I officially endorse the following gear!

Elixir StringsChris Jenkins LuthierCedar Creek Custom Case Shoppemccollum guitarsLowden GuitarsHighlander Musical Audio Products

Elixir Strings

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I have used Elixir Strings exclusively since they were new on the market. I have recorded two CDs with them and continue to be impressed. Who would have thought that a huge corporation like WL Gore and Associates would care enough about guitar music to apply their enormous resources to make a better string? Fantastic!I come from a classical guitar background and appreciate the tone I get when using these strings, especially the NanoWebs. When steel strings are played aggressively, you sometimes end up with rattles, or a tone that’s brittle or flat sounding. Enter the scientists at Gore. I have found the thin coating on the strings creates a buffer against these problems and allows me to play as dynamically as I like. The coating also lessens the mechanical squeaks and chirps and allows your fingers to slide easily. Making music with these strings is truly a synergy of art and science.

Chris Jenkins Luthier

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I met Chris at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in 2001. Doug Smith and I were outside jamming with these two little guitars we’d never seen the likes of before. Those guitars had a huge sound with a rich character that defied their size. We played them for about an hour. Later, Doug demonstrated them on stage for Chris. It would have been enough that the guitars sounded good. But each guitar Chris makes is a wooden sculpture. Very artistic, very elegant, and very playable. The attention to detail is astonishing. Even the inside of the guitar is carefully polished and inlayed with abalone. (You can’t see most of this unless you take off the back panel or drop a mirror into one of the soundholes) Check out Chris’s site. You’ll enjoy it. Presently, I own a Saddle Pal (pictured on this website) and a Gitjo, opened back 6 string banjo. I’ve been friends with Chris since I first played his guitars in 2001 and over the years, he’s been very supportive and generous with his time. I highly recommend you play one of his creations. One of the places you can see and play his guitars is at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in California put on by Luthiers Mercantile. In case you haven’t been to it… it’s Disneyland for guitarists!

Cedar Creek Custom Case Shoppe

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When we moved to Virginia in 2002, we bought a place that just happened to be down the street from the Cedar Creek Custom Case Shoppe. I found out about Cedar Creek when I still lived in Scottsdale. A friend of ours, Ron Spillers, used a custom Cedar Creek Case to ship the harp guitar he built for me. The design of it looked familiar. I looked at some of my other guitar cases and found out that I already owned two others. So, being the shy, reserved person I am, I waltzed into their facility one day and introduced myself. After looking at their product line, I asked them if they could modify a case for me. They said yes. And on short notice redesigned and returned my case. After that, I brought in every instrument that didn’t have a case or needed a better one. They do a splendid job and will make a custom case for anything you own. After seeing their excellent work at modifying my carbon fiber case, Terry Hazelton suggested that Cedar Creek work with me as an endorsed artist. I agreed, of course. A nice benefit of endorsing Cedar Creek is that their parent company is TKL, so I’ll never have to go far to get a case for ANY of my gear!

mccollum guitars  

Lance McCollum was a good friend of ours, and simply one of the best luthiers on the planet!I met Lance in June, 1997, when he brought a few of his guitars to the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, California. One of them was the Baritone guitar that I would be taking home with me when I left. My wife, Kay, was the first to see and hear the Baritone. And like all wives of guitar players, she knew instinctively that she was in trouble and pleaded with Lance “please don’t let my husband see this!” Which, of course, was all the information Lance needed to start seeking me out! When I finally sat down with the baritone, I played it for hours, trying out every piece I knew. I was fascinated with the low sound and amazed by how differently it made me think when I played it. Looking back, we are both glad that Lance was persistent, because that guitar (affectionately called “the scary bari”) has been the inspiration behind many of my musical ideas over the years.A few weeks before competing in the National Fingerpicking Championship at Winfield, I received a call from Lance. He said “I’m sending you another guitar to try out. If you like it, play it at Winfield.” The next day, the most beautiful guitar I’d ever seen showed up at my house. Lance told me it was his personal guitar, which was evident by the word “Mine” inlayed into the fingerboard at the 12th fret. As it turned out, I DID like the guitar and played it at Winfield…and won! I called him on the phone and said “guess what?, I made the finals!…then I won it!” —DEAD SILENCE— I then asked him how much he wanted for the guitar because unfortunately he would not be getting it back.Both Kay and I have admired Lance and his work since the day we met him. We miss his unending generosity, his wry sense of humor and his dedication to his art. Lance was a large part of some of the best days of our lives and we think of him often.Lance’s guitars have been recorded on all of my albums, and most likely on future ones. If you’re lucky enough to run across one of Lance’s guitars, sit down and play it for a while. You’ll understand why he was held in such high regard by guitarists everywhere.

Lowden Guitars

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I first met George Lowden while attending the NAMM show in Los Angeles. Pat Kirtley introduced me to the Lowden crew, and after playing some very impressive guitars we started talking about possibilities. After a while, they reached into a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Irish whiskey. I instantly became optimistic about working with them. It wasn’t long before they presented me with the rosewood/spruce F-32c that I still play today. Later, I bought some gorgeous Brazilian Rosewood in Phoenix and shipped it to Ireland to be made into a cedar topped 0-35c. George took a personal interest in this guitar and presented it to me at his home where we were house guests. He strung it up for the first time and handed it to me. I knew right away it was a good instrument, but within a couple of months, I knew it was going to be special one.For five years, I promoted Lowden Guitars through mini-concerts and guitar clinics at music shops around the States. Even though I’m not officially affiliated with Lowden, it remains, in my opinion, one of the most solidly made guitars ever. The F-32c George gave me has been one of the most road-worthy guitars I’ve ever owned. Swings in humidity and temperature seem to have very little effect on it. The sound remains consistent and dependable. It’s been on every gig I’ve played since I’ve owned it. George Lowden is still making hand-made instruments under his own name and continues to design new ones. I look forward to playing some of the new ones!

Officially, I’m not an endorser of the following, but I endorse them nevertheless!

Highlander Musical Audio Products

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I visited Highlander for the first time when one of my pick-ups failed while I was in California. They gave me a tour of their building while they installed an IP-2 pick-up in my guitar. We then compared the pick-ups I was using side-by-side with the Highlander. No comparison. The sound of my guitar with the Highlander was even and clear. But, I was most impressed by the fact that you couldn’t hear the electronics of the pick-up itself. I had thought the pick-up I was using was quiet. When compared side by side, at the same volume, it became crystal clear which design was better. Needless to say, I bought IP-2s for every instrument I was using for stage at the time.