Gallery: Earliest pictures >
Take a closer look at the guitar fretboard.
I recognized pro wrestler Hillbilly Jim (Jim Morris) walking down the aisle of the Nashville NAMM show, carrying a guitar case. I asked him “are you a guitar player or a wrestler?” He responded “Both!”
I invited him over to the booth, and we chatted for a couple of hours. We became fast friends, and I continued to invite him to the Nashville shows for several years. I even got some inside info about pro wrestling.
Brian did double duty at our event at the Station Inn: rhythm guitar in the jazz set, and lead guitar in the bluegrass set.
At our show at the Station Inn John Jorgenson introduced a new jazz tune he’d written that uses a capo. He had not yet titled it, but it would later be named Ultraspontane, and would become the title tune of his quintet’s second CD.
Since then he has played Ultraspontane at many of the concerts we have presented, often to close the show, and it continues to bring the house down.
I suspect he might have been thinking of me when he decided to put the capo on while writing this tune. In any case, thank you, John. It is a great tune, and a great showcase for my capo in a style and context where you don’t expect to see one.
To commemorate selling our two millionth capo, we made a very special capo out of SOLID GOLD.
I had a lot of fun at the Martin booth, using our 2 millionth capo on Martin’s millionth guitar. Everyone got out their cameras for this one!
Our stand at Musikmesse Frankfurt was moved to a new location in a new hall. It was, in all ways, an improvement.
In 2005 the Summer NAMM show moved to Indianapolis, for one year only. We upgraded from a 10×10 to a 20 foot booth, the size we would continue to use for Summer NAMM shows.
John and his quintet spent some time at the booth, where I got a chance to pull out some of my jazz tunes to play with them.
Dick Hardwick made the trip to his home state to play drums for John’s quintet. Does he look like he’s having a good time?
In 2006 Mike Phelan joined our NAMM show team.
My partner since the dawn of time, Dave Coontz.
Kelly Jordan, in 2006, already a veteran of four NAMM shows.
Raul Reynoso took the helm of our Friday night event when I had to return home on short notice for a family emergency. I hated to miss the show, which I’ve often called my favorite night of the year, but all went well in Raul’s capable hands
Raul and John trading fours.
Ditto, John and Doug Mattocks. Three of the four original Rhythm Brothers.
What I loved about the Frankfurt show was that I got to spend time with my dear friends, John and Linda Pearse. Each afternoon around 5:00 John and I would sequester ourselves in the semi-private concierge lounge at the Maritim Hotel, and discuss the events of the day (and practically everything else) over a few glasses of champagne. When a stunning rainbow emerged in the sky, I got up from the table and took this shot. Note the two champagne glasses on the table.
No one who knew John Pearse could mistake this silhouette. This is my favorite picture I have ever taken.
Also in 2006 we made our first trip to China, for MUSIC CHINA 2006 in Shanghai. The show was thoroughly exciting. It is not yet as big as Musikmesse Frankfurt or Winter NAMM, but like most other things in China, it is growing fast and anxious to catch up.
There were major sound level problems the first two days, with some of the larger booths being so loud that it was nearly impossible to do business. But business was there to be done, and would not be denied.
Trade show warrior Gary Mobley braved the often deafening cacophony, and was sometimes able to conduct substantive meetings amidst the chaos.
Linda Zheng was indispensable, not only as our excellent booth helper and interpreter, but also in guiding us around Shanghai and helping us to adjust to Chinese culture and protocol.
The day before I flew to China, I got a call from Richard Keldsen of Saga. He’d just learned that their usual banjo man was not making the trip to Shanghai and invited me to join them for the two daily shows at their booth.
The sets we played ranged from impossible to really fun, depending on the noise level in the room at the time.
In either case, we always drew a crowd of curious people, many of whom were probably hearing (or at least, seeing) bluegrass music for the first time. Cameras snapped nonstop, and many new fans posed with us onstage between songs; sometimes even during songs.
Our Friday night event this year featured the first US appearance of LULO REINHARDT, grandnephew of Gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt. It was an honor to present him in concert for his US debut, and the only performance on this trip.
Accompanying him were violinist Daniel Weltlinger from Australia, Westy Westenhofer on bass, and on guitar Doug Martin. Doug hit it off so well with Lulo that he continued to tour with him later in the year, as we encountered Lulo in both Frankfurt and Shanghai.
Latin guitarist Roger Espinoza was with us again this year. During his set, Lulo Reinhardt and I were sitting at the table just about three feet from where he was playing. Lulo was enjoying the music, and tapping rhythmically on the tabletop in accompanyment.
