Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sipsey River Steels



Birmingham has more to offer than just musicians. There is a burgeoning music business community as well, from retail instruments to recording studios, or equipment sales, to various custom offerings. One excellent example of a custom designer here in town is Jack Dudley of Sipsey River Steels (SRS), who has provided some custom creative pieces for musicians in the form of lap steel guitars.     

"As a kid, I was always looking for a piece of wood to whittle or drive a nail into. I was always tinkering and creating something, be it a birdhouse or a drum, a tree fort or a walking stick. I loved to experiment with wood, and that drive to create never ceased or even slowed as I grew older." - Jack Dudley


"I grew up in a musical family," says Dudley. "My parents played nightclubs in the northeastern US for a living, so it was natural at some point for me to pick up an instrument. I began playing bass at 11, and when I was about 17, I heard Jaco Pastorius for the first time on the Heavy Weather Album. At the time, I was playing a 1963 pre CBS Fender P-bass. I noticed that Jaco had plucked the frets out of his fender, and decided that I wanted to learn to play fretless bass. I subsequently plucked the frets out of my bass, (If I had known what that bass would be worth today, I NEVER would have done It.) and being that hindsight is 2020, and because I did not have another bass, I was forced to learn what the word intonation really meant. After hacking on the thing for awhile, (I’m sure those around me were being more than kind for not giving up on me) I began to develop my own style."


Dudley's laps have been used by a number of renowned musicians:
  • Multi-award winning Australian lap steel virtuoso, Andrew Winton. "We co-designed (via skype) a 13 string monster named "Lucky 13" which has since become his main instrument. He just completed a 70+ show, 3 month tour using it. He says that it is somewhat of a curse, because he has to explain the damn thing to everybody that sees it! He is flying over here to demonstrate my guitars at the summer NAMM show, Nashville, July 12-14 (on his own nickel, mind ya) and will be hanging out for a couple weeks after NAMM, here in B'ham. He will be conducting a lap steel clinic at City Vineyard/280 on July 21 from noon to 2pm. and will be performing a show immediately following at 2. For those who might know who Andrew is, you will be missing something HUGE if you don't set the date aside. This guys a monster!" www.andrewwinton.com
  •  World Renown bluegrass player Jerry Douglas: "Another guy who has one of my guitars is none other than the worlds most recognized dobro monster, Jerry Douglas. He has about a million Grammys, and performs with Allison Krauss and Union Station, as well as having plenty of his own thing going on at any given moment. He say's he absolutely loves his SRS, and plans on playing it publicly with his fusion gigs. He did do a commercial for an upcoming Ella Fitzgerald tribute using his SRS, which I thought was pretty cool." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAqlC0cB6g4
  • Andy Hall:  "Andy Hall, dobro player for "The Infamous Stringdusters" also has one of my Hollow body electric models, and has said that it is absolutely "Badass". I originally met Andy in my first meeting with Jerry Douglas, at Fender studio's/Nashville"

 "I grew up in a musical family," says Dudley. "My parents played nightclubs in the northeastern US for a living, so it was natural at some point for me to pick up an instrument. I began playing bass at 11, and when I was about 17, I heard Jaco Pastorius for the first time on the Heavy Weather Album. At the time, I was playing a 1963 pre CBS Fender P-bass. I noticed that Jaco had plucked the frets out of his fender, and decided that I wanted to learn to play fretless bass. I subsequently plucked the frets out of my bass, (If I had known what that bass would be worth today, I NEVER would have done It.) and being that hindsight is 2020, and because I did not have another bass, I was forced to learn what the word intonation really meant. After hacking on the thing for awhile, (I’m sure those around me were being more than kind for not giving up on me) I began to develop my own style."

 "In the meantime, I got married to my wonderful wife, and began to raise a family.
I never stopped playing, and to date, I have now been playing fretless bass for 30 years.
I never lost the desire to create with wood, and because of the lack of quality fretless basses on the market, I began building my own instruments. What I began chiefly to satisfy myself has blossomed into a passion to build great fretless basses, in hopes that others will find as much pleasure playing them as I find building them."


"Now, concerning the Sipsey Steel, that was a complete accident. It all started in the summer of 2008. Me and my son threw the flat bottom boat in the back of my truck and decided to take a day trip to west Alabama. In our travels that day, we stopped at the Sipsey River and motored our way upstream. We were just out for a ride, and enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We came to an area where there were a lot of cypress trees, and a farmer had cut a path through a pile of cypress knees to allow his cows to reach the river to drink. I thought the knees looked pretty neat, and being who I am, figured that I could make something out of them later, so we threw a few in the boat.They laid around the shop for months, and I actually thought about throwing them out on several occasions. In the meantime, my brother kept asking me to build him a lap steel out of some walnut that I had in the shop, and on a whim, I decided to try and build one out of the cypress knees. The rest is history. My love for tinkering with wood coupled with my brother’s persistence to build him a lap steel, is responsible for Sipsey Steel."



3 comments:

  1. yep - this is the stuff.... then again , I'm not a neutral observer.

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  2. SRS instruments are quite amazing (and Jack is quite an amazing virtuoso, also). The time and skill it takes to craft such an instrument as he demonstrates must be incredible; that certainly comes out when you hear someone like Andrew Winton play it.

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  3. Update: Sipsey River Steels (dontfretinstruments.com) is going to NAMM July 11th - 14th. Andrew Winton, the lap steel virtuoso from Australia will be accompanying Jack and his posse to Nashville to help showcase the instruments to the industry. This is going to be fun, and hopefully a successful trip for DontFret Instruments. Come see us if you have a pass!

    http://www.dontfretinstruments.com

    ReplyDelete