Video Interview with Roy Bowen, Scott Leedy and Monti Weaver

Kentucky Historical Society


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0:03 - Scott Leedy / Deciding to go Full-Time

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Keywords: business owner; entrepreneur; equipment; tools

2:21 - Process of Building a Guitar and Materials

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Keywords: Cincinnati, OH; CNC machine; e-commerce; Internet; Paxton; website; wood

6:36 - Customer Demographic / Services Offered

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Keywords: Europe; Japan; R.S. Guitar Works; Repairs; Restoration; Sweden

8:00 - Passing Down Skills

10:53 - Supporting the Community

11:37 - Looking to the Future

14:11 - Monti Weaver / Early Life

15:40 - Guitar Making Process / Vocational School

18:11 - Working at R.S. Guitar Works / Creative Process

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Keywords: CNC Machine; colors; custom; painter; painting; wet sanding; Wynn Avenue

23:12 - Custom Guitars

27:57 - Looking to the Future / Growth

31:50 - Process

43:12 - Musicians They've Built For

45:29 - Painting

50:51 - Inside the Shop


AF: Well thank you for sitting down with me today, Roy. I appreciate your time.

RB: You are very welcome.

AF: I thought we would start with just some basic biographical information first

off. So, tell me a little bit about where you grew up.

RB: I was born here in Winchester.

AF: Ok, and so you've been here pretty much the majority of your life?

RB: All my life.

AF: Were you interested in music when you were younger growing up here in Winchester?

RB: Um, you know, I didn't really have any family background in it, but I've

been interested in music since 1979. I've just always kind of had a love for it,

so I've been doing it for a long time.

AF: Now why does '79 stand out as an important year to you?

RB: I guess just because, for whatever reason that's the year that I got my

first guitar.

AF: Oh ok. Now was that a gift, or did you go out and buy it?

RB: It was a birthday present.

AF: A birthday present. Ok.

RB: After harassing my family for years, trying to get it.

AF: Yeah. So, where did you go to elementary school here?

RB: I went to Victory Heights Elementary School.

AF: And were you really involved in music classes?

RB: No.

AF: No? So, it was mainly just something you were interested in on the side?

RB: Yeah, my interest in school was always in arts and history, and I don't

know, I guess--

AF: Ok, so tell me about your experience in elementary school. Were you

interested in music?

RB: You know, I hadn't found that yet. I was very interested in art and being

creative, but not, I hadn't, I think it was, I'll blame KISS for music.

AF: Same thing through high school?

RB: By the time I was in junior high I didn't care about anything but guitar. So

all through high school I was playing in bands and just really, I did ok in high

school, but it wasn't my main interest. I was way more interested in where we

were going to be playing that weekend, later that night, or whatever.

AF: So by the time you got to high school you were actually doing gigs.

AF: Were you more interested in music during high school? What was that

experience like?

RB: I definitely, starting in junior high, had already decided that guitar was

all that I was interested in and school was something I was trying to get

through to get to a gig or whatever I had going as far as a band.

AF: Right, and so, what guitar were you playing? What was your role in the bands

you were in?

RB: I played bass.

AF: You played bass. Ok. These were paid gigs?

RB: Mhm-- Some of them.

AF: Some of them? Some of them were paid? Tell me about that your experience.

You're a teenager and you're actually going out and doing gigs. What was that like?

RB: Well it seemed like a really big deal, even though you weren't playing

anything significant, you were just playing a party for somebody, or a benefit

for something, but it was still, it didn't matter, you were in front of people

when you were playing so that was all that really mattered.

AF: Can I ask what the name of the band was that you were in?

RB: There were too many.

AF: Too many? Oh ok--

RB: I think it varied from week to week just about.

AF: Ah. When did you start to shift from having a desire to perform to actually

wanting to build guitars? How did that take place?

RB: That was pretty early on. That was probably about half way through high

school, and I was always just kind of fascinated with how one musician sounded

different than the other one. I would see guys who were playing what appeared to

be the same guitar, but they sounded different so I just kind of got fascinated

with why.

AF: How did you start to explore that? Were you involved in shop class?

RB: I did take electronics classes in school and I took woodshop. More than any

of it just came from me reading magazines. I would read, "Eddie Van Halen did

this to his guitar," so and so did that to their guitar, and without fail that

was the first thing I was doing was trying to do that same thing to my guitar

and usually failing miserably at it.

AF: Did you feel like most of this learning process took place on your own?

