The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Guitar Lust, Fiction Love

I may have written a post about my guitar before. But I'm too lazy to check this, and I have CRS anyway, so it's possible that this first part of the post is redundant. If I've told you this before, bear with me. I own a Silvertone 1220 jumbo flat top guitar, manufactured for Sears by the Harmony corporation. My wife Joyce gave it to me as a birthday gift back in 1968 when I was 28 years old.

I think my old Silvertone cost about $69 or $70 when new. It's in pretty good shape for its age and for all the rough treatment it has received over the years from grandkids, cast party participants, etc. I don't have a good picture of it, but here's one that looks just like it, color, pickguard, bridge, nut, tuning pegs, and everything else as well.

I'm absolutely not an accomplished guitarist. I just make the basic 5 or 6 chords and can pick out a few (very few) melodies. But I've really enjoyed this old acoustic AXE over the years. It increased my love of music and in particular helped grow my love of (and lust for) all guitars. My old Silvertone led me to appreciate the fine quality and workmanship of factory made instruments like Martin and Gibson, and those smaller independent operations like Forbus Hand Made Guitars for example, whose shop is in Belfast, Tennessee, about 70 miles from Nashville. And Kent Everett's custom acoustic guitar shop down in Atlanta. Follow the links and take a look at some of these guys' fantastic creations.

(Side note: My good buddy Ed's son is a luthier and besides doing repair work on fine guitars has crafted some excellent dulcimers which I've examined, and some guitars which I haven't yet seen. I was amazed at the precision and craftsmanship of the dulcimers; I can't imagine where someone develops the patience and skill to do that kind of close and delicate work? It's certainly beyond me.)

One of my other passions is reading fiction.

Since I was about ten years old, I've loved to read, especially fiction. That year my uncle Sid gave me a copy of the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I was hooked. I began to read other stories about baseball players and cowboys and soldiers. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I was totally immersed in Science Fiction, particularly the juvenile stories of Robert Heinlein, such as Space Cadet and Red Planet. I liked Asimov too, and Clarke, and anyone else who could spin a good yarn.

 I began trying to write fiction myself in the '80s and finished a couple of manuscripts, one spy thriller and a mystery. The spy novel was at first conditionally accepted by Zebra but then three months later, the imprint was taken over by another publisher and my manuscript was returned. Que sera.

I finished some other mystery manuscripts in the '90s and when I retired, began and finished a couple of political satires (one of those was Liberalstein). After that I spent several months revising the manuscript that became Blood Country.

When I put together Blood Country, I made use of my love for guitars. I gave my musician characters guitars that I couldn't afford but had heard or read about. Fiction works that way for the reader and the writer. A writer imagines something and it becomes semi real for him and for the reader. In a story you can go anywhere and do anything--even own and play some very expensive guitars. And in fiction, you can finger pick like a maestro, which I ain't!

To start with, the cover of Blood Country features a classic Gibson SG solid body electric guitar. (That's a picture of a Gibson SG below and just below that on the right is a picture of the SG on my book cover.) Even though the novel is set in Nashville and its country music industry, the SG is usually associated with rock musicians.

But I loved the shape of the guitar and I found an image that I felt meshed really well with my cover color scheme. As you can see, my cover SG is a black one with special gold humbucker pickups, gold knobs, and gold fret inlays up the neck. The background color of the cover is red and the main title letters are gold outlined in black. The subtitle, A Nashville Sideman Mystery, is in black. I believe a cover image and title should tell the reader at a glance what the book is about. What do you think, does the Blood Country cover work in that way?

There are some other guitars in the book as well. My private eye, Joe Rose, is also a guitar sideman. He owns several guitars but the one he uses in several scenes is an old 1940 Martin D-18. Why a '40 model? It's kinda silly but 1940 was the year I was born. Maybe my hidden motive was to suggest that something made in 1940 could still make good music, or in my case, a good mystery novel.

An old Martin like this is also probably way too expensive for me, but it's not too much of an investment for a pro sideman. By having Rose own and use it, I get to vicariously enjoy it myself.

Here's a You Tube video of a guy playing a 1940 Martin D-18, like the one I imagined Joe Rose would play in my novel. Notice that though the color is different, the shape and pick guard look a lot like my old Silvertone. The video guy is a pretty danged good picker too.

One of the main characters in the book is Vern Hamlin, a super star country guitarist, songwriter, and publisher. At one point he's playing on a Gibson Dove flattop. He tells Rose that it's one of many guitars that he owns but this one is extra special in that it was once owned and played by Elvis. Never in my wildest dreams could I own a guitar Elvis owned. But in the novel I get to do that vicariously again through Hamlin. It's pretty easy to imagine a character like Hamlin, whose superstar status has made him very rich, not only owning the Elvis Dove, but playing the hell out of it.

There are some nice pictures of the Elvis Gibson Dove guitar here but image downloading at the site was blocked which prevented me from putting in a picture of the guitar I had in mind for Vern. So, I found this You Tube video of a guy playing Japanese manufacturer Aspen's copy of the Gibson Dove. This one is the Aspen Dove DH32. It looks almost exactly like Elvis' Gibson and the guy playing it makes it ring like a bell. Listen closely and you'll hear a little "House of the Rising Sun" creep in there.

I have lust in my heart for these fine guitars (even the Aspen copy). But this stuff is kinda like a marriage to me. And I'm still happily bound and committed to my old Silvertone 1220.


P. S. I'm still selling the Kindle edition of Blood Country for $.99. You can also buy a paperback copy for $17.95.

Click on the copy of the book near the top of the left column and you'll be linked to my amazon page where you can choose either the Kindle or the paper copy of Blood Country.


  1. So... I clicked the guitar links and was surprised at how very reasonable the Forbus guitars are, less so with the Everetts, which was about what I expected. I'm reminded of that ol' sayin': ya gets what ya pays for. I'm sure those thangs are worth EVERY penny.

    I used to have a good friend who had a Martin, but I can't remember what model. He was more possessive about that guitar than he was with his wife... and much more careful with it, too. But I guess serious guitar players are like that.

  2. Buck, Forbus makes some beautiful instruments and they're reasonably priced. It looked to me like all of his guitars were electric, however. I don't know for sure, but I would imagine that making an acoustical guitar is quite a bit more of a challenge and thus more expensive. as Everetts definitely are. Or it could be that the Everetts guy has a pro/celebrity clientele. Whatever the reason is, his guitars are much more expensive.

  3. I'd put your old Silvertone up against a lot of them. It has a great sound, no rattle or snap either.
    Thanks for the plug about the son. They have started a new batch of accoustic guitars, wish I could afford one of them. The craftsmanship is just unreal.
    "Nashville cats, been playin since they's babies." Yep!

  4. Thanks Ed, I still like the old Silvertone box a lot. At my age and level of skill it's about all I need. Sometime when we're over there visiting during the day maybe you can take me by to see Rob at work. I'd like to see the shop.