Cool Wooden Box: Transformation of the American Acoustic Guitar (Charles K. Wolfe Music Series) (Paperback)
Beginning with a comparison of the American acoustic guitar world in the early 1960s with that of today, then describing iconic performances at storied venues such as The Ark in Ann Arbor while meticulously researching the instrument’s top makers, Smith assembles a passion-filled and eye-opening history of that “cool wooden box” from the folk era through the pandemic. The author focuses on both the playing and making of the acoustic guitar, concluding that the instrument has been transformed in both aspects during the last sixty years. On the playing side, Smith examines the influences on, and the impact of, such guitarists as David Bromberg, Elizabeth Cotten, Paul Geremia, and Norman Blake. On the making side, the author takes the reader into the tradition-minded yet dynamic world of lutherie. He traces how the oldest, most revered companies whose reputations are based on legendary breakthroughs in lutherie, Gibson and Martin, have adapted as the new lutherie movement of innovative small-scale producers, exemplified by interviewees such as Michael Gurian, Bill Collings, Richard Hoover, and Dana Bourgeois, arose. Starting small and then growing exponentially, Taylor Guitars is a wholly different “player” in acoustic guitar building, and Smith compellingly tells its story. Finally, Cool Wooden Box considers the effects of globalization on the industry.
Clocking thousands of miles and hours of interviews with guitar makers, suppliers, and sellers, W. Rand Smith has created not only a detailed history of the acoustic guitar, but also a lasting tribute to an instrument he so clearly reveres.
W. RAND SMITH is Irvin L. and Fern D. Young Presidential Professor of Politics, Emeritus at Lake Forest College. He is the author of The Left’s Dirty Job: The Politics of Industrial Restructuring in France and Spain and Enemy Brothers: Socialists and Communists in France, Italy, and Spain.
"After coming out of the disco . . . era, when people rediscovered how cool that wooden box is, they just keep rediscovering it.”—Christopher F. Martin IV, CEO, C. F. Martin Co.
"There are books on acoustic guitars, acoustic guitar players, and acoustic guitar makers, but Rand Smith brings them all together for the first time as he explores and explains the evolutionary Big Bang that the acoustic guitar has undergone in the last five decades. An important work—and entertaining, too."—Walter Carter, founder, Carter Vintage Guitars
“Cool Wooden Box is a freshly interpreted and exhaustively researched story of the establishment, development, disruption and rejuvenation of the acoustic guitar industry and of the musical and cultural forces that shaped it, spun by a keen observer of equal-parts guitar aficionado, music lover and historian.”—Dana Bourgeois, founder and CEO, Bourgeois Guitars
"We are so honored to be included in this obviously well-thought-out and well-researched effort. Rand's true love of the instrument and the people who make them on a small scale shines through."—Mark Dalton, Kimberly Dalton, and Brian Dickel, Huss Dalton Guitar Company
“Rand Smith has contributed to the world of lutherie a unique perspective, of one involved with guitars in his early years to the present. Starting with visits to the local music store as well as doing extensive research and interviews with many of the current builders, from large and medium manufacturers to the small independent luthier. The book is a wonderful read and presents a unique perspective as to the evolution of the guitar.” —Michael Gurian, author of An Instrument Maker’s Guide to Insanity and Redemption
“In Cool Wooden Box, Rand Smith has cleverly woven person, social, and musical histories into a compelling narrative. In doing so, Smith has illustrated just how, well, cool the steel string acoustic guitar, its makers, and its players are.” —John Thomas, author of Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women and Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII, and field editor for The Fretboard Journal
“Rand Smith loves the acoustic guitar. In Cool Wooden Box he shares with us his own more than fifty-year journey of discovery and interest in the instrument. Along the way, he has interviewed many prominent guitar makers (both small and large) and importers. The luthiers recount their experiences over the decades, as well as how and why guitar manufacturing has changed in that time. Rand's experiences will be familiar to guitar geeks of a certain age. At the same time, it is a valuable resource to help fill in the blanks for more recent generations.” —Stan Werbin, co-owner, Elderly Instruments, www.elderly.com