I’ve always felt Aaron Rodgers is the greatest quarterback since John Unitas.
No matter how many Super Bowls Tom Brady has won. I am now convinced.
I would not have believed it if I had not just witnessed one of THE most heroic performances in the history of professional sports – or anywhere outside of actual warfare.
Aaron Rodgers, who was carted off mid-way in the first half to what seemed likely the end of his season due to a leg injury, wasn’t able to stand on his left leg as he took the field in the second half to stare down a 20-0 deficit. I cannot ever remember seeing a player leave on a cart and come back to play again in the same game.
And then he led the Green Bay Packers to a 24-23 victory over their historic rival Chicago Bears, to increase his at-home record to 57-8, and 51-2 since going 6-6 in his first 12 starts.
But there is so much more to it, and you can’t make this stuff up, folks!
Kalil Mack just arrived on the Bear’s roster this week and showed why he deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in league history with his own super hero performance in the first half that included harassing Rodgers non-stop and being the main reason Rodgers went down to be injured when another defender fell on him, to stopping the Packer’s first worthwhile drive, when he charged in like a flash and simply took the ball out of the hand of Rodger’s replacement, Deshone Kizer.
On the next drive, Mack nearly stripped the ball a second time on a “hurry,” before intercepting a Kizer pass that he returned for a touchdown, to put the Bears up 17-0. And most of America went to bed amazed that the Packers were being blown out at home and Aaron Rodgers was done for the season after having missed 10 weeks the previous year due to a broken collar bone.
Then came A-Rod’s gimpy return, which resulted in a field goal, then a bomb to the corner of the end zone right into the hands of a scrappy Geronimo Alison for a TD, to jaw-dropping needle-threading passes for another score, and then Randal Cobb’s 75-yard TD scamper after Rodgers one-legged scramble disrupted the defense and thread yet another needle to get Cobb the ball. And all of it while holding Chicago to 6 points.
AND THEN veteran golden-maned linebacker Clay Mathews had a bizarrely stupid Roughing the Passer call on Fourth Down to give the Bears and their young but steely QB new life. But they failed to convert on a later fourth down, and Rodgers hobbled his way to the victory.
The Green Bay Packers were 0-107 when trailing by 17 or more points in the 4th quarter. But no longer.
For all the hoopla about Rodgers hail mary pass against the Lions some years back, that only happened after the refs called a phantom Face Mask penalty that didn’t actually happen, which gave Rodgers one more play. But this win was absolutely earned. And while the Bears and their fans must feel absolutely gut wrenched, they showed they are a force unlike anything that’s been in Chicago in many years.
And that makes the walking wounded performance of Aaron Rodgers and his mates all the more amazing.
T Spoon Phillips’ album Lost and Haunted Ways is now available for digital downloading
Please follow the link below
Praise for Lost and Haunted Ways…
“A five star soundtrack for a long journey… Well done, Mr. Phillips!” – Gary Hlavinka, Pittsburgh, PA
“A musical storyteller who spins yarns in his playing, the cuts on Spoon’s Lost and Haunted Ways have an evocative, narrative quality, with unpredictable plots and dramatic twists that draw in the listener.
At moments — for example, during “The Ghost’s Walk” — I felt the sensation of getting pulled toward the speakers. Really well done. “ – John Stone-Mediatore, fingerstyle guitarist, Delaware, OH.
“The quality of the recording is crisp and clear, with a performance that is flawlessly executed. Enjoying it!” – Stan Entsminger, Jacksonville, FL.
“Love it! … With each song, I envision traveling to a new location and enjoying the trip.” – Steve Bolfing, Brazoria, TX
“A very gifted song stylist at a really, really high level. And with songs so well constructed, so melodic, so visually evocative, I found myself not even listening to the sounds, but just traveling on little journeys. – Max Zug, Lancaster, PA.
“Each Martinfest is different. And this one was differenter than most.” That is how I put it throughout the weekend.
For example, I didn’t get into the Inner Sanctum but once the entire weekend. The irony of this is, for once my room was directly next door to Special Ed Madonio.
I walked in on Sunday night, and listened to Ed sing a song, while playing what was probably Mike Longworth’s 12-fret 00-45.
And then I went off to make an appointment, and I just never found my way back in there to see what priceless guitars were stacked up in there like Aladdin’s cave. I heard tell of a pre-war Gibson J-200 made of mahogany no less. Actually, I had played that guitar before. But I am sure there were others I would have loved to see for the first time.
