Cambridge and Martha’s Vineyard, 1964

In the fall of 1964 Banana (Lowell Levinger), Michael Kane, and I moved to Cambridge from the Vineyard into a second story apartment off of Putnam Ave.   The spot was near the Charles River in an area about equidistant from Central Square and Harvard Square.   We were gone from Boston University, and we were living the folkie Bohemian life in one of the best places to do that in the US.   Rent was cheap, we could walk anywhere in town, and there were always friends like Paul Arnoldi or Jim Mairs who had cars if we needed or wanted to go anywhere the subways and busses didn’t go, and beyond that, hitchhiking was an accepted and reasonably safe way to get to New York, Providence, or wherever.   I remember us hitching out to U Mass to see Bob Dylan perform, and we got a ride from a woman who turned out to be involved with putting on a folk festival out there.   We wound up staying with her and her husband, played well into the night, and her only request was that we not bring any pot to the festival.   Pot?   Us?   No way…never heard of the stuff…   Yeah, sure…

 

I don’t know what Michael and Banana did for money in those days, but I had a real job, working at Briggs and Briggs, an old time full line music store in Harvard Square.   They sold records and had three listening rooms for auditioning the latest albums.   They also had an incredibly extensive selection of sheet music all stored in a wall of filing cabinets behind the counter, and I, with practically no education in classical music, quickly learned to fake it and find the sonatas, concertos and the like being sought by Harvard students.   And down stairs were two rooms with guitars…Gibsons, Epiphones, Guilds, and Harmonys, and since I was the young guitar player, I got to be the guitar salesman, too.   To top it all off, on my way to work lived my first post high school serious girl friend, an “older woman” three years my elder who was a local folk singer playing all the clubs in Boston and Cambridge.   Nancy introduced me to the joys of French press coffee and sex in the morning before going to work.   For a preppy turned acoustic guitar player that was pretty cool stuff all around.   Sometimes I stayed with her, sometimes back at the musician’s boarding house that our apartment had become.   It was right out of “Tangled up in Blue.”

 

It was about this time that I first tried psychedelics in the form of extract of heavenly blue morning glory seeds, courtesy of Maria Muldaur who had given a jar of this vile gray glop to my friend Diane Tribuno, later to be married to bluesman Nick Gravenites.   Diane, Jim Mairs and I did the whole 1964 ritual…we read from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, we lit incense, we put on Bach organ fugues on Diane’s record player, and then we all took a trip, and it was the real deal.   Laughter, visions, intense profound revelations…at least they seemed so at the time, and just one hell of a good time.

 

In those days there was a new tradition in Cambridge of psychedelic exploration.   Richard Alpert, better known now as Ram Dass, and Timothy Leary had been teaching at Harvard and in the late 1950s they became academically interested in the effects of psychedelic drugs, particularly on creativity.   This whole thing blew up in their faces, and in the spring of 1963 Dr. Alpert was fired from his job, and he and Leary headed for Mexico under a cloud of scandal…and were promptly unofficially declared the patron saints of the whole psychedelic revolution into the back yard of which we had dropped.   We all regarded acid as a combination of sacrament, brain opener, and, well, fun.

 

A few weeks after my first trip a number of us decided to try LSD and go see Hard Day’s Night for the first time.   Three of us would take the acid before seeing the film, three would wait to see if we killed ourselves or anything and get a report from the other side before downing their doses.   I was in the first wave, and what can I say?   It was wonderful, spectacular, those guys were having so much fun just goofing off that we all never wanted the movie to end or we wanted to step into the screen, or, and this is what really happened, we wanted to live life as large as we possible could, get paid for it, and just keep going for the rest of our lives.   The movie, of course, came to an end, and out we stumbled, by then six stoned musicians coming out into a nice snowfall.   For some reason we decided to go over to Bill Lyons’ house and get him stoned too.   Bill was a balladeer around the clubs and sometime guitar repairman.   He was a bit of a curmudgeon, he was gay, and he was fun to hang out with having a wicked sense of humor and having been around the Boston Cambridge folk scene since the very inception.   To get to his place we had to go down a moderately steep drive way to part in back of the house which we did only to find him not home.   So we piled back into the car, probably Jim’s Volvo, and headed for the street.   No go.   The snow and a light sheet of ice had glazed over the driveway, and we only made it up about half way and then started sliding back.   What to do?   Back up a bit further, gun it, and try for the top.   No go.   Back a couple more feet further, and hit it.   No go.     Well this went on for a good half hour.   We were cracking up so much that we didn’t dare get out of the car to try to sweep off the snow or through sand out or get a shovel or do any of the things that normal sane people would do.   The problem was that we were abnormal and insane and we knew it.   Of course it didn’t occur to us that a neighbor might wonder why a car full of proto-hippies with exploding heads was repeatedly attacking a snowy hill with a Volvo.   Too much fun, and the next phase of a pretty good run.

 

Banana, Michael and I sold a bit of pot and we had a fantastic connection for Sandoz LSD that a guy in a Cadillac would deliver.   Up the stairs he’d come with a briefcase full of glass ampules of brown liquid acid of the highest quality from the folks who invented the stuff.   We’d pipette it onto sugar cubes, and move it on.

 

The apartment became a real hangout for musician/psychedelic connoisseurs and we continued to have out of town musicians stay with us there.   One of them was Monte Dunn, guitar accompanist to Ian and Sylvia whom we had met in the summer of 1964 when they played at the Moon Cusser.   We’d all hit it off, and played a lot of music together, an eclectic blend of folk, Bluegrass, and what would become known as folk rock.

 

Another regular, but relatively local was Peter Rowan, a great Bluegrass singer and guitarist drawn into the scene.   We got along famously with Peter, and when his draft notice came, we all got together to strategize how to convince the draft board that Peter was unfit for service.   Bear in mind that we didn’t even know about Vietnam at this point.   We hear vague rumblings of things going badly in South East Asia, and we were for the most part Seegerized anti-war peaceniks, but we weren’t yet anti-Vietnam war protesters.   We just didn’t want our pals or ourselves to be pushed into the army to be trained to kill for no particular reason other than corporate maneuverings and politics.

