Kevin Aram - Anniversary Guitar 2008

"It was forty years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the boy to play"

I am often asked the question "How did you start making guitars?"

Well, the short answer is I came to making through playing and then buying, repairing and selling the guitars I played.

The long answer is that in 1968 I was in the middle of a three-year course in Fine Art Painting at Exeter College of Art. Seven of us shared a house in Belmont Road and, of the other six chaps; four of them played the guitar. I started playing pretty much in self-defence. It was actually the ideal environment in which to learn as I could go from one to another and pick up a new chord or whatever. As I remember they were always playing.

I shared a room in the house with Richard. Now Richard wanted to be B.B. King and he would play his records over and over and over and over again trying to learn the riffs. It’s amazing that I still like listening to B.B. King as this time should have served as aversion therapy. As I recall Richard had a pretty good Hofner guitar but he used to play it through an old valve radio set, as he had no proper guitar amplifier. At the beginning of the second term, grant cheque freshly stashed in the bank, he went out and bought himself a Vox amp. This thing was resplendent on a gleaming chrome stand and it sounded amazing, now he was beginning to sound like his idol.

By the middle of the term the hole in his finances left by the Vox meant that Richard was running out of money, either the amp or the guitar had to go. I came back to the house one day to be greeted by him not behind his guitar playing a twelve bar but waving a guitar neck at me. "What’s that I asked rather stupidly?" "It’s a guitar neck came the reply. I’m going to make a guitar and you’re going to help me"

The boy was no fool; he’d asked me because I was good at woodwork. King of the Startrite table saw I often made the wooden frames that painters stretch their canvases over for the other students; it helped to keep me in cigarettes.

Richard was good at acquiring things and had soon collected together a bridge, a tailpiece; two pick ups, some pots, capacitors and other parts needed to make an electric guitar. We went to the local timber yard and bought a plank of wood for the body. This was Piranha Pine (not the ideal choice for an electric guitar body at the time but in these days of light bodied chambered electrics the height of fashion!) it’s main advantage being that it was cheapest piece of wood we could find that would make a one-piece body. The body was shaped and decorated with a tasteful pyrographically applied pattern. The neck was attached, some cavities were chiselled out for the pickups and the thing was wired up and assembled. It played surprisingly well and through the Vox sounded easily as good as the Hofner which was duly sold.

That was my first venture into making a guitar.

So this answer is not too long let us fast-forward ten years to 1978 and here I am setting up in business as a full time guitar maker and repairer. Having made only a handful of instruments but with a fair amount of repairing experience I was filled with trepidation though somehow knowing at the same time I could do this.

Fast forward another thirty years to 2008 and here I am an established maker, one of the grand old men of English guitar making with my own Victor club T-shirt and a hotline to sanity.

The main grumble I hear these days is from potential customers who want one of my guitars but can’t get one without a wait. So I thought that to celebrate thirty years in business I would make three guitars, one for each decade, and make them available for sale.

Each guitar will be made from beautiful materials with special Rodgers tuners. The first guitar, now finished, is Brazilian Rosewood with a Spruce top, the second will be Indian Rosewood with a Spruce top and the third will be Yew back and sides with a Cedar top. Each guitar will have an extra signed label identifying them as my anniversary model. There will be no increase above the standard price for these instruments.

So this is "Estelle", the first of these guitars, and it gives me great pleasure to make this instrument available through Staffordshire Classical Guitar Centre.

Enjoy. Kevin Aram. June 2008.