But I did finally track down Wayne Wirta (twelvestringer) and his amazing #1 of the last Laurence Juber Signature Editions, that is made with Guatemalan rosewood, high-altitude Swiss spruce, as well as hide glue and thin finish, etc. My custom is similar, but made in the short scale, with Adirondack spruce. And while I find that Juber model to be particularly awesome, I was pleased the Wayne felt my guitar was right up there with it.
After we left the hotel, we drove to Brother’s Music in Wind Gap, PA, where we were treated to a pizza lunch, and I got to check out Brother’s Music’s first build. This is the first guitar they have built from scratch, with koa back and sides they had to bend to make the sides, a righteous Adirondack spruce top, 1937 style bracing, but a post-1938 1-11/16” neck, all done up in Old Style-42!
It has much more soul and depth in the bottom end then one might associate with koa, typically speaking, and that worked so well to support those angels in the high end that koa has like no other tonewood. REALLY magnificent.
And they also had a 1927 00-45 belonging to someone who wondering around Martins on Main, and was in the song circle room when I arrived Saturday night. But she and her sideman were just leaving. A pity. Oh, and they have a 1932 OM-28, in need of a lot of work on the neck and fretboard. But I have never seen a ’32 before! A very cool way to end the day.
And for all the guitars I missed out on playing at this once in a year opportunity, or maybe even once in a lifetime, there were also the people I missed out on.
So many names and faces that came and went who belong in this journal of adventure, and are in it, even if I failed to mention them directly. But for too many of them were barely brushed as I made my way to some room or another.
I got to play some sore-hand licks in the hallway, for maybe one minute, as Craig Lambeth (Craigo) tore UP a 1943 000-18. I got to hear some of Marshall Oberholtzer tearing up some blues his own weathered D-18, at the Park open mic. But saw narrow a note during the hotel jamming. But at least I got to hear Danny Kerr nailing a Jason Isbell tune that Laura would have LOVED. And then sing a stunning tune with with his partner in music Bri Fornay, and his Aunt, Margaret Prunty (0018Vfan.)
And then there are those would couldn’t make it, like Jim and Pam Fix from Arkansas, and Fred Cummings and Jim Behnke from Arizona, and Evan Blanchard from Wisconsin, and Ira Strum from New Jersey, and Bill and Amy Kunsman from Pennsylvania who had to be in Texas for very important family reasons. All wanted to be here but more important matters kept them away. And then there are those who really should come back one of these days, like Gary Hydrick, Tom Conroy, Ed Ard, Cliff and Paula Monges, Tim Porter, Rick, Marylou, and Jack Colgan, Pete Bentley, the list really does go on and on.
But their ranks have been filled with newer folks, and some who can’t always make it but did this year, like Mike Thompson from Cambridge, England, and Rod Loomis (Rod Loomis) from Michigan, who was happily back after a year off for other important matters.
As in other years, when someone would ask, “How are you?” I would answer, “I’m at Martinfest!” And enough was said.
But while this was as bittersweet as any Martinfest has been to date, there were many, many people walking around with that smile they didn’t even realize they had, because they were at Martinfest, Len Rosenberg (Ragpicker,) Dick Boak, and Tony Phillips come to mind here, as does Rich Gerardis (Rich 28H) and Sue Probst and Sue Schier (Jamesue1.)
Tuesday, 5:30 PM. I just received a call out of the blue from Jay Keller.
He said that he and Amy just woke up from their post Martinfest stupor, in Chicago, where I guess they will visit some friends or family before heading back to California.
Jay said he was emotionally drained, beyond anything he has experienced in many years.
It occurred to me that I can say the same, and that is the primary reason I have not picked up my own torch and continued with my Martinfest Journal of Adventure.
And I know I really should.
It is just, so many of us approached this Martinfest unsure how we would or could deal with the absence of Laura Voorhis, who has been such a lynchpin of this event from the very start.
I am sure I am not the only one who must have (had) some unconscious guilt going on about having a great Martinfest with Laura not there and after what she went through. Knowing she would have wanted us to have great Martinfests doesn’t change that.
And just as UMGF Administrator Doug Truxillo (dwtrux) put it, the true and full impact of Laura’s death didn’t take hold until he arrived at Martinfest. But none of us could have been prepared for one of our most-beloved members succumbing to a massive stroke in our midst, and dyeing shortly afterwards.
