Martin OMs Making Music

Marshall Fleisher’s Martin OM-42 and Maury Rutch’s OM-28V

Mates of mine meet up at Maury’s, where music magic is made

Check out this series of videos over at Maury’s Music’s blog

Maury's Music guitarist video

Two of my brothers-in-Martin make up the R and F in D.O.R.K.F., the classic rock cover band that perform in Pennsylvania, but once a year with a long list of special guests.

Marshall Fleisher has been journeyman musician since the Woodstock era and is one of those players with a built in encyclopedia of songs and his own arrangements of fingerstyle tunes, who I get to hear at Martinfest and occasionally elsewhere.

Maury Rutch made his living as a performing musician long before he started moonlighting as a dealer in fine Martin, Blue Ridge, Reverend, and Mesa/Boogie music-making machines. And when he’s not out gigging with one of his own bands, he is happy to serve as sideman for visiting musicians, wandering minstrels, or the occasional back alley tomcat.

I could listen to these guys all day long.

Visions of Johanna – 50 Years Ago Today

May 17, 1966 – Bob Dylan performs Visions of Johanna, solo acoustic

Try imagining someone hearing this song for the first time, rendered by Dylan in top form

Love songs have been a part of music since, well, forever. Many are light or even trite, while some others can be truly moving.

But when it came to popular music in modern times, there were songs about falling in love, falling out of love, being a teenager in love, or a teenager being dumped, occasionally letting someone down easy, or telling them to “hit the road, Jack.”

And then there came Visions of Johanna.

Read the full essay and hear the song HERE

Dylan 1966 Visions of Johanna concert

photo: Mark Makin who took the only photos from the concert, getting “about nine usable shots” from a roll of film, according to the BBC.

Neil Young: “Art is the dog on my porch”

I just found this tonight by accident. Neil Young’s Natural Beauty from 1992.

When everyone in the audience was hearing it for the very first time.

Countless people may strum guitar chords and sing a song and make enjoyable music, without the need for “fancy pickin.” But few perform it with so much infectious emotion as Neil Young, so that it moves the deepest wells of what the most optimistic among us call the soul.

Who make art right there in the invisible air.

“One more night of Love’s magic fire…”


Spoon Phillips Interview at Maury’s Music

Have you wondered who, what, and why is Spoon Phillips?

Taped earlier this week in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, home of Maury’s Music

Check out this video interview on Maury’s blog!

When I met Maury Rutch at Boro Park in Nazreth PA, at the first Martinfest, I knew immediately we would become fast friends. He had a Martin OM-28V with Jackson Browne’s autograph written with a Sharpie on the inside of the Indian rosewood back. And when he took his turn at the little open mic, he sang a lovely song written for his wife, who had given him the guitar as a present.

When he started his business a couple of years later, he asked me to perform at the grand opening of Maury’s Music, where I put on an unofficial clinic, demonstrating various Martin guitars and talking about how they differed. Afterwords I was approached and complimented by another future good friend, Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design at C. F. Martin. And I have been paying visits to each of them ever since, grateful for the opportunity to try out so many new and delightful guitars, and share the results with all of you.

Spoon Phillips interview photo1

Tommy Emmanuel and Laurence Juber Geek Out on Django

Two of the greatest living guitarists, Laurence Juber and Tommy Emmanuel play Django Reinhardt

A couple of guitar players jamming on tunes they love

I cannot believe I have not seen this before

The Jazz trio I have been playing in the past couple of years has been thinking of doing some of Django Reinhardt tunes. And then I find THIS.

The same tunes we have been working on, casually thrown off by, arguably, the two greatest living acoustic guitarists currently gigging around the world.

Clearly we have our work cut out for us before we appear on the same stage as Laurence Juber at Martinfest 2016, in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where they make the Martin guitars LJ and we all play.

Geeking Out

What a joy it is to see two of the historic greats behind the scenes, and basically two guys jamming on tunes by a guitar player they admire and aspire toward.

As I try to say to every guitar player who ever acts sheepish around me: There isn’t a guitar player alive who doesn’t hear some other guitarist out there who makes them say, “How does he DO that?!”

But these guys are out of the stratosphere when it comes to technique, tempo, speed, and all-around chops. Just a delight to be that smart phone fly one the wall.



El McMeen with a Bit of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day with El McMeen’s Arrangement of

“One Morning in May” and “Boys of the Old Brigade”

Arranged and performed by Mel Bay author and teacher El McMeen in the Celtic C tuning (C-G-D-G-A-D) and played on a Tippen Crescendo with mahogany back and sides.

Bill Tippen’s Crescendo model has a 14-fret, slope shoulder design, with a lower bout width of 15-1/2″ and a depth of 4-5/16″.

