All posts tagged: Running Dog Guitars

Be Present When Serendipity Strikes

It was a flight like dozens of others in the summertime: delayed, due to thunderstorms, with the prospect of climbing into bed much later than planned. When I finally boarded the flight from Nashville after a day’s work on our campaign to save Music Row, it barely registered that my two seatmates had stashed guitars in the luggage bin. This was Nashville, after all. I mumbled a couple of hellos, and promptly fell into my customary power nap. Waking up thirty minutes later, my laptop was opened as I started work on a project that was overdue. Only after returning to my seat later in the flight did I exchange real conversation with the woman seated in the middle seat, between her boyfriend and me.  I asked what type of guitar she played.  She replied, “One’s a harp guitar and the other is a flamenco guitar.”  Bing!  My mind suddenly woke up.  Harp guitars are pretty esoteric instruments, and those who play them approach their music with religious zeal.  They also tend to be very …

Think Slow

Our 15-year-old nephew—a budding musician—was in town this past weekend, so I took him to the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park. There he could see every type of musical instrument known to humankind (plus some) and, frankly, it gave me an excuse to play a few good guitars.  Not that I don’t have good guitars at home.  Later in the day my nephew had a chance to see and play my two prized Running Dog guitars made by luthier Rick Davis. Davis was profiled in Tim Brookes’ 2005 book Guitar:  An American Life, where the author seeks to replace a badly damaged first guitar with a hand-crafted one “for the second half of my life.”  He writes that as he nears 50 years of age, he finds an itch that can only be scratched with a new guitar.  And as Brookes notes, “Guitar makers even have a word for these baby-boomers-who-always-wanted-to-be-great-guitarists-and-now-have-the-money-to-indulge-those-dreams:  dentists.” “Much later, after the guitar is finished, Rick will refer to ‘the eternal and infinite capacity of the consumer to confuse …

Practicing

Over the holidays I returned to a book I first read some ten years ago.  Glenn Kurtz’s Practicing:  A Musician’s Return to Music is, in its simplest form, a memoir of a young child prodigy on the classical guitar who attends the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music and then quits playing in his early 20s when he realizes he won’t be the next Segovia.  Fifteen years and a career change later, Kurtz returns to the guitar and finds, in the process, a richer love for music. But like all good memoirs, Practicing is so much more than a simple life’s story. Kurtz has been practicing since he was eight years old, but it isn’t until he returns after his hiatus that he begins to understand all the richness of the various aspects of preparing for performance, or life. “Practicing is training; practicing is meditation and therapy. But before any of these, practicing is a story you tell yourself, a bildungsroman, a tale of education and self-realization. For the fingers as for the mind, practicing …

Guitar: An American Life

“You start off playing guitar to get chicks and end up talking with middle-aged men about your fingernails.” This is just one of the dozens of truisms, cogent observations, and laugh-out-loud lines found in Tim Brookes’ 2005 Guitar: An American Life. Candice gave me the book for Christmas, and though I finished it shortly after New Year’s Day, I’ve only now found the time to say how much I enjoyed this “part history, part love song” to the guitar. I learned of the book last summer when I met Rick Davis, the builder of my two Running Dog guitars. Rick – along with a new guitar he built for author Tim Brookes – are featured in Guitar. After baggage handlers broke his Fylde guitar, Brookes turned to Davis to build him a new one.  In alternating chapters Brookes chronicles the building process while taking the reader through an idiosyncratic yet compelling history of the guitar. Since the book has been around for a few years, it is easy to find good book reviews online. I’ll content myself …

Guitars and Baseball

James Nash once gave some good advice to aspiring guitarists: Rule #1 for learning to play fast:  don’t practice while watching the ball game.  Well, tonight…I’m guilty.  Two hours after starting, I’ve finally put the last instrument back on its stand.  I was watching baseball the entire time. However, I suspect that the San Francisco-based Nash would approve of my choice of ballgame, as the hometown Giants are in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. And while I didn’t get any real practice in tonight, it sure was fun to multitask around two things that I love.  (Note to regular readers:  Candice, who has become a baseball fan this year with the emergence of the Nats, is out-of-town. I wasn’t ignoring her.) I grew up as a Giants fan.  The Braves hadn’t moved to Atlanta, so we didn’t have a MLB team in the South.  And Willie Mays is, to my mind, the most complete player in the history of the game.  He was so much fun to watch as a young kid in …

G.A.S. Continued (Or How I Ended Up With Another Guitar)

I hadn’t planned to buy another guitar.  Seriously. 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, …

Finding My New Running Dog Guitar

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 …