Those who knew Greg Kendig even a little bit can appreciate what a sad thing it is. Those who did not know him have their own comparisons to go by from those they have known and loved.
Another UMGF administrator, Ed Madonio, said how there were no words that could voice the impact of that, the grieving that has been going on. But he also praised the attendees for not turning the event into a three-day funeral, as it might easily have become. Greg, Laura, and all of our friends who went before them could not have possibly wanted such a thing.
And at the same time, the events of the past year have made every second of Martinfest so very precious, as many of those who have come to many, or even every Martinfest were forced to see how rare and special the event is, even if they have come to take it for granted on those years we can attend. And it became clear how the man or woman next to them, playing an instrument or raising their voice in song, or eating some snack or other, may not be there next year, or ever again.
That says more than enough of the whirling currents behind every word I have typed since Thursday morning.
I will start this episode, like the last one, at the end of Martinfest. Or at least what I consider the official end, when I went to bed sometime Sunday night (Monday morning.)
At the very end, sometime before dawn, after I could no long return to the room that held the final singalongs, I entered the main socializing room to find California Jay Kellor and Texas Mark Ulrich (mulirch) alone among the empty chairs and empty cups and bottles.
After some rambling conversation of music and prior Martinfests, Jay expressed his ardent need for us to sing a song with him.
It turns out to be a round, of an old German folksong. But he didn’t know what it was until Mark looked it up (and I was mighty impressed at X:xx AM that Mark could sight read it on the spot and both sing and then pick out the notes on his guitar.)
It was the first piece of music that affected Jay as a small child, who was taught it in school.
The lyrics are:
All things must parish under the sky
Music alone shall live, music alone shall live
Music alone shall live, never to die
It has always been the music that brought us to Martinfest in the first place and that which we shared in as we started building other bonds.
It allowed so many different types of people from different places and points of view to find common ground. It also allowed us to set aside our differences and enjoy other people who enjoy what may be the only thing that truly separates us from other species on this planet – music. The friendship-building humor and camaraderie developed over time, to the point that first-timers are welcomed into it and catch up in a hurry.
That last group of singers, in the smaller room across the hall, began as a Beatles singalong. This is significant. The Beatles singalong was retired some years ago, by its chief perpetrator Mike Buono (Mikey517) – one of the 17 Year Club, who has an encyclopedic memory for Beatles tunes. Back in the day the singalong would go to the weeest hours, with no song being repeated. And Mikey was always accompanied by Frank Krupit, who has a good memory for the guitar solos from most of those songs.
Others came and went, to sing, play along when they could, or just listen. But after a time it broke off into other songs by other songwriters, helped along with stalwarts like Rhys Ord, Jim Adams, Mike Thompson, Jack Rickenbach (Jackenbach,) Marian Chaprnka (MarianC) and husband Tony, and singers like Brenda Miller-Riley (MusicalBrenda) whose strength as Laura’s best friend was cherished, and whose joining in our family celebrations of our past, present, and future was some of the best medicine we could have had this weekend.
Prior to an intimate jam with old pals Maury Rutch and Rhys Ord of tunes we really can’t not play and call it a Martinfest, there was an event unique thus far in Martinfest history.
The admins and moderators asked us to join them in the main room for a champagne toast, to acknowledge the unique situation and express their gratitude that we had forged ahead and had a great Martinfest after all. It was here they made the statements mentioned above, and others too.
We laughed more than we cried, frankly, as people remembered our friends kindly. And after all that, I spoke up and reminded people that our very dear friend Paul Bonnici was very ill and had been hospitalized, and unable to attend Martinfest. For those who don’t know or remember, Paul was the night manager at the hotel where we spent most of our Martinfests, and who embraced us utterly, as we did him.
So, I stood up on a chair and asked for everyone to say “Hi Paul, we miss you. Get well soon!” And, Paul being a theater man, and I being a former one, I asked to practice it, but I was told by the throng they had it down and were ready to go. And the results were a unbridled gushing forth of heart-felt exuberance and best wishes. I sent it to Paul along with the story behind it, which he enjoyed. It was more of the best kind of medicine that had been going around Martinfest all weekend.
