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About John: Equipment: Acoustic Guitars

#1 -- 1991 Taylor 420 (aka 410-RW)
I only have a "#1" with my acoustics, and for good reason. My Taylor 410-RW (a.k.a. the 420 -- a 410 with Brazillian Rosewood back and sides, an upgrade from Mahogany, the 410 standard at that time), bought new fresh out of high school, has been my primary gigging and recording acoustic guitar for the past 25 years. The way this guitar has stood up to the mistreatment I've put it through so far, I expect at least another 25 out of it! I outfitted it with a Fishman saddle pickup (in 1993, by Frank Ford at Gryphon in Palo Alto, where I bought it originally), which unlike most piezo saddle pickups I've played sounds remarkably good, even without my rack of processing gear. I've done a lot of other work over the years as well to keep it ticking. Multiple fret jobs, including having the neck planed down once to level out a bump that started from getting severely dehydrated when I was living in the California Sierras (by Steve Neal Saqui at the Blue Guitar in San Diego), two tailpiece resets (once by Larry Brown at Boulevard Music on Sepulveda in Los Angeles in 2000 -- RIP, Larry -- and once at Gryphon in 2012) after a couple of particularly disastrous hot weather exposures, binding reglued through the waist, pickguard replaced, etc., etc., etc. The finish is eaten away where my arm comes over it and on the back where it sits on my ever expanding belly (something about the pH of my sweat, I'm told). I think I'm on my fourth handle for the case. I couldn't even begin to catalogue all the dings, dents, and scratches. But the coup-de-gras was a 6 inch crack along the grain through the waist that you could see daylight through. Once again, the genius crew at Gryphon came to the rescue and repaired and rebraced it and you can barely even tell it happened. It just looks like a scratch in the finish (never figured out what caused that one, but I strongly suspect my young children...), thanks Brian! Despite the abuse this puppy has taken over the years it remains a top notch instrument and my go-to guitar in most cases. As an overall utility instrument, there are not many guitars that match this one, for its tone, volume, balance, or pure all around playability. I wouldn't give this one up for the world!

2000 Collings SJ
Bill Collings in Austin, who died in 2017 after a long battle with cancer, was a genious. The company has expanded production volumes and added a ton of new models (his 335-style semi-hollow is beyond incredible) since I bought this one, but at the time they only made a few hundred instruments a year. I bought this one brand new from Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, CA. This "SJ" (short for "small jumbo") was his flagship model at NAMM in 2000 and features a maple top, wonderfully figured curly maple back and sides, and an ebony fretboard. With a 16" lower bout (a bit wider than a standard Dreadnought) and narrow waist and shoulder it's got a strong and punchy midrange, a big sound without being boomy, and plays like a dream. Even the case is gorgeous -- full of lush green crushed velvet inside. Right after I bought it I used it to record "Tomorrow", on the fourth of July when none of the other guys in the band showed up at the studio. I finally put an L.R. Baggs pickup in it in 2014, and it sounds great amplified direct too!

1938 Gibson L-50
My most recently acquired acoustic guitar, and the oldest instrument I own (other than the 1910 Ivers & Pond piano that graces my living room), this archtop Gibson from the late thirties adds a very unique tone option to the overall palette -- bright and punchy with just a bit of grit, but a boxy roundness that keeps it from getting too harsh. Chunky V-style neck worn smooth from close to a century of play. It's also a strikingly beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Carved spruce top, carved arched maple back and sides, exquisitely figured, sunburst finish, and double bound (top and bottom). Really quite an amazing specimen for a nearly 80 year old guitar! In 1938, the "50" indicated the retail price...$50.00!

2006 Eastman 615 Mandolin
I finally got rid of my Epiphone mandolin in the summer of '06 and picked up this beauty at the Fifth String in Berkeley. Eastman, a Chinese company, has been making incredible violins and archtop guitars by hand for decades, and got into mandolins later, with an incredible line of instruments up and down. The sound jumps off of this thing, and even my big hands don't have too hard of a time picking it! I notice they're making semi-hollow electrics now and may have to get my hands on one...

1999 Regal Dobro
Workhorse. Nothing to write home about, but it's solid and gets the job done. Bought it from my brother when he got better than me and upgraded to a much nicer instrument...

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