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Fretboard Journal features Bourgeois

July 03, 2014
Fretboard Journal Features Bourgeois

Bourgeois the subject of an in-depth feature article in the recent Fretboard Journal #32. Check it out on the Fretboard Journal Website, or by downloading a PDF of the article below.

Bourgeois Guitars in the Fretboard Journal

Here is an excerpt:

The combined cities of Lewiston and Auburn—referred to by locals as LA, with varying degrees of irony—comprise the third-largest population center in the state of Maine. They face each other from opposite sides of the Androscoggin River, on whose eastern bank is poised the Bourgeois factory: an austere 19th-century brick building that was once home to a thriving textile mill.

This is the northernmost of three points in a constellation that, for 30-odd years, has led the way for small-volume makers of steel-string acoustic guitars (the other two being the Santa Cruz Guitar Company and Collings Guitars): Every bench-building, tap-tuning shop in America owes a debt of thanks to these people.

Among the most deserving of all is Dana Bourgeois, an amiable, articulate man whose reputation for sharing time and knowledge with other luthiers is the stuff of legend. Accordingly, during a visit to the Bourgeois factory on what had to have been Maine’s rainiest day in all of 2013, my first question was: Have relations always been so cordial between contemporary builders?

“Oh, yeah. We all grew up at the same time, and we’re on the phone with each other all the time. At my old shop, I’d get the intercom saying, ‘Dana, call from Bill Collings’—or Bob Taylor, or whoever. Our first association was the Guild of American Luthiers, before ASIA [the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans] kind of split off from that, so we’d all go to the conventions to meet these other wild-eyed crazies, who all had the same interests. [And because] you never know where you’re going to get a good idea from, you wouldn’t ever want to miss someone else’s presentation: It was that kind of thing.

“Everyone was influencing each other, and it got to be very collaborative, in lots of different ways. And we were at a stage where some people were established—but everyone was still learning.”

Dana Bourgeois actually began learning on his own, in 1975, when he set about building a guitar in his dorm room at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Bourgeois was raised around tools—his father was an amateur woodworker, and his maternal grandfather was a machinist—so he was conditioned to think that making things was an appropriate thing to do. “Yeah, I thought: I could do this! And then I ran into Irving Sloane’s book, Classic Guitar Construction. There was no internet back then. There were no guitar schools. There was just this one how-to book. And it was not a very good book, as a method of teaching. But the photography was really good, and inspiring.”

The full article text and exclusive photographs are available in the print edition of The Fretboard Journal.