The toast interrupted a very fun mini-session, where visiting artist Wil Maring played bass as the Paul Ukena Trio tried to remember some of the tunes we expect to play at a gig we got while at Martinfest (August 26 at Jack Rickenbach’s place, in West Chester, PA.)
It was a shock to see how much studying I have to do to relearn all those intricate arrangements Paul came up with for those Ellington and Fats Waller tunes, etc. But it was also very cool to see how good it all sounded with an upright bass player who was such a quick study herself. We were also interrupted when Robert Bowlin came in to borrow Wil’s ears as he checked out a vintage Martin, perhaps with the hope of tracking one down for himself.
I know Paul and Wil and others returned to the swing tunes after the toast, but I had other fish to fry in terms of the sessions mentioned above.
I also tried to track down a particular guitar to check out, but didn’t until Monday, so I will save that for the epilogue post.
I had expected to use groceries for all the meals this year, out of economic necessity. But as we were coming back from the afternoon in the park, my guest, Tina, saw the Outback Steakhouse and really wanted to go. As it happened, many others were expected to go there, and we went back to hotel to freshen up and head out with them.
The waiting list at the Outback was backed out the door and around the block. So we soldiered on to the Texas Roadhouse, with Maury Rutch driving his wife Lori’s brand new car, as she sat in the back happily bonding with Tina, and the ever smiling Judy Atkins, who came along for the company and the food. Her husband Bruce (Lamplighter66) chose to remain back in his realm as Prince of Song Circles. I regret that my turns in the song circle rooms seemed to during his breaks from them. Maybe next year!
There were many other Martinfesters at the restaurant, and the atmosphere was downright giddy at times.
I felt that way at the Park that day, part of the day. It was a bit of a roller coaster. And at the very end, Rosemarie Ratvasky (BigMamaJ40) sang your heart-piercing song for Laura, and my own personal floodgates burst forth, after many prior leaks in the dyke showed that it was coming eventually.
The moment I arrived that morning I was expected out at the trees for the memorial service and before I could finish tuning my guitar the first song was underway. So with shaky hands I embarked on the introduction to the Beatles’ “In My Life” with Paul Ukena singing, and Frank Krupit providing the George Martin solo bits, which we used as both the introduction and the break.
Words were said, by Ed Madonio and Rhys Ord, and others. Although that was the end of the official memorial event, everyone stayed right there, to join us Old Guard in singing the songs chosen for some of our early losses from previous years. These included “Margaritaville,” “As Tears Go By,” “Edelweiss,” and “Ripple.”
The group photo, directed by Jay Keller (aka head of the Lollypop Guild) was as hilarious as ever, despite the swampy humidity, and there was an extra-large group of the Women of Martinfest photo, it seemed to me. And a good thing it was too.
The spontaneous announcement that there was to be a photo of the Green Dot newbies, not so much, as only three people answering that description were still on hand to pose. There were twenty-seven registered. I am truly sorry I got to meet so few of them this year.
I realize that the administrators decided Laura was irreplaceable, so there was nothing like an official opening night party. The Friday night reception idea didn’t quite fill the same niche, as many people went out to dinner instead. So I urge them to consider such a future event being billed specifically as a welcoming party for the Green Dots where people can make an effort to meet and greet them, when they are all in the same barrel, as it were.
After the 17 Year Club photo at the trees, Jay decided to place us on the concrete bridge that spans the creek – which has been particularly fast and high due to the rains of the previous days. And he took off his munchkin socks and stood in the middle of the stream, tripod sunk into the rocks.
Here is the result
Unfortunately John Hall (tippie53) missed these photos, as he had business to attend to elsewhere. But he was otherwise all over the place, singing songs, playing along, giving guitar checkups, probably installing a pickup or two, never seeming to be in a hurry, but never seeming to stop moving.
The open mike at the Park that day was exceptionally good. And I was happy to see my old friend Jim Fortmuller reprising a song he sang at the hotel, which he wrote for his sister after the death of her husband. I was also proud as punch to be able to accompany my friend “Tina” (Christine) on her official Martinfest debut, where she sang Carol King’s “It’s Too Late” after singing harmony on one of my own compositions.