 

At that point in time, the standard ways to be declared 4-F were to show up without any underwear and unwashed for a few weeks, say you were queer, or appear to be a drug user,   They hadn’t yet figured out that half their army was about to be drug users and that they could just throw stoned soldiers at the front lines.   So we decided to give Peter a good dose of acid that he would take right before going for his draft physical.     Well, it worked, and how!   Peter went in a mumbling lunatic without having to do very much acting.     They basically threw him out on the street whereupon the legend is that he found a Macy’s department store pet shop and started to let the birds go free from their cages, just as he had been let free.   Ask Peter about that the next time you see him…

 

Island String Shop, summer ‘64

 

In the spring of ’64 Lowell “Banana” Levinger, Michael Kane, and I, room mates in Brookline where we were busy dropping out of Boston University, were at a party at the apartment of Dick Randlett, co-owner of “The Mooncusser Coffeehouse” in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Dick was an electronics designer by day and folk music fan at night; he and his partner, Charlie Close were gearing up for another summer on the Island with a great line up of booked talent.   Banana and I got the idea of opening a music store in a part of the building that had it’s own store front and backed up to the Mooncusser’s kitchen. The store was on a side street in Oak Bluffs, right next to an incredible Portugese bakery and two doors from the post office. It was a perfect setup for us; it was about 250 square feet, had nice windows flanking the door, and had great light. Rent was cheap…Banana negotiated a percentage of our net. No net, no rent, and we were indeed doing acrobatics without a net!

 

Banana and Michael were making music with John and Jane Nagy as the Proper Bostonians, and they all needed a summer out of the Boston scene to practice.   Banana found us a great huge apartment above an African American beauty salon about a block and a half from the club.   We painted the apartment totally weird colors, which bothered Jane, but she got over it, and so we all moved into this place, none of us having the slightest idea of how we were going to do financially.   And that should have been a worry, as the store was a disaster from that point of view, but we really didn’t care.   We had access to all the coffee we could drink, a “day gig” which consisted of hanging out and doing a little bit of guitar repair work, and nights in the club where we were the house band, and I washed dishes for spare change.   How we paid the rent I don’t recall, maybe it was from the proceeds of selling some pot, but there was a day when we were happily broke, figured we needed protein, and there it was, canned mackerel kind of down at the end of the cat food section in the market.   It wasn’t labeled pet food, but it sure was cheap.   We bought it, ate it, and prospered.

 

The week before the Newport Folk Festival was to take place, we were so broke that I doubt that among the three of us we could have scraped up the fare to get one of us off-island, and that was of tragic proportions in our lives.   The lineup of talent, both on the old traditional side and the city folks and up and coming talents like Bob Dylan was incredible, and we couldn’t go.   Life at the club was good, though, Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band with Jim, David Simon, Mel Lyman, Fritz Richmond, and the Muldaurs, Geoff and Maria were tearing up the nights.   They were at one of their several peaks of performance that summer, and they had a lot of fans on the island.   One of them happened to be a yachtsman, and he popped into the dressing room downstairs from the kitchen and our store and announced to us all, “Hey, I’ve got a 45 foot cabin cruiser and I’m headed for Newport.   Anyone want a ride?”   I hope he wasn’t too shocked at how many takers he had, because we all wanted on-board, and so it was.  Diane Tribuno, she of my first acid trip, was hanging out with me, not as my girlfriend, but just as a pal, so she was literally my bunk mate; Banana and Michael and most of the Kweskin band came along, and so it was that we arrived in Newport with a floating hotel for the duration of the weekend and a ride back.   The only problem was that we didn’t have tickets.   Diane was fine; I think she had scored tickets weeks in advance; the band was fine, of course, as they were playing the festival; Banana, Michael, and I just figured on figuring it out even if it meant slipping under a fence like kids sneaking into a big top circus.   No need…the first person we saw upon walking up to shore from the dock was Bernie Apothecker, a folk scene gig hustler from Boston who was to become Peter Rowan’s manager for a while.   We knew Bernie through John Nagy, and had hung out with him quite a bit.

 

“Hi, guys, whatcha up to?”, Bernie called to us.   I said, “Just got here on that boat, and we’re trying to figure out how to get into the festival.”   “Oh, no problem…I’m in charge of giving out press passes and I have them all here in my pocket.   Who is going to be who?   OK, Banana, you represent the BU paper; Michael, you’re from Brandeis, and Rick, you write for the Boston College daily!”

 

And so we got to enjoy the festival in style…full back-stage access, first five rows of main stage seats, food, the after-show parties in the little Newport “cottages”…the whole thing. And little did I know that the next year, 1965, would see me playing on the main stage with the Canadian duo, “Ian and Sylvia”, some of that set now immortalized on a Vanguard recording, “Ian and Sylvia, Live at Newport”.

 

 

My First Backstage, Green Room Trip

In 1959 I went off to an all male boarding school, Moses Brown in Providence, Rhode Island, to start my last three years of high school. At that time and given where my folks lived, the seaside town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, this was totally normal, especially for boys on a liberal arts college track. These days we tend to think of boarding schools as a way to straighten out kids on a path to destruction or as a way for the parents to get rid of the kids, but in New England in the 1950s, it was very common. My dad had gone to Exeter, and so I was quite happy to go to Moses Brown, and in fact, it was quite wonderful.
At that time, about 1/3 of the junior and senior high school students were boarders with the rest being day students, and to help make the life-styles of us boarders not too different from the rest of the boys, the policies regarding getting out at night on Fridays and Saturdays were reasonably liberal. We’d have to sign out and back in, and there was a curfue, but it was pretty easy to deal with.
Late one afternoon before it was time to go to the dining hall, I was hanging out in a fellow student’s room chatting, and a junior classman, I think a freshman (a year behind me) came in and said, “Hey, my grandfather is playing a show at RISD down the street this weekend. Anyone want to go?” I looked at him and replied, “Your name is Edward Ellington, III, right? You’re damned right I want to go!”
And go I did with a couple of the other guys to see Duke Ellington at one of the several peaks of his career. He was about three years past his triumphant 1956 gig at the Newport Jazz Festival with the hit live album from that performance. I had that album, Ellington Live at Newport, now considered one of his best and one of the most exciting live albums of all time in any genre. I’d grown up listening to my parents’ collection of swing and jazz 78s. I was into it.
The Ellington band at RISD was just great. Tight, swinging, Duke’s incredible leadership, his and Billy Strayhorn’s wonderful arrangements, and the spotlighted soloists taking the roof off the place.
After the show we all went back to the green room to express our appreciation of Ellington, the band, and the performance. Duke was elegant and gracious. And I was hooked on live music.

