Dudley Connell – a bluegrass man and his guitars

We didn’t play the show that night. We went back to the hotel and filled out police forms. We sued the guy who actually did this, but apparently his dad was well connected and they ended up buying me a new case. I never did fix the guitar. It’s still hanging around somewhere.

KD: What about Richard’s banjo?

DC: It broke the head but the banjo itself was fine. We were the first day out on a week’s tour. Someone from a local music store took pity on me and loaned me a D-28 which I used for the tour and then returned it as we came back through town.

KD: What did you do about a guitar? You had a new case…

DC: Chris Warner, who was a powerful banjo player and who played for a long time with Jimmy Martin, had a music shop in York or Hanover, Pennsylvania called Warner’s String Works. I went up to him and said, “I need a guitar. This is what happened and I’m looking for a new guitar.” He had a ’72 or ‘74 Martin D-28 hanging on the wall. I bought that and I played it for a few years until I found my old Herringbone in 1983, which I still play. I still have that guitar I bought from Chris.

How I ended up with my Herringbone is that I saw all these pictures of Carter Stanley, Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin and they all had these guitars called Herringbones. I didn’t know what that was but I knew I had to have one of those if I was going to be a professional bluegrass musician.

KD: What does Herringbone mean?

DC: It’s the trim around the top. If you’re looking down on the guitar, the binding around the outside between the spruce and the rosewood, there’s a thing called binding. It’s a trim in a Herringbone design.

KD: Sorry, continue with the story of how you bought one.

DC: We live in a very small community so I put the word out that I was looking for an old guitar. We were at a bluegrass festival in Burlington, North Carolina. A few guys came out with three guitars. We were going to New York the next day to play a folk festival and then we would be coming back through Burlington in a couple weeks. This man said “Just take the guitar with you and see if you like it.” That was a smart move on his part and a smart move on my part, too. I ended up buying the guitar and playing it all night long and taking it to New York.

Then it was up to me to figure out how to pay for it. He was asking for $4,000, which was about $3,500 more than I had to my name at that time. That was in 1983.

KD: These are from the days when you were eating bologna out of a cooler during your JMB road trips.

DC: (laugh) Something like that. I remember borrowing $1,000 from my dad and I think I borrowed a couple thousand from my local bank. It was a very small town bank. They knew me and what I was up to and what I was about so they gave me a loan.

I’ve played that guitar ever since.


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