I am pleased that I was able to sell nearly half the CDs I had delivered to the hotel from the manufacturer, and half of those sales happened at the Park that day. Unfortunately, we had left them at the hotel and scurried back there after the photos. So I had to miss the debut of a new song by Matt Carroll (D. Forty). I was surprised that he had not dived into the songwriter’s pool before now, given his prowess as a guitarist and a singer, and having worked professionally as the S in a CSNY tribute act. Here’s to hoping the bug has bite and we will be hearing more Matt Carroll songs this time next year.
Matt and brother Jeff (Cardinal2B) skedaddled early on Sunday. And thus began the exodus I always try to pretend isn’t happening. And since Monday was not an official Martinfest day this year, it started happening way earlier than I expected. It is like a parade that makes clear just how many people I didn’t get to pick with or sing with or even hang out with at a particular Maritnfest.
But as Mikey Buono put it long ago, “It’s OK. We don’t need to do that anymore. We’re family. Just seeing each other and having that hug is what it is really all about.”
Mike had to arrive later than usual this year, but made the most of his time, at the Sunday night singalongs, and on Sunday day at the Park, where he and Mark Stawlwick and Jim Celica were seen standing barefoot in the middle of the stream, until they talked me into joining them. The mercury was over 90 and probably over 95% humidity. So that water was nice and cold and some of those fellas just never came out, as various people joined them from time to time. After a while, I looked over to find Mike and Mark sitting in lawn chairs, still in the middle of creek! Every Martinfest one will see something new that no one had thought of before.
For some people it is the new Colorado Capo, which Matt Carroll helped invent. He had sent a prototype up here a year ago for me and some others to try out. And the branded first model was in tow this year, although I never got a chance to use it. It has a very successful design in terms of keeping things in tune, and is a U-shape capo with the screw at the back, and a gate-style piece that frets the strings, with a wild shallow plate that can be interchanged with other plates. Hard to describe on the fly. But keep your eyes peeled for it becoming available for sale!
Another last-day attendee was Scooter Ferguson (ScooterD35) who wouldn’t have missed the memorial service and 17 Year Club bonding for a pile of gold. I have only had to miss a day or two of Martinfest once in all seventeen years. But I do know what it is like when life outside Shangri La puts up those roadblocks.
Fran Kriston (custardsdad) is another 17 Year Club member I hardly got to hug before he had come and gone, back on the road to Maryland. Sorry, Fran, that I didn’t get a CD to you as requested. I’ll get your mailing address via PM.
Sunday morning started for me the usual way, having a mighty large (free) buffet breakfast at the hotel, and a chance to chat with people about what they have been up to during Martinfest and since the last one. And others gathered at the Park early enough to take part in the Worship Service of song and prayer, which led up to the memorial service at the trees.
And so another Martinfest is in the books. I am particularly grateful for my extended family for showing such a fine welcome to my friend Tina and her adorable companion Bella the wonder pooch. Being a city girl, Bella had a spectacular adventure and clearly loves you all.
Here she is, contemplating the deeper things that make Martinfest indescribable to those who’ve never been.
Having a heart the size of Ohio, Tina took the events of Thursday night about as hard as anyone could who never got to know Greg, and she had immediately bonded with Leanne earlier that evening. But the warmth and genuine friendship offered to her and seen expressed all around her helped us both make this a most memorable Martinfest never to be forgotten.
I am sure I will be editing this Journal of Adventure and adding bits I forgot to mention, and photos as they become available, from our cameras and those of others.
And the epilogue about the annual trip to Brothers and the Monday goodbyes will follow sometime later today.
Great thanks to the Admins and their many helpers (great job, Nikki and Madge, and Craig “MakenSawdust” Mayhan!) and continued best wishes to you all.
So there I was, sliding my room card into my room’s door at 3:30 AM…
And I was still leaving a few people standing in the snacks room with guitars in their hands, or hovering about those who still had guitars in their hands.
Three of these people were Jim.
There was Jim Adams (Green River Running) pounding out the tunes on a rosewood custom dreadnought, customized enough that it would be hard categorize it, other than to say it subtle pearl accents around the top, rosette, and fretboard. Jim has been the last man standing alongside me at more than one Martinfest, although it has been more difficult for him to get here since he relocated out West to Vista, CA.
There was Jim Burke, from Colonia, NJ, as even keeled as ever with the CEO-7 that just seems like an extension of his corporal and spiritual body, and that constant expression of serenely enjoying yet another Martinfest, while humbly exhibiting how, as was described that night by someone else as, Jim is a much better guitar player than he realizes.
