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May 2020 Thinkin’ ‘bout My Home

May’s track is “Thinkin’ ‘bout My Home”, written and performed by Ron Schmalfuss from his album “Mr. Mojo, Thinkin’ ‘bout My Home”. All of my posted tracks up to this point have been by professional musicians that I feel blessed to have heard use my guitars, sort of a “greatest hits” of recorded examples of my work. But for over 47 years the preponderance of my work as a repairer, restorer, and creator of instruments has been for amateur musicians of all skill levels playing and composing for the pleasure of themselves and friends, much as I did when actively playing. Music has the power to move us deeply, but often as much contextually as simply being beautiful in and of itself. I would dearly love to relive the best Julian Bream concert I’ve attended, but perhaps even more I’d yearn to again hear my uncle Manny on his guitar accompanying my Dad as he sang “South of the Border Down Mexico Way” to my Mother at a family party. I knew Ron Schmalfuss and worked on his guitars from the 70’s when my basement shop was in a downtown Berkeley music store. When it came time to move to my current location in the 80’s, I needed muscle and a truck. I didn’t feel I knew him well enough to ask, but upon hearing of the move he promptly volunteered, wrestling heavy machinery up stairs. Over the ensuing years I did some work for him, but often he’d just stop in, sometimes with his current dog, to chat and play me songs on which he was working. I liked the work ok to varying degrees and was encouraging, but mostly, I just liked him. When I started building more in earnest after a long hiatus, he stopped by and spied a guitar in process with it’s first coats of finish and declared that he wanted it, unheard. What a boost to exhibit at an upcoming festival with one axe already sporting a “sold” sign! The scenario was repeated a couple of years later with a 12 string, notoriously harder to sell than a six. I knew Ron had wanted to set some of his stuff down, so one day I said “let’s do it!”. We met at the shop in the afternoon on a day it was closed, set up a decent (Joe Meek) vocal mic and my pair of recording mics, ran them through a little mixer, and had at it. By dinnertime we were done. He did a nice job assembling a cd and had a small run made. I lost track of Ron as he stopped coming in, and then got a call from someone who had bought one of his/our guitars. He mentioned the owner had died, but the new owner was too far down the chain of possession to offer any details. Ron and I had no mutual friends, and internet searches turned up nothing. It was as if he’d just disappeared. This piece evokes a soldier’s simple but vivid thoughts of home while being in country during the Viet Nam War, and ends in the present, contemplating another group of men and women about to be put in the same position. If you’ve a mind, spend three minutes with my friend Ron, singing and playing from the heart in my shop on a quiet Sunday afternoon, October 15, 2006.


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