Pete Huttlinger – Guitarist Spotlight

Pete Huttlinger has died at the age of 54, after suffering a stroke.

A phenomenal arranger, composer, and performer of fingerstyle guitar music.

Huttlinger’s precision playing made the most challenging pieces appear easy as pie, even though the degree of difficulty was anything but.

Here is his signature arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, with the original story of how he came to perform it. There was once a very clean video of Pete in a TV interview telling the same story before playing the tune, but it is no longer on Youtube. So this one will have to do.



 Born in Washington, D.C. in June, 1961. Pete Huttlinger was a 1984 graduate of Berklee School of Music, in Boston. He toured with John Denver and has performed with and for many other A List recording and touring artists. He also won the 2000 National Fingerstyle Championship.

Steely Dan’s “Josie” ala one-man-band Pete Huttlinger.



Born with congenital heart problems, Huttlinger had a massive stroke in 2010 and heart failure some months later. But after a long and arduous recovery, including a battery powered pump to keep his heart going, he regained the ability to play the guitar. His final performance was in Atlanta, on January 9, 2016.

He released the album Parnassus in 2015 in collaboration with Mollie Weaver. And his 2013 album McGuire’s Landing was critically acclaimed. Here is the title cut.



David Bowie Acoustic Guitarist

The late David Bowie knew his way around an acoustic guitar.

He favored the 12-string varieties of various European makers, American guitars being even more expensive back then. But he played 6-string guitars as well, particularly on his records.

He began his career as a psychedelic-folk troubadour rising out of the Dylan-tinged late ’60s before embracing the pre-punk Glamrock and ultimately moving ahead of the various new waves rolling across popular music, rather than riding or following them.

And while he always had a way with interesting chord progressions and creative and lively strumming, he also had a knack for employing exceptionally gifted lead guitar players.

His first U.S. album, Space Oddity (UK title David Bowie) features some wonderful acoustic guitar playing, by Bowie himself and a lead guitarist who was probably Keith Christmas.

The fills and leads on “Letter to Hermione” and “God Knows I’m Good” had a profound influence on my own guitar playing, even if it took me many years before I got out of cowboy chords.

And while David Bowie has featured monster electric guitarists like Carlos Alomar, Stevie Ray Vaughn, G.E. Smith, and Earl Slick, I will ever associate him with the late, great Mick Ronson. His true genius was somewhat stifled on the Bowie records, due to the production style in use, compared to the sheer power he brought to live performances, with rhythm full of hard rocking improvisation and extended solos of raw, unbridled sensuality and bravado. In some ways, I feel Bowie never topped the Spiders from Mars shows, when it came to full out rock n roll.

But Ronson’s acoustic guitar playing on Andy Warhol, from the Honky Dory album remains a wonderful no-nonsense performance of unplugged rock n roll.

David Bowie made it all seem so easy and effortless. But so too did the guitarists whose fingers danced in and around those countless, memorable songs.

So I am happy to take this time on an acoustic guitar blog to share some of those early acoustic guitar songs of the one and only David Bowie.


Letter to Hermione



God Knows I’m Good




Andy Warhol


More on the life and death of David Bowie HERE

Richard Smith Signature Model by Kirk Sands

Virtuoso of fingerstyle Richard Smith has a signature model available at Kirk Sands.

The luthier makes the nylon-string acoustic-electric guitars popularized by Chet Atkins and his legions of dedicated fans.

What sets  the Richard Smith model apart from other Kirk Sands guitars is the traditional round sound hole. Most of Sands’ models do not have a sound hole.


As with other Kirk Sands guitars, “the Smith” is available with various options. According to Kirk Sands:

I collaborated with British guitar virtuoso Richard Smith on this model. Richard had been playing my guitars for many years, but was interested in an instrument that had a soundhole for acoustic gigs, yet had the great electronics and flexibility of my electric models.

The Richard Smith model was born. It has the Sand design cutaway for maximum access to the upper frets. The Rosewood body is slim and easy to hold. Models run between 3.5″ and 3.75″ deep. Perfect for standing with a strap, or sit down play.

Either Sitka or Englemann spruce is used on the soundboard. Indian rosewood back and sides are standard. Brazilian rosewood is available at an upcharge.

This instrument has all the features of a fine concert classical guitar. Ebony fingerboard, Rosewood binding, soundhole rosette, wood purfling all around, with Abalone trim optional. Any nut width, neck size and scale length are also available.

You may not play as well as Richard if you own one of these instruments, but it will put you one step closer to that goal!

Steel String Version Available

Sands now offers a Richard Smith steel string model!  It has a belly bridge and different neck joint to accomidate the extra string tension.

More information at Kirk Sands’ official website

Some of my friends are attending a private house concert this Sunday on Long Island featuring Richard Smith. Lucky bums!