And there was Jim Fortmuller (Fortja) from Alexandria, VA, with someone else’s 000-28 Eric Clapton model – Jim’s own loyal D-35 still waiting for its master in the song circle room, in its baby blue Martin case. It has been over five years since he and I were working for the same company, and here he is, finally making his first Martinfest, and making the most of it. I knew he was a very good songwriter, and now so many others found that out, in the song circle room, and from his short set at Martin on Main earlier in the day.
The others in that last little group were Skye Van Saun (Skyewriter,) just enjoying the vibe with while holding her long-empty champagne glass like a scepter of high office; Tony Phillips (Tonguy,) whose scotch class was rarely empty, nor the chambers of his smoking Quip and Jestin’; and Danny Kerr, from Marysville, Ohio, who opened the Martin on Main performances in harmony with his brother Matt (Orangematt), and who was falling hard for the Madagascar and Adirondack seduction in the America’s Guitar limited edition belonging to Jay Keller (Jay Keller,) who was also there as I slipped out, still pounding out songs with Jim Adams.
Before I found my way to that hardcores sanctuary, I had been taking part in some jamming on traditional Country and Jazz and Latin tunes led by Paul Ukena (Mac Mechanic,) with one of our guest artists, Will Marin on the upright bass fiddle and lead vocal, and including stalwarts like Rick McClay (McThistile) on a Martin acoustic bass guitar, Fred Kagen with his wonderful 1943 000-18, when he wasn’t playing Bob Hamilton’s (Pickaherringbone) heavenly 1934 000-28, and Al Coppella (AlCopp) who wasn’t singing a capella, and eventually Frank Krupit (LEFTFRANK) whose arrival allowed us to pull out some of our Paul Ukena Trio tunes, albeit in much looser arrangements to accommodate the other players.
Similar loose arrangements were filling up the room next door early in the evening, as Will and her partner Robert Bowlin were at the heart of a much larger play-along with mandolins and a bunch of guitars in addition to Robert’s 1943 000-18 and his well-worn fiddle, as well as Will’s 1950’s D-28. Standouts included Don MacNeil from Celtic Spirit, on Mandolin, and Lee Cunningham on his very new custom dreadnought that appeared to be a D-18 with a large sound hole, and colorful wood marquetry ala Style 30.
Lee caught me mesmerized as my internal computer tried to download the imagery and processes what his guitar might be, and he turned to guy next to him and said, “He’s doing it again.”
And I spent the first part of the evening in the song circle room, listening to some of the people already mentioned, along with Diana Keller (Dianasaur) just knocking it out of the park with contemporary cover tunes owned by her soulful voice, and Gypsy Davey Kraut (David’s Harp) pulling out edgy traditionals and delightful originals I have never heard him play in all these years.
By the way, I got a report of a fella in that circle with “curly hair” and a pinkish shirt, who had a wonderful singing voice and sang something he had written for his wife. But I was out of the room. And I cannot figure out who it was. So if anyone remembers, please let me know!
Not much else to mention, except for another successful Martin on Main at the top of the street fair in downtown Nazareth, PA, where Martin had a booth set up of new guitars – including an amazing D-28 Authentic 1937 with a surprisingly comfortable neck, running into Danny Brown, manager at the Custom Shop who sought me out to thank me for the letter I wrote to them expressing my appreciation for the custom Martin I received in December; C. F. Martin IV, who was happy to have his photo taken with me and that same guitar, a whole host of talented musicians taking the main stage, along with our guest artists Robert and Will, who played a very nice set indeed thanks to Will’s charming voice and Roberts very genuine voice and his nimble fingers that have made him the only person to date to win the title of National Champion at Winfield in both flatpicking and fingerpicking.
It is too bad that the rain came back to cut the day short. But it was great fun while it lasted. I was among those whose set was cancelled. But I still got some brownie points back at the hotel by playing the Tom Waits song I had doctored a bit in dedication to my sweetie pie, who is here for her first Martinfest and having a wonderful time. And she finally got to do some singing of her own in the song circle room last night and will be making her lead singer debut at the Park open mic later today.
OK, gotta get to the free breakfast while it lasts…
Thursday was whirlwind. We had smooth sailing once we were through the Holland Tunnel, but ran into zero-visibility rain, just a few minutes form the hotel.
This is our second year at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Conference Center, with some overflow down the lane at the Hampton Inn.
