Yesterday I drove over to Athens, Georgia, to pick up a new guitar — new to me anyway. Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitar refurbishes old Harmony and Kay guitars. He has a way of converting and upgrading the interior bracing and other features to turn them into finer instruments than they had ever been back in the day.
The guitar was a Harmony Roy Smeck arch-top from 1957 or ’58. When I first saw it a few weeks ago Scott had done nothing with it. The strings were loose and the instrument was unplayable. I didn’t exactly fall in love with the guitar then, but I knew that, in theory at least, I liked everything about it.
One of my favorite acoustic steel guitars is a 1930s Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe. So the name of “the Wizard of the Strings” was a point in the guitar’s favor from the start. (Roy Smeck was a great vaudeville musician — very showy and fun to watch. There are many videos of him on YouTube, including one calling him “Eddie Van Halen’s Dad”.) I also liked the guitar’s “cupcake” knobs like the ones on the Harmony Stratotones I play with Delta Moon, the Gibson-built “speedbump” pickup and the midnight blue and gold sparkle finish.
I swapped Scott an old Kalamazoo Hawaiian guitar as a down payment. And for two weeks I’ve been shaking my head and thinking, “I don’t know.”
Then Scott called to say the guitar was ready.
Guess what? From the first note I loved it.
Just before I went out the door, Scott handed me a flat-top Sovereign. Hoo boy. One guitar at a time, I say. But I may have to make this trip again.