Please note: due to changes in regulations and constant design developments, we sometimes need to change details such as binding and inlay materials.
We are only ever going to have one fiftieth anniversary, and I want to use it to show how far we are able to push the boundaries of first quality acoustic guitars.
So rather than make a multiple of one anniversary model to mark the occasion, we've made one each of a number of different, special, models and variations.
Here is one of them. It's probably the most successful Fylde model, the Falstaff, but this time, pushing the material choice just about as far as I can. No gimmicky features, just pure class.
I have quite a lot of Brazilian Rosewood. In the 50-year video project, we have filmed Martin Simpson, me and Stefan Sobell talking about it and getting a little bit emotional.
This is the most beautiful wood I could find in amongst all of my stock. I've chosen exceptional colours and grain patterns, without getting into the more flamboyant and wild grains.
The soundboard is Master Grade Swiss Pine that I've had so long that I've lost track of where I bought it from. The bindings are Snakewood, bordered by red lines. Many makers won't use this wood because it is so difficult to handle, and I understand because my poor old hands can't do it anymore, but since I passed this part of the work over to Paul, it's become a bit of a speciality for him, and we've been able to use it more often.
The neck is laminated from very old Mahogany. From its colour and characteristics, I’m tempted to say this is Cuban Mahogany, but the boards I cut it from are huge so it's not very likely, but it is wonderful timber, wherever it escaped from.
45mm neck. Gotoh 510 tuners. Ebony fingerboard with Abalone diamond inlays.
How many guitar makers still do these inlays with a small chisel and a mallet? No CNC here. Just Alex.
We only do one thing at Fylde. The best we possibly can. We've been doing it for fifty years.
It's going to be on display at Ullapool next week, and for sale at £9,950.00
In addition to all these guitars, we will have several other instruments on show, made especially for the occasion, and hopefully some second-hand instruments. Even I'm excited. This is a very special year, we've put a lot of effort into this, and we've never before managed to have such an impressive display.
Three or four days and nights of some of the world’s best acoustic guitarists and all-round splendid people, all under one roof. You can easily get to meet them and talk to them, only one or two of them actually bite.
Concerts, workshops, late night club, guitar makers, food, alcohol, ice cream, sea air, storms, wood smoke, Russian trawlers (maybe not anymore), Whales, Dolphins, golf, climbing, walking, drinking Whisky with me, buying me drinks. What a weekend!
It's not too late to get your tickets, and accommodation in the village is still available.
It's the 22nd festival. Old and new faces are all welcome on the 6th, 7th and 8th of October. Come, be inspired, and have a great time doing it.
Will and Jule are arriving at Ullapool early, just to give you the chance to attend this special day in addition to the main event. Both are splendid musicians, teachers and communicators. You don't often find this kind of event; you will learn lots. Don't miss it.
The Special 2023 Ullapool Ariel has been sold for £3,600 and the proceeds have been paid to the Festival.
But don’t worry, there will be two other special Ariels for sale !
The filming is now complete. I'm exhausted, Mike and Sam English have done an astonishing job, but they have much more stamina than me.
In the final three sessions, We (they) have filmed Jule Malischke, Peter Howarth, Adam Palma, Remi Harris, Ken Nicol, Chris While, David Mead, Martin Simpson for a second time and Stefan Sobell. We have contributions from Ben Walker, Tristan Seume and Dave Holmes and hopefully a little bit from the archives. It's going to be massive.
There is now going to be a very intensive few weeks, even months, of editing and decision making. I'm hoping we will have a "trailer" available at Ullapool.
I need to say how much I value the friendship, expertise, support and pure hard work of these two people, not just for this video project, but everything else. Massive thanks to both.
Also - to Helen and Simon at The Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket, for use of their pub and making us all so welcome. Best beer in the world, and that's not just because I'm a shareholder.
Jule came to visit recently to make final decisions about her new guitar. Keith lent her some walking boots and took her on a hike. Alex, Paul and the gang took her wild swimming and I introduced her to our local beer. In the evening she sang lullabies to me and Moira in our new conservatory.
We now have to fit a pickup and deliver the guitar to her at Ullapool where it will get its first live performance. After fifty years of doing this, I still get nervous.
Based very much upon John Smith's custom Alexander, all the artists featured in this newsletter have played this guitar recently and all of them loved it. Macassar Ebony back and sides, with a Cedar top, this is the wood combination that I think produces the darkest, warmest tone, I've often described it as having "all the sharp edges smoothed off". I think John Smith had some extra influence on the choices as Soenke persuaded me to use minimum lacquer and a matt finish. I don't think it has a reflection in a mirror.
Soenke hasn't seen it yet although I think he's been sent a lot of photographs by all my recent visitors, he is another who is taking delivery at Ullapool. It's going to be a good weekend.
Clive Carroll posted the video we made on his Facebook page and drew lots of comments. Several questioned why Bert never seemed to play this guitar "on stage".
I made this in 1973, the order came through Gordon Giltrap, in fact it was Gordon who eventually delivered it. At the time I had never met Bert, so I made the guitar very much like the guitars I was making for Gordon, extremely light in weight and structure with a very wide fingerboard and a deep neck. Bert's custom Yamaha was very different to that. His previous guitar from John Bailey was very different as well. I suspect the Fylde just didn't suit him.
