Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ehlers Parlor Guitar #1 (with sound sample)

Up until recently I had never spent more than a thousand dollars on a guitar. And that was a LOT and only once. Then I walked into Buffalo Brothers in Carlsbad, CA and they have a way of convincing you that you NEED a $4000 guitar. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe it’s like people say about Las Vegas...they pump extra oxygen into the air or something weird like that. But somehow, some way, when you leave the premises you start figuring out what you can sell and what you can spend and you start rationalizing the price of Goodalls and Ehlers and Collings and M.J. Franks guitars.

The guitar I fell in love with was a black jumbo, handmade by Rob Ehlers in his little shop down in Mexico somewhere. It simply has the most bass of any acoustic I’ve ever played and I will write about that guitar lovingly at some point. Once I had found a way to buy that Ehlers (oh, I sold MANY a guitar on eBay and Craig’s List to afford it), I happened to mention to Kevin, the guy in charge of the high end guitars at Buffalo Brothers and a big fan of Rob Ehlers, that, if Ehlers ever needed a website built, I’d love to do a tradeout for a guitar and I’d build him a website full of love for his guitars.

Lo and behold, after a few months I got an email from Kevin saying that Rob Ehlers needed a website, and he needed it fast. There was a big-time show of the finest guitar makers in the country and Rob was included in that group. He needed a website built to back up the attention he would be getting from that show. As it turned out, he had built a parlor guitar for himself a year or so earlier, and if I was interested, he would be happy to trade me a website for said parlor guitar. BINGO! I was in before I could type the email, hit send, and wait patiently for the go ahead to start mocking things up. What good fortune!

I began emailing with Rob and what a great guy! This is a man who loves building guitars and limits his production to only about 50 guitars a year to make sure that every single guitar that leaves his shop is to his exacting standards of craftsmanship. I will cut to the chase and say that soon the website was done and my guitar was on it’s way.

Oh what an idiot I am for letting this one eventually get away. Rather than wait until the end to say this, I’ll say it now: MAN, I WISH I HAD THIS ONE BACK! This is a guitar that Rob Ehlers handmade for himself and was his personal guitar for two years. It was the very first parlor size guitar he ever built and it was a a beauty. The top was red cedar and the sides were Indian Rosewood. Now that it’s gone, I realize how comfortable it was to leave in the corner and have available to pick up each night and play while sitting on the couch or take outside and play at the picnic table in between throwing horse shoes. The sound was much bigger than it’s size let on. And the details Rob puts into every one of his guitars is just impossible to describe. Rob is not a household name even amongst those in the know, but his instruments are something to behold.

Now, after waxing poetically about this guitar for paragraph after paragraph I know you’re thinking, “Why did this one get away?” I was stuck. I was in an impossible situation. About a year after building the website for Mr. Ehlers, I struck a similar deal with Mike Franks, one of the top up and coming luthiers in the fine guitar world. I built a website for him and traded out for a simple but outstanding OM-D model...only his SEVENTH guitar he’d ever built. Mike and I became friends through the magic of email and, as luck would have it, Mike had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get his hands on some amazing Brazilian Rosewood. If I could come up with a certain amount of money, Mike could get me the Brazilian that would eventually turn into the back and sides of my “dream guitar.” There was only one option at the time: sell the parlor guitar. I hesitantly put it on eBay and hoped for the best. It sold to a lady who is an orchestra conductor in (I think) Cincinnati. She is a collector of fine parlor guitars and she was more than happy to get her hands on this one. My only consolation is knowing that it’s in a better place. So, I’ll say it, I wish I had that one back!

P.S. My friend Dave Quillen helped me out and recorded a sound sample of this guitar when I sold it. Click here to hear it.

1 comment:

Keith said...

absolutely GORGEOUS tone. That guitar sounds much bigger than a parlor-size.