Bill & Me…

In the early 1970s when Alembic was transitioning from being a PA rental company and doing live recordings, then having a recording studio into being an instrument and electronics manufacturing company, I realized that I could very easily get into sound checks at Winterland to show instruments to bands whom I thought would be interested.  My strategy was simple: just walk into the back stage area carrying one or two guitar or bass cases. I instantly looked like I belonged there, and with my years of experience in doing sound, being around musicians, and being a roadie, I knew how to stay out of the way and how to identify the guitar techs, the tour manager, and the sound guys.  I would pick out the guitar techs, and at an appropriate moment, say, “Hey, I have an instrument that I think your guys might like to see.”  Usually that was it; that was my “in”.  One unofficial duty of guitar techs is to spot interesting stuff on the road and bring it to the attention of their bosses.  And generally I would be invited to stay, be given a backstage pass, etc.

 

But, I also knew that if Bill Graham ever figured out that I was hustling instruments in his venue, on his stage, I would get permanently banned from any BGP venue.  So I stayed pretty under the radar.  I knew that Bill had seen me working shows as part of Alembic’s sound and recording crew so there was a slight familiarity, and I probably registered as part of the virtual woodwork; he’d also seen my face at shows to which I’d been invited by clients; but I also knew that I was on thin ice being there and doing what I was doing.

 

In 1974, George Harrison’s bassist Willie Weeks invited me to the show at the Cow Palace, and I had full back stage access and all that.  I was back talking to David Crosby and maybe Graham Nash, both of whom I’d done extensive guitar for, and Graham spotted me, came over and said, “Who the fuck are you? Get out!”  David immediately said, “He’s with us…” End of problem.

 

Years later I was at Bill’s house in Mill Valley at a party attending with my friend, Mimi Farina.  Bill looked at me, looked again, and said, “I know you, don’t I?”…I just said, “I’ve been around the music biz here for a long time, and yeah, you’ve seen my face.”  After that he couldn’t have been nicer.

Tom Wheeler and Guitar Player Magazine

 

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One day in about 1985 I got a call from my old friend, Guitar Player Magazine editor-in-chief, Tom Wheeler.  He started right off by saying, “Don’t take me wrong when I say this, Rick, I hope you’re not currently in the guitar business.”  I wasn’t…I was running a small cabinet shop for a high end contractor in San Francisco, and my main involvement with guitars was playing at the weekly Bluegrass jams at Paul’s Saloon in the Marina District of SF and going to Lark in the Morning music camp.  But still it was a funny thing to hear from one of the most respected and well known men in the guitar world.  But Tom had a way with words and putting folks at ease, and he jumped right in and said, “I’d like you to write a guitar review column for the magazine, and I can’t have anyone currently in the business because of potential conflicts of interest, and out of respect to fairness with our advertisers.”  I totally understood his position, and that he was inviting me to tell it as I saw it, but from an unassailable position.  And so, for the second time, I became a columnist for the leading guitar magazine under a brilliant editor and with the great Jon Sievert taking photos of the guitars I reviewed.

Tom wanted a guitar maker/designer’s perspective on the guitars.  I’d be getting inside the heads of other luthiers, designers, and manufacturers and bringing not only a player’s opinion of which the magazine had plenty, but something a bit “else”.  It was a really great challenge, and I was lucky to have Tom’s great editing skills to weed out the redundant or unneeded verbiage.  He made me look really good, and in so doing, he helped me to become a better writer.

I don’t remember exactly how many columns I wrote in that run, but I do remember that my two favorites were one on an early PRS guitar.  Paul still thanks me for that when I see him at NAMM or other guitar shows; he says it really helped legitimize his guitars in the eyes of the guitar public.  The other was my review of the Martin J-40 M jumbo, a fabulous big bottomed guitar.  Of it I said, “For anyone who thinks they don’t build ’em like they used to, go play one of these guitars.”  And I meant every word; it was a magnificent addition to the Martin line.  The real thrill was being quoted in the next edition of the Martin catalog, and Chris Martin really appreciated the review.

I also really appreciated when Tom called me to ask for a quote for his definitive book on the Fender Stratocaster.  He published my comment, “Leo Fender did not have Jimi Hendrix in mind when he designed the Strat!”  By way of saying that the musicians are at least as likely to define an instrument as the designer/builder.

So it was really bad news that I got this week of February 12th, 2018.  Tom Wheeler, my old friend, mentor, and editor passed away.  Hope to see you on the other side, Tom.

Tittie Kings of Broadway

Now for something completely different!

The Tittie Kings of Broadway

By 1982 I was out of the guitar making buisness and well into my cabinet and custom woodworking phase in partnership with an old friend Paul Schmidt who had moved back to Northern California after a brief marriage to a Canadian woman. Paul and I moved out of my Novato shop and into an old warehouse building by the river in downtown Petaluma. We were well tooled up for just about any kind of limited production wood working or custom cabinet jobs, and we somehow were contacted by a brilliant and flaky French Canadian interior designer who was working for guys whom we termed the Tittie Kings of Broadway. They were three partners owned a famous San Francisco bar, (the) El Matador which had been a great jazz club in it’s day, then there was the Paladium, an after hours disco, and to top(less) it off they had six strip joints on Broadway in North Beach, the most infamous of which was Carol Doda’s. Next door was “Big Al’s” with a giant sign displaying a 1930’s era gangster with a Thompson submachine gun. Al Capone? No, it was “Big Al”, one of the three partners, and the mentor to Paul and my client Walter Pastore, “Al’s” nephew.

Walter is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and his intelligence was completely applied in the street trades of booze and women and separating men from their money. He comes across like an incredibly charming “wise guy” right out of “the Godfather”, though as he explained to me, the Mob (capital “M”) never got into the San Francisco scene. Evidently, when Capone sent out scouts in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, the unfortunate emissaries would be met at the train station by the North Beach Italians who had succeeded the Barbary Coast sin salesmen; the boys from Chicago would be given return tickets and invited in no uncertain terms not to alight from the train lest they be bathing in the Bay with concrete bedroom slippers on. So organized crime didn’t get a foothold in San Francisco as the locals were quite happy with their arrangements with the cops and city hall and the bootleggers bringing in Canadian whiskey.