“Do you play guitar?” asked Roger. While Lulo is well-known in Europe, most people, even players, in the USA aren’t yet familiar with him.
The resulting, impromptu jam was truly memorable.
At the 2005 show I took some pictures with our commemorative TWO MILLIONTH capo on the millionth Martin guitar. Well, this year it was SANTA CRUZ GUITARS‘ turn. A much younger company, they were celebrating their 10,000th guitar. The guitar is really a thing of beauty! Never one to miss a photo-op, I brought the two millionth Shubb Capo (solid gold, engraved, and inlaid with diamonds and a sapphire) down to Santa Cruz Guitars’ booth, and company president Richard Hoover and I took some pictures.
What do the millionth Martin and the 10,000th Santa Cruz have in common? Besides both being fine guitars, both were inlaid by the master of guitar inlay Larry Robinson, and both are eye-popping examples of his exquisite art.
At Frankfurt Musikmesse 2017
Left: Lulo Reinhardt must have just played something amazing, because Sonia and I both look pretty tickled.
Right: I was chatting with Chris Middaugh at the Schertler booth, when we noticed this young lady proudly displaying a Shubb Capos bumper sticker, stuck to her clothing.
Chris had his camera handy, and snapped this picture. He dubbed her The Shubb Girl. The aisles were very crowded, and I never did catch up to her and introduce myself. It’s probably better that I didn’t.
In 2007 the Summer NAMM show moved to Austin TX for a couple of years
During setup day, Kevin Johnstone, NAMM’s director of trade shows, was zipping around the hall on this two-wheeled scooter thing I’d never seen before: the Segway was quite the rage in Austin. Later that night, I saw dozens of them humming along the sidewalks around town.
Kevin gave me a lesson on how to ride it. It turned out to be pretty intuitive, and didn’t take long to feel fairly comfortable.
“Look, Ma, no hands!”
I didn’t master the Segway to the extent that Kevin had, but he’s a two-wheeler from ‘way back. I don’t doubt that he could pop a wheelie on this thing.
Gary with Texas singer-songwriter Katherine Dawn.
Note; the Shubb bumper sticker seems to be catching on as a fashion accessory
While I was away from the booth, we had a visitor who bore a distinct resemblance to me. Or at least, to me when there were a few more dark hairs. He even dressed like I do.
When I returned to the booth, I saw this picture, but received no explanation. On the small display of the camera, it looked just like me, a few years back. Puzzled, all I could say was “what the hell …?” An hour or so later I met the guy, who complimented me on being a good-looking fellow.
Richard Gilewitz arrived at the NAMM show around 5:15 on Friday afternoon, and I asked him if he’d like to open for John Jorgenson on our concert that night. That’s pretty sort notice, but he quickly rounded up his gear from his hotel room and a couple of NAMM booths, and made it over to the ballroom just in time for a quick sound check. A consummate pro, Richard remained unruffled and played beautifully on the show, as did John and his Quintet.
This year’s Shanghai show was very much like last years; fast, busy, exciting, chaotic, and above all, LOUD beyond description. Gary Mobley’s trade show toughness was put to the test, and he survived to tell the tale.
When I wasn’t outside seeking relief from the unbearable volume level in the hall (although true quiet is hard to find anywhere in Shanghai) I could often be found playing banjo with Saga’s Tora Bora Boys. It was fun to introduce so many people to a style of music they may never have heard, or even heard of before. They really seemed to enjoy it.
Gary and me, trying to look like tourists
The great gypsy guitarist Lulo Reinhardt was on tour in China, and Shubb Capos and Saga musical instruments sponsored a show featuring his jazz quartet at The Melting Pot, a restaurant and bar in Shanghai.
Lulo and his frequent music partner, violinist Daniel Weltlinger from Australia, spent some time at the trade show during three of the four days, as well.
Also on the bill at the Melting Pot on Friday night was Saga’s own bluegrass band, the Tora Bora Boys, and in this case that included me on banjo.
When we played this gig, it just seemed like the next thing to do. But reflecting on it later …how exotic was that? Playing bluegrass in a night club in Shanghai, on a bill with Django Reinhardt’s grandnephew — now, that’s a tale to tell.
Capos are almost never used in jazz, although they can be, and to good effect. Lulo and Doug Martin honored us by using their Shubb capos, and they weren’t just messing around, either. Pictured here, they capoed at the second fret to play the Django Reinhardt classic Manoir Des Mes Reves, also known as Django’s Castle.