The greeting of old friends began the moment I walked through the door to find Ken Klamert (kens d28) from down Louisiana way, sitting in one of the lobby chairs, happy to be here and happy to have brought along the old 00-18 he knows I am so fond of – which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year.
It would be a birth-year Martin for another favorite southerner who is happily in attendance. But since he don’t look his age I shan’t mention any names. But I hope he will forgive my sporadic reports.
I sent out an APB about my room location and soon heard a knocking.
There was Ed “Sweet Lips” Madonio, David Musselwhite, along with Fred Schrager. And with them was a brand new D-1 Authentic, which Ed claimed to be the best sounding brand new Martin he ever heard. I have yet to experience this instrument myself, but I hope to later this evening. [Didn’t happen. Sigh. Next year!]
And then came the many hellos and reunitings, and delightful meet ups with some various friends who haven’t been able to come to Martinfest for some time, in some cases four or five years! These included Stuart Sharp a Scotsman who lives in Homefirth, England and Mark Stalwick, from the Seattle area, who was clearly having a great time back in the ranks of us long-time Martinfest vets.
The weather had kept many from arriving for the traditional first night. So it was a more intimate event. I was quite tuckered out from the previous two weeks of 14 hour days, so we retired early, without any clue of course of the tragic events that followed soon after. And while Greg’s tragic death is a sad blow for all his Martinfest friends, I know the last thing he would want is ruin the party for everyone else. And we will bond together all the more as a result.
On Friday morning, after the somber breakfast at the hotel, my guest and Bella the wonder pooch headed off to the Martin factory for their first ever tour. We missed the turn off and ended up coming back through the countryside from the east of town, and through the hamlet of Cherry Hill, which is where C. F. Martin Sr. settled his family after they moved from New York City circa 1839.
I used to imagine Cherry Hill being way out in the countryside, from the letters and descriptions from that time. Only in recent years did I realize that it is in fact the gentle rising land directly across the street from Martin Guitar’s current location! Then I realized back in the early 1800s, Nazareth was situated on one hill, and Cherry Hill was basically the next hill over. And all that bottom land between has been swallowed up by the modern town.
I have not taken a tour in some years, so I was surprised to see so many aspects of the guitar-building process has become the work of high-tech robots, like the stamping of the center strip that goes inside the guitar, and other things once done by human hands.
As a reminder or a caution to those who don’t know, Martin starts work at 5 AM so most of the work stations are empty by 2 PM. A word to the wise is, get the earliest tour possible. And these days, you cannot get a tour before 11 AM, unless you reserve it in advance.
I did get a quick handshake from Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design, and a quick wave to Jeff Allen busy in a meeting, as one can expect the Vice President of Global Manufacturing to be. And there, putting some extra hours in, was Emily of the Custom Shop, who is focusing on the ornate cosmetic appointments these days.
They have moved the Custom Shop to the front door where the tours enter, rather than having it hidden deep inside. A very smart move I feel.
Despite getting there later in the day, we did get to go up to the desk of Michael Dickinson, where he showed us an 0-28 from the early 1890s in immaculate condition, with its original coffin case, and the period shipping crate! It had hand written addresses on it, in flowing script, and there was even a photograph of the guitar’s original owner, sitting on a lawn as a teenager, playing a banjo among older family members. After a little work the old ivory friction peg tuners should allow it to be tuned up and played. Hmmmm. Another Authentic Series model in the works?
Speaking of new guitars in the works, one of lucky members has purchased a very special prototype – of the CEO-7 TWELVE-STRING! I have yet to see this guitar. But it was making the rounds Friday night after I was tucked up under the covers to get a march on the world. (More about this special instrument later.)
That reminds me The first guitar I played at this year’s Martinfest was an AMAZING 1932 00-40H that has been converted to a 00-45 by T J Thompson. He even managed to preserve all the original pearl and binding while inlaying the extra pearl. The guitar was purchased without a fingerboard, so he had to make a new one, as well as a new bridge. But as expected, they were both emasculate reproductions.
But I am getting ahead and behind of myself. After our tour and checking out the Summer NAMM Martins, which I unable to come see in July do to my recording project schedule, we headed off the Nazareth Boro Park for the first official UMGF Martinfest day.