The job presented to Paul and myself was to completely remodel Walter’s fourth floor mini-condo on Telegraph Hill; it was about 900 square feet of great view overlooking Broadway, and the budget was about $125,000.00, a lot of money in 1985. Walter liked to be able to feel close to the street while up in the sky looking over his kingdom. The design included teak paneling the hallway into the living room, making mahogany soffit crown molding with down facing mirrors, putting a mahogany window seat across the window wall with brass grill for the baseboard heating, installing a European-style kitchen with granite counters, and then transitioning into the bedroom, bathroom, and dressing area where the wood theme changed to walnut and red oak for all trim and furnishings. We also got the job to make all the furniture except for a sofa out of the matching woods to the paneling and trim in each area. That included the usual dining table and chairs and a big chest bed with drawers, and it also involved making a glass front gun case, a tambour doored easy-access compartment next to the bed for a sawed off 12 gauge shotgun…never know who’s coming through the bedroom door…and putting a hot tub in the bedroom for entertainment. Did I mention the mirrored ceiling above the bed? Opulent, but the design was good, and Paul and I were (and are) good at what we do.

We really got along famously with Walter, who kind of took us under his wing as two naïve country boys from the sticks of Petaluma who were honest, hardworking, and in need of a North Beach University education. Once we got going on the job, we hit a nice rhythm where we’d build, build, build in our shop and do 95% of the wood work and lacquer finishing work off-site, and then we’d come down once a week or so for a couple of days of installing the latest work we’d done. When we would arrive, Walter would make us tea and serve us hand made North Beach Italian bread sticks, and we’d chat for a half hour or more. It was mostly Walter regaling us with street smarts, Sicilian-style. Some of it was scary, a lot was funny, and the rest was real wisdom from that very old school point of view. There’s something very reassuring about working for a guy like Walter and it’s his absolute honesty in dealing one on one with people. We got it quickly that if we, or anyone promised Walter that they were going to do something; that was better than a contract signed by one and all. Paper is bullshit and your word is your word; it’s very elemental and it forces you to be serious about what you say. It’s primitive, ancient, and refreshing.

One day, when Walter realized that we had no problem being paid in cash, he told me to come down to the El Matador to pick up a payment. I arrived exactly at the appointed hour, and Walter, ever the gentleman, “bought” me a drink. We chatted and then he said, “Follow me back to my office.” I did so, and then he knocked on the women’s room door and barked, “Any skirts in there get out.” A couple of ladies hastened out still pulling up their panty hose, and Walter motioned me inside. He pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills, and said, “Count it; I’ll be right back.” I counted out 51 “C notes”, and counted again. Fifty one… So I counted one more time, pocketed fifty and waited for Walter to return. He came back in a couple of minutes later, and without saying anything, I handed him a hundred dollar bill. He asked, “Did you count it?” I said, “Yes.” “Did you count it twice” “Yes, Walter,” with a smile. He pocketed the wayward hundred and said, “Good boy!” My knee caps felt good that night…

Kings, Part the Second…

One day Otto, the plumber, was putting in a new low noise, low water use very nice toiled in Walter’s now Travertine lined WC. Big Al, Walter’s mentor and down stairs neighbor came up to look over the progress, and sees thing gleaming new Kohler masterpiece of hydraulic engineering and he asks, “Hey, Otto, how much to put a shitter like that down in my joint?” Otto says back, “’Bout eight hundred bucks, Al.” The big man said, in his best movie-gangster voice exaggerates, “Otto, yer killin’ me, yer killin” me!” and he staggers back slapping his chest in the classic Red Foxx Sanford and Son heart attack routine. Walter chimes in, “Otto, my friend, don’t listen to a word Al, here, says…His biggest problem is that all his money is tied up in cash!” True story, every word!

And the Third…

So there’s this new electrician on the job putting in plugs…well actually they’re receptacles and they’re what you insert a plug into, but who’s insisting on accuracy here, everyone in the business calls them “plugs.” Paul and I get back from a nice North Beach lunch, and the electrician is sitting on the floor looking very, very pale, and he’s not doing shit as they also say in the business. I ask him, “What’s going on, we’ve got a job to finish here…” He looks up at us and says, “I was putting in this plug, and Walter and his pals walked in to see what was going on, and I looked up and all I saw was guns. I thought they were going to whack me!” “No, no, no,” Paul and I say in stereo. “Look, these guys carry guns everywhere, everyday. Hey, just the other day one of Walter’s employees at the El Matador came running up the cellar stairs yelling, “There’s a big rat down there! So Walter pulled out his 38 and dropped six shots down the stairs, turned around and grinned. That’s why he packs heat!” So my nose got just a little longer that day. But it was true…the first part. These guys did carry guns everywhere, everyday, and Walter had the most incredible formula, as near as I could figure out, that determined exactly which sidearm he’d carry on a given day. Walter was and is a very snappy dresser…hand made shirts, bespoke suits, hand blocked Borsalino hats, the finest Italian shoes…the whole shooting match, forgive the pun. So the choice of pistol always matched the clothes, the need for concealment, and perhaps the level of potential gun-requiring trouble that he might encounter on a given day. There was the snub nosed 38 special in blued steel, the Beretta 9 mm in stainless, the Beretta .22 auto that could be concealed in a thing that looked like a wallet in his back pocket…God bless the poor fool who might try to mug him for his wallet…and several other choices. Holsters included the afore mentioned wallet, an ankle holster, and the usual shoulder holster affairs. For Paul and I it all became normal and part and parcel of the scene, and it didn’t bother us a bit. I had grown up with a step-father who was a gun collector, and some of my earliest memories of him included his stashing a couple of shotguns and a rifle in cases under my bed when I was seven. I learned to respect firearms, not treat them at all casually, but still, their presence was not abnormal in my consciousness.

Garcia’s Turner “Peanut Guitar”

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“The Peanut”

This guitar keeps popping up on Facebook as the “what’s that guitar Garcia is playing here” instrument.  It’s often mis-identified as an early Alembic…reasonably enough…but it’s not; I put it together three years before Bob, Ron, and I signed the papers creating Alembic, Inc., in June of 1970. The Peanut is  a guitar from my own rock’n’roll playing days in New York when I was in the now-semi-legendary band, Autosalvage.

