Nothing makes me happier, or do I find more inspiring, than seeing friends kick ass doing something they love to do. I first met Smokey Hormel back in the 80’s, going to watch bands around the LA area. He played in a western swing band called the Radio Ranch Straight Shooters and a few other blues bands at that time. I later took his place in the Radio Ranch Straight Shooters after Smokey left to pursue other projects.
I clearly remember one time in particular seeing Smokey play at the Shamrock Club. He was with a small combo and played Benny Goodman’s Till Tom Special. It was the first time I had seen someone play a Charlie Christian solo note for note. Seeing Smokey play like that was super inspiring to me. I later learned that he had studied with the great swing guitarist Jimmy Wyble. Since then, Smokey has continued to have a successful career as a musician and recording artist.
A few months back Smokey emailed and asked if I’d put a tele together for him with one of my CC pickups at the neck position. I was thrilled! I put together a guitar with a Marc Rutters body and neck, my CCesque pickup in the neck position, my tele bridge pickup, wound by Curtis Novak, and I inlayed Smokey’s name on the pick guard.
Smokey has played and recorded with everyone from Beck to Johnny Cash to Adele, as well as many other talented musicians. Last night I got a text from him saying he just used the guitar I made for him with Beck on the Colbert Report. Here it is…
Check out all the incredible projects Smokey’s worked on, and is involved with now on his website here. Thanks for the continuing inspiration Smokey.
Broken Arrow’s own JD McPherson has been tearing up the road with some great vintage tones for a while now. We recently had the privilege of installing some custom parts from TK Smith for JD on a brand new tele including an inlaid pickguard and a Charlie Christian pickup. TK did a great job with the parts and JD came to us to have them installed. After the new parts were installed, we did a full setup to deal with some playability issues. JD took it out on the road and after talking with him this morning he says this Tele is his new number 1! Thanks JD.
Check out TKSmith.net for some really cool custom parts and guitars.
Catch JD this Friday, May 9th in OKC at the Performance Lab JDMcPherson.com
The original pickup and guard.
We just had the pleasure of hosting Australian guitarist Pat Capocci and his girl Chloe for a few days of fun and picking in the desert. Pat came over to make his first U.S. appearance at the Viva Las Vegas #17 festival in April. He recently signed with Wild Records in LA so the gig in Vegas gave him the opportunity to record his next project while in the U.S., and come out to our place for a little R&R as well.
TK has known Pat for a number of years from playing on the same bill at festivals in Europe and when he played in Australia a few years ago with Big Sandy. If you follow our blog, you’ve seen that TK has modified Pats guitars, made custom pickups for him and he’s been using our guitar accessories for a long time. We’re proud that such a talented young player wants to be Smith equipped. As we always try to do when anyone comes for a visit, they sat down and did a little iPhone recording on a Sunday afternoon. Part of the series: “In The Shop With”
We had a great time hanging out with Pat and Chloe in Pioneertown, Joshua Tree National Park and Read The Rest
I recently had the pleasure of working on long time friend Sean Mencher’s Telecaster. We’ve talked about doing this modification for a few years now so I was honored to finally get my hands on it. Sean’s a big Merle Travis fan so we set his Tele up like Merle’s Bigsby. The modifications include C.A.R. blade pickup with a custom walnut trim ring, custom bridge, a cut down B16 and a custom bakelite pick guard.
I first met Sean when he was playing with High Noon from Austin in the late 80′s, one of my favorite bands to share the bill with when I was playing full time with the Fly Rite Trio. In the mid 90′s while I was living in Encinitas, CA, he came by for a visit and you can see in the photo above, its the same guitar.
A few weeks after Sean got his guitar back from my shop, he sent me this great video of him playing it. Still one of my favorite pickers today.
This past weekend was the opening of Palm Springs Modernism Week. When we first moved to the desert, this event was a little weekend show based around modernist vendors selling their wares at the convention center over one weekend. Now its turned into two weeks consisting of the show the first weekend, plus hundreds of lectures, house and building tours, fashion shows, music events and parties celebrating and educating on the mid century architects and architecture that have made Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley famous worldwide. TK and I always try to attend at least one event. If you don’t choose early, everything sells out.
By the time we thought of it this year, we were thrilled that the tour of the Edris House by architect E. Stewart Williams still had openings. We have driven by and photographed the outside of the house many times. Its one of our favorite mid-century homes in Palm Springs. E. Stewart Williams, his father and brother made up the firm of William’s, William’s & William’s, and were responsible for many of the architectually significant buildings in Palm Springs and the surrounding area, most notably, Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate in 1947.
The Edris House, designed in 1953 for Marjorie and William Edris from Seattle, appears to rise from the rocky landscape. Its a great example of William’s philosophy that architecture should appear that it comes from the earth rather than being placed on it. Everything in the house is original with the exception of the carpeting and furniture. With the materials used in construction, including knotless Doug Fir, glass and local stone, it suits the lot perfectly. Fortunately, the current owners have done a great job of preserving the original condition and in 2004, the Edris house was designated a “Historic Building” by the Palm Springs City Council so it will always be protected from alteration.
New tours have been added if you can get to the desert. Check the Modernism Week website to see whats still available. There are many photos of this amazing home out there, but its always fun to take our own. Here’s a few that TK took during the tour.
Lee Jeffriess sent me this clip a few days ago and it’s too good not to share. Two songs from the tonight show in Oct of ’56. Total time is 5:19 so if you only have time for one song, watch ”Now’s the Time” it starts at 2:29. If this doesn’t make you want to practice…
It’s amazing that for someone like me who originally never wanted a cell phone and just started using email a few years ago, that we can ship a guitar to France and a few short days later get back a video of it’s new owner playing a great version of Sixty Minute Man. I really like Al’s picking style. There’s a lot of drive, I can almost hear an upright bass player and a snare drum with brushes in the background. Technology has made my world much smaller in a good way and introduced me to some pickers that I would have otherwise never known. Thanks Al for sharing!
A few weeks ago we sent a box down to Brisbane Australia that included two C.A.R. pickups, a custom pickguard, a chopped B-16 and one of my bridge bases. I got this great clip back in the mail this morning. Looks like Dan and his Dad did a nice tidy job of putting everything together.
If you’ve visited our site before, you may have noticed some changes around here. TK’s focus has shifted in the past four years from general fabrication to almost exclusively focusing on custom guitars, guitar parts and all that goes with the design and manufacturing process of these products. Therefore, we wanted our website to better reflect what our business is about today. With the help of our friend Ryan over at Atomic Industry and of course The Jalopy Journal, we’ve been able to do that. (Thanks Ryan!)
A few things that won’t change:
TK and team will continue using our vintage American made tools to fabricate the highest quality guitars and accessories, at times in our somewhat hillbilly methods, because we feel that made in America does matter and new is not always better. There are faster and cheaper ways to do things but that’s not who we are.
We will continue to share music from, and stories about some of the best players from today and yesterday, from all over the world, who continue to inspire us to be better at what we do and to keep practicing every day.
We will continue to share photos, stories and videos about architecture, art, cars, tools, other interests and the crazy and beautiful desert we live in because these are the things that make life interesting to us, and hope that you may find something interesting in these stories too. There really is no separation in our work/life so we share it all.
When you love what you do as much as TK does, it’s a gift to be able to go to a space everyday and create something with your hands that another guitar player gets to eventually enjoy for many years to come. You know the difference when you hold and play an instrument that has the soul of the maker in it. Thanks so much to everyone who stops by from time to time and for your comments and conversation!