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Acoustic Guitars

History and Evolution of the Series (Continued)

…In high school I had gotten a 19th century Martin that I took with me to Chicago when another friend and I went in to see Jeff Beck and John McLaughlin at the Arie Crown Theater - it was my first rock concert. We went to a guitar shop the day after the concert and they had the Stratocaster Jeff had played the night before; and they wanted to trade me a Gibson J-200 (not real old, but not new) and some cash for my vintage Martin. I didn't do it, but I kind of liked the J-200. It had depth and an incisiveness that were engaging, but I didn't like the style of sunburst shading, and it didn't have the intimacy and stature I felt the old Martin had.

After graduate school (early eighties) I'd had some nice guitars, but was still drawn to the J-200 model. I'd seen "Loving You" (1957) with Elvis and thought his blonde J-200 looked great, so I kept in contact with Dave Sebring (then at Gruhn Guitars) to see if he could find a nice one; I knew many of the Nashville players used J-200s for recording, and both the look and the tone appealed to me. One never turned up that seemed the right fit, so I ordered a custom Martin when they started the custom shop back in 1983.

Then I got deeply interested in archtops and spent a long while exploring that universe, until I met Steve Klein at an Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans conference when my publisher for the D'Angelico/D'Aquisto book sent me to share my new tome. During the years of visiting with Steve, I learned that one of his big influences in designing his own guitars was the J-200, but by this time I had a Klein acoustic and was very comfortable with it; and I had been drawn to more exotic handmade instruments after my experiences with D'Angelicos, D'Aquistos, and Kleins.

Due to a variety of circumstances, in the early millennium I found myself in need of an acoustic guitar, and wasn't really sure where to turn. I'd played and written about my favourites, but by then the prices had gone exceedingly high - far beyond my means, and of the new Gibsons I'd tried, none really felt 'Gibsony' to me.

One evening on the internet I chanced upon a Zemaitis-styled guitar by "Dave of England" - it was a really large bodied instrument (over 18") and it was very intriguing, and reminiscent of a J-200 but with unique aesthetics I found appealing - the size, silhouette, heart-shaped abalone-bathed soundhole, lovely figured european sycamore maple, engraved metal headpiece plate and truss-rod cover. I'd known of Zemaitis guitars, but had never really had much experience with them, and by this time the interesting vintage models were very expensive. I learned that Dave (of "Dave of England" - a moniker coined by Tony) had been friends with Tony Zemaitis and that Tony had passed along all of his original jigs and tooling to Dave to continue the tradition of exclusively handmade guitars in Britain (all of the Dave of England guitars have a Zemaitis interior label signed by Tony Zemaitis). The large-bodied guitar being offered for sale had been made for Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), but it wasn't fancy enough for him, so it was available - not inexpensive, but affordable. I bought it and 'made friends' with it, and as that friendship ripened I had the idea to do a series of instruments with all of the features I favoured of the various original Zemaitis guitars I'd recently researched. Hence the birth of the Queen of Hearts Series.

 

 

 
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