Guitars and Road Dogs

On this tour I brought two 1950s Harmony Stratotone H44 guitars. I call them Mac and Jack. Mac, tuned to D, is a proven veteran. Jack, tuned to G, is a few years older but new to the road. From the looks of him, he hasn’t had a life of ease, but getting slung around for five shows a week now has got him showing his age.

I thought Jack was in pretty good shape when we left. But three shows into the tour the bridge saddle disintegrated. I mean it just broke and turned to dust. With only fifteen minutes to improvise a repair, I bummed a used bass E-string from Franher and mounted a few inches of that. It worked great until, a few nights later in Vienna, the wire windings came loose at the end and tore up the heel of my hand. Duct tape to the rescue. Now the bass-string saddle should last the rest of the tour.

Last Thursday I noticed Jack’s tailpiece was pulling up. Friday and Saturday were long drives, so I hoped he could hang in there until Sunday. Saturday night in Luxembourg Jack suddenly went out of tune. Every string was flat. I tuned as Mark took a solo, but it was no use. The heavy strings had bent the tailpiece and pulled it loose. I ditched Jack, retuned Mac and finished the evening with him.

This morning I filled the stripped-out screw holes with pieces of toothpicks and matchsticks, reshaped the tailpiece with a Leatherman tool over a marble window sill and put Jack back together again. He looks pretty solid. I’ll have to be careful with him the final two weeks of the tour.

I’m doing fine. Mark has hurt a tendon in his right hand. It’s all swollen today. He can still finger-pick but can’t hold a flat pick well, so we’ve been discussing how I can cover some of the rhythm parts he usually plays.

We’ll make it. This is how songs are played, how wars are fought, how families are raised.

Happy Mother’s Day.


7 replies
  1. Hugh
    Hugh says:

    Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Happy Mother’s Day.
    Hope the Harmony(s) ‘Hold On’ like Brittany says.
    BTW, What’s the G tuning you use – low to high?

  2. Terri
    Terri says:

    Hey Tom,

    I love your guitar story.

    And on that note, Mae and I watched Jimmy and a bunch of that cohort graduate at the stadium last night. Great fun. Congrats to you all! Yeah! to the messy business of making music, raising families.

    I see you are keeping a pretty busy schedule…ever have time to show my other girl a few bits of the slide? She’s very musical but doesn’t have the finger/wrist strength (yet) to hold the guitar properly and press the strings for chords; always messes around on her lap with a slide…seems to gravitate toward that. She’s been working with Moira N. on accordian and fiddle, by ear. M. says Lena’s gifted with great musical intuition, not sure exactly what that is.

    xx t

  3. Paul M
    Paul M says:

    And sorry to be thick, but what’s your D tuning, low to high? I just discovered you guys today and totally into learning some slide now. Thanks!

  4. Tom Gray
    Tom Gray says:

    Paul, there is no thickness in asking. Mark and I both use this D tuning, low to high: D-A-D-F#-A-D. We also use this G: D-G-D-G-B-D, and occasional variations on each for particular songs.


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