By Eldon Whitford
John used four guitars in the studio to record his fingerstyle CD. John matched his abilities as a fingerstyle guitarist and studio engineering skills with four exceptional guitars, each with its own voice and personality. Here is a bit of history
and description of each of these guitars.

1930 Gibson L-1:
I bought this guitar from Norman Blake several years ago. He had owned it several times throughout his career as a recording artist and used it as a studio guitar on many of his albums. This L-1 has a reputation with he and his studio friends as the "community guitar" because due to its exceptional recording qualities, it had been sold and purchased many times within this small group of recording artist. It is a 12 fret, 25-inch scale, mahogany guitar with red spruce domed top & braces. It is identical in construction to Gibson's most expensive guitar of that period, the Nick Lucas, except for body depth and trim. It is my favorite guitar to play and my favorite studio guitar. It is wonderfully musical and will sing whatever mood you are in.
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1937 Gibson Roy Smack Stage Deluxe:
This guitar was originally owned and played by a woman from near Kalamazoo who purchased it new in 1937. I am the second owner. It is in exceptional condition. Gibson executive & classical guitarist Robin Johns has anointed this guitar as simply the best steel string finger-style guitar he has ever heard or played. Robi is a classical guitarist, fellow instructor and partner with Segovia protégée Christopher Parkening. This old Smeck is built very light & has a quite wide neck and it takes a bit getting used to playing. Every note on any spot on the fingerboard explodes with notes rich with harmonic color. Each note up and down the neck and across the fretboard is as clear and balanced as the next. This guitar quickly became John's primary guitar on his CD.
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1934 Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe:
John became obsessed with these big 12 fret flattops a long time ago as the guitars with the "Holy Grail" tone. The first year these guitars were built was 1934. John's has the features so sought after in the 1934 spruce top, mahogany back & sides, 12 fret neck, small soundhole, Brazilian rosewood bridge and fingerboard, deep upper ribs etc. He was fortunate to find this one before they were quite so well known. I have played thousands of pre-war Gibson and Martin vintage guitars and this Smeck is as good as it gets, period. It is the most powerfully rich and balanced flat-picking guitar I have heard. John uses custom gauged strings which are quite light on the high end, making this guitar sparkle for finger-style as well.
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1936 Martin 000-18:
John stayed with his favorite guitar features of mahogany back and sides, with red spruce top on a vintage guitar as his choice to record with. This old Martin is the only non 12-fret guitar he used. This guitar came to me 35 years ago from Illinois where it had been used in a country band. I used it as my main guitar for a number of years and then sold it to a Canadian friend who played it for several years. When he decided to sell it, John quickly and smartly scarfed it up. John has played this guitar a lot over the years, both flatpicking and fingerpicking. It, like the vintage Gibsons used, has a unique and beautiful voice with a strong fundamental tone and excellent balance.
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Individually, these vintage guitars built by the world's two premier guitar builders are exceptional. Combine any two or three of them and the magic begins with a sound that is almost mystical. John could not have selected a better quartet of guitars for this CD. Listen for yourself; you will not hear better guitar tone on any CD.

2002 F Standard Nugget Mandolin:
Scott Tichenor host of describes the Nuggets as follows:

I don't recall the first Nugget Mandolin I heard or played. I simply remember that when it came time to upgrade a mandolin I'd played and loved dearly for over 16 years there was only one logical choice and it was a clear one. Mike Kemnitzer builds the finest new mandolin in the world today in my opinion. I will speak only for myself, but I know my opinion is shared by a number of Nugget owners when I say that his instruments are equal with the best on the planet, including yesterdays vintage Gibsons. Nugget mandolins are born sounding exceptionally warm and bright. I consider myself as someone with exceptionally high expectations when it comes to sound. When I played my new instrument shortly after receiving it, and when others played it as well, we were all astounded that a new instrument could sound this good.
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I asked Scott for his permission to reprint his description and he oblidged. Please visit his incredible site.