Brining business out of basements: Acoustic music revival holds its first custom guitar showcase

In the last 22 years, Bob Laughlin has hosted dozens of concerts, art exhibitions and other music-related events at his guitar-centric shop, Acoustic Music Revival, at 3445 S. Broadway in Englewood.April 23, he held his store’s first custom guitar showcase for local, home-based luthiers (people who make or fix stringed instruments) to display their handmade creations.

Soft chords from impeccably crafted acoustic guitars slid from each of the seven vendor’s stations, and blues and rock notes tinkered melodically like opened jewelry boxes for the six-hour event.

“We’re just trying to figure out a way to get new people in and support local music,” said Laughlin’s wife and business partner, Shawn Winchester. “They’re working out of their homes and they’re not all in the big city … We had enough people coming through there to get them each a little bit of recognition.”

Even when the store was packed into a smaller space more than a decade ago at 1934 S. Broadway in Englewood, Laughlin strove to bring attention to local musicians and craftsmen, and to provide aspiring guitarists anything they could possibly need.

An Art & Lutherie Folk Spruce Burgundy guitar hangs on display April 23, during the Colorado Custom Guitar Showcase at Acoustic Music Revival in Englewood. Photo by Sean Mullins ¥ smullin5@mscd.edu

“It seems to be a real service to the music community,” Winchester said. “We have a lot of people that come here and just hang out … they may be looking for information about where to play or where they can get [guitar essentials] they need.”

Denver luthier and graphic designer, Russell Brodoway has been refurbishing and building acoustic guitars from scratch as a hobby since 2006, but has never sold his work.

“I kind of stumbled into it,” Brodoway said. “I’ve always been a woodworker, and then the Project Angel Heart art auction came up and I thought, ‘Well, I’m not an artist, but what can I do,’ so I actually built a heart-shaped guitar out of plywood, and that’s what got me into it.”

Project Angel Heart is a food delivery service for sick and elderly people that Brodoway was involved with. After attending the showcase, he exchanged information with someone interested in commissioning an similar guitar from him.

“I love coming up with these unique designs and making them come out,” Brodoway said. “At the end, they’re musical and that’s part of the magic of guitar making. Every step of it is beautiful.”

Other vendors were there to promote the uniqueness of their particular style of craftsmanship. James Einolf has been building guitars since he was 14-years-old. He currently has a two-year waiting list for one of his rare, 1926 Gibson L-0 and L-1 series replicas, which he creates out of his home in Castle Rock as a tribute to the late blues artist Robert Johnson.

Likewise, Jeff Bamburg has built guitars in his home in Salida for seven years; he made it his full-time career in 2009. He took an interest in the guitar as a musician, but quickly learned that not every instrument was created to fit everyone properly.

“I did like to play, I wanted to play, but I was sort of a frustrated player because I bought a guitar that gave me a little bit of an ergonomic struggle,” Bamburg said. “It didn’t fit my lap right and I ended up getting tendonitis from it because the strings weren’t adjusted correctly and the action was really high.”

He decided to try building his own model, mainly to see what it involved, and found that there were several adjustments with the shape and design of the guitar that he could manipulate to suit him better.

“All string instruments are a bit of a mathematical compromise,” Bamburg said. “[My approach is] an effort to return to a true temperament rather than a just temperament.”

In addition to the exhibits, concerts and promotions, Laughlin and Winchester offer free music lessons on Saturdays for guitar, bass, banjo, ukulele or mandolin of any level or style and voice. Volunteer teachers work through Acoustic Music Revival and can be contacted for appointments.

The shop also offers stringing and instrument maintenance through their resident repairman, Chris Herbert, who has operated his business within Acoustic Music Revival since its relocation after Winchester and Laughlin were married 12 years ago.

“I was looking for somebody to play music with when I met Bob,” Winchester said. “Then we decided to start a band. [It was] the two of us and we didn’t have a name. I was singing and playing percussion and he’s a guitar player.”

The couple now has an eight-piece band called Bob’s Basement Band, which will make their musical debut May 21 at the store, and will play again June 25 during Englewood’s free Eats and Beats Festival.

FROM LEFT: Dave McGregor jams out with Russ Brodoway April 23, during the Colorado Custom Guitar Showcase at Acoustic Music Revival in Englewood. Brodoway built the heart-shaped guitar for the Denver based charity, Project Angel Heart. Photo by Sean Mullins ¥ smullin5@mscd.edu

Author: Megan Mitchell

Megan Mitchell is the managing editor of The Metropolitan. She has worked for the paper since spring 2010 as a reporter, assistant editor, Metrospective editor, and editor-in-chief respectively.

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