I’m about a third of the way through a fantastic book called Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument.
I picked it up while in Southwestern Virginia a few weeks back, and I’m hooked — both by Allen St. John’s writing and by Henderson’s story. The latter is considered one of the finest luthiers in the world, having built acoustic guitars for the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Doc Watson, and Clapton, but you don’t have to be famous to get on Henderson’s waiting list. You do have to be patient, however. People have waited more than a decade for one of Henderson’s coveted instruments, which adhere to a standard of excellence that peaked at the Martin guitar company before World War II.
The Martin DCXME I play was built many years later, after the company’s production model changed, and let’s just say my instrument wouldn’t inspire anyone to write a book. It’s an X-Series model, which you might compare to Gibson’s Epiphone line, plus it’s got a hole in the body, its bridge saddle is warped to hell, it’s stained with years of beer spills and bar smoke… it still does the trick, but I haven’t done a great (or even mediocre) job of taking care of it.
Clapton’s Guitar describes this whole other world that feels almost fictional, though ideal may be a better word. Only the finest materials are used. Tremendous care is taken with each aspect of each guitar. Henderson devotees travel hours just to watch him work. The whole thing is fascinating, and I’m enjoying reading it so much that I’ve been meting out pages so I can savor the time I’m spending with it. Or maybe I’m just settling into Henderson’s laid-back production pace.
With last night’s pages still in my head, I grabbed Clapton’s Robert Johnson tribute album on the way out this morning.