Terra Plays Our Tenor

written by barrypearlman

We often do not know much about the background of our customers, but we were delighted to receive a recent YouTube video from one of our new players.

Meet Terra Schneider.  She plays the Compass Rose Tenor Walnut ukulele.  We very much like her style and attitude, and it’s not often we receive material from young players.

Terra attends Art Academy and is completing High School.  She’s a relatively new uke player, after one year, but is a seasoned musician.  Music is a core pursuit for Terra, and she was a member of the Michigan All State Honor Choir last year.  Also unusual is her role as Baritone Sax player for her Jazz Band and her interests in French horn, Alto Sax and Piano prevail strongly!

In the autumn, Terra heads to college for an education based on Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences.  She hopes to do graduate work at Columbia University in New York City, where she can contribute to ‘Greening the City’ and work with her musician friends in Brooklyn.

A delightful conversationalist, I enjoyed chatting with Terra and had no idea of her age when she ordered her ukulele.  Some people are ageless!

Here is Terra Schneider on ukulele.


More on the Buddy Holly Guitar Project

written by Rick Turner

front view

The Buddy Holly Foundation brings together a number of intensely talented folks centered a particular guitar and a dedicated desire to raise money for music education, carrying forth Buddy Holly’s joyful mission of music.

Our primary benefactor is a successful UK businessman, Peter Bradley, who has not only fathered musical kids, but has also kept the spirit of Buddy Holly alive in his heart for many years and has made an incredible leap of faith. Peter’s trust in Rick, John, Susie, and the other people coming onboard the Foundation Board of Directors has been truly astounding and inspiring to us all.

With Peter’s help and generosity, we are putting together a board of directors made up of musicians, engineers, craftspeople, and music industry folks who will help establish the path for the foundation and determine where the money goes.

Maria Elena Holly, Buddy’s widow, has kept the Holly legacy alive for the past five and a half decades, carefully controlling both access to Buddy’s catalog and fighting to make sure that Buddy’s real intents have been honored. Several of us on the board met with Maria Elena in April of 2010 to invite her participation, and we were truly honored to receive her blessing on this project.

John Thomas is our foundation president and attorney who has put together the articles of incorporation for the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation. Coincidentally, he is also the primary US expert on “Banner Era” Gibson guitars made between 1942 and 1946 by a team of wonderful women in Kalamazoo. His forthcoming book, “Banner Gibsons and the Women (and a few men) Who Made Them” will be published by the University of Michigan Press later this year.

Cookie Marenco is a five time Grammy nominated recording engineer and producer whose understanding of traditional tape recording process and modern digital high resolution mastering and Internet distribution of music will assure that any audio projects done on behalf of the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation will be beyond “state of the art.”

Susie Temple is a leather working artist trained in the tradition of Western saddle makers…the same tradition Buddy Holly followed in his own little known leather work. She will be making guitar body covers in Buddy’s style for the first 18 43-45 model guitars that will be owned and distributed by the Foundation.

David Neely is a luthier who worked with me when I restored Buddy’s guitar working out of Westwood Music in Los Angeles. David also worked as a guitar tech for both Waylon Jennings, Buddy’s last bass player, and for the reformed Crickets when they toured in the 1970s and 1980s. David’s direct knowledge of the legends is amazing!

Alan Kozlowski is a film-maker, musician, recording engineer, and musical disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Alan’s deep connections in the world of music, film, and video will serve the Foundation well when it comes time to document benefit concerts, do video shoots, or do studio recordings.

Jon Taplin is a professor of communications at USC in Los Angeles. He has a delightfully checkered past as road manager for Bob Dylan and the Band, and has worked extensively in film, music, and academia for four decades. Jon’s political blog provides some of the most insightful comments on the web, and we are always reminded that art and music can’t be too far from politics.

Evan Skopp is the VP of marketing for both Seymour Duncan Pickups as well as D-TAR (Duncan Turner Acoustic Research). Evan’s connections in the music industry are extremely far-reaching, both on the business side…he’s the past president of GAMA, the Guitars and Accessories Manufacturing Association…and the artist side with close friends in both electric and acoustic music.

Jackson Browne…what can I say? Jackson is one of the most successful singer-songwriters of his and later generations. He is deeply aware of having come up in Buddy’s footsteps, and like Holly, has balanced his acoustic and electric sides on a finely honed edge. Jackson’s pursuit of excellence in music and guitars has been a strong influence on my guitar making career, and his love of “Banner Era” guitars makes him a logical artist on our board.

Graham Nash…the Hollies? That goes long and deep! Buddy Holly was one of Graham’s earliest and strongest influences. His respect for Buddy and delight in his memory can be seen on the video made recently at the Experience Music Project where Buddy’s original guitar, restored in 1990 by Rick Turner, can be seen on YouTube.

