But sometimes good things happen when you least expect it.
I HAD planned to try to meet the maker of my Running Dog guitar on my next trip to Seattle. Since I bought it used from a guitar shop in Amherst, Massachusetts, I didn’t know Rick Davis, the builder who made my parlor style instrument back in 2001. But after playing it for a couple of years, I wanted to meet the guy who built such wonderful small guitars with the beautiful tone.
A recent trip to the west coast gave me the opportunity to stop by Rick’s shop in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (aka, The Center of the Universe). Rick shares his shop with his partner, Cat Fox, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. Rick told me the provenance of my 2001 Parlor guitar. I learned he was the subject of Tim Brooke’s 2005 book Guitar: An American Life. And I played a beautiful 2011 Ought-3 model. (I also noodled on a baritone guitar, although I really didn’t know what to do with it – I’m not that good a musician.)
But the Ought-3 – which is sized between my dreadnought and parlor guitars – stayed with me. The neck, as I’ve come to expect from Rick’s guitars, fit my hand like a glove. A 1 3/4″ width at the nut made it perfect for fingerpicking. The warm tone comes up to the player through the soundport, in a way that I had never experienced. The beautiful Camatillo rosewood back and sides along with the quirky Hippocamus head stock turned it into a work of art.
I went back to my hotel, but couldn’t get the guitar out of my mind. I posted a note to Facebook, and my guitar-playing cousin weighed in urging that I go for it. Candice and I talked – first by email and then later by phone. She knows how much I have loved playing the parlor guitar, and she was incredibly supportive. In the end, we decided to take Hershey’s advice and go for it.
When I called Rick to tell him I wanted the Ought-3, he said, “Come over and play it some more before you decide.” Most of Rick’s guitars are custom-designed and built, so he wanted to make sure this was the guitar for me. He graciously agreed to meet me the next night after I finished an early dinner, and I sat in his shop and played for an hour or so. Now it can be nerve-wracking to play for a builder (who is also a guitarist), but Rick encouraged me to relax, commented on a Doc Watson tune I played, and told me more about this guitar. Before the night was over I had bought a new guitar and got a ride back to the hotel from its builder.
My new Ought-3 arrived last Friday, and I’ve played it constantly since then. Here’s how Rick’s website describes the model:
Running Dog’s Ought-3 is based on the 000 of the 1930s. The longer scale length gives the Ought-3 more power and projection while retaining the resonance of the 12-fret neck. The Ought-3 name comes from both the Martin 000 and from the first year I built one, 2003.
And for you gear heads, here are the specs:
Soundboard: Bearclaw Sitka spruce
Back & Sides: Camatillo rosewood
Purfling: Poplar (dyed)
Bridge and fingerboard: Ebony
Scale length: 25.4″
Width at nut: 1 3/4″
Options: Venetian cutaway, Soundport, Redwood burl rosette, and the “Hippocampus” seahorse inlay.
As I played it this weekend, Candice and I both marveled at the tone. It has been great to get to know this guitar – and I’m looking forward to having it teach me more music for a long, long time.
If you are wondering what G.A.S. stands for, it is shorthand for “Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.” I love each of my guitars for different reasons and to play different types of music. But I will admit that I had to put new strings on my other guitars knowing that I’d never pick them up anytime soon if I the strings were old. Not to worry…I’ve played all three this weekend
But that Ought-3…perhaps it should be the Ahhhh-3. What a wonderful guitar. Thank you Rick!
More to come…
(Photos from Running Dog Guitar)