Dec 2015 News Update
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Another Ebay purchase, made by Kif Wood in about 2000. This interesting and beautifully crafted ten stringed instrument is a cross between a guitar and an Oud with the first two double courses of strings covering a partially fretless fingerboard. It is technically called an Ouditar Oud.
The woods chosen, and craftsmanship is quite beautiful and certainly unique. A total one off. I love the carved bird on the headstock with the moonstones for eyes, and the inlaid hand on the body, with matching wood around the sound hole.
This instrument has two pickup systems, a transducer at the bridge and a magnetic pick up in the neck position. Because this has virtually just arrived I haven't as yet had time to truly get to grips with its plugged in sound and it's potential as an instrument that could hopefully inspire a new GG creation.
Since it has been in my hands I have adjusted the action a tad by removing the neck via a specially purchased long Allen key. Since doing so I have indeed started composing a new piece inspired by its different sonic qualities and totally different feel to what I usually play!
This instrument has ten strings and has to be fitted with special low tension Thomastic strings that respond to both magnetic pickups and the transducer. They are basically designed for a classical instrument and not a steel string. This instrument is of very light construction and would certainly be damaged by putting conventional bronze strings on it.
Just take a look at the detail and the multi binding on the headstock and around the body. In many ways Kif's approach to guitar building reminds me very much of Rob Armstrong in as much that each guitar is unique and like both makers quite eccentric. I say this with the greatest of respect to both!
After writing the first part of this feature, I decided to ring the man himself, and what a pleasant and helpful chap he was. He confirmed that it was indeed made in 2000, and if purchased today would carry a £2000 price tag. Just look at the beautiful wood and work on the headstock and the lovely workmanship the charming addition of the bird with moonstones for eyes. He told me that the wood used for the bird on the headstock was called jaguar’s ears!
He then went on to tell me about the inlaid hand on the body and how he went about doing it so it fitted perfectly like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. He said the person who commissioned it requested the hand which supposed to be the hand of Fatima. Fatima is the Roman word for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I remember meeting Kif a few years back at a village hall gig somewhere near Penzance in Cornwall not far from his home. He turned up with one of his guitars complete with his own pickup system and asked me to try it. I plugged it in and I have to tell you that the sound was astonishing and so close to a pure rich acoustic sound it left me virtually speechless. He even offered to let me take it away and have fun with it, but I had to decline because the responsibility was too great, but the gesture was indeed lovely. Ironically I now DO have one of his guitars in my collection!
Anyone interested in checking out this maker should look at his Facebook page Kif Wood Guitars and view some of his creations for yourself, and if so moved contact him direct on firstname.lastname@example.org
I have had the pleasure of playing some of the finest guitars that some of our British craftsmen have produced over the years starting with the late great John Bailey, followed on by the great Roger Bucknall, Tom Mates, and then of course Rob Armstrong with Roger Williams in between. I can now add Kif to that list of fine craftsmen that this small island of ours has produced.
Long may they continue.
Hilary and I spent a wonderful and relaxing week at the wonderful venue where the Llyn Guitar Festival is held each year at the Oriel Art Gallery. Gwyn Jones the director of the venue very kindly offered us the apartment where we stayed in October. We took up his offer in a heartbeat.
This year as you all know has certainly been a roller coaster, and this short break was long overdue. In spite of bad weather we certainly made the most of the days when it wasn't raining or blowing a gale. The location is truly magical, and anyone familiar with the Llyn peninsular will know the truth of these words.
We had a couple of lovely walks on the beach, and two lovely evenings spent with good friends Paul Brett and his lovely partner Michele Breeze on the Monday, and on the Tuesday Gwyn invited us to dinner with his wife Caron and daughter Beka at their lovely home just outside Pwllheli. The winds were very strong that night, and whilst having dinner we heard a noise outside the back door. The following day Gwyn found four slates on the ground removed by the aforementioned strong winds!
Earlier in the evening Gwyn showed us his latest acquisition....a Paul Brett Viator, the new model with antique finish and USB socket and built in pickup. Even though straight out of the box it played pretty well and sounded great. I even did a reasonably good version of Heartsong and Loren on it!
Having time on our hands Hilary attempted a very challenging jigsaw puzzle and I spent the time fine tuning a new composition that I have been working on and one that I'm quietly pleased with.
We were very fortunately to be at the gallery when a superb exhibition of the great John Piper was being launched and enjoyed a very interesting introduction by a visiting expert on the man’s work.
Our thanks once again to Gwyn Jones for his kindness in offering us the apartment. We look forward very much to returning to the area as soon as we can, possibly when the Festival is on again next October!
I have mentioned Helen Marshall many times within these pages. I'm delighted to report that she is still playing superbly and is as creative as ever as this wonderful clip for YouTube will testify.
This is pure magic, check it out. https://youtu.be/jHUJFSs-vcA
Professional Music Technology Music weekend
On Saturday November 7th I was invited by my friend Gary Chapman as a guest at the above shops Music Weekend/ Show. I wasn't asked to play, just to be there and enjoy the day which I did. How could I not, surrounded by dozens of fantastic guitars and good company.
Later on that afternoon, the 6 & 12 string guitarist and fellow columnist for Acoustic Magazine Richard Gilewitz was there to do a short set under the banner of a certain string company. It was the first time Richard and I had met, and what a nice man he is. We got on really well and I have enjoyed reading his columns.
He and I thought it would be nice if we did a number together so I suggested good old Maddie Goes West, which we performed to a small but appreciative audience.
If you are ever in Brum City and want to visit what I consider to be the finest and friendliest guitar shop around then please do. You won't regret it I assure and Gary Chapman will make you most welcome. They have a good tea and coffee machine and a super Pizza takeaway opposite.
