Alan's Letter to Gibson
It was a pleasure meeting you at CAAS last week and checking out those Gibsons and Epiphones, both old and new, and especially that gorgeous re-issue of Chet's L-10!
I especially enjoyed discussing the possibility of a Gibson or Epiphone version of Chet's DelVecchio resonator guitar. I would summarize my comments:
1. Chet was correct about the generally poor quality of these instruments, as he mentioned in his book, "Me and My Guitars". Crude frets, buzzes, poor intonation--you name it and it was on mine. Were it not for Paul McGill's new resonators, mine would be a clock by now! Mike Voltz can verify all this; he mentioned that he worked on Chet's own instrument! When I got it from an importer in 1970, it cost $125, and I almost sent it back for a refund!
2. The delicate, spun aluminum resonator plus silk & steel strings are the heart of the guitar's wonderful sound potential (the "Brazilian rosewood" is really a thin plywood).
3. I found that the sound and playability was best improved with an aluminum bridge and saddle replacing the original plastic bar-in-a-slot one. I modified the aluminum rocker bridge that came with a Bigsby vibrato, trimming it such that it sits atop the DelVecchio's rosewood biscuit at the correct scale length. The height-adjusting thumbscrews even allow me to compensate for any "resonator sag" caused by experimenting with heavier strings (dangerous!) or right hand damping--I DO play Chet-style on it, don'tcha know! The results were better string to bridge energy transfer and dead-on intonation.
4. Playing this modified instrument into a good condenser mic, plus a little reverb, is pure heaven through headphones and in home recording! Playing LIVE and getting that sound, however, is a challenge. Best so far is an AKG C419 miniature condenser mic, with a short gooseneck that clips onto any braces inside the guitar and under the resonator. Feedback has not been a problem, as I believe the resonator actually shields the mic from speakers.
By now you're probably asking something like, "Who IS this guy, anyway?" Actually, I'm a 58 year-old professional chemist / formulator for Plasti-Kote Div. of Valspar Corp., a manufacturer of spray paints. Music and guitars have been my second vocation since 1960; Chet, Les Paul, Johnny Smith, etc. fascinated me ever since, and I've been in CAAS since day one. Like thousands of other people, Chet took the time to help me when I wrote him in 1968 and asked where I could get a DelVecchio. Like Tommy Emmanuel, I was overwhelmed with his generosity and honesty--need I mention his PLAYING!!--and I am compelled to give back some of the joy Chet has given me!
I brought my modified DelVecchio to CAAS this year seeking an informal "evaluation" from anyone who might have heard Chet's instrument "live" (not with the studio-quality miking, reverb, etc.). In short, I was thrilled when Paul Yandell, John Knowles, Mark Pritcher, John McClellan, and Guy Van Duser all gave it a blessing and "pretty close" to "darn close" ratings! But what really impressed me were the crowds of CAAS members who gathered to listen and try it whenever I took it from the case; it was truly a magnet which upstaged me and whoever was playing! EVERYONE wanted one, but I was unable to help them as Chet did for me--the importer has long since gone out of business. Suddenly, I felt like he was disappointed in me for showing these wonderful fans something they could not obtain!
When I saw your beautiful L-10 prototype, Chet must have been there and popped the idea into my head, "Why not a Gibson or Epiphone-built DelVecchio clone; WHO BETTER to produce a quality version of this instrument for everyone to enjoy and carry on our music??!!"
So here I am, a "little guy" like thousands whom Chet helped, asking you to PLEASE bring this instrument to life!
In the liner notes on his 1965 album, "My Favorite Guitars", Chet named his three favorites as the Country Gent, a Juan Estruch classical, AND (you guessed it) the DelVecchio. He also always had praise for Gibson, and your Gent and electric classics are exactly what he wanted. We also now have beautiful recreations of his 1959 Country Gent and your L-10.
I say we also need the DelVecchio! To paraphrase Chet, "That's my opinion and it oughta be yours!" and "I KNOW this is RIGHT!" His thousands of fans will love it, nothing else sounds like it, and I am confident anything you put together will be a quantum leap in quality.
PLEASE feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. Likewise, you will probably be contacted by some of the people who saw mine at CAAS. Meanwhile, I will try to borrow a digital camera and email you some photos.
Allen Buhoveckey CAAS / Ohio Fingerstyle Guitar Club
3309 Twain Circle
Brunswick, OH 44212 (330)225-1428 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org