Bert could be quite an aggressive player, not afraid to work the guitar hard, whereas Gordon's style was, and is, very delicate, and he always uses a plectrum, which makes a big difference.
I've learnt to do things differently since then. If you believe that a good part of the tone of a guitar comes from the properties of the wood used, then it follows that the "more wood" you have in a guitar, the more it can contribute to the tone of the finished instrument. Less wood is not necessarily a good thing.
Making a guitar super light can have some positive implications, but overall, I think it's mostly negative. If you continue to make guitar soundboards lighter and lighter, you end up with a banjo or a drum.
I'm sitting inside so I should be safe from the bolts of lightning that might be on their way after that comment. I'm probably immune to them by now anyway, or maybe I'm just properly earthed.
Clive's long-term friendship and collaboration with John Renbourn is well known. I've edited some of the sleeve notes here:
Clive has taken favourites from Renbourn’s repertoire and infused them with his own formidable musical voice, with guest performances from 20 additional musicians.
‘The Abbot’ is a musical celebration of John Renbourn’s music and Clive Carroll’s memories and time with him.
During their tours together Clive did not hear him perform some of his early, ground-breaking material; in fact, many of Renbourn’s most famous compositions have remained un-played since he recorded them in the 1960s and 1970s. In creating ‘The Abbot’, standout Renbourn originals such as ‘The Lady and The Unicorn’, ‘Another Monday’, and ‘Lady Nothynges Toye Puffe’ stand comfortably alongside jazz numbers ‘Buffalo’ and ‘Little Niles’, early music and traditional music from across Europe and America, and classics like Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Blues Run the Game’. Also included is the never-before-heard ‘Intrada and Danse Royale’, an ensemble work that Renbourn never recorded.
I've not heard it yet, but I know it will be amazing.
Clive is on tour at the moment with Dariush Kanani, playing that very music, live.
John was very pleased to be able to play this guitar and has had this video on his Patreon site for the last month or so. It's been on my mind all through these recordings that Clive and John have sometimes performed as " I'm Bert, he's John", so getting both of them to record on this guitar was somewhat of a “win" for me.
Watching Clive and John play this guitar was very interesting. Each of them "backed off" after the first few notes, sensing immediately that the guitar worked best when being nurtured, not forced.
Will's approach to the guitar was a little different, I think he also sensed that the guitar was "gentle", although he did push it rather harder as he became more used to it.
On all these recordings this was the first time they had ever played this guitar, and they had no rehearsal time. Clever, aren't they?
I'm still very conflicted about how to advise the owner of the guitar to proceed. Part of me wants to rebuild the guitar to give it new life and I'm the best person to do that. Another part say's leave it alone, it is what it is etc. and find it a good home in its old age.
I'm not quite sure "why", during my fiftieth anniversary celebrations, such a guitar came to me, fifty years after it was made. More bolts of lightning.
Gordon was a contemporary and particular friend of Bert, in fact he composed this piece “Loren” for Bert's widow. Gordon and I go back over fifty years and had a long conversation about the whole thing.
Gordon of course has a different approach to playing to just about anybody else, his style is based on a quite delicate right hand with a light plectrum and a very significant part of the sound in his faster pieces comes from his left hand, where the responsive, light structure helps a lot. He "connected" with Bert's guitar immediately.
John came to visit this week, he hasn't changed a bit, and playing as well as ever. He has several new videos available., this one using his custom Maple Oberon.
He played Bert's guitar and likened it to his own Oberon, made just two years after Bert's and which he still plays. He describes the sound as “almost classical”.
John has two guitars for sale. More on that next month
Jack works hard on stage, doesn't he? What you can't see are the "band" in this recording. Patsy Reid on Fiddle, who we know from her time with Will McNicol and Seonaid Aitken at Ullapool, and Mick McGoldrick on pipes from his work with John Doyle and John McCusker. Splendid music wherever you turn.
Jack and I swap silly jokes and have an ongoing gentle battle about what to call his “instrument”. It has ten strings, and he calls it a Bouzouki. Troy Donockley has a similar instrument, with eight strings, and he calls it a Cittern.
Gareth doesn’t play live very much, which in many ways is a terrible shame, but I think I understand why. A huge part of his skill, apart from arrangement and teaching, is in the left hand fingering and ornamentation, which I find amazing to watch, but probably would not even be noticed without the close up camera shots. So I think he should perform on aeroplanes, where everybody has an individual screen. I thought of it first.
Continuing from last month’s newsletter, I wasn't really expecting to get much response. Surely nobody owns more than say, twelve Fylde instruments of various sorts?
Well, have a guess.
I received a mail from a person whose name I know quite well, but I didn't know that he owns 22 Fylde Guitars.
I still can't take it in. He sent me a list; some have very interesting history and provenance. All guitars, no mandolins etc. I've asked for a photograph, but he's going to need a very wide-angle lens!
I still can't believe it - 22! That's a cricket match!
Next time I start a guitar making company, I have a new idea for guitar names.
Botham, Stokes, Lillee, Lloyd, Warne, Sobers, Tendulkar, Bradman …
Sean might easily be one of the contenders for the MFO badge, but here he is talking about just two of his Fylde Collection, plus two other instruments of course.
One of these was sent to me by mistake.
A lovely customer intended to buy himself a special bottle but still had my details in the website shopping cart and pressed “pay’ a bit too soon. He says he doesn't want it back.
What a pity.
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