I was there on the Saturday and on the Sunday Dave Hill of Slade was going to be there along with Bernie Marsden, he of Whitesnake fame. Wished I had been around to see them.
Wood Sweat and Tears (extended)
That book was an outstanding piece of work with stunning photographs of his beautifully crafted instruments.
My dear pal Roger Bucknall is publishing an extended version of his superb book of a year or so back, Wood Sweat and Tears.
I was of course in the book and wrote my own dedication to the great man. This time round he wanted something similar along with a more up to date photograph. Well, here it is taken by my pal Paul Ward.
I know it's a bit serious but if you look closely there is a gentle hint of a smile.
The guitar (of course for those that recognise it) is the beautiful tree of life guitar Roger made for me in about 1975 and was used on many recordings including Heartsong, and can be seen on Top of the Pops, and on various CD sleeves notably The Solo Album painted by our friend the very gifted Sue Martin.
I gifted this guitar to Sir Cliff in about 1995 and is on loan to me for the time being. It is good to have it back albeit temporarily!
Roger's book is due to be published in December, and for those who love his instruments this is without doubt a must have!
I have been selling my pre loved guitars like mad recently and I'm delighted to say that they have and will be going to my students and new friends. It is indeed a good feeling to know that they will treasure them for years to come, and value them for their past historical connection with yours truly and in some cases major recorded history. I hope that they won't tire of them and hopefully keep them for ever. Obviously they are their property now and can of course do with them as they wish.
I have one or two special instruments, and one that once belonged to my dear friend and sadly missed Bert Jansch. It is one of my treasured possessions and will stay with me for as long as there is breath in my body. To have an instrument that has such a strong and powerful connection with one of such genius is very humbling.
My main reasons for parting with an instrument has and probably will always be the fact that it isn't being used to its full potential. All the guitars I purchase I buy because I like them and hope to use them, but of course that isn't always the case. The other reason for moving a guitar on is if that instrument is somehow tainted by a bad experience. When that happens I then have no desire to play it again regardless of how fantastic it may sound or play. I know it sounds crazy, but in passing it on to another player means that the player can infuse it with their own personality and mojo, almost giving it a fresh start.
It has also been my profound pleasure to gift many of my guitars to close friends and worthy players. My baby Armstrong guitar went to a close friend recently, and that instrument at one stage represented a huge part of my playing life. The recipient was overwhelmed when I gave it to him and he plays it all the time now.
My Armstrong Baritone went to the wonderful Clive Carroll who has featured it on two tracks of his upcoming new album. How good is that? Very soon the Armstrong 92 which was used for many years on stage and in the studio, specifically the Troubadour album will be going to a good home, along with the Steve Toon Variax, another beautifully crafted instrument that just languishes in its case and desperately needs to be played. Finally a lovely custom built Strat will be finding a home by the time you read this.
Thus far guitars that have found a new home are as follows.
WASHBURN PRAIRIE SONG.
ROBIN CUSTOM DREADNAUGHT.
PAUL BRETT TWELVE STRING.
DEL VECCHIO MANDOLIN.
STEVE TOON VARIAX.
GITANE GYPSY JAZZ.
GG2000 TWELVE STRING......Gifted.
GG2000 SIX STRING...............Gifted.
GG MAHOGANY GUITAR........Gifted.
GG MAHOGANY GUITAR........Gifted.
ARMSTRONG BABY GUITAR. Gifted.
ARMSTRONG 92 CUSTOM.
The daft part about it is that the cupboards are still pretty full!!
Maybe that's because I just may have replaced one or two with other guitars! Certainly the stunning new custom Fylde has now appeared along with of course the Kif guitar featured in this month’s news page.
Artwork for string packets for Newtone strings 1991
I came across these the other day filed away somewhere. I shall be posting some early artwork in these pages for your interest. They may appear on Facebook first but no matter, they are just little curios from the past.
When I helped create the strings that eventually became known as Newtone Strings, Malcolm Newton asked me if I would create the artwork for a signature series. Ralph McTell loved the strings and does indeed still use them.
I'm very proud to have been the person who came up with the idea to wrap a string on a plain core. Normal string are wrapped around an hexagonal core! It was then up to Malc to try and make this happen. This he did by flattening the last six or eight inches of the plain string thus enabling the outer core to stay in place when wrapped. This was of course many years ago now!
The result was one of the best sounding strings I have ever used and certainly ranks alongside my main strings of choice which are Martin SP's.
Each month I shall include some more artwork for you to see. This is purely for interest only. I loved doing these drawings and my beloved long suffering wife has been saying for years that I should have done more, but music has dominated my life for so long now, my energies were just channelled in that direction. Maybe I should do more. Let me know what you think.
This month's issue features the first part of At Giltrap's Bar. Part two will be in the next but one issue. This will then conclude my six Giltrap DADGAD compositions.
Just because my performing life is on hold doesn't mean that my creativity has dried up. I mentioned earlier about a new piece I'm working on along with the Kif inspired piece. Also the biography is slowly coming together and hopefully the author Steve Pilkington will be seeing my dear friend and mentor in those early Transatlantic days Bill Leader, to get his memories of a young and intense GG.I also believe it or not have a major album project ( very classical ) waiting in the wings to find a new home, along with quite a bit of back catalogue.
So there you have it, it's all go this end.
Well my friends what a roller coaster of a year this has been and the words "life changing" certainly spring to mind.
I consider myself to be one if the lucky ones in as much as what I have isn't life threatening. My surgery will certainly NOT be before Christmas, so I can truly say from the bottom of my heart THANKYOU for all your friendship and caring messages.
Hilary and I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016.
Finally, a little bit of Christmas fun....
This comical poster was designed by my dear pals Malc and Kaz Welch
See you all next time.