Through some classes, but you were really doing a lot of research, you were

tinkering with things, is that right or did you work with anyone specific?

RB: No, I actually apprenticed with a gentleman. When I was determined that I

was going to mess up my own guitars I basically, I would always have to take

them, there was a repairman at Carl's Music in Lexington named Tom Jones, and

Tom was the guy that I'd always take the guitars to after I'd messed them up,

and he'd fix them. He would always tell me, you need to stop doing that, I

didn't know what I was doing, and probably after two years of destroying guitars

he looked at me one day and he said, "Well it's obvious that you are going to

keep doing this, so do you want to learn how to do it right?" And so I started

apprenticing with him and that was '87. That's been all I've done since then.

So, well, you don't really make a great living as a guitar repairman at a music

store, so there were always other jobs that had to happen, but that's been the

main goal since then.

AF: Well let's talk a little bit about that apprenticeship. Was that a paid apprenticeship?

RB: At first it was just a percentage of whatever jobs that I helped him with.

Then in '90 it turned into, he retired from doing repair and I took over for him

and then it turned into a full-time paying job.

AF: Ok, so you started doing repair work at Carl's music, and you slid into that position?

RB: Mhm.

AF: Ok, so throughout this experience, you mentioned it was hard to have repair

work be sort of steady work and that you've done jobs on the side. What were

some of those jobs on the side that you've done?

RB: I've done a lot of retail work. I was an assistant manager for Office Depot

for about four years. I've done a lot of cabinet making, a lot of construction.

Things that are still involved in woodworking.

AF: So you have a skill set that is easily transferable? Right, so you can make

the bodies of guitars, you can make cabinets, tell me a little bit about that.

RB: Well I think, you know, I think a lot of people, if you like doing

woodworking and you're good at woodworking it is easy to shift that from, the

basic principles of it are the same regardless of what you are doing, whether

you are making a clock, or a table, or a kitchen cabinet.

AF: And are you using pretty much the same equipment?

RB: Yeah.

AF: Yeah.

RB: Most of the basics, you know, there are a lot of specialized pieces of

equipment that are in the guitar industry. Most of those we don't actually use.

Our stuff is still very basic tool stuff.

AF: So you were working this job at Carl's Music, you were doing retail on the

side, and you were doing some carpentry, making some cabinets and things using

the same skillset. How did you go from being at that stage in your life to

actually having RS Guitarworks?

RB: That start in, I think '96. I was running an ad, I had actually left Carl's

in '94 and had started running ads in the paper for doing repairs and one day I

got a call from a guy that had a guitar that he had been working on and he

couldn't quite get it fixed right and he had just moved to Winchester and he

wanted me to look at the guitar and so he came over and that turned out to be

Scott and we wound up finding out that we pretty much had everything in common.

We had played with a lot of the same people, we had owned a lot of the same

equipment, we played in a lot of the same bands, but we never met each other.

So it almost seemed like the whole time we were kind of orbiting each other, you

know, alternating in and out of stuff. He actually helped me get a job at the

time, but while we were working that job we would get off work and come straight

to the shop at my house and start building guitars, or refinishing guitars or

whatever because we were both so interested in it. We did that part-time for

years until it literally got to the point where, we put up our first website in

'99, and started getting work in and I think it was 2002 or 2003 we wound up, we

looked around the shop one day and we had enough work to pay ourselves for about

six months and at that time we just kind of made the decision, let's try it. So

it started with just him and me in the basement of my house.

AF: Let me step back for just a second. I think it's interesting that in '99 you

started developing your own website because I know that's something that a lot

of artists and crafts producers, you know that can be really challenging for

them. So how did you and Scott make that decision and what did that decision

mean when you put yourself out there on the web, and what sort of knowledge did

you have about web design going into that?

RB: I had absolutely; it wound up being a very pivotal point for the company, it

made us, because it got us on a national and international basis that we would

have never achieved without it. As far as having knowledge of it, I had

absolutely none. I didn't know anybody who did it. The internet was so, that

kind of marketing tool was so new, it was just literally a deal that, I

literally bought a book about writing code and it was just a deal where I sat

down and wrote out or website by going through this book; How do you get it to

do this? How do you get it to do that? I wrote our whole first website out in a

spiral notebook and then literally opened the page on the server and started

typing code. Surprise of surprises it actually worked. It had a couple of

glitches in it, but when you consider the fact that it came out of a code for

dummies book it did pretty good. So, you know, that was a huge, it wasn't very

long after we put it up that we started getting calls from people.

