Saturday, January 17, 2009

Committing ideas to a readable form instead of being stored in my head, heart and soul.


Clarence Hall, Mike Longworth and Marion Hall at Martin Factory in 1977.
I have been asked many times the past several years “do you have this stuff written down”?
Well some things happened January 10th 2009 in Maryville, Tennessee that showed me that I should be getting my house in order, including writing some things down.
In January 2003 I lost a wonderful friend Mike Longworth.

I first met Mike Longworth in Bean Blossom Indiana in the June of 1970. He and Ken Cagle a Martin Sales Rep were at Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Festival.

In talking to them, they were not in an official capacity from Martin Guitars in any way, but on vacation.
When it was made known that two guys from the Martin Guitar Company were on the grounds they became very, very popular. Mike had been well known for years for his pearl inlay capabilities that allowed guitar enthusiast to own a re-creation of a model that Martin Guitars did not offer at the time, the D45. He had worked as a part time craftsman for years before Martin hired him to come to the factory in Nazareth Pa to inlay and oversee the production of the D45 reintroduction in the late 1960’s.

Anyway, Clarence Hall my longtime friend, and banjo building partner happened to be at Bean Blossom as well. It was something!! Ken and Mike talked, talked, and talked, they were treated by the guitar players and collectors as royalty.
After Clarence and I returned home Clarence suggested that we write the president of Martin Guitars and thank them for sending Mike and Ken to Bean Blossom; knowing full well the guys were on their vacation. We sent the letters and didn’t think anymore about it until the first week in August that year. I was standing in front of the Liberty Banjo booth at the Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention where I had traded Bob Flesher a National Metal bodied guitar for a banjo resonator that they had built and was trying to decide which one to take. Mike walked up tapped me on the shoulder and I ask him which of the purfling was more Gibson like. He pointed to one and that is the one I chose. Mike said that he wanted to thank me for writing the company and he was looking for Clarence who came by in a few minutes. He said that when he got back to Nazareth that some of the guys in the front office had kidded him about what he called “The Glory Letters”. He didn’t know what they were talking about for a few days and finally ask one of the secretaries about them. She got the letters from the file and let him read them. He said that Mr. Martin had ask him about possibly attending some additional events around the country as an Official Martin Representative and the Galax trip was his first one. Over the next several years Martins promotion “Meet Mike” graced the back cover of some of the Blue Grass periodicals like Blue Grass Unlimited. Little did I know that about 18 years later I would have a similar job with the Gibson Guitar Company, Not the flair of Full Page back covers, but I spent a couple of years doing a very similar thing.
Mike and I became great friends; for the summer of 1971 I worked the road as bass player with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and Mike was at many, many of the events we performed at.
In the late 1970’s he called me while I was living in Kentucky and working at Alice Lloyd College asking if I would be interested in becoming an authorized Martin Guitar Repairman. He said that they had a huge number of instruments in the region with no repairman to service them. I had no idea of the honor that was until I talked to some well respected repairmen and hear what they had to go through to become authorized, and mine was a simple as a call from Mike. I used to kid the guys at Gibson about being only Authorized Martin Repairman working for Gibson.

This past Saturday I was at an event called the Banjothon in Maryville, Tennessee and on Saturday evening as the event was closing a friend, Wayne Holcombe brought in a box that he said that Paul Hopkins another friend, had said for him to take care of. This box was one of those boxes that we all have stashed back in the closet, up on the shelf and under the benches of the areas where we squirrel things away. He had some case covers and asked if I would be interested in one of them. I thought they were tenor case covers and had little interest except for the fact that they had belonged to my friend Mike. After getting back to the hotel room I realized that the cover was not for a tenor but a 5 string and I began to get a feeling that this was just something that was supposed to be…..The last time I spoke to Mike was a few months before his passing he was somewhat rushed as he said he had to go because they had just taken the last box of his stuff out to the truck to be put into storage and they were waiting for him to come out, and this would be the last time I would be able to reach him there as he was moving into an assisted living facility. He was to contact me soon about a new phone number soon…I did not know how sick Mike was….he never did.
The longer I live, the more I feel that we are not alone on this earth. As Buckminster Fuller once said “Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering“.
I feel that I have been shown some things and now its my time to follow….
I guess what scares me the most about this undertaking is that after all my remembrances are no longer stored in my body, someone will find what is left of me; a few bones in a bag of skin, for who I am is not of my making. Many, many wonderful people have a lot of time, effort and friendship invested in who I am, and after all my thoughts, feelings and words are released, there might be very little left.
Its been a wonderful trip so far, and I’m going to share if for anyone who wishes to read it.
January 16, 2009 334 b1

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