My wife, Shawna Gilmore, just painted the back of Charlie Parr’s guitar. It’s the one you see here, which he has been touring the country with all summer and fall.
I think she did a darn fine job. Here’s the finished product:
Charlie’s instruments are essentially irreplaceable, so it’s amazing that he trusted her with it.
The experience of watching this happen was fantastic. It totally gels with what we’re trying to accomplish with Cornucopia next Tuesday, where you’ll see Charlie make incredible music with this one-of-a-kind handmade guitar.
First of all, the event is all about promoting local talent and having the audience experience just how much more satisfying it is to orient life around local merchants, food growers, artists, writers, beer brewers, and the full gamut. Rather than drive over the hill to endure retail hell at a big box store, I enjoyed a fine walk in the rain with my dog to Marshall Hardware where I picked up oil-based enamel model paint for use on the stainless steel guitar. Incidentally, this is Charlie’s favorite hardware too:
Gosh I love Marshall’s. A mere half-mile from my house, and they have just about everything. I even bought my first toilet down there when we were new homeowners (special ordered). For whatever reason, I get a lot more satisfaction out of it because of this. EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you look closely, you can see my book on the far right – across from Charlie’s model paints…
Which brings us to collaboration between different artists, art forms, and neighbors. Charlie loves to encourage the artists around him, and delights in seeing them succeed in their craft. The same is true about all the artists that’ll be at this event, and I’m including the two mayors we have coming to participate (present and future mayors). Creatively leading a city is an art form too, I think. Furthermore, I’m getting more and more comfortable with calling myself an artist. While I’m not a painter, I do collect experiences and an appreciation of the talents of others like a weird kind of mixed tape. We all have valuable art work to offer society.
Anyhow, Charlie Parr spurs those around him to do their best work. I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it. His buddy, Dave Hundreiser, is a case in point. Brother Dave, as Charlie calls him, is a tremendous musician masquerading as a railroad man during a day job that consumes most of his time. Here he is in his living room with the only baritone 12-string guitar in the world. Charlie had the guitar built around the strings, the same gauge used by Leadbelly. He passed it along to Brother Dave because the extreme heft of the neck hurt his hand:
Dave wears those prison stripe bib overalls exclusively, and that record collection behind him is very impressive. He’s the guy who brought the house down while opening for Jimmy “Duck” Holmes this past summer. He plays an old-time country blues style. Brother Dave and Charlie are going to team up at the show on some blues numbers.
It was in Dave’s garage that Charlie Parr recorded his album, Jubilee. Here’s a picture of the place, but it’s nothing like it was on that unseasonably warm February day that created a lake inside the garage on the day of the recording from all the melted snow. Dave tried to cancel, but Charlie insisted the show must go on and that the conditions would make it even better…
By the way, per Dave that’s the number 1 stick-fired smoker in the world. The beast is mounted on an enormous trailer. So, I suppose BBQ and blues sums up Brother Dave pretty well. He’s an extraordinarily kind man, and sitting in the same room while he and Charlie Parr and Kyle Ollah talked about music and great musicians was like sitting in on a rap session between Mozart and Beethoven. Seriously, these folks are musical savants. I love music, but they go so far down the well that I can’t keep up, much less try to articulate it with words. And yet, they make themselves accessible to regular people like you and me.
You’ve got to hear them play to begin to get an appreciation of how much musical wisdom and experience is distilled into their work. They don’t get to play together often, because Dave is constantly driving railroads across much of the continent. However, they have recorded together and plan on doing so again later this month. Seeing them together is a treat you should not miss.
There’s not a lot of money in folk music. Charlie and Dave laughed hysterically while recounting a show they did together several years ago at a well-known bar on the other side of the bridge. The opening act failed to show up, so Charlie and Dave (playing harmonica) played straight through in the smoky pub from 7:00 pm to nearly 2:30 am. This was before Wisconsin banned smoking at these establishments. Charlie didn’t even get up to take a leak. Dave describes Charlie has having played a “ferocious 7 hours,” during which he was absolutely banging on his guitar. At the end of it all, in a bar that was completely jam-packed with raucous people from start to finish, the bartender handed Charlie a $50 bill. Then he said, “If you keep it up you just might make something of yourself.” Ha ha. He had no idea what kind of talent he was hosting, or that Charlie was already getting by as a full-time musician. Amazingly, during the drive home after seven straight hours of playing together, they ruefully thought of several songs they forgot to play. “Awe man, we should’ve played Broke and Hungry, etc…” They draw from a mighty deep well.
This story came out when I mentioned a range of between 45 minutes and an hour for their combined set. The duo can keep right on going, and are comfortable while doing without rehearsing, sound checks, or set lists. I get the sense that playing together is very special to them both.
Here’s the link to the Facebook event we created for the big show at The Red Herring Lounge, which is free. I hope to see you there.
With that, I’ll leave you with the fine words Charlie put out on his Facebook page after we first met this past spring. There’s just real value to cross-pollination between different art forms, neighbors, and ideas…
Folks don’t just stop by the house too often, which seems a shame, I can remember my Dad’s friends dropping by out of the blue just because they were in the area and they’d all sit around the kitchen table with the coffee talking about nothing in particular. Sometimes Brother Dave stops over and we throw guitar bits back and forth with the coffee, but other than that it’s usually just Rueben and me bumming around the house or picking up sticks and dog poop in the yard. Eddy Gilmore stopped over the other day, though, out of the blue, and I got so happy to see someone that I talked his ear off and nearly drove him away. Eddy’s a pure soul, though, he wrote a book called “The Emancipation of a Buried Man” which he left me and I thought it was a great read so I returned the favor, dropping out of the grey sky along with the rain into his personal home to share tea and another round of nonstop chatter from me. Years ago it was work for anyone to scrape a sound out of me, or even a look, I was so shy, but nowadays I’ll wear the dog out with endless monologues concerning idle and meaningless things, things that mean the world to me somehow. So it goes, I’m turning into a trapdoor spider, waiting in the house for some innocent soul to stop by so I can weave my web of dog walk incidents and daughter hair snarls and bent tuning machines and bicycle tires and pants that don’t fit because I was too impatient to try them on at the store. Small wonder that no one drops in.
Check out my earlier post about my first impressions of meeting Charlie: Charlie Parr: guitar virtuoso, friend, barefoot prophet