Again the weather and work schedules kept many way on Friday this year. So it was a small but content group listening to the open mic performances, playing some the guitars set out, etc. I most enjoyed a MINT 1902 00-30, with extra light steel strings on it. I remain amazed how the vintage 00s can project so much beautiful tone when played with even a light hand.
And then the rains returned with a vengeance. And I mean biblical proportions as the light struck repeatedly near by, and the downpours when from heavy, to extremely heavy, to this is ridiculous heavy, and the creek running along the Long Pavilion took on the looks of the raging Colorado River.
After it broke we all scattered for the hotel, but another even harder rain hit and the highway came to a halt, so we did a U Turn on the entrance ramp and took the back rounds, which paid off well.
There was a cheese and wine sort of reception at 7 PM and by that time many more regulars and first-timers had arrived and things were getting well under way. Both of the main music rooms were full, but as I was still running on fumes from the past month, I was back to another early bed (by Martinfest standards) and my overworked hands were given another day off, except for the short rehearsal I had with Paul Ukena and Frank Krupit for our Martin on Main performance.
I am happy the good night’s sleep and hand rest have paid off.
The rains have stopped, the sun is supposed to be out by noon, and it looks to be a right fine day ahead, if a swampy one after the week’s monsoon.
A great friend and even greater human being has died.
At long last I can get back to a keyboard to share the very tragic news that Greg Kendig (Kendig97), died suddenly at the end of the first evening of Martinfest.
I got the news as we were on our way to breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
No words can adequately convey the loss for us all, which does not come close to what his wife and family are now suffering.
This has been a year of loss in the dearest, saddest of ways. But no one could have predicted such a tragedy could befall such a strong and vital man, and one of the be persons one could know, at the very event that brought him into all our lives, and which he so loved.
Sunday’s memorial for our departed friends will now be as much for Greg as all the others who have gone before him.
I have suspended posting in my Journal of Adventure for the time being. I will return to it tomorrow, Saturday, if not tonight.
Each year, I am expected to write and post my Martinfest Journal of Adventure
And I must do it whilst trying to play guitar, catch up with old friends, get to know new ones, and maybe find time to sleep. OK, maybe not sleep.
Here is the first installment, just now posted at the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum, the organization responsible for this amazing event.
I pulled into Nazareth, just about a year ago, not having a clue as to what would transpire across the coming twelve months. And now I can reflect a bit as I await my ride to take me to the Shangri-La that is Martinfest – the 17th Annual Martinfest no less.
And as the years have accumulated, this event has started to eclipse birthdays and Christmases as the major milestone marker in my life, and turned into a family reunion of sorts as much or more than a wonderful opportunity to see and play some of the most exquisite acoustic guitars ever created, and hear so much wonderful music, in a setting of all-day, all-night celebration and frivolity.
This Martinfest comes with some significant firsts.
I always enjoy meeting people for the first time, at their first Martinfest. So, if you are a Green Dot newbie, please feel free to seek me out and say hello. And pass that along to anyone you veterans might be bringing as a guest.
I am actually bringing along a guest for the first time ever, myself. And she is quite excited about meeting everyone and joining in the singing of songs and the making of merry. So, in the Martinfest sense, I am a bachelor no longer.
That makes me very happy. But I am also quite sad that she never got to meet Laura Voorhis, as I am certain they would have made fast friends and enjoyed each other’s company and humor immensely.
Laura, who had been to every Martinfest, and who was the hostess supreme of the informal Thursday Night Welcoming Party, had to leave this greater cosmic party early. And as far as I am concerned, this entire Martinfest will be played-out and made the most of in her honor.
No one was more supportive and encouraging of my own music than Laura, from the moment she handed me her first Martin at the first Martinfest and asked me to play it for her, because she was too shy about playing in front of other people. So, I am selfishly sorry she didn’t get a chance to see and her my first commercially available album of original solo guitar compositions.
It will be officially released on August 9, 2018. But until then, it will be exclusively available to anyone attending Martinfest who might be interested in owning a copy. And you can learn more about that at tspguitar.com and One Man’s Guitar.
A copy o f the CD will be auctioned off at the Park on Sunday, to benefit the UMGF Martinfest coffers.
And so I am seriously ready to wind down and unwind after the four months of recording and production, and mourning far too many losses, and to get down to playing guitars just for the fun of it, and the love of it, and for the love of music that we all share at Martinfest, while we can.
May there be much rejoicing and delightful voicing.