Dad was a pretty decent musician–fiddle, banjo and guitar, so during the Depression when there was no work, he made a little money by putting a small band together. Mom said it was terribly hot that first year, and he and his band started practicing down inside an empty, underground cistern on the farm where it was cooler. She described sitting on the back porch with her little baby on her lap, listening to the music come up from the ground.
Dad had a guitar he really valued. He said it had the best sound of any guitar he’d ever played. Unfortunately, he dropped it going into a gig, and put a big hole in it. He tried to repair it, but he didn’t have the tools or the skill.
The guitar had the Wurlitzer brand on it–which was odd–because Wurlitzer was never really a guitar manufacturer. Long after his death, we were clearing out his things, and almost threw the guitar out, except mom couldn’t quite make herself do it. Instead, she gave it to Gary Leftwich, a good friend who was a talented musician. He played a lovely old Martin guitar. Anyone who knows guitars know the wonderful reputation Martin guitars have, The older the better.
A few months ago, Gary decided to have Dad’s guitar repaired. Even though it was just this weird Wurlitzer brand with a big hole in it, there was nostalgia involved, and he’d just met a professional Luthier who said he could fix it.
Now–this is where we got a huge surprise. It turns out, my dad’s broken guitar is one of the old Martin guitars still in existence. Wurlitzer had commissioned Martin to make a few for them in the 1920’s, and this particular one was 1 of 5 made. Dad’s guitar was so old and rare, it could have been in a museum had it not been broken.
The Luthier happily repaired it, and Gary–who lives in a different state–made a video for me, documenting the history and the repairs done, but also so I could hear what my dad’s guitar would have sounded like. The video is one of my most cherished gifts.
In honor of my dad for Father’s Day, I’m going to share this special video with you. If you, or someone you know, loves guitars–you’ll enjoy this. (Gary is playing it throughout the video–at the end, he sings a song from the era during which it was built.)