Category Archives: small town USA

The Monday Book – Clapton’s Guitar

Clapton’s Guitar (Allen St. John)

Jack presents the Monday book today

As I’m a bit of a guitar freak, I looked forward to reading this and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I do have a few caveats –

First of all, despite the title, this isn’t a book about Eric Clapton – he makes no appearance. This book follows master guitar luthier Wayne Henderson as he builds two nearly identical guitars. One is being made speculatively for Clapton while the other is to auction off and raise money for Junior Appalachian Musicians (Jam). Jam was the brainchild of Henderson’s late partner Helen White and there are branches throughout Appalachia.

This brings me to my second issue with the book. There’s hardly a mention of White or JAM in the book, which strikes me as very strange. I have seen Wayne and Helen perform a good few times together and their individual activities were very much intertwined.  Perhaps she declined to be involved; I don’t know. I only know Henderson by reputation, whereas I had a friendly and mutually respecting connection with White through providing advice on tutor training for JAM. There’s no report in the book of how much went to JAM or whether any did.

I’m also not impressed with the way the author describes the various characters who hang out regularly at Henderson’s workshop. There was more than a hint of Appalachian stereotyping and condescension. For example, eating cold fast-food and the famous tail out of the box trick.

Aside from these issues, the book does describe wonderfully how Henderson puts these guitars together, where he gets his wood, the tools he uses and the sheer craftsmanship involved. This I found truly fascinating. I won’t give you a spoiler on whether Clapton bought the guitar.

The author is also a guitar freak, and he references many other excellent and well known luthiers, such as T. J. Thompson (I’m surprised he didn’t include Dana Bourgoise in Maine or Chris Bozung in Nashville.)

If your interest is in how a top notch luthier puts together a hand crafted guitar, then I can thoroughly recommend this book. Just ignore the ‘local color’ and wait for another volume that should be written about the life achievements of Helen White.

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Filed under book reviews, crafting, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

Two to Tango

Jack’s Wednesday guest post makes it on time for a change – –

A belated tip of the hat to my long suffering wife after our recent twenty third anniversary –

We are complete opposites – I’m a lazy bugger and she’s a workaholic!

When we first met she was a community storyteller, a swimming instructor and a strawberry picker. She had had a degree in journalism and another in German and had just completed her Masters in Education. She headed off to St Johns in Newfoundland to start her PhD in Folklore.

When that was to the thesis stage she joined me in Scotland and we married. Off she went again and started a very successful non-profit storytelling co-operative, was appointed to the board of the Scottish national storytelling forum, the board of the US National Storytelling Network and the traditional arts committee of the Scottish parliament. Shortly after to Lancashire in England where she worked for two years with refugees and asylum seekers and learned Arabic!

During all of this she was writing. Academic papers and then the first book which was a collection of newspaper columns published by Lingham House. We moved to Big Stone Gap and opened a bookstore so the next book was a memoir about that and a best seller for a big New York publisher. Since then there have been two more books and another three are in the pipeline!

But then she got another Masters Degree – in Public Health, and is now the Director of GMEC which encourages and helps newly qualified medical professionals to set up shop in Appalachia.

But enter Covid 19!

So, for the last few months she’s been sourcing PPE all over the world and getting it to clinics, medical centers and hospitals throughout SW Virginia – while finishing three books!

Just now and then she has a wee lull in her timetable and she can’t abide that, so it’s time to reorganize the cupboards or the backyard – – – or can stuff!

Did I mention the cat rescue or the chickens?

I can never keep up, but it’s been a wonderful twenty three years –

Here’s to the next twenty three!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch