A Kalamazoo Gal Inspired by Kalamazoo Gals

Five years ago a faded, 1944 photograph set me on a journey.  Intrigued, maybe even haunted by the image, I set out to find one of the women in that photo and succeeded in finding twelve of them.  Those Kalamazoo Gals inspired me to write Kalamazoo Gals.  That “band of intrepid, unpretentious, stunningly skillful, thoroughly American women,” as Jonathan Kellerman calls them in the book’s foreword, taught me a lot about guitars, of course, but even more about sacrifice, loyalty, dedication, and, well, life. On my journey throughout the US and Europe since the book’s release in March, I’ve had the privilege of sharing with thousands the principal lesson I’ve gleaned from this project:  an ordinary life, well told, makes for an extraordinary tale.  The Gals told me extraordinary tales.

Here’s another extraordinary tale.  Kalamazoo Gals has inspired a Kalamazoo Gal who has, in turn, inspired me. Those Gals propelled me on a journey that is embracing the Ensō aesthetic: the Japanese word associated with the Zen Circle of Enlightenment.

Judy with GuitarMeet Judy Carnago, the newest shining point on the Kalamazoo Gals Ensō. Judy, a Kalamazoo resident who has just taken up the guitar at the age when others abandon adventure in exchange for Social Security, can tell you her story better than I:

“I was truly inspired by your book and my lingering, latent love of music that includes playing the violin in 5th and 6th grades and being in choir in high school.  I would have probably continued with the violin but I went to high school in a small town and they only had a band and no marching violins!  I got a keyboard a few years ago and found that a little too complicated for my age and left-handedness.  Then along came ‘Kalamazoo Gals’ with such a wonderful story and great information about guitars.  I’m learning that guitars are certainly not any less complicated than keyboards but they sure are more portable and they come in left-handed versions.  Who ever heard of a left-handed piano or keyboard?  It’s the beginning of a great adventure for me and more proof that you’re never too old to learn something new.”

So, gaze upon the photo of Judy with her new guitar. If this isn’t a beautiful vision of enlightenment, I don’t know what is.

Thank you, Judy, for inspiring me.

Kalamazoo Gals at Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville

photo (1)What a beautiful vision: Friday night in Nashville, Tennessee, surrounded by great musicians and stunning instruments, including a bevy of beautiful Banner Gibsons, and hosted by Walter and Christie Carter, two of the world’s nicest people who also happen to be two of the world’s leading guitar experts. After spending the past couple of decades working in one of Nashville’s best-known vintage guitar shops, Walter and Christie have recently opened their own shop.  And it is spectacular!  Spacious, comfortable, and filled with friendly staff and drool-worthy guitars, mandolins, banjos, ukes, amplifiers, and related products.

I was thinking seriously of yelling “fire” and during the ensuing chaos grabbing the Lloyd Loar signed F-5 mandolin and H-5 mandola and heading for the door when Carter Vintage employee and picker extraordinaire Lucas White grabbed one of those Banner Gibsons and, joined by his friends in the band New Blue, launched into some rollicking newgrass.  Mesmerized by the music, the gorgeous shop, and Walter and Christie’s hospitality, I momentarily forgot about my planned life of crime.photo (2)

Before my thoughts could return to larceny, Walter Carter introduced me and I did my Kalamazoo Gals song and dance, regaling the appreciative crowd with the tale of my personal journey of locating and interviewing the Gals and then weaving a book around their stories.

It’s always rewarding to see the Gals’ story resonate with an audience.  It was even more rewarding to see the story take hold in Music City in the presence of the cognoscenti of the fretted instrument world.

photo (3)Thank you Walter, Christie, Josh Alexander, Lucas White and all of the staff and attendees at Kalamazoo Gals night at Carter Vintage Guitars.

Oh, and do yourself a favor.  The next time you’re in Nashville stop in to say “hi” to Walter and Christie. And do me a favor, too, by checking to see whether pair of Loar-signed instruments are still in residence.photo