AF: Right. Now did you have to pay for the space, the Internet space, to be able

to run the site?

RB: No, the first one that was one that was on a homestead site, so it was a

free site.

AF: I think it's interesting that once you have that national and international

market you immediately started to get phone calls, and that's something in the

past individuals that I've spoken to, they don't always anticipate just how much

more traffic that their business will start to get once they put up a website so

they can't always meet production. So talk a little bit about those challenges.

Once that website went up, what changed and how quickly did it change? RB: It

didn't really, I mean, you know, I think we got a call from a gentleman in South

Carolina I think about two days after the site went up with questions about

having a job done and he was happy with what we did for him and then he

recommended to a dealer friend of his who started having us do work and it just

kind of, it was a slow thing but it was kind of amazing to us still every time

for the longest time we were just amazed anytime you'd get a call from New York

or California or wherever. We both pretty much fell over when we got our first

job that was from a different country. Didn't know what to think of that. Our

first international job was from New Zealand. So, you know, like I said, we've

got blindsided a few times by putting things out there that we thought would be

a cool idea that we weren't prepared to get bombed by, but it's always seemed to

work out. It's been stressful at times, but you know, we're lucky that we've got

through it.

AF: So the folks from New Zealand. Who were they and what were they requesting?

RB: It was a refinish job and I don't remember the gentleman's name. I do

remember, because I think I still have the card, he sent us a postcard with the

guitar from Auckland City and that was always just amazing and always stuck out

in our mind, but that many years later I don't remember the gentleman's name but

I don't think we ever did another job for him, I think we've done other jobs for

people in New Zealand. But not him again, I don't think.

AF: After this point you started to get pretty steady work, and then by

2002/2003 you had pretty much enough work to sustain yourself for six months. So

that's when you made the decision to open up RS Guitarworks. Talk a little bit

about that decision and what that meant for you and Scott and what you had to

think about.

RB: It was frightening to give up, to say ok, there's not going to be a safety

net. There's not going to be any steady income. There's going to be whatever

comes in, whatever you do. Whatever you do is what you are going to have to deal

with was a frightening thing. But you know, it's been a very tough business but

we both love it. So, you know, we're both glad we did it. It's just like any

other business, as it grows there are times when you go, man I wish we could go

back to you know, when it was easier, but it's been a really cool thing so far.

AF: Did you go through the process of making five or ten year business plans or?

RB: No.

AF: No, so you took a shot in the dark and went with it?

RB: That's it.

AF: Yeah. Looking back on that, if you were talking to an entrepreneur now, who

given the economy was thinking about jumping into something like that, what

advice would you give?

RB: I think the way we did it was the only way that a business can survive. I

think that if a business starts off in debt, it's in trouble right off. You

don't want to be trying to establish a new business and new clients with the

pressure of making that mortgage payment, with the pressure of repaying that

bank loan, I mean, we were very lucky that I had the shop at the house so there

was zero overhead. Scott and I already had the tools, you know, so it was just a

matter of, ok, you kind of have to tighten things up a bit, don't spend as much

money, and every dime you get in that isn't required for the two of you to exist

has to go back into the company.

AF: So, every dime you make, you have to put back into the company?

RB: Yep, and yeah, we were able to, the money, because of not having the

overhead we were able to let the company grow. Having parts done, having

different things done, getting inventory in without having to worry about how to

we pay the rent, how do we keep the electric on, how do we, for the longest

times the phones for RS Guitarworks on the business cards were mine and Scott's

cell phones and that's an important part when it's just two people because what

you have to do is, you don't want to miss that chance, you don't want to miss

that order, I've lost count of how many times we would take, somebody would

place an order in a restaurant on the back of a napkin because that's where you

were. But if we would have, it allowed us to grow, we were able to move into a

shop before this one that was very low overhead, the utilities were included,

and we got our first employees there and then when we grew out of that we

purchased this building, but it's let us grow the business in steps instead of

jumping out there and here we are, we owe a half million dollars and good luck.

If anybody can start a business and do it part-time and build it, you are going

to have a whole lot better chance of being successful.

AF: I think those are good points to bring up and I think a lot of craft

producers find themselves, they'll go to workshops or trainings and they're

encouraged to jump in very quickly, but sometimes it is better for them to build

up and to do it part-time and to still have wage labor on the side and give

yourself time to make that change.