When my 1965 guitar playing gig with Ian and Sylvia drew to a close, I started splitting my time between Cambridge and New York with the idea of putting together some sort of eclectic band with Felix Pappalardi who had been playing bass with Ian and Sylvia.  As often happens in the music world, we sometimes zig while others are zagging and so it was with Felix who had gotten deep into record production with the Devil’s Anvil (great album if you can find it), the Youngbloods, and eventually Cream and of course with myself.  I ran into an old pal, Tom Danaher, while walking around Greenwich Village; he invited me to a rehearsal; I played electric guitar…a wonderful 1962 Epiphone Howard Roberts…;  we decided to form a band, and that was it.  Winter of 1965/’66 was the year I went electric.

By 1967 we’d played out a bit, mostly at the Café Au Go Go, an outdoor gig or two, and some of the right people heard us (including Frank Zappa for whom we opened at his Mothers of Invention first New York gig), thought we were pretty original (yeah, Frank wanted to produce us, but wound up going to Europe for too long), and so we did wind up getting signed to RCA.  We also had a nice kind of familial scene; we spent a lot of time hanging out at Skip and Donna Boone’s place right across from the infamous “Night Owl.  Marc Silber had a place upstairs from Skip and Donna, and there was always a comfortable hangout scene going on there.  One of our buddies managed an apartment building as the super and handyman; that used to be a way to get a free basement apartment, heat in the winter, and a subsistence living, and one of his duties was cleaning out vacated apartments.  In one clean out, he found that someone had done a Pete Townsend on a 1961 or ’62 Gibson Les Paul custom (current value in decent shape…more than $10,000.00!)…the SG shaped guitar with three gold PAF humbuckers and the weird sideways acting vibrato system, and miraculously, the neck survived as did the pickups and hardware, though the body was smashed to smithereens.  At the time I had an antique “Romantic” guitar, one probably built by Gaesel in the mid 1800s.  It had one of the features of the Viennese Stauffer guitars…the “clock key” adjustable tilting neck, and had a lovely little shape…perfect for building up a Phoenix of a guitar.

 

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I made a deal with my pal and bought the wreckage for $75.00, sat down at the kitchen table, and drew up a body design.  On Broadway about 1/2 a block from Bleecker St there was a cabinet shop in the half basement, and they happily cut out my guitar body shape in Honduras mahogany; I think that cost maybe $20.00; and I was on my way to electric lutherie.  For some reason or other, I decided to go all the way, and I veneered the back and sides of the body in walnut; put a distinctive marquetry strip down the back and bound the top and back in maple, and then sprayed the “new” guitar in the stairwell of our loft building, and then set the guitar up in “stereo” with the neck and bridge humbuckers working as per a “normal” Les Paul, and the middle pickup…missing in the Garcia photo, running out on a second channel.  Both channels went through a primitive pedal board with volume pedals, fuzz, and wah-wah, and at different times I tried building some small effects into…or onto the guitar.  And if you look closely, you can see that I did indeed add a couple of frets to the fingerboard.

 

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As these things go, the band broke up in the late spring of 1968 about two months before getting a rave review in Rolling Stone for our RCA album (subsequently on it’s 2 1/2 reissue!), and my wife, Amber and I moved to West Marin where my musical activities moved over to playing bass on recordings my pal Jerry Corbitt was producing.  I also set up a small workshop at our house in Inverness Park, and started to make my own pickups and build instruments, the first for Jesse Colin Young.  And then, thanks to Rosie McGee, I met the Grateful Dead band and family, and got sucked deep into that vortex.  Jerry saw the Peanut guitar, liked it; I wasn’t playing it and so it became Jerry’s.  At some point I took off the middle pickup, though Jerry would years later go back to a three humbucker setup on his Doug Irwin guitars.  Then the guitar just kind of vanished; I didn’t think about it much ’til 1978 when I resuscitated the basic body shape, added a cutaway, and designed the Model 1 guitar about which you can read elsewhere on the blog.

The Glaesel?  I  had it in pieces for restoration at my house in Santa Rosa, and on December 7th, 1978, an arsonist torched the house.  Gone, but it lives on in my Model 1 guitars, and I’m planning on making a limited run of “Peanut” guitars in 2019 which would be just about right for it’s 50th anniversary.   The “Peanut” itself?  Rumored to be somewhere in Marin.  Yeah, I’d love to get it back, but I imagine the price would be a bit rich for my blood these days!

 

Rosewood in the 21st Century

 

As many now know, all species of rosewood have made it onto the CITES list restricting international movement of anything with any amount of the wood in their construction.  For guitars, this can include fingerboards, backs, tops, sides, bridge pins, peghead overlays, heel caps, pickup rings, inlay details, etc.  So how does a guitar owner deal with this?  I’ve assembled a number of links to articles on rosewoods and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service who enforce CITES regulations in the US.  For anyone overseas, you’ll have to do your own research to see what organization.   If you’re interested in all wood species, the Wood Data Base is an incredible resource: http://www.wood-database.com/

Please understand that I am not an expert on International law, nor do I necessarily know what rosewood may or may not be in a particular guitar.  A number of rosewoods are very difficult to tell apart visually; we’ve had Amazon rosewood, Madagascar rosewood, and cocobolo in my shop that were absolutely indistinguishable from Brazilian rosewood.  To further confuse things, Brazilian rosewood is not the only rosewood found in Brazil!    Also, when I got into lutherie, we did not distinguish among rosewood species.  Rosewood was rosewood, and Brazilian was often used, especially for fingerboards and bridges, on cheap guitars…little Gibsons, Harmonys, you name it.  Rosewood?  No big deal in the centuries past.

If the links below do not take you to the information you seek, just remember “Google” is your research assistant.

What is CITES and why do they get to restrict trade and movement of rosewood, ivory, etc.?

https://www.cites.org

International travel with an instrument having any species of rosewood; the “passport” issue:

https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html

Chris Herrod’s LMI blog on rosewood:

http://www.lmii.com/

And Chris again on alternatives:

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/new-woods-on-the-block-exploring-alternative-tonewoods-1

Michael Watts and John Thomas on Brazilian rosewood and CITES

http://acousticguitar.com/will-new-rosewood-trade-restrictions-have-implications-for-acoustic-guitarists/

John Thomas again on CITES

https://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/guitar-lovers-guide-cites-conservation-treaty/

NAMM on CITES Update:

https://www.namm.org/issues-and-advocacy/regulatory-compliance/cites-update-commercial-rosewood-and-bubinga

An interesting article outlining how to distinguish Brazilian rosewood from other rosewoods:

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/distinguishing-brazilian-rosewood-from-east-indian-and-other-rosewoods/

Information on some (but not all) of the rosewood species we’ve used here at Turner Guitars

http://www.wood-database.com/amazon-rosewood/

http://www.wood-database.com/madagascar-rosewood/

http://www.wood-database.com/east-indian-rosewood/

http://www.wood-database.com/sissoo/

http://www.wood-database.com/cocobolo/

Added on 3/19/2017

Here is additional information from my old friend, Chuck Erickson, aka “the Duke of Pearl”. Chuck has been at the forefront dealing with the bureaucracy on behalf of luthiers and NAMM for several years now.  Lacey Act and CITES regulations impinge closely on his own business, and he has taken the time to advocate not only for himself but for all of us in the lutherie, decorative inlay, and scrimshaw trades.

