Revolutionary Thoughts – – –

Jack easily makes it in time again – –

I really don’t want to write anything about Covid 19 so last week I wrote about my wee parlor guitar. This week it’s about a different and equally beloved piece of musical equipment –


Many years ago I had a hankering for a wind-up gramophone (phonograph over here). So Wendy announced before one Christmas that we were going on a trip. She had done some research and found a gentleman who collected and sold ‘old technology’. He lived in a big old mansion house south of Edinburgh and he welcomed us graciously when we arrived.

The basement area was a warren of passages and side rooms that were probably originally cold storage for food etc. Each room had a different kind of ‘stuff’ – radios, TVs (including mechanical Baird Televisors), Medical equipment, telephones, scientific instruments – and on and on!

Eventually we reached the room with gramophones. Everything from old cylinder machines to 1960s Dancettes.

I had already gathered a fair collection of old 78 rpm records, everything from old Scottish traditional performers to Glenn Miller. But I wanted the kind of machine they were intended to be played on.

We chose a lovely old HMV machine and agreed a price. The gentleman then insisted on giving us a free box of needles too (I still have most of them).

For any readers not familiar with these machines – the turntable is driven by a powerful spring which is wound tight by the handle on the side. The needle picks up the sound vibrations and a diaphragm makes them audible, then feeds the sound to a horn. In my gramophone the horn is built in and opens behind two doors on the front. The doors are, effectively, the volume control. There are two levers beside the turntable, one controls the speed of rotation and the other is a brake which turns the rotation off or on. There’s no electricity involved at all.

The great thing is that my old 78s sound exactly as they should.

I often wonder about the previous owners, what they played on it and whether it had pride of place in their houses – I like to think it did, just like here!

Small Mercies in Hard Times

Yet again Jack gets over the wire in time –

Just as a change from all the heavy stuff of late, here’s something completely different.

About ten years ago I had a hankering for a small guitar, mainly because I was traveling back and forward to Scotland and still gigging over there and I wanted one that would go in the overhead locker in the plane.

So I did some research and found a guy in California who dredged the auctions and found parlor guitars that he then put up for sale. He went by the name of Fat Dog! He put up pictures of what he had, so I took a chance and sent him a check for one that looked interesting.

It was a Lyon and Healy Lakeside made in 1916, and what caught my eye was that the back and sides were made from oak. Very unusual! It had originally sold for $6 via a Sears Roebuck catalogue.

l&H front

When it eventually arrived it was playable, but only just. Back in those days many guitars had ‘ladder bracing’ inside which encouraged a split along the top and this one was no exception. But it had a wonderful sound and a very playable neck. Over a few years it began to split more and the neck developed problems too. So, through the wonders of networking I sent it through a series of hands to a wonderful luthier in Nashville called Chris Bozung to be completely restored. It took him a year between other jobs but when it came back I was astonished.

He hadn’t attempted to make it like new, but simply to fix everything, including many things I’d not noticed. So it looked just as it had originally come to me but solid and easily playable.

I’ve had many guitars over the years and my workhorse for a long time has been my Schoenberg Soloist made by Dana Bourgeois, but the Lyon and Healy has taken over. For a small instrument it has a big sound and my elderly fingers can manage the chords more easily.

I don’t consider myself much of a guitarist, really only using it to accompany songs mostly, but there’s something about the relationship between the player and the instrument that’s very special.

The irony is that I ended up borrowing guitars when I traveled to Scotland, so the wee Lyon and Healy has never had to go in the overhead locker!