had had the flu and had been in bed for awhile, not feeling well
at all. His girlfriend at the time was encouraging him to get
up and around, and this wasn't taken well by John at all. As John
put it, "She just wouldn't leave me alone." At some
point in the conversation, the words "What do you love more
John, me or your guitar?" were invoked.
truth of what happened next is known only to those two persons
who were present. Having access to all the forensic evidence,
and holding a board certification in Orthopedics, I would have
to say that the point of impact is more consistent with an impact
with a rounded, padded, but solid surface. Marilyn's head? Possibly.
Only her hairdresser knows for sure. A girl's necklace was in
the debris field. Maybe someday Marilyn will come forward and
shed some light on this episode. As I knew John, he wasn't the
kind of guy to go around hitting women. Not then, not ever.
had purchased a Hawaiian guitar from me that very same night,
after his had been stolen, and he offered me the remains of the
Recording King. The real hero of this story is Charlie Mitchell,
the guy who collected the pieces after the unfortunate encounter.
All but a few fragments were somehow preserved in a cardboard
box. The box came into the possession of John Zender at McCabe's
guitar shop in Los Angeles, where it remained stored for a few
years, and then it was very kindly released it to me at the behest
of John Fahey. The remains of the King were shipped to me shortly
thereafter; this was late 1982.
own life got in the way of the restoration project, and John Fahey's
1939 Ray Whitley Recording King stayed in its little box for another
19 years, through five different moves, three careers, and my
never-ending good intentions.
March of 2001, I traveled to Salem, Oregon to attend John's funeral
and memorial service, which were very moving. Shortly thereafter,
Peter Lang told me that there was a tribute CD in the works. I
knew that the time had come for me to do it. I turned the ringer
off on my phone, and buried myself in the project. I had no idea
if the pieces would even fit after the trauma and the many days
12 days, the final piece to complete the sides was fitted with
complete success, and the body fit the top.
would describe the process as similar to piecing together a broken
dish. The rosewood shattered like glass but had retained its shape.
Luckily the top had its bracing intact, or the King might have
been a lost cause. The neck is built like a baseball bat, and
didn't even need to have its truss rod adjusted. The guitar has
great action, great sound, and is very playable.
feel very fortunate to have been allowed to be the caretaker and
caregiver for this priceless piece of Americana. Hopefully the
King will be used for recording projects for many years to come.
am interested in compiling as much information as is available
about the recordings on which John played this instrument, photos
of John with the instrument, etc., and am preparing to make a
limited edition copy of this fine guitar available to the public. I made a number of these fine guitars until July 2006 when my use of the Recording King brand ceased.
you have any such information I can be reached here.