Henry Kaiser has been at the forefront of two very different disciplines for decades now…can you reconcile his being one of the most avant garde guitar players with being the senior US under-ice SCUBA diver in Antarctica? Well, Henry can…very easily! Henry has been a client of mine for nearly 40 years now, and has always been one of my “go to” musicians when things get really interesting!

Julian Lloyd Webber, one of the world’s most celebrated solo cellists…and an avid Buddy Holly fan… has joined the board of the Foundation.   Webber is deeply committed to music education, having co-founded the Music Education Consortium with flautist James Galway and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, and he will help give a true international perspective to the Board of Directors.   Now if we could just copy his Strad and have Susie make a leather cover for it, we’d really hit the big time!   

…next chapter…the work in progress on the Buddy Holly guitar replicas…


Lyle Workman, RN6, and Sting

written by Rick Turner

Lyle Workman appeared on the Today show, Friday, May 14, playing his Renaissance RN-6 nylon string guitar with Sting, and an orchestra, performing a slow arrangement of “Roxanne”. Lyle has had our guitar for 10 years now, and he’s used it on numerous projects and live gigs.

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And here again is the RN6 in the hands of Lyle Workman accompanying Sting on his song “An Englishman in New York”

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Thinking about Nashville

written by barrypearlman

Brutal weather has just affected the music world this week. Our friends and colleagues in the Nashville area are experiencing disaster from the storms. Homes, businesses and schools have been destroyed in the wake of the floods. There is hard work ahead for many folks and especially in our industry, as Nashville is home to some of the finest and most dedicated musicians, instrument builders, and studio engineers in the world.

We send our Hopes and Thoughts to all who have suffered the loss. Many fine instruments have seen their demise in this situation. If you have lost a Rick Turner/ Renaissance instrument from the chaos, please contact us. We would like to work with you to repair or replace your Rick Turner guitar, bass or ukulele if it has experienced damage from the storm. All normal warranty in place, we will help you if you need it.

If you have an interesting instrument related story from the storms and want to share it, please write to us.

Soon, Nashville will swing again stronger than ever.



On the Bench

written by Eliza

Those are Gotoh Delta 510 tuners

Well actually, Andre brought the guitar off the bench and into the Santa Cruz sunshine  to take some pictures…

Here is a custom order 12 string Renaissance with Camphor burl top, ready for a pickup.


We love it when we get a camphor burl order: when the wood is cut, it makes the shop smell really good!


The Buddy Holly “RT-43-45” Guitar Project

written by Rick Turner

Buddy Holly Guitar_BIt’s official:  we are building 18 guitars for the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation, a new non-profit organization dedicated to furthering Buddy Holly’s legacy as a singer/songwriter/guitarist and the cause of music education.

The story starts for us in 1990 when I restored Buddy’s 1943 Gibson J-45 for actor/performer Gary Busey who had bought the guitar at a Sotheby’s auction for $275,000.00 after playing the title role in the movie, “The Buddy Holly Story.” The guitar was in rough shape; there was a side crack going completely around the guitar body from upper bout of the treble side, through the end block, and back up to the upper bout of the bass side. Complicating the repair was the tooled leather cover that Buddy himself had made and sewed onto the body of the guitar in emulation of Hank Snow’s guitar…or was it Elvis’ guitar? Reports conflict! But Buddy was a dedicated amateur leather worker, did all the work himself, and Gary would not let me remove the cover to fix the damage, so I had to do all the gluing and crack reinforcement working through the soundhole. Luckily, I was still svelt enough to get my arm all the way into the guitar to get the glue all the way around and deep enough into the crack, though I cannot vouch for how the guitar sides look on the outside. Somehow I don’t think anyone will ever see that, so I hope it doesn’t matter!

Part of the restoration process was refretting the guitar as Gary wanted to be able to play the guitar out on club gigs. I offered to help facilitate getting a couple of copies of the guitar made, but no dice…Gary wanted to play the real thing out to have Buddy’s vibe on stage with him. When the job was done, Gary let me keep the old frets…19 frets upon which Buddy had literally written many of his hit songs. The bits of metal stayed in an old string envelope in various drawers in various workshops for twenty years. Every now and then I’d come across them and wonder what to do with the frets…put each on a silver chain necklace? Frame them with the story? One went to a lady friend of mine in Tasmania, so the collection was down to 18…

Buddy Holly_Trade SecretsV5

In December of 2009, the guitar, now owned by another person (I don’t know who) went up for auction at Christie’s Auction House with an expected sale price in excess of $500,000.00. I happened to mention on an on-line blog that I had the original frets, and in January I was contacted by Peter Bradley, a Buddy Holly fan in England. Would I be interested in selling the frets? Yes, and the transaction was completed. Then Peter ordered three guitars from us: a Model 1; a high end Renaissance RS-6; and a Compass Rose acoustic asking that I do “my thing” on the acoustic, but keep Buddy’s spirit in mind.

And then came the big one…would I be interested in making 18 replicas of the original 1943 J-45? Well, sure! Building guitars is what we do here at Turner/Renaissance guitars. This coincided with our increasing commitment to making acoustic instruments as well as my interest in combining the best of the tradition of acoustic guitar building with modern materials and knowledge. I’d been wanting to try combining some of my ideas on improving the weak structural areas of traditionally built steel string guitars with the use of old materials like using hot hide glue, Adirondack spruce, and light mahogany sides and backs.

A number of serendipitous things fell into place: A friend, John Thomas, is finishing up a book on Gibson “Banner Era” flattop guitars made between 1942 and 1946, and he is THE US expert on these instruments having interviewed a dozen of the women who made them…yes, most of the Gibson workforce at that time were women, and he has all the available factory information on the guitars and has gone way beyond the beyond with X rays and MRI scans of many of the originals. John was able to confirm that Buddy’s guitar did indeed have a laminated five piece maple and walnut laminated neck; the original had no truss rod (though we will put them in); purfling and rosette specs were somewhat different on the earliest J-45s, and the originals had Adirondack spruce tops…some two piece, some four piece, as well as taller but scalloped top bracing than subsequent models. And interestingly, these guitars were build to significantly higher standards of crafts(woman)ship than the guitars built before or after that era. The Banner Gibsons have truly earned their reputation.

What we…Peter, John, and I…settled upon was that I would build what might be called an “Enhanced J-45” to be designated the “RT 43-45”. They will have the original style maple/walnut laminated necks, but with a two way acting truss rod and two 1/8” x ½” carbon fiber rods running from the nut to just under the 19th fret carrying right through the critical neck joint area. Further reinforcement of the top and fingerboard extension over the top will be provided by topping the upper bout transverse brace with carbon fiber. These modern touches will, if anything, improve tone and sustain while keeping the guitars playable through virtually any playing or touring conditions. As a balance to the modern materials, 98% of the body construction will be done in original materials…mahogany for back, sides, and kerfed linings with Adirondack spruce for the top and all braces, mahogany for the neck block…yet Baltic birch for the vulnerable tail block. All body glue joints are being done with traditional hot hide glue which many luthiers believe makes for a better sounding guitar as the glue dries crystalline hard.

In February, Peter asked me if I could get one of these new guitars to Graham Nash and also asked if there were other musicians I might think of who would like to receive one of the instruments. It dawned on me that this was not to be a money making project for Peter; but rather he was interested in furthering Buddy’s legacy, and that there might be an opportunity to use the guitars to raise money for non-profit organizations dedicated to encouraging music education and the participation in music as and everyday activity rather than just being a product that people “consume”.

And so was born the idea of creating the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation, and organization that would LOAN out the guitars to worthy musicians for two year periods of time with the understanding that the musicians use the instruments in various fund-raising events, on CDs, or videos.

More on the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation in the next chapter of News and Views…


Blasts from Past, Present, and Future…

written by Rick Turner

Yesterday I went up to San Rafael to a barbecue party at Red Michael’s in honor of my old friend, Sam Cutler , former road manager for the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, and Willie Nelson, and whose booking agency, Out of Town Tours, was co-managed by my former wife, Gail.  They booked and  handled the ‘Dead, the Band, the New Riders, Sons of Champlin, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and a scattering of other like and unlike acts.   Sam’s book, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is just out in the US now, published by Random House  It is a wonderfully well written book telling the real story of the Altamont concert disaster and aftermath, and of Sam’s life leading up to that event, how he survived being unceremoniously dumped by the Stones, and then brought into the Grateful Dead family scene where his incredible skills of persuasion helped put the Dead onto the path to financial well being.

I was there in the background and sometimes foreground of that whole scene from 1969 through the end of Out of Town Tours, the ‘Dead’s long vacation, and then through Sam’s next re-invention of himself as a concert promoter at Mainer Downs with his then girlfriend Frances Carr in Austin, Texas, and then road managing Willie Nelson.  Reading Sam’s book filled in a number of gaps in both my knowledge and memories of those days which moved at jet plane speed.

The party was really fantastic, and I got to catch up with a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in decades, many of whom remain incredibly active in audio, music, and film.

Sam has five more books he’s working on, and I can’t wait to read them.


