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The acoustic guitar used on this recording has a story worth telling


My friend Peter Dwyer rang me, and said 'In the charity shop where I work someone just walked in with some old guitar in two plastic bags. The strings are holding it together. What do you think?'. I said 'Send me some pictures', which he did. You could see the name on the top of the headstock, it said 'Stella'. A bit of web searching turned up the information that Stella was a trade name for a guitar factory in New Jersey, run by a German immigrant instrument maker called Oscar Schmidt from 1871. As interest in country music increased, his business boomed. When the pogroms in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe drove hundreds of thousands of Jewish people out of Eastern Europe to the States, word of mouth passed around the fact that any instrument maker arriving in New York could get work with Oscar building guitars. Arrive at the factory in New Jersey, show your trade qualification papers, and start work. 

Oscar's business had grown exponentially. His guitars were handmade, but cheap, because Oscar used woods of all sorts, just not the usual ones used for instrument building. (The guitar I play has what I think is a beech top, for example). Some of these guitars found their way with American golddiggers onto the Victorian goldfields, and soon Suttons Music, in Ballarat, Victoria, the centre of the goldrush, started importing the guitars. Long after the gold rush had finished, Suttons continued to import them from Schmidt. 


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You can find more information about oscar at and here

The man who brought the guitar into the charity shop told Peter a great story. His grandmother had bought the guitar in 1920, and had played it all her life till she died in about 1950. Her daughter had inherited the home with the guitar in it, and it had eventually found its way to the attic, too precious to throw out, but with no guitar players in the family, of no practical use either. Now the house was to be sold. The attic had to be emptied. Peter in the shop said 'This guitar might be worth something if it was repaired'. The man apparently said 'Oh, don't say that, we've been saying that at home for 60 years, but who is going to do it? Noone in the family is interested, and if someone can buy it from you and make use of it, just take it.' So I sent a message to Pete Daffy, friend, guitar builder and restorer, asking if he thought it was repairable, a lot of detailed photos were taken of the bits, and he said he'd like to have a go, and get the chance to see inside a guitar of such age, which appeared to be in really good condition - except for the fact that it had fallen apart! And so it was that money changed hands, the charity shop got more than it was expecting, and I went to collect the bags, full of guitar, strings going from one to the other. Pete restored the guitar, and it is just a joy to play. The action is beautifully low, thanks to Pete untwisting the bent neck, and putting on a new fingerboard. It is even tune-able, thanks to a new set of machine heads.

And now, the guitar is back being played on all 12 tracks on this album. I hope the previous owner's grandma and family would be happy with this outcome.

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