RB: Yeah, I think you need to establish your product before you wind up going in

debt. You know, going out there when you already owe a lot of money and trying

to get people to be familiar with what you do, or to create a demand for a

product that you are doing is not where you want to be. You want to have people

already beating the door down for what you are doing, that way you have a better

chance of making it.

AF: So, thinking in terms of producing good quality product and getting that out

there, what have you and Scott done since you started working together to

improve your own abilities as builders? You mentioned you had an apprenticeship

for a period of time. Have you continued to do any apprenticeships or work with

anyone else or take any workshops?

RB: No, no I haven't. I've been very fortunate to; one thing is, in the industry

everyone wants to make out like there is a rivalry between companies. The truth

is, some of my best friends are builders and/or owners of companies that people

consider our competition. We call each other all the time. We visit each other

all the time and we share how we do things. There's not the big secretive thing

that everybody wants to make, "Oh don't let so and so know I did this," it just

doesn't work that way. It's a very open industry, which is a good thing. There's

a lot of open information out there, which you can very easily get.

AF: Ok, so you're part of a vast network of other builders and other producers

that you can talk to and you can gain access to information. It seems like it

would be really important to be a part of that network and, do you think craft

producers in general are part of networks like that?

RB: I think there is-- I know when we were doing furniture and cabinetwork we

dealt with other shops and I think that goes with everything. I think there are

always going to be people that are willing to share what they do.

AF: Now, let's talk a little bit about the shop. How long have you had this shop open?

RB: It's been almost five years.

AF: Almost five years. So when you opened this shop it was you, and Scott, and

how many employees did you have at that time?

RB: There were five of us when we moved here.

AF: Five. Now, Roy, your employees, are they all male?

RB: Yeah, we had a female office manager.

AF: I'm just curious, do you think that tends to be the case for most guitar

shops? They just bring in more males? Do you think that's true across the industry?

RB: Um, not necessarily, because I know quite a few of the shops that we deal

with that you know, have office managers, or shipping managers, or the such that

are female, but I don't, I can count on one hand the number of ladies I know who

are interested in guitar repairs or building, so I think there's less of that

for sure.

AF: I think that's interesting. Any ideas why that might be?

RB: I don't know why, but I do know that as a whole there are probably less

female guitarists.

AF: Yeah.

RB: So maybe because there are fewer guitarists there are just less of them that

have an interest in being hands on in it.

AF: So, thinking in terms of the staff you have here, the five of you, describe

a little bit about the process. What does it take to build a guitar? Where do

you start and how many people are involved in that and then talk a little bit

about throughout.

RB: Ok. Obviously, I think when we first, we have to find a product that, a

guitar that we feel there is something unique about or a need for. There's never

any telling who, sometimes that comes from looking at the Internet and

repeatedly go, "Why doesn't anybody do this?" Ok, well, and a lot of times there

isn't a clear answer for that. Why doesn't anybody do this? Well let's try it,

and sometimes you try it and you find out why nobody does it because it doesn't

work. You know there are a lot of prototypes that just fail and a lot of ideas

that seem like they would be good that just don't work. Sometimes you have to

look, if you have fifty to sixty years of the guitar industry, the electric

guitar industry, why hasn't anybody done this. Well it's not that they haven't

it's just it didn't work and you know, every body has moved on. But once you get

a design, whether that comes from a customer's request, a need on the Internet

we are finding out about, or if it's an idea, it can be, we've got guitars that

are a design idea from pretty much everybody in the shop. I mean, somebody may

just go, "Hey, I had an idea. I think this would be a cool guitar." And we'll

try about anything, We'll do a prototype of it and if we think there is merit to

it or it needs to be worked on some more, if it doesn't work out then we will

just move on. But I think you know, past that it all just comes down to trying

to build the best guitar you can through the materials you select and the

attention to detail and building it, the parts that you chose to use. All of

that is very important.

AF: Where do most of your parts come from?

RB: We have probably, currently I think, probably eighty percent of our parts

are exclusively made for us and most of them are being made in the US.

AF: Will you talk a little bit about what parts are included? I'm sure that

there are lots of parts, but just generally speaking.

RB: Well, the things that we've been known for more than anything, you obviously

have the wooden parts, the guitar body and the neck which is where you have to

be really selective about the weight and the tone of the parts that you are

using, the wood that you are using. Also the weight of guitar is really

important to most people. Once you get past that, the one thing that has really

established us in the industry is the electronics of the guitars. RS was a

industry leader in, honestly, we were probably the first company to ever come up

with the idea to approach the companies that make the compacitors and the

potentiometers inside the guitars that make them work because prior to that

everybody had always approached it like, well, let's use what's on the shelf,

which is what may have been developed for generic electronics use. Works great

in a radio, works great in a car, it's not the ideal part for a guitar. So we

approached the companies with clear designs and said look, we want to do parts

that are made specifically for a guitar, and that's really done wonder for the

company, not only in establishing us for our guitar building, but for our

electronics kits. We offer a lot of kits to where people can upgrade the

electronics in their guitars, other company's guitars.

AF: That's great. So they can buy a lower model if they need to, and then

upgrade as they have the extra cash to do so. Ok. That seems like a smart

business move too because then they are always coming back in, they are always

buying additional products.

RB: Yeah, that's just it, I mean, we kind of approach the company like its three

different companies. There is the guitar building side of the company, there's

the restoration and repair part of the company, and then there's the

retail/parts side of the company. Because between those three things, if

somebody wants what we do, and they have the money and they want a guitar built

the way they always wanted it, that part is there. If they have, like you said,

a lower end guitar and they want to use better electronics or hardware or

whatever, those parts are there and available for them. Then, even if the

intermediate thing, if they like a certain fret size that we use in our guitar,

or they've seen one of our guitars that's a color they like, then they can have

their guitar refinished or re-fretted here as well to get it. So there are

pretty much all stages and that's really benefited us a lot because it has given

us the ability to, you don't have the down time. There are times when the

economy gets tights and what we find is when the economy gets tight people

really don't have the money to spend on building a guitar as a whole, but they

have that one that they've had all their life. They can afford to spend fifty or

a hundred dollars to make it better, until they can afford to buy a new guitar,

or they can spend two or three hundred to have it refinished and repaired to

make it better or new to them. So that's cool because it gives us all of the

different avenues of income.

AF: And, I think for a lot of producers that diversification is really

important. Did you start out thinking that you wanted to have that

diversification or did you just kind of start to realize that you could make

those things available over time?

RB: We fell into it.

AF: You fell into it. Ok.

RB: It was one of those deals where we actually started off with the idea of

doing the repairs, and then when we started, we came up with our first guitar

ideas and built those and started getting some interest in them. We did a lot of

work on the hardware that we wanted to use on those guitars and the electronics

that we wanted to use in our own guitars. We literally had a gentleman send a

guitar in for a refinish and he said he wasn't happy with how the electronics

were in his guitar and he said, "Do you know anything you could do about it?"

and I said, "You know, we have these electronics that we use in our own

guitars." He said, "Well, can you put that in mine?" It was like, yeah, sure, we

put it in it, sent it back to him, he gets on an Internet forum and says, "I

just got my guitar back from RS for being refinished. Their refinish looks

great, but it's not the same guitar that I got back because they put their

electronics upgrade in it and now it's a totally different guitar." All of a

sudden you start to see people on this forum go, "Tell me more about this

upgrade that they did to your electronics." He said, "Well, I don't really know

what it is, but they changed the capacitors and the pods with their own stuff

and it's amazing." The next day we had orders for a hundred electronics upgrade

kits and we had people contacting us asking, "How do I get one of these kits?"

We may have had enough stuff in shop to do maybe two. We didn't know how to

price it. We had no idea how to sell it, how to package it; the first ones

literally went out in Ziploc bags with hand-drawn schematics of how we hooked

them up. We didn't have anyway to take their orders, didn't have any way to run

a credit card, you know, and so the whole parts end of this business created its

self. We just rode along. Ok, now we need to figure out how to take credit

cards. How do we set-up an online store? How do we do all of that stuff? I won't

take any credit for the online store stuff. That was something way out of my

realm so it was like, ok we need to hire somebody. Yeah, that's something Scott

would say as well is that we've been very lucky at finding trends where there is

a need for something and we filled that need before anybody else has. So we've

kind of wound up being the leader in a lot of stuff.

AF: But I mean, that's where it's worked out really well and you guys are part

of national and international markets now. Talk a little bit about the extent of

customers that you have contacting you and the individuals that you work with

and sell products to.

RB: Well I think right now Joey, our office manager would know better than I do,

but I think we sell to, right now, better than one hundred and fifty countries.

AF: Wow.

