason said the bass just filled the room.  It was awesome.  I love hearing stories like that and the story of “play it like Boat”.  Apparently Boat was a bass player for Del in the early days “that did not know much about notes” but could slap the shit out of a bass and keep a good rhythm. 

We had a wonderful evening and only one thing could have made it better…Alan picked out a bass he liked and it will follow him home to Nashville.  It doesn’t get any better then that.  Brownies, milk and a vintage bass.  What a great evening.  We are looking forward to Alan’s return visit to pick up the bass and have it make its journey back to Nashville.  I can say with out a doubt Alan and Jason are true music professionals, you will not find two nicer gentlemen to share an evening of bass talk, music talk and batting the breeze.

You just never know what the day will bring.

Lonnie with Alan Bartram bass player for the Travelin' McCoury's

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Billy Lee Cox and Scott Brandon 11/6/11 benefit...

Here is a picture and article from my first on stage gig Sunday 11/6/11.  Though you can't see the bass it was Polly pretty Polly my 1937 Kay M-4.

This was a great show for a good cause.  It was a good day for all!

Wendy, Tracy, Scott, Billy Lee