APHIS issued guidelines for getting exemption certificates on pre-2008 items (including guitars) which contain unknown woods or lack other information (but only if the wood is really not identifiable!): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/…/lacey-act-special-use-codes….

The non-commercial export of an instrument containing CITES I materials like Brazilian rosewood (BRW), tortoiseshell, or ivory requires a species-specific export permit, such as a preconvention certificate 3-200-32 (http://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-32.pdf) – but this only applies to the U.S. and doesn’t necessarily protect the owner in other countries. For CITES II materials no permit is needed as long as all other personal exemption requirements are met (such as not involving any type of commercial activity).

This permit can also be used by luthiers to register unpapered stocks of BRW or other listed materials. The cost is $50.00-200.00 (depending on whether applying for a single shipment, personal property, or for setting up a “Master File” for multiple items). Currently the approval process can take 3-6 months. Recently published factsheets by the USFWS regarding musical instrument issues can be seen at: ://www.fws.gov/…/by-activity/musical-instruments.html and ://www.fws.gov/inte…/pdf/factsheet-musical-instruments.pdf.

Everything needs to be listed by metric weight or volume, or by the number of parts in stock; if by weight or volume, you should include an estimate of how many guitars or parts that raw wood will eventually yield. Take good close-up pictures of the woods, and submit an accurate tally of how many sets of backs, sides, tops, neck blanks, veneers, bridges, etc. you have in stock; or, how much wood you have in cubic meters (along with your best estimate of the number of guitars that will produce). Get everything notarized and submit with the application. Then, if approved, be very careful to not make more instruments from that inventory than the estimate allowed for. If the story is credible and doesn’t involve a container load of material, there’s a very good chance of being approved.

As of June 26, 2014, all unpapered BRW already in the U.S. will continue to be illegal to buy or sell internationally unless it receives the above exemption permit, or has CITES paperwork that includes a Pre-Convention Certificate. Domestic sales requirements are a bit more relaxed: to be legal, all that’s required are more informal but credible evidences that the wood was in the U.S. prior to June 11, 1992 (a label date, a serial number that can be referenced to a pre-ban date of manufacture, a dated invoice, a certifying letter from the maker, etc.) and no special permitting is necessary, but get it all notarized.

 

 

 

 

Richard and Mimi Farina and the 6 1/2th Fret

rfdulcimer1

Richard & Mimi Farina and the 6 1/2th Fret

In about 2013 I was teaching my “Build a Ukulele in Four Days” course at the Crucible in Oakland, and one of my students was a wonderful artist named Wayne Jiang.  On the second or third day of the class, we were all eating lunch in the workshop and chatting, and Wayne happened to mention his love of mountain dulcimers and that he and his partner, Patricia Delich, were working on a film to be titled, “The Heart of the Dulcimer” centered around the surge in popularity of the instrument in the 1960s and ‘70s, much of which was inspired by Richard Farina’s use of the instrument in some of the earliest folk-rock.

When Richard’s name came up, I casually said, “Oh, I put an extra fret in Richard’s dulcimer in 1965.”  Wayne was astounded.  “You put in the 6 1/2th fret?”  “Yes,” I said.  “Was that a big deal?”  Well, it turns out that it was a huge deal in the dulcimer community.  It made it OK for the dulcimer to not be a strictly diatonic instrument, and it has now become the norm for the fretting pattern for the instrument.  Here’s the story of “The Night of the Living 6 1/2th Fret”

I’d been touring playing guitar with Ian and Sylvia in 1965, living in Cambridge when not on the road.  We folkies all pretty much knew one another in Cambridge at that time…the Jim Kweskin Jug Band with Geoff and Maria Muldaur and Bill Keith, the Charles River Valley Boys, Taj Mahal, Tom Rush, the guys who would go on to be the Youngbloods…Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, Lowell “Banana” Levinger, and Joe Bauer, Jim Rooney, and of course, Richard and Mimi Farina who lived about four blocks from my place on Kinnaird St.   One early evening when I happened not to be on the road, I got a call from Mimi: “We’re doing Robert J. Lurtsema’s radio show tonight on WCBR.  Richard has just written a new tune, but he’s missing a much needed note on his dulcimer.  Can you put in an extra fret?”  “Hmmm, yes.  How are we going to do this?”  Mimi said, “We’ll come by and pick you up, can you put it in at the radio studio?”  “OK!!!”  Because that’s just what you say to a challenge.  So they swung by, and I de-tuned the strings in the back of the car on the way to the radio station, and when we got there, I did a quickie calculation of where that fret should go, sawed the slot, banged in the 6 1/2th fret making sure it was level and even with it’s neighbors, trimmed it, and handed it off to Richard.  They launched into the tune, and much later…by about 50  years…I found out that I’d been a part of dulcimer history.

UPDATE: Thanks to Douglas Cooke, an archivist of the Boston Broadside folk magazine from the early and mid 1960s, we now know that the radio show was on April 23rd, 1965.  Thanks, Doug!

In about 1988 or so, Mimi invited me to be on a KPFK radio show with her, and she and I told the tale with much chuckling and outright laughter.  That woman could be utterly infectiously hilarious.