RB: We have dealers in, probably-- I'd say fifteen countries. We have a major

distributor in Japan. We have a distributor in Europe. We have a distributor now

in Singapore. So, you know, we have been very lucky to get to deal with people

growing up that you considered being an idol. You don't know how to act the

first time you pick up the phone and Joe Perry is on the other line, or Joe

Walsh is on the other line. For me, being a big blues fan, the first day I

answered the phone and Buddy Guy was on the phone. How do you even, is somebody

messing with me? That's pretty much how you have to approach it and try to not

sound like an idiot when they are on there. Like I said, we've been very lucky.

Our customer base has gotten to be huge. The electronics upgrades that started

as just off one post, I think as of two years ago we had sold over a hundred

thousand. So, it's been amazing how things have grown.

AF: And to think about the next five or ten years down the road, what do you

anticipate as far as changes to the business, changes within the guitar

industry? Just speculate--

RB: The business is still growing. We are actually talk right now, hopefully

within four to five months, we are talking with a builder right now about

building a building that's roughly twice this size because we honestly have

outgrown this. We are currently looking at hiring at least two more possibly

three more people right now. We our getting ready, we actually just purchased

our first CNC machine, which is a computer numeric controlled machine. It's

basically a computer-driven router that will help us to keep the consistency of

the guitars and the production speed of the guitars a lot better. So we are

buying a lot of new equipment here recently and trying to get it, what basically

happened is we started it off with, three years ago us building thirty guitars

in a year turned into by last year us building I think two hundred and eighty.

We've probably almost done that this year. So, we're getting to the point where

you know, we need to get other people, we need to get better equipment to keep

the same quality, but to keep up with the demand.

AF: So the shift towards more computerization won't lessen the quality of the guitar?

RB: No, because people have a misconception about the computer controlled

machines. There's really no difference between whether I take, or Scott takes a

piece of wood and you cut it out on a bandsaw or a router by hand, it's still a

machine doing it, you're just guiding it. The only difference is, with the CNC

the computer will guide it. The work that makes a guitar will always come from

your hands. It's the job that you do of doing the fine sanding, the job that you

do of hand-shaping in the neck, the job that you do of applying the finish or

doing the fret work, that's stuff that you are never going to be able to get,

that's all about feel. So the computer is just another tool. I mean, yeah, it

will give you a thing that's roughly shaped like a guitar, but all the work

that's actually going to turn it into a guitar still has to be done by hand.

AF: Yeah. And are you engaged in the community in anyway in passing down some of

your skills?

RB: Not at this time. Now I actually did teach a mentoring program for a guitar

building at Henry Clay. I did that for two years. It was a fun thing, but it can

be a frustrating thing because the kids thought, hey, we get credit for learning

to build a guitar. It's work.

AF: Yeah.

RB: You have to do things on time and they only had so long to get the guitars

done. I think the first time that I did it I think out of the seven students I

had, I think four of them got their guitars done in time. The second time I did

it I think I only had six and only one of them got it done in time because they

wanted to go out with their friends and they wanted to do what teenagers do.

They don't want to go home and sand on a guitar so they can bring it back the

next day and be ready to move on to the next step. They thought it was just

going to be a big blast, get a grade for building a guitar. Unfortunately, they

got a failing grade for not attempting to build a guitar. But we've talked about

it and because of Tom being willing to apprentice me I've though several times

about if I could find somebody that I thought really had the drive-- I've had

several people talk to me about doing it, but I've always had that feeling that

they just thought it would be something fun to do. I didn't see the passion that

it really takes.

AF: But that's something you are open to? Bringing someone in.

RB: Mhm.

AF: Are there any other ways that you are active within the community here that

maybe I wouldn't know about, or wouldn't think to ask about?

RB: Well we've done a lot of support with the community. I mean, we've been

involved in the local college here in town helping in their fundraising. We are

involved in the Better Business Bureau. We are involved in the Chamber of

Commerce. We've been involved in several charities here locally. We try to be

involved as much as we can.

AF: Well and I think that's great, to have a locally-owned store by a native of

Winchester, and that you guys try to be as involved as you can be and work with

different organizations and different groups. I think that's really a good and

positive point for us to end on Roy. Is there anything that I didn't ask about

today that you think is important to bring up or for us to cover?

RB: No, I think that's pretty much it.

AF: All right, well thank you for the interview.

RB: Well you're welcome.

AF: Thanks for sitting down with me.

AF: Ok, well let me start Scott by saying thank you for sitting down with me

today. I thought we would start the interview with covering a bit of your

biographical information. Tell where you grew up?

