I spent the morning yesterday with my friend Bruce Katz who is a celebrated architectural photographer and telecaster player. Bruce’s work can be found in museums and collections all around the world and he loves to talk about and play telecasters.
So we got a couple coffees at the Indian Road Cafe in Inwood and sat by the water with two Rick Kelly Bowery Pine guitars and played some blues while taking in the gorgeous view of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek.
Bruce took this shot of the newly built Esquire on the left and the Telecaster on the right. Both guitars are made from wood taken from the renovation of the famous Chelsea Hotel here in NYC. The history of that place is legendary and both guitars have a lot of NYC mojo which I prefer since I am a native son of Manhattan.
Rick Kelly is a very humble guy who builds one-of-a-kind guitars from the beams of NYC buildings. He studied sculpture in Baltimore and has spent the last forty years building guitars for a lot of great players. His shop, Carmine Street Guitars is a time capsule of old New York, particularly Greenwich Village as I remember it when I was growing up.
He’s a kind low-key fellow who rides a road bike every weekend for six hours to stay in shape and has built guitars for people like Bob Dylan, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Robert Quine, Lou Reed, Jim Campilongo, G.E.Smith, Patty Smith, Walter Becker, Marc Ribot, Bill Kirchen and a host of others. It’s a thrill to play one of these beautiful guitars.
The little amp there by the Spuyten Duyvil is an Allen Champ which is no longer made. The cabinet was built by another good friend and guitar freak named Jim Chambers. He’s a great guy who can’t stop building amps and playing guitars for his own enjoyment. I call the amp “The Jim Woody” because he uses fine tone woods to build the cabinet and I think it makes the amp sing. Jim has built a mini stack Princeton Reverb that I use as my main gigging amp. Of all the amps I own that’s the one I grab all the time.