Guitars have a funny way of changing your perspective on things. In a way they are like a life-partner that guides you through the emotional ups and downs of life. Every guitarist knows what I am talking about and feels it in their bones when they connect with that perfect match. My objective was to pack up all the guitars I could and head to the Comox Valley and show artists, collectors and players alike the sheer brilliance behind playing a hand-crafted instrument and connect some instrument lovers with their new life partner.
21 Guitars in the back and a full tank of gas, it’s time to head to Horseshoe Bay to catch the 4:00 o clock Ferry to Nanaimo. Well, that’s the plan which would put us on time for Applewood Cottage in the late evening. I have really been looking forward to this trip, but you can never count on getting across the Pacific on time, especially on a Friday. So we pull up to the toll both around 3:30 and the lady mentions, ” Your in luck, you may just catch the 7:00 pm sailing that is filling up quickly.”
This made me stir inside; not only do we have to ride the ferry, we also have to drive south to Ladysmith to meet Joe Egan and make room for some of his fine guitars. Time for a serious coffee and a trip into the village. The 5:00 o clock sailing begins to load and so our hopes and dreams are to ease our way onto this sailing and prove the ferry lady wrong. So we begin to wait and stare as the line-up ahead of us slowly inches forward. Our line-up happens to be the very last line to move and we barely inch our way to another ferry attendant who stops us and radios the ship to see if there is room for one more. We cross our fingers and wait patiently to see if there is room for two more adults and 21 guitars. To our surprise there is.
Two coffees and a couple orcas later we arrive in Nanaimo eager to get on the road. First we need to go find Joe Egan.
Joe lives in the bush. It is no surprise that this man is inspired to build instruments because he is surrounded by top quality wood, the mountains, and wildlife everywhere. Upon our arrival we can hear the loud throbbing sound of toads croaking heavily into the evening. What we don’t realize is that this sound will soon be the background ambience for most of our trip.
Joe shows me around his shop and lets me take a gander at the guitars he has on the bench and guitars he has built. This man is extremely modest about his work and seems a bit nervous about showing me his new guitar, “Poppy.”
This young luthier is crafting beautiful instruments and his skilled hands have incredible potential. I agree to take “Poppy” to Comox and then to Vancouver for sale and tell Joe to start thinking about my next flat top. We squeeze “Poppy” and a couple more of Joe’s guitars into the back and begin to hit the road. Next stop, Courtenay.
Well we make it to our small cottage around 11:00 pm and unload our epic score of guitars. It is now time to relax, stoke a fire, eat our complimentary muffins and get ready for my guitars’ big debut.
I awake, unfortunately, and make my way into the local Safeway to stock up on our food for the morning and the day. I am extremely excited to show off these guitars and am expecting some eager hands by 10:00 am. Did I mention how bad I want a cup of coffee right now?
A solo man emerges from the driveway on foot looking like he needs a guitar in his hands. Now the day has begun:)
Lots of guitarists come by to play my fine instruments and lots of minds are blown. Watching the eyes and facial expressions of customers who are used to playing Martins, Taylors, Larrivees, Morgans, etc. is amazing. It is like they have never played a real guitar until this moment. Most guitarists don’t understand the difference between a manufactured guitar and a hand-made guitar until they have had the experience of playing both. Guitars like Lowden, Huss and Dalton, Martin, Taylor, Morgan, and Larrivee are only supported by a name and lack the actual one-on-one time of the master luthier and his wood-nest. Although you can end up paying the same price for these guitars they do not compare to the quality and feel of our local Canadian luthiers and their instruments. Don’t believe me, then come and find out yourself.
Watching guitarists’ eyes light up is my favourite part of what I do. The first person who played my Greenfield GF immediately made an offer even though they had no idea who Michael Greenfield is. This would be the first of 3 offers in two days on this fine instrument.
I continually hear the same story about how customers had purchased a Larrivee or Morgan and fell out of love shortly after playing their favourite tunes at home in a private setting. Once they lay their hands on a Kronbauer, Greenfield, Threet, Dunn, Murfitt, Groleau or any guitar I brought over, their perspective on guitars changes immediately. This is why I came on this journey and this satisfied me in ways that you could never understand. As a professional guitarist living in Vancouver I had the exact same problem connecting with these “thin and dull sounding” manufactured guitars and dreamed of the day I could afford my first real introduction to the art of luthiery.
Two days of watching eyes light up like fireworks satisfies me even more then my one instant sale and 3 GF offers. These people love guitars and they feel and hear the difference that quality makes, and that is exactly what I want to see. I have customers drive up from Nanaimo, Campbell River, Victoria, Port Alberni and many more destinations just to lay their hands on these great Canadian luthiers’ hard work. This alone made my trip to the Comox Valley a complete success.
With that being said, I want to thank the wonderful folks in Comox for coming by and supporting your local Canadian luthiers as well as taking the time to give me feedback on what I’m doing. I will be coming back to Comox shortly but first I must head home and plan my next guitar tour. Victoria here I come,
Bye for now Comox and hello Vancouver.