SL: Well I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and lived there for probably six

years and then lived in Louisville for a little while and then Richmond, so I've

kind of been all around. Georgetown. I've kind of been all around Central

Kentucky all my life. Then I moved to Winchester in '95 and that's when I ended

up meeting Roy.

AF: Ok, well at least you've always been a Kentucky boy though.

SL: Right.

AF: You've bounced around some. So growing up in these different places, when

you were in elementary school and high school, were you interested in music?

SL: That didn't happen to me until probably about the age twelve or thirteen

when my older cousin turned me on to KISS and records and music and all that

stuff and my mother, she always listened to the Beatles and stuff like that. Old

school kind of stuff. My grandmother, she played guitar, mandolin, and piano in

church and stuff like that, so I've always kind have been around it all my life,

but it never really hit me until my mom took me to a KISS concert when I was a

kid and then I decided that looks like a lot of fun. I started playing then.

AF: Well that sounds like it's a fantastic story in and of itself, right, the

KISS concert that your mom took you to!

SL: Yeah, me and about five of my friends. It was quite an experience for my

mother I'm sure, but she ended up liking the show too after she saw it.

AF: So that's kind of what inspired you to become interested more in playing.

SL: Right.

AF: So what experiences did you have throughout your teen years with actually

playing the guitar and what guitar did you play?

SL: Well I liked playing the bass guitar. I messed around a little bit on guitar

and on drums a little bit as was naturally drawn to the bass and started playing

that, just as a hobby around the house as I was a kid, just messing around with

it you know. Next thing you know my friends are getting guitars and instruments

too and we are kind of getting together and making noise together you know for

years, and that just never seemed to stop from there. It just kept growing as I

got older and getting in bands and getting better opportunities to play and

travel and I had a lot of fun with it.

AF: So tell me about the transition. You're a teenager, you're playing some

gigs, you're in some bands, how does the transition take place between being a

performer and being a builder.

SL: Well, I guess I would say, as I got older and was still playing music, I had

a day job working construction and working in cabinet shops and things like

that, and then it just kind of hit me one day, hey, guitars are made out of wood

too. So I would like to try that. I started doing it as a hobby, just messing

around with it and doing a little research on my own and stuff and talking to

people and then I ended up moving to Winchester in '95 and was working on a

guitar and was having some trouble with it and I noticed an add in the paper, in

the local paper, a guy who did painting and repairs and refinishing, and that

turned out to be Roy. So, I met him there at his house and we had a lot of

things in common together, the same interests, and that's kind of what started

the whole building transition right there. We kind of self-fed off of each

other's energy and excitement as far as wanting to learn more about it and our

interests in it kind of grew together. We kind of fanned each other's fires to

create this entity now.

AF: Well you brought up a lot of good points that sound very similar to Roy's

story, so let me ask you a bit more. So at one point you are doing construction

work, and you're doing cabinet making, and you start making guitars on the side,

and was it important to you that you didn't just jump right in to guitar making,

that you were still engaged in some wage labor and making guitars on the side?

SL: Yeah, I'd say so. I wanted to just jump right in, obviously, but there was a

lot of knowledge involved that I had to absorb and a lot of money that I didn't

have so yeah.

AF: Well and I think that's interesting, a lot of crafters and artists that I've

talked to, sometimes they feel like they have to jump right in. One of the

things that Roy emphasized was that it is better to take that strategy of

building a name for yourself and a product and developing your product. So when

you're learning and trying to become a better builder, you mentioned that you

did some research on your own and you talked to some other builders. So tell me

about that network? Who do you talk to? How do you get in touch with them? What

sorts of research did you do? What's out there?

SL: I just started cold calling out of magazines. Talking to some of the other

boutique builders in the industry, some of the other guys who were well

established and some of them were really nice and helpful and some of them were

too busy and really weren't interested in being so helpful. So Terry McInturff

was a big help for us in the beginning as far as helping us out, getting our

finishes to look right, and giving us a little parental guidance if you will, so

he was a big influence on us.

AF: Now have you ever taken certain classes or workshops, or in high school did

you take shop class?

SL: I took woodshop in high school, but that was about it. I really got all of

my fundamental skills out on the jobsites, building houses and cabinets and

things like that and I just kind of worked my way up the ladder from there.

AF: So those skills that you had constructing houses and cabinets, those are

skills that are easily transferable.

SL: Yes.

AF: Will you talk a little bit about those skills?

