Guitar Heaven

My annual trip to Nashville includes a stop at Gruhn Guitars.  George Gruhn founded Gruhn guitars way back in 1970. This place is more than just a guitar shop. It is full of classic instruments that each have a fascinating history.

Musicians from all genres of music buy, sell and have their prized possessions repaired at Gruhn Guitars. Artists such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Vince Gill come to Gruhn. Collections from Earl Scruggs, Eric Clapton and Vince Gill have been sold here. We were able to inspect the remaining guitars from the Vince GIll collection.

My family and I were lucky to take a tour of his private collection and talk with George about his life and his love of guitars and animals. George is originally from the Chicago area. He told us about his snakes and exotic cats that are his passion aside from guitars.

His private collection was amazing and priceless. The wall in his collections were lined with rare and unusual string instruments. There were several prototype guitars that never made it into production and many production instruments with six figure valuations.

George Gruhn giving me a guitar to play.

George picked out a couple of guitars for me to play. I didn’t buy a guitar on this day but I do have my eye on that pre-war Martin acoustic guitar that was selling for $30,000.

Another great day in Nashville. Many thanks to George Gruhn and his staff at Gruhn Guitars. Pay Gruhn Guitars a visit at http://guitars.com

~ Mark “Duke” Nikolich

Finding Inspiration in Nashville

Every year I make a trip to Nashville. To me it’s more than just a vacation, it is how I refresh my soul, my love for music and re-connect with my family.

Like other years we made our visit to the Grand Ole Opry. If you haven’t had the opportunity I can guarantee you that if you spend an evening at the Opry, you will feel the spirit. Performances by many generations of musicians, a few good laughs and heart warming stories are shared.

Tonight we had the honor of watching a band called Wild Blue Country. The band is made up of members of the Air Force. In the audience was a group of vets from the Vietnam era holding their annual reunion.

Connie Smith, Bill Anderson and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers hosted this nights Opry. Mike Snider provided some comic relief and some down home pickin’. Wade Hayes sang a song about his dog Jack that had everyone in the house tearing up.

Whispering Bill Anderson sang an old country song called Deck of Cards. A truly inspirational song about a soldier who was without his bible. You won’t hear songs like this on today’s country radio.

Shelly Fairchild, Adam Craig and William Michael Morgan provided a taste of modern country music. All talented and entertaining. The future of country music is in good hands.

The mix of old and new music in a historic venue brings the generations together for the common love of music. I can’t wait to get back to playing with Buddy Damen and the Last Call. My soul has been re-charged!

~Mark “Duke” Nikolich

 

 

Musical Influences

Buddy Damen grew up in Alabama in a town called Florence. Across the river from the town of Muscle Shoals, home of the renowned recording studio. Just 18 miles or so from the Tennessee border and 125 miles to Nashville.

He grew up listening to Country, Bluegrass, and Blues music. His parents tuned into the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. While neither one of his parents were musicians, they both loved music of all kinds. The south at that time was rich in blues, jazz and Bluegrass. The influences of Irish, Scottish and African Americans created a melting pot of music in the south. From Thelonious Monk to Robert Johnson to Jimmy Dickens, Buddy loved it all.

Buddy’s father picked up an old beat up guitar at a pawn shop for $3.50 in 1949 for Buddy’s 10th birthday. Buddy taught himself how to play and spent hours playing along to the radio as they didn’t have much money to buy records. In 1951 when Buddy was 12 his Dad took him on a bus trip to Nashville where he surprised Buddy with tickets to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman auditorium. The performers that night were Little Jimmy Dickens, The Jordanaires and Hank Garland.

As Buddy entered his teen years Rock n’ Roll was emerging. As high school began Elvis had hit the scene and Buddy knew what he wanted to do for a living. By 15 he was making money playing in bars, pool halls and on street corners.

https://www.buddydamen.com

-Duke Kostner

My Uncle Buddy

My Uncle Buddy wasn’t around much. My parents said he was traveling from town to town doing his music from an early age.

When he was around he always brought gifts that to us were treasures, but in reality they were small trinkets. Things like beer caps from a beer not sold in the area or a books of matches, chewing gum, leaflets from the shows he did (wish I would have saved some of those). As kids we would always beg him to sing us a song and he would never disappoint. I have memories of him pulling a napkin out of his pocket from a diner with lyrics written on them. He would practice his songs with us as his audience. He was kind and gentle but I always had a sense that he was sad or troubled. He was gone for weeks or months at a time.

Uncle Buddy’s favorite trick when he would come home was to magically make a guitar pick appear from behind our ear. Corny, but a fond memory.

Fun facts about Uncle Buddy: Born on  May 5th 1939. If he is still with us he is 79 years old. Most people, even family, don’t know that Buddy’s real first name is Walker. Family members said that he was called Buddy from an early age and the name stuck.

https://www.buddydamen.com

-Duke Kostner 

I’m in

There was an unspoken understanding when you were with Buddy–it could be sitting on a porch and apparently nothing going on or it could be playing music or it could be anything else–but maybe it’s easiest to talk about when talking about music.

You didn’t have to be a great musician to play with Buddy. Technical skill was like a fancy instrument. It could be flashy, but if you didn’t know how to use it, what use was it? The flash could keep you from going somewhere real. It’s not that technical skill wasn’t important–it was–and if you didn’t acquire some proficiency, there was a commitment you weren’t making.

But there was something more important–a willingness to let go of yourself, to respond to what’s around you and what’s moving through you, to tap into the vulnerability that allows us to connect and can leave us feeling alone.

It’s like there was a question in the air, “Are you in?” And you had to make a decision. Even sitting on a porch, saying nothing, you had to make a decision.

https://www.buddydamen.com

-Poochie Wolcott 

Buddy Blogs

Howdy folks! Welcome to the Buddy Damen & The Last Call blog.  We got lots to chew on! This is a great place to chat with us about your love of music.

We look forward to chattin’ with y’all.

Come pay us a visit at https://www.buddydamen.com/blog

 

~ Duke Kostner

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