The 2018 NAMM show is touted as the largest music industry convention in the world, with over 100,000 international attendees. U2 played on a rooftop one of the mornings. I was there with a group of friends who have known each other more than twenty-five years. One of them is the luthier of Wide Sky Guitars, Patch Rubin. Patch has been nationally honored for his homage to the famous Gibson L1, a guitar played by blues legend Robert Johnson in 1926.
As the owner of a Wide Sky OOO I'm familiar with the amazing sound and craftsmanship. I also knew that he has received support from internationally acclaimed musicians, like David Lindley, who have said about the Wide Sky Dreadnought, "Whoa! You've made a monster, don't change a thing!" However, the enthusiasm shared by the likes of Danny Brown, the custom shop administrative manager and exotic wood specialist for Martin & Co. (guitar builders since 1833), professional musicians like Justin Johnson and Henry Kaiser, along with the best luthiers in the NAMM Boutique Guitar showcase, was a testament to how special of a builder Patch Rubin is. Not only is Wide Sky making the world’s most classic guitars more playable, he's doing it all by hand, as guitars have been made for over 100 years. And if that wasn't enough, he's added a sinker to his line. Sinkers are instruments made from a wood that has been submerged in water, like the great Stradivarius violins.
. Ben Bailey Justin Johnson
Henry Kaiser Wide Sky guitars PL1 series Boutique Guitar Showcase
. One of the many professional entertainers and musicians who came by the booth to play a PL1 was Philip Gough. Philip took the reins of my interview with Patch Rubin as he played in a private studio. First he played the Tobacco PL1 sinker.
Phil- Wow! This is nice! Is this one solid piece? (Top)
Patch- No, it's bookmatched
Phil- What kind of wood is this? (back)
Patch- It's Sapele.
Phil- Looks like mahogany.
Boyd- That's the sunken wood right?
Patch- Yes, the top is sunken Cedar.
Phil switches to a burgundy PL1 with a pick up,
after playing 20 seconds.
Phil- Let's plug this in man! Very clear.
Is this the first show that you've done?
Phil- Have you been to this show?
Patch- Ten years ago
Phil- So you knew what it was like?.
Patch- Yea I did, but I came here just to look at stuff;
I lasted like two hours, It got pretty overwhelming.
Phil & Patch- Laughter (The place is chaotically packed)
Phil- Nice guitar