 

Thoughts on Structure and Tone in Acoustic Guitar Design

This is the talk I was going to give at the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration, but when I got there, there was nothing in the program!  Oh, well…

For the visuals, you can cut to the chase:  http://www.rickturnerguitars.com/pdf/05_FJ10

 

and then read, or:

Acoustic Guitars…

Structure, Tone and how to Reconcile the Two…

September, 2016

By Rick Turner

Historical Background and My Own Journey

          I started my lutherie career as an apprentice repairman in the caveman era…1963…in a shop in Boston called the Stringed Instrument Workshop.  The work done was crude by modern standards; there was no ASIA, no Guild of American Luthiers, no Internet, and there were but two books on guitar making, both small, both from England, both written to show how to build a classical guitar with a wee nod to steel strings.   Yet we had guitars coming in then that showed some of the now-well known structural issues that plague guitar players and provide job security for luthiers.  Three of those problems were (and remain) the need for neck resets as the geometry of the instrument changes with time and stress; the classic top crack (or two) next to the fingerboard with the top shearing into the soundhole…an issue that I call a tectonic plate shift disaster; and the hump or ski jump where the fingerboard transitions from being on the neck to being glued to the top.  These are not new problems; they all have to do with how the neck intersects with the body of the guitars; yet very few luthiers have taken the time to deal with the issues other than overbuilding the upper bout or making necks easier to reset.

As I started to build acoustic guitars in the mid-1990s, I decided that if I were to do this, I wanted to “bring something to the table” other than just making nicely decorated traditionally built instruments in the Martin/Gibson lineage.  I’d owned (and still own) a number of Howe Orme instruments made in Boston in the late 1890s; I’d first seen them in my 1963 apprenticeship, and they made an everlasting impression for two reasons, both of which involve very clever engineering.  The great thing is that the Howe Ormes are not only engineered brilliantly, but they are built very well…up to the standards of Martin in the 1890s, and they sound both unique and great.  When I showed one of mine, a 12 fret 000 sized one in spruce and Brazilian rosewood to Martin Simpson, his reaction was, “Is this the best vintage guitar ever?”

 

Adjustable Tilting Neck

The two key features of the Howe Orme guitars are the adjustable tilting neck with the cantilevered fingerboard not touching the top and the “longitudinal belly ridge” where by the center third or so of the top is cylindrically arched giving it fantastic longitudinal stiffness allowing the top to be quite thin, yet stiff enough for steel strings which were indeed available in those days…a full 20 years before Martin made a production steel string guitar.   Note also that tilting necks were a feature on some guitars from the 1820s coming out of the Johann Stauffer shop in Vienna where C. F. Martin learned guitar making, so in my way of thinking, a tilting neck with cantilevered fingerboard is a traditional way to build!

Of these two Howe Orme design features, I chose to start with the tilting neck system. For one thing, it takes care of the whole issue of a neck reset; it takes longer to find the right Allen wrenches to do the adjustment than it does to do the job itself. You can literally reset the neck angle, and therefore raise or lower the action in about ten seconds. Two added advantages is that by not gluing the fingerboard to the top, you have the option of getting more vibrating area from the soundboard, and the fingerboard is no longer subject to dipping down or kicking up past the neck joint, particularly if you use carbon fiber under the fingerboard to stabilize the playing line of the fret tops.

I have modified the Howe Orme system which used a metal fitting at the heel cap as a hinge, and then two bolts threaded into the heel face under the fingerboard (which has a stiffener extension of the neck) which bear against the body close to the top.  The problem with the Howe Orme design is that as you adjust the action, you also change the overall playing string length; the two are locked together.  My approach is to replace the hinge with a bolt so the hinge point itself can be moved in and out.  This allows for a bit of overall adjustment of intonation as well as full neck angle and yaw adjustment.

 Structural Fingerboard

All of this brings up the whole issue of guitar playability from first fret to last.  When designing a guitar or bass, you have to start with a straight line…a side elevation representation of a typical string.  Add your playing length defining nodal points, the string nut and the bridge saddle, and do whatever you like with the string afterlength, nut to tuning peg, saddle to bridge or tailpiece.  Now the next thing is the very gently curved even line of the fret tops from first to last, curved for “relief”.  It is the job of the fingerboard below the fret tops and the neck below that to perfectly maintain the perfection of that relief line.  It should not deviate where the neck joins the body or where the fingerboard is (perhaps) attached to the top of the guitar, and no reasonable and predictable amount of guitar geometry shift, whether that’s from long term stress or from humidity changes, should change the perfection of the relief line of the tops of the frets.  This perfection of line over time is something that “traditionally built” acoustic guitars just do not maintain.  The fret at the neck to body joint define a hinge point, and sooner or later, the fingerboard extension will “drop off” over the body or ski-jump up.  We’ve gotten so used to this that it’s believed that we need to build in “drop off” over the guitar top.  In fact it’s just a workaround for a bad design; the neck and the guitar top support the fingerboard, and therefore the relief line so differently that we’ve just learned to jury rig the fix, often during a refret or fret level, crown, and polish.  And in neck resets, there is often the need to taper shim the fingerboard extension to get it anywhere near the correct relief line.

My solution to this has been to make what I call a “structural fingerboard”…I dado two 1/8” x 1/8” slots into the underside of the fingerboard and glue in two ½” tall x 1/8” wide carbon fiber bars from the nut end of the fingerboard to the very end.  A fingerboard made this way is stiffer than most completed necks, and since the stiffness is designed in to best support a constant relief line, playability is assured.

As for the carbon fiber over the body, I deal with it in two ways:

  • Relieve the underside of the CF for clearance with a cantilevered fingerboard. It’s amazing just how stiff the fingerboard extension remains even with the CF down to less than ¼” tall.  There is also no lack of volume of the notes played on the cantilever.
  • For a non-tilting neck, I cut two slots right through the top and as needed, into the neck block and any upper bout transverse braces so there is no change in structure for the fingerboard support through the neck joint area.

The Flying Buttresses

          Over the years I’ve repaired a number of guitars and a mandolin where one or two top cracks appeared next to the fingerboard and the top under the ‘board was shifting into the soundhole like a tectonic plate shift after an earthquake.  Clearly it took a glue joint failure in the upper transverse braces to do this with the guitars; most likely the instrument got hot enough for the brace glue to at least soften, and with a glue like Titebond, 130 F. is enough to do that.  It does not seem that a French slipper foot neck block nor massive bracing can prevent this collapse of the top under the fingerboard; the shear force of 160 or so pounds over years and with heat will do this.  I recently repaired a nice B. C. Rich dreadnought with this issue, and upon researching the guitar, I found that this is one of the better known failure modes for these guitars.  The worst I’ve fixed was a ‘70s Martin D-45 with buckled rosette, and the oldest were a Gibson A style mandolin, and one of my Howe Orme guitars.

 

So how does one design around this problem without just massively bracing the upper bout of the top?  For me, the answer was at the Cathedral of St Denis in Paris, the first of the Gothic cathedrals to feature flying buttresses to support the walls without requiring truss chords inside the building.   I’d been aware of the concept of flying buttresses, but it wasn’t until I saw the building and then stepped inside that I really got it how effective the engineering is.   The cathedral builders wanted no truss chords inside the building to interfere with the soaring lines of the ceiling which is 28 meters…92 feet tall.  The problem is that a roof with no truss chords (the horizontal beams tying one end of the truss to the other in tension) puts outward pressure on the walls, pushing them to collapse.  The answer was flying buttresses…supports outside the building directing the outward horizontal pressure down to the ground.  The Basilica of St. Denis was finished in 1281 AD, and after more than seven centuries, the walls still stand.  http://uk.tourisme93.com/basilica/high-gothic-architecture.html

 

Since the collapsing force on the neck block area of a guitar is inward, not outward, my solution was to put two or four carbon fiber tube flying buttresses inside the guitar from the upper part of the neck block down to the sides just below the guitar waist where the nearly in-line and vertical plane of the sides is extremely strong in compression and where the pressure will be distributed to the sides and not the top.  This allows me to put in very light bracing in the upper bout since the top is no longer tasked with supporting the approximately 160 pounds of compression from the tension of the strings.  Since I’m cantilevering the fingerboard above the top, that area is now able to contribute to the tone and volume of the guitar.  In tapping the upper bout vs. the lower bout of a completed guitar, I find a rather obvious “tweeter/woofer” type of response, and in listening to what these guitars actually do, I hear really wonderful harmonic sustain and an evenness of response that I really like.  The guitars are not necessarily louder than a more traditional design, though they do punch out well, but it’s that harmonic content that I really like.   If one preferred a more traditional Martin or Gibson sound, it would certainly be easy to block the upper bout with more braces specifically to control tone, but those braces would not be needed for neck or fingerboard support.

 

The real test of my approach to these structure issues was the guitar I built for Henry Kaiser to take to Antarctica in 2001 on his National Science Foundation Artist in Residence Grant.  Henry wanted me to design “a real guitar made out of wood”; using carbon fiber to reinforce the wood was fine, but Henry wanted this to be a part of the whole experiment.  Success or failure were both open options, and either would yield a learning experience for both of us.  This was to be a somewhat experimental guitar; I knew it wasn’t going to be a disaster, but I was aware that the climate might wreak havoc on it.   The guitar design itself was part of the grant proposal kind of summed up as “let’s see what happens.”  The climate even in the “summer” is brutal.  Outdoors can get down to minus 50 F. with humidity down below 5%.  Then the instrument…and people…go inside to normal room temperature, the snow they drag in melts, and humidity may go up to the low 20s for a while.   In other words, it’s guitar hell.

Henry spent close to two and a half months down there, and with the adjustable tilting neck, he was able to change the action for standard or slide playing with ease.  When he got back, the structure of the guitar was perfect.  The neck needed absolutely no truss rod adjustment, the action was just fine, and amazingly, though there were a few nicks, dings, and scratches, the basic integrity of all the wood was just fine…as it has remained for about sixteen years now.

To see the inside story on how I approach acoustic guitar design, check out this article that was published in Fretboard Journal a few years back:

http://www.rickturnerguitars.com/pdf/05_FJ10_Turner_all.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindley for Breakfast

Lindley for Breakfast

In about 2003 or so, David Lindley came to Santa Cruz to play at Palookaville, a wonderful club downtown that is no more.  The night was a disaster that wasn’t…for some reason, electric power failed utterly downtown that night.  Events and gigs were cancelled throughout the Pacific Mall area…except at Palookaville where scores of fans found candles; and David and Wally Ingram, in the very best show biz tradition declared that the show would go on.   This was not a small club; capacity was about 300 to be fire marshal-legal, which meant that with someone like David, there were likely to be 350 people there. The only “electric” lights in the place were the automatic battery powered backup emergency lights, supposedly to be used to help people exit the venue.  But nobody left.  We were there for a show, and David was there to power on.  Wally wrapped strands of gaffer’s tape around barbeque stickers to make low volume drum sticks; David decided to go full acoustic, not even a battery powered amp for him; he understood that the crowd would turn their ears up to hear him.  Some folks made special candle reflectors out of aluminum foil so David could see his Weissenborn lap steel strings.  The result?  An evening of total musical magic.

I’d known David for several years by that time, and he was kind of “Uncle David” to Jessica and my son, Elias, who was about seven at the time of this gig.   We’d invited David over for breakfast the Sunday morning after the gig, fully knowing that the show had really taken it out of him…doing a full show to over 300 people…with NO pa system.  This was strictly old school.  Eli was elated, ecstatic, totally over the top that “Uncle David” would be coming over, and even though we prepared him…”the show was really tough last night; he might not want to talk much; we’re just trying to support him with good food while he’s on the road”, etc., Eli was just over the top.

So, having recently been introduced to the concept of knotting string, Eli decided to design and build a “Lindley trap”.  Eli got up early and got to it with a design that was something between a fish net and a spider’s web…a lace of string starting at the front door that was to entice David inward, but not allow egress.  Yes, keep Uncle David around forever!  Well, could we possibly object to what Eli had in mind?  NO!

David arrived with his tour manager; Jessica made a splendid breakfast; David admitted to how difficult the gig had been while it was yet triumphant, and discussion ensued into many subjects.  Eli had gone back to his room, apparently to contemplate; bear in mind that he was maybe about seven years old, but of a thoughtful nature since birth.  Then Eli came back into the living room with a question on his face.  We all acknowledged his curious look, and he said, “Uncle David, I have a question.  What do you think of the Shroud of Turin?”  What the fuck!  My kid who is barely in grade school just asked Lindley about what?   The Shroud of fucking Turin? I don’t think the subject had ever even come up in the household, though I certainly admit intellectual interest.  How is it that Eli has even heard about it, much less developed curiosity about the thing?  But there we all were, chins on chests, and so ensued a conversation in which David expressed his belief that the Shroud of Turin was a forgery done by Leonardo Da Vinci, and there was the most rational conversation you could imagine…catalyzed by a seven year old who is now twenty one…and still asking those questions.imgres.jpgimgres