One day last spring I left Atlanta in a haze of pollen and drove up into the clear air of Asheville, North Carolina, to check out the Moog lap steel. A few weeks before, a YouTube video had sparked my interest. A Moog engineer named Cyril Lance was describing the guitar he’d developed, and it looked like it could do some pretty amazing things. Well, I knew Cyril Lance, not as an engineer but as a guitarist. So I called him up. Cyril told me it was funny I should call, since I already had some small history with the instrument. Its Weissenborn-style body shape was inspired after he saw a Delta Moon show, when I was playing my Dart guitars. Cyril put me in touch with Jason Daniello, the head of artist relations at Moog Music, and Jason invited me to the factory for a test drive.
Many years ago, not long after the late Bob Moog first moved to Asheville and built an octagonal house at the end of a country road, I visited him at his home and interviewed him for a feature in Atlanta Weekly, the now long-gone Sunday magazine of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Moog wore a plaid shirt with a pocket protector and introduced me to his wife not as a journalist but like this: “Tom is a gigging musician!”
On this trip, Jason led the way through a busy factory that looked little like the workshop I remembered behind Bob Moog’s house. As we walked through the shop Jason introduced me to employees intently working on synthesizers and Theremins. Moog Music seemed to be going full blast, and in fact the company has since moved to larger quarters in downtown Asheville.
The room with the lap steel was an easy one to walk into, but a hard one to leave. I fooled around with the guitar for an hour and felt I was just scratching the surface of what it could do. I kept thinking about it for the next six months before finally pulling the trigger and ordering one.
Now I have the thing and love it. From the player’s point of view, it is not such a big leap from the 1920s technology of the Weissenborn to the 1950s Harmony Strato-Tone to the Moog guitar. It does require some new techniques, though, which I’m working on, borrowing here and experimenting there. After some unexpected “infinite sustain” issues on the Moog’s Delta Moon debut in Tallahassee last week, I got some useful tips from a viola player. New ideas are opening up every time I play the thing. We’ll see where they lead.
And oh, I almost forgot to mention, I also got this nifty pocket protector.