I’ve been thinking about a smaller guitar for some time, to take my music in different directions and to help move beyond what has been a rather long plateau of musical mediocrity when it comes to playing. But the time was never right, the funds were always tight, and I had other priorities.
A couple of months ago I broke through a personal logjam, and in the process started focusing more on enjoying my music. (I am good enough to know that I’m not that good, but I decided not to worry about it anymore.) Candice and I talked, and I told her my dream of getting a new guitar. She said, “Let’s go for it.”
Of course I had a plan and even discussed it with some friends. I had a builder in mind and even sought out some of their guitars to test drive.
But then I stumbled across a beautiful Running Dog guitar and decided to seize the day.
Two weeks ago we were in New England with our twins for college visits. With a couple of hours before the tour, we saw a nice little sidewalk cafe where we headed for lunch. I noticed a sign for The Fretted Instrument Workshop and mentioned to Candice that I might go up and play a few guitars after eating.
I climbed the stairs to the second floor shop and instantly saw three small O and OO-size Martin guitars with slotted headstocks and 12-fret necks. Just what I was looking for! I played through all three Martins, and while I liked them the necks weren’t feeling exactly right. The shop’s owners were watching carefully, and one headed to another room and came back with this beautiful guitar. He said, “Try this and see if the neck feels better for you.”
Thirty seconds later, I knew I had found my guitar. As I played, it just felt right in my hands. The curly koa back produced a warm sound. It was beautifully balanced. I loved the look of the Parlor guitar, based on an 1896 size O Martin. And as I played I thought about a friend who passed away tragically and suddenly just a few days before, still relatively young and in the prime of enjoying an active retirement. As a friend likes to say, this isn’t a dress rehearsal. It was time to act.
Candice finally came up to find me. She walked in and I could tell by the look on her face that she knew what I was thinking. With a great amount of love and understanding she said, “Let’s do it.”
But before I pulled the trigger, I had a college tour to take. I told Tony and Mario that I’d be back in 90 minutes. And then I quickly emailed a couple of colleagues, including one who is a collector. I said, “I’ve never heard of Running Dog guitars. Can you do some quick research while I walk around learning about student/teacher ratios and the renovation of the historic dormitory?” In less than a minute Carl replied with, “I’m on it!” Within 15 minutes he was emailing me all about the beautiful bracing and craftsmanship of Rick Davis’ work and ended with, “Buy that sucka!”
And here, dear readers, is my new 2001 Running Dog Parlor guitar (pictures courtesy of Claire). The first photo is of the full front, where you can see the beautiful, traditional shape of the size O guitar.
Next is the headstock. We’ve now decided that the running dog going across the headstock is Lilly (yet another reason to buy the guitar!)
The curly koa back, with the matching sides.
Here’s a fun and quirky feature. The original owner of the guitar was a Civil War reenactor. You can see his allegiance by the custom design on the back of the headstock. The owners of the shop heard my Southern accent and asked if I would have a problem with the “Union Forever” sentiment. I laughed and said that 1) I was in historic preservation so I loved the additional connection to history and 2) I was smart enough to know that the right side won the war.
Back at home, this has become a familiar spot for me. I have two sessions scheduled tomorrow to play this guitar with friends. I can’t wait.
More to come…