My Music Making Toys

The Rigel Mandolin
The Santa Cruz Guitar
The James Hewitt Violin
The Kentucky Mandolin
The Alvarez Yari Guitar
The Alvarez Banjo
The Gibson Firebird
The Walters Violin
The Kay Guitar

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 Mandolin Page.
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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 extraordinary guitar.
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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.
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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 States.
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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.
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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.
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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 play.
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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.
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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.
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Music/ Instruments


Related Pages

Rigel Mandolins
Santa Cruz Guitars
Gibson Firebird
Alvarez