The Rigel Mandolin
Sometimes dreams do come true. One of mine did when I was able to acquire
this Rigel CT110 Atomic Master Model. Words fall completely short of
describing the amazing dynamic range, tonal qualities, balance, playability
and great feel of this instrument. I wasn't too crazy about the color
scheme at first but after a short time I've come around to loving it.
In fact I like the looks so much now that I've set up an entire page
dedicated to this instrument. Check out my Rigel
The Santa Cruz Guitar
This is a 1981 D-82-R, otherwise known as the Tony Rice model. I was
hangin' out in the Davis brothers Pickin' Parlour in Grapevine, Texas,
one winter afternoon, browsing through the record collection (this was
in 1982) when I heard Brad Davis playing some nice licks right behind
me. I turned around to watch but no one was there. I followed this amazingly
projected sound to a back practice room to find Brad and his Santa Cruz
(I can't remember the model, maybe an F?). I knew right then that I
had to have one. I was extremely lucky to find an instrument collector
(Sid Gilchrist) in the Dallas area that just happened to have this D-82-R
(there were only a few in the whole world at that time). The tonal qualities
of this one even exceeded Brad's. Of the hundreds of guitars I've played
over the years, I still haven't found one who's sound I like better
than this one (except maybe the D-82-R that Brad bought a few
months later). The dynamic range, balance, and tone are all unsurpassed.
I had absolutely no spare cash in those days and I spent every evening
for months repairing TRS-80 computers (remember those?) to pay for this
The James Hewitt Violin
This violin was made by James Hewitt in 1918 in Auckland, New Zealand.
It has a moderate tone, bright but not brittle, warm but not mushy.
It generates interesting overtones, giving the impression that the instrument
is singing along with the player. A couple of years ago I decided to
become a violinist. I spent a couple of months trialing nearly every
decent violin for sale in the Auckland area. Since I wasn't playing
all that well back then and we were still living on my boat, there ensued
several instances of domestic violince. After several blind listening
tests with friends and consultations with local players, this instrument
rose to the top of the list. After I acquired the violin Trude was horrified
to learn that I was then set to start trialing bows. Only a couple more
incidents of domestic violince occurred before the hexagonal Paesold
bow was chosen. It was a pleasure to work with Kath Newhook and her
Stringed Instrument Company who had this fine instrument on consignment.
Now I just need another lifetime to learn to play well.
The Kentucky Mandolin
There is no date in this mandolin. My best guess it that is was made
around 1980. I acquired it from Sid Gilchrist in 1983. It's a Japanese
factory mass produced instrument. From comparing mine with Washburn
and Samick A-models, I guess that all three of these brands are sourced
by the same factory in Japan. Does anyone know for sure? It's been a
great knock around instrument. It has been warmed by countless campfires,
been baptized in beer and kava, and graced many a beach party. I've
made many good friends across the South Pacific by jamming with this
instrument. I am now looking for a top class mandolin, something like
a Rigel or Weber or old Gibson. I haven't found anything like these
for sale in New Zealand so I may have to wait for my next visit to the
The Alvarez Yari Guitar
This guitar was born in a Japanese factory in 1973. It's been my knock
around guitar for nearly 20 years. I bought it in 1983 from Sid Gilchrist
at the same time as the Kentucky Mandolin (above). This guitar has experienced
countless Hobie regattas, camping trips, yacht charters in the Caribbean,
seven years of beaches and beach bars across the South Pacific and now
sits ready for action on the stand in my living room. For a relatively
inexpensive factory guitar, it has been extremely durable and reliable
and sounds way better than it should.
The Alvarez Banjo
I bought this banjo in 1984 just to find out if I could learn to play
it. It's about as low as you can get in the banjo pecking order and
still be tunable and playable. I'm still trying to find out if I can
learn to play it.
The Gibson Firebird
This is a 1964 Gibson Firebird. It was given to me in 1976. It had
been dropped and the head had broken off. A Frankenstienian "repair"
had been done by through bolting the head back onto the neck. I took
it to a luthier in Kansas City who did a fine and proper repair job
but in doing so obliterated the Gibson logo. Someday I will get this
fine instrument properly restored. In the meantime it is a blast to
The Philip Walters Violin
This violin was made in England in 1984 by Philip Walters. He gave
it to Lucy Harris on the yacht Pangolin-II as something to learn to
play on their journey around the world. By the time they got to Tonga
in the South Pacific Lucy was sure that voilin playing was not something
she was meant to do and she very graciously gave this fiddle to me.
It gave me a chance to learn the basics and decide that I wanted to
get serious about playing the violin, which eventually led to the purchase
of the James Hewitt mentioned above. I donated this violin to the Devonport
Folk Music Club library where it has helped many folks get started playing.
If you know Philip Walters, please give him the URL to this page. I
suspect he would enjoy learning about the adventures of his creation.
The Kay Guitar
This was my very first guitar. I think my dad paid somewhere around
$25 for it sometime in the 1960's. It's an f-hole archtop plywood guitar
with an adjustable bridge and floating tailpiece. Although it's not
the finest of instruments, you can tell by looking at the fingerboard
that it has made a lot of music. Thanks to my sister Sharon
for pulling it out of her attic and taking this photo.