The Pretzel Guitar

written by Rick Turner

Pretzel Guitar

Here’s the first “neck through” instrument that I made in early 1969, a year before I co-founded Alembic and brought lutherie to that company.   I call this “the Pretzel” for obvious reasons, and it was mostly built without the use of power tools other than a Sears electric hand drill and maybe a drill press.  The neck is laminated mahogany, walnut, and maple; the body is carved mahogany, the fingerboard is ebony.  I hand wound the low impedance pickups, hand made the brass parts, and this has the very first Alembic preamps with passive hum-canceling for the pickups.   At that time I cut abalone slabs out of shells on a diamond saw to do inlay work, and I used the same saw to cut ceramic magnet material for the pickups.     I did the metal work when working for a jeweler, Anne Dick, ex-wife of science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick; Anne had set three of us up as cottage industry sub-contractors in the Pt. Reyes Station area, and I learned to do light forging, welding, and silver soldering from her.

This guitar is going into an exhibit of American Crafts, 1945 to 1970 at the Museum of Art and Design in New York in the Fall of 2011.   It was also featured in a show, “Far Out, Bay Area Crafts, 1968 to 1972″ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1999.

The photos of the Pretzel are by Dylan John Western, a wonderful local Santa Cruz photographer and graphic designer   .

There are no plans to reissue the Pretzel :-) though I see near copies from time to time!  unless…



Ravi Shankar’s 90th!

written by Rick Turner

I’m just back from a quick trip down to San Diego having just attended Pandit Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday party  at the La Costa Spa and Resort, and what a beautiful event it was!   This has been quite the season for musician role models…first Bill Tapia’s 102nd birthday in January , then Santa Cruz piano player Velzoe Brown’s 100th  , and now Ravi-ji’s 90th; and all I can think of is how much I want to make the next 30 years or so of my life mean as much as these wise and vital musicians have done.

I was incredibly honored to be invited to the event; this came out of having been involved to a degree in the Indian classical music scene in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and having an amazing series of seemingly random and coincidental things come together…meeting Kavi Alexander of Water Lily Acoustics records, introducing him to Ry Cooder , an intro that resulted in the Grammy winning album “Meeting by the River” with Ry and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt ; then being invited to attend Ali Akbar Khan’s 70 birthday  celebratory recording sessions; then finding that one of my favorite clients, Alan Kozlowski was as close to being an adopted son of Ravi Shankar’s, and finally attending a wide range of Indian music events including a couple of house concerts at Ravi-ji and Sukanya’s home in Encinitas.

The event last night reunited many friends who hadn’t seen one another for years; I could see that happening all over the room.  I don’t think I’ve seen that many smiling faces in one room in quite a while.  There was some beautiful Indian classical dance in Ravi-ji’s honor, and snippets of film from Ravi’s 1974 Royal Albert Hall concert had us all gasping in amazement.   I attended with my 14 year-old son, Elias, whom Ravi-ji had not seen in close to 12 years and my ex-wife, Jessica Baron who now runs a non-profit organization dedicated to guitar and music education, Guitars in the Classroom

Now I’m looking forward to Ravi-ji’s 100th!

Rick T.


In Redwoods

written by Rick Turner

I took a trip last weekend up into West Marin County and then Western Sonoma County to visit my son Ethan’s recording studio…a wonderful place first built in 1976 by Jesse Colin Young.   In 1995 Ethan managed to save the studio from going up in flames in a forest fire that wiped out over thirty houses including Jesse’s which was just up the mountain side from the all redwood studio building; Jesse then moved to Hawaii with his wife Connie and two children and turned the studio over to Ethan.   It’s a really great sounding room with a nice sized control room, and Ethan is set up with a 24 track tape machine, a full ProTools system, and tons of outboard gear that has all been restored and maintained.   Ethan is just putting the finishing touches on an album he’s doing with Jonny Keigwin The recording is an eclectic blend of singer-songwriter pop inflected rock with an unusual overlay of  a French “musette” cafe sound supported by real strings!  No samples!   Jonny is a classically trained upright bassist who plays in many orchestral settings including with the San Francisco Opera and the San Jose Symphony.  Somewhere along the line, he picked up guitar and started writing songs, met Ethan, and now they gig regularly around Marin and San Francisco.

After visiting Ethan and having dinner with Lowell “Banana” Levinger  (,) I drove up to the tiny town of Camp Meeker, deep in old redwoods in Sonoma County to see avant garde looping cello player Zoe Keating and her husband Jeff.   I am working on a quadraphonic cello pickup system for Zoe with the hope that this will allow surround sound looping with each string of the cello being assigned to a different speaker stack.   Zoe has hit the  iTunes classical charts as #1 several times in the past year, and amazing achievement for a solo and independent artist working far outside the normal range of classical…or any other kind of music.  Her music is very compelling, and I am very excited to be working with her.


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