SL: It was a good thing. You get familiar with table saws and bandsaws and how

to adjust and use them, so it definitely helped me out a lot as far as getting

started. I felt like I had a head start versus somebody else who wanted to build

guitars and they'd never even been in a wood shop before. So I had a little bit

of background as far as wood species and tone woods and things like that and

Roy, he knew a little bit more about it than I did, he really helped me out a

lot and then we just started self-feeding off one another's energy you know, it

was a really good thing and if we couldn't figure it out then we'd go look it up

on our own and learn together at that point.

AF: So what were the first few years like then?

SL: A lot of fun, I'd have to say, because it was really exciting because you

are learning new things and you are getting new tools in to play with and new

toys and things like that and sometimes it was discouraging, you know, trial and

error, there were always ups and downs with that, but it was a good learning

experience for us to actually go through the mistakes and everything because

when we first got started we didn't have any overhead, we just did it as a hobby

out of Roy's basement, so it didn't really matter if we messed anything up,

there wasn't really anything involved. That was a big plus, to really experiment.

AF: Now what were you still doing, did you still have a regular 9-5 job?

SL: Yeah, and actually, whenever I first met Roy he was looking for a job and

the company I was with was doing some hiring so I got Roy a job and we started

working together during the day and then we'd come home at night, eat dinner,

and then meet back at his basement and work on guitars and things like that at

night and on weekends. So it was fun. We used to, we would sneak little projects

in at work and whenever the boss was gone one of us would stand guard while the

other one would go do something at the shop. If the boss was coming back, we

would give the other one a signal and put it up and go back to work. So even if

we were at our 9-5, our minds were still on the guitars. Our hearts were still there.

AF: You think a lot of artists exist that way, where they are working 9-5 jobs

to make ends meet and sustain themselves, but really they'd much rather be in

the shop making the product.

SL: Yeah.

AF: So then it must have been a big shift for you and Roy to decide ok, we're

going to give up that 9-5.

SL: It was scary. It was concerning. It was a little scary to think, oh my gosh

can we really do this? I think we had an advantage over a lot of our competition

though because we didn't have any overhead once again.

AF: So, talk a little bit about that transition. What it was like to go from

that 9-5 job to having your own?

SL: It was a little bit scary. Obviously a lot of concerns -- How are we going

to pay our bills? Can we really do this? When we were working a 9-5 job, we

started doing it as a hobby, and then people started offering us money if we

could do that to their guitar. That got our attention, obviously, and Roy and I

decided at that point that we would go for it, we would give it a try, we look

around at his basement and, now I think I have something close to seventy-five

guitars in there at the time for customers that we were working on, so I grabbed

my calculator and a piece of paper and started figuring up how much money was

actually sitting here in the basement right now and I told Roy, "If we live off

of peanut butter for the next six months, we might be able to make this fly." So

we gave it a shot. We quit our day jobs. It was a bit nerve-wracking and a

little unsettling going through the change of that, adapting to the new

mentality of self-employment, but we just got in there and we just did what we

loved and did what we loved to do and it all seemed to kind of come naturally

from that point and we just kind of started evolving in baby steps as far as our

growth. We set-up a little website, put an ad in a magazine, went to some

vintage guitar shows and set-up a display booth and showed what we could do, and

the phone started ringing more, and the business increased, and we outgrew the

basement probably within a years time, and pretty much had to find a shop, a

bigger facility to be able to accommodate everything that we wanted to do. That

seems to be an ongoing thing too, we kind of outgrown this shop and are kind of

looking for a bigger one now because we are still growing.

AF: One of the things I'd like to ask you about, a lot of the crafters and

artists I work with, when they go through that step of setting up a website,

that can have either good or bad repercussions right, either they can meet the

demand that's generated through that website, or sometimes they don't.

SL: Right.

AF: What was that like to make yourself part of that national and international

market by making that website?

SL: It was a whole new world for me. Roy was a little bit familiar with it, and

I didn't really know, but I kind of had the mentally you know, what the heck,

put it out there, see if any fish nibble, and let it run it's course from there.

It was neat to see the response that you got because we were getting responses

from countries I never knew existed, so it was kind of neat to see where all of

our hits from our website were coming from and watching the business grow all

around the world instead of just locally.

AF: Now if you were to talk to another craft producer about creating a website,

are there words of wisdom or insight you would--?

SL: Not too much from me, because I'm not too much the computer-oriented guy,

I'm the termite, the woodworker, so I kind of trust them to make those decisions

and those calls on that so thank goodness I've got people who are much wiser

than me on that subject.