Love my guitars - old and new!

Can't wait another moment to tell you I've got a new guitar! So exciting. I've been meaning to get another guitar for years now but never got around to doing anything about it, mainly because I rarely have time to play.
New semi-acoustic addition to the family
A further reason is my love affair with my old Guild D40 - it's been around for most of my adult life - a dear old friend.  This is a guitar with a rich and varied past  - from busking in around the UK and Europe, to the insides of a multitude of folk clubs - in another life when I used to be part of Scarlet Vardo, a duo with Brian, my late husband.
1963 Guild D40
He bought it new in Manchester in the early sixties. The story goes that he couldn't afford a guitar case, which resulted in this cautionary tale. One day soon after its purchase, Brian was carrying the Guild across a busy road between two vehicles stopped at traffic lights. He was in a hurry, so didn't see the tow-rope between the cars and.... sacre blue... quel horreur... he stumbled over the rope, sending both him and the guitar flying!
Brian was fine, which was more than can be said of the Guild, which had a sizeable hole at one side along its base, plus too many scratches to count. Enter Ian Chisolm, at the time a fine guitarist on the Manchester folk scene, who'd been teaching himself the ancient craft of instrument making. He kindly agreed to take on the Guild for no more payment than a pint and the practice.
Although Ian did an excellent job, it was an impossible task to restore it to its former glory. I never got to see it in its pristine state, but after Brian and I got together, I always loved playing it and considered it a huge privilege having this amazing guitar as a schoolmaster.  Over the years we came to love the Guild's ravaged appearance, which maybe contributed something to its gloriously full and rounded voice - to us it always sounded like the best guitar in the world.
Periodically, we'd toy with the idea of a facelift - usually when a major MOT was coming up, but we always chickened out at the last minute, as we were afraid our friend might come back flawlessly devoid of any character. or even worse, the tone might suffer in the process.

Several luthiers have contributed to keeping it up and running, notably Andy's guitar workshop in Soho, Art Robb in Malmesbury and Dave Gregory who lives in the next street here in York. But although its big sound is as seductive as ever, unbelievably rich and mellow, it's certainly not as easy to play finger-style as more modern guitars I've tried.
The D40 is a blue grass model, ideally meant for flat-picking and medium gauge strings, so it's never really been happy with my penchant for light gauge strings, causing various buzzing sounds over the nut. As we were always pragmatic and usually penniless, we took this in our stride and simply packed up the nut with paper, making the action higher on that string.

So what I'm getting round to saying is that after all these years and memories, I've found it very hard to contemplate abandoning my trusty old Guild which holds most of my musical history. But recently I decided I wanted to pick up the pieces of my musical life and play and sing more. I'd been contemplating this for a while and started to realise how much I miss performing.

But every time I picked up the Guild, all I ever did was play the old songs, music I know like the back of my hand. The associations were such that I felt trapped in a time warp and couldn't seem to move on.  In short I needed a kick up the backside, something to push me to explore new ways with music.

For the past six weeks I've been struggling with the candida diet - no sugar, yeasted products, alcohol, dairy, in fact, as we're also vegetarians, not much of anything except cabbage! It's made me feel very low sometimes, especially in this cold weather and one day last week while chatting over coffee (well detox herbal tea for me), P said why don't we go into York today and look at some guitars!
Guitars at Red Cow Music
This provided just the right amount of extra impetus I'd needed - if anyone had told me that an hour later I'd be in York trying out new guitars I'd have told them they were mad. But there we were in Red Cow music, browsing their guitars. I was looking at semi-acoustics, as I already have an amp and I liked the look of a couple of Seagulls and they were within my price range. 

The staff were ultra friendly and asked me if I'd like to try one, so I sat down and picked out a few tunes, loving the playability and balance that was flowing from the strings.  I realised no longer was I having to coax the guitar into giving of its best, in fact the opposite was true.  
National guitar at Red Cow Music
Eventually one of the guys brought me another guitar to try, saying if you like this one, see what you think about this. As soon as the first notes rang out, I had a gut feeling it might be the one. I hadn't gone out with a specific intention of buying a certain make of guitar, but I've always loved Martins and surprise, surprise, that was what I was playing. I was relieved to hear that it was not a top-of-the-range model and encouraged by P, we decided to go check out the other music store, and if nothing else was comparable, we'd come back.

Kismet - half an hour later we were back in the shop looking at cases and I walked out the door with my brand new Martin. I get a thrill every time I look at it, and an even bigger thrill when I play it - now all I have to do is carve out some time, but I suspect that's not going to be all that difficult.  Stay tuned...


  1. I'm honor'd to be the first to comment on this post of yours, full of aspiration, recapture of a life you once knew, and all around delicious photos of acoustic instruments! As a fellow musician & knitter (I say knit-picker!) I have to say congratulations and give a big hug. I wish we could play together... me with my mandolin and you with your Martin. Maybe one day. Here's to your reimmersion into the music scene ! xx
    ps. My fingers are sore from two 3-hr StPaddys gigs on the weekend ! No more booked until the Farmers Market in the beginning of June though. :)

    1. Many thanks for good wishes, Jen. You're probably one of the few knitpickers to read my blog. Maybe one of these days we'll get together to play a few tunes. Altho the mandolin was my first instrument, I'm absolutely useless on it now. How about posting a video of one of your gigs?

    2. Hi Jean , fellow Knit-Picker ! Hey, shame I never get notified of your replies... I just tripped over this as I was lurking here :) :) :)

      That is so cool that you too played mandolin ! One day we'll knit&pick together. I feel it in my bones. :) There are no videos of me playing ! Photos yes, videos, well... not including the local tv show, which I honestly don't know how to link you to. However, there is a wee blogsite where you can see what's up with my duo and from there you can find the secret passage way into an unlisted site and see videos.. but um.. only with our sound tracks. :) Anyway, always a pleasure to cross paths with you !

  2. Going to take me a while to recover from seeing this. That mishap with the tow rope must have been nearly 50 years ago! Absolutely amazing to see that old Guild again and just about as amazing to see the repair has still held together - in those days "glued it back together" might have been a better description. I've learnt a lot since then. If you and the old guitar could ever find your way down to Sussex I'd be honoured to give it a set up and a bit of TLC. Meanwhile you won't go far wrong with a Martin. I don't know if you remember but back in those Manchester days I had a beat up old Martin. I've still got it, turns out it was made in 1900. So no crossing the road without that one in its case.

  3. So, you and your late husband are both into music. How many are you in your family who are musically-inclined? I understand your attachment to that old guitar. I was like that with my first one. It holds a lot of meaningful memories, so it’s hard for me to let it go. Maybe with a new guitar, you will be inspired to play again. Cherie @


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