After having the Stahl for a couple of years and indeed with the hopes of recording an album with it my life was about to be shaken to the core. As if out of nowhere my wife of nine years was leaving me for another – younger model, lol. You hear about it all the time thinking it would surely never happen to you – but it did, and I nearly didn’t survive! But survive I did, and the rebuild of self from the inside out proved beneficial – still, one can’t see the forest when they’re too close to the trees!! I fondly refer to that period in time as the “dark years” and ultimately see the series of events as an opportunity for self improvement! Until that time though – I had made some not-so-wise decisions. One BAD decision was that I sold the Stahl Harp Guitar! And it went to Gregg Miner who was completely and utterly thrilled to get that rare old Harp Guitar for the “Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic, and Just Plain Unusual Musical Instruments” Well, I just knew it had found a permanent home and I was glad for it! G was deserving – so that wasn’t the source of my discontent. Read on….
What was really beginning to nag on me, and not even at the time – only later once my head had become clearer and the pain lessened, was the fact that I hadn’t even considered selling the Stahl back to Bob (pictured on the left holding the Stahl),Grandson of its creator, this iconic figure in my mind and possibly the kindest person I have ever had the pleasure of calling a friend. As I started to think about it I completely freaked out on the fact that the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind………that the very person who sold me the Harp Guitar may want to purchase it back – could that have come to me a bit sooner, I asked myself?! So, with an incredible dose of humility and pride swallowing and through a series of unfortunately fortunate events (a blog in and unto itself – but thank you Steve S.) I approached Gregg with an incredible Harp Guitar trade/offer to see if I could pry his hands off of “our” old Stahl (yes it’s in the will- it’s yours G) ! Much to my surprise and to which I owe a huge debt of gratitude, Gregg was touched by my ability to grow from the “dark years” experience and recognized the genuineness and maturity of my pleas; being so touched, he sold me the Stahl , this was in or around 2010, just after its 100th year birthday! Truly, I am forever indebted to the ex-Pope (there was brief anxiety in the Harp Guitar world as we separated religion and State of Harp Guitars, lol) resulting in, and deservedly so, Gregg having become knighted Sir Gregory of Harp Guitar! Again, I digress – apologies! My intentions were not to turn around and offer the Stahl to Bob, though surely that would have set things right in my mind, – but rather to continue on the original mission I had embarked on in 2006, and so I rekindled my fiery romance with this unique instrument and off we go for an EPIC 2017!
The plot thickens and we are ALL SURPRISED! I must preface this section with some historical background of how the Larson brothers built their instruments, guitars specifically and in this case, my recently reacquired 1909 Stahl. In guitar building there was a practice developed of inserting a metal tube- either round or square and usually no more than 1/4″ in circumference underneath the fretboard and running the length of the neck. This practice was developed as a way to prevent the guitar neck from bowing through long-term exposure of potential temperature and humidity changes. The metal bar or tube is known as the truss rod.
But this was a practice that was never implemented at the Larsons shop – OR WAS IT ?!?
The year was now 2011, in the fall and the Ninth Annual Harp Guitar Gathering was set to be in Hamden CT. This years gathering was co-hosted by John Thomas (famous author, historian, lawyer, ROCK STAR, etc.) and he had access to a local X-Ray machine and the plan was to create an exhibit of X-Rayed Larson Harp Guitars and a host of others. Among those to be included was the 1909 Stahl. Gregg had suggested that he ship the Stahl from CA direct to the gathering in CT so the X-Rays could be taken prior to my arrival – to which I readily agreed! When the X-Rays came back jaws hit the floor. This already a one of a kind 1909 Stahl Harp Guitar revealed the first ever known metal truss rod installed on of any Larson built instrument. And all agreed this appears to be original as there is no evidence of the fretboard ever being removed. MINDS.BLOWN. !! We almost had to call security as Gregg was tempted to rip that thang outta my hands and make a run for it!! His mind was raging with a silent aarrrgh !!
Fast forward five years and we now enter the year of 2016 – 10 years since the original purchase of the 1909 Stahl Harp Guitar with intent to record this amazing feat of acoustical engineering! An album of covers and recently composed originals have been incubating in me for the past 10 years, gaining the depth of life experience that a decade of growing spiritually, physically, and musically bring to a person! So, as I thought about what to do I expressed my idea of memorializing the sound of this never before heard, one of a kind, the only one on the planet, 100+ year old instrument whose sound and tone can never be exactly reproduced to a friend of mine and then proceeded on with my day. The next day that friend – who asked to remain nameless to protect the guilty – approached me and asked if I was serious about what I was saying yesterday. I said of course, meant every word. He motioned for me to follow him and we sat down behind his computer. He had an excel spread sheet pulled up and started asking me questions about how I would recoup the recording costs, duplication costs, etc. I fumbled for answers the best I could and he simply said – come up with a business plan and I’ll back you financially for your project. SAY WHAT! Straight away I went into research mode and my only MO was to create a viable business plan in todays ever changing landscape of music sales! So I did. Then I was blessed with a Hurricane that produced extra work hours for me equaling extra $ that went straight to the recording studio fund!
I then thought about a conversation I had with artist/recording engineer Kim Persons several years back – maybe even when I first acquired the Stahl, I remember being super impressed with her passion and technique for how she would capture the sound of that guitar and she detailed out a few experiences she had recording always masterful in the studio Stephen Bennett ! I was also aware that Kim had recorded Tommy Emmanuel’s live DVD and it was superb! So that was it, done – Kim was going to record the project and nothing else would do. Now, to convince her of that!!
We are set to record in early 2017 and may have successfully have done so by the time you read this Blog!
Steampunk Stace has been stahled out for a full decade…
And now he has arrived – and its FULL STEAM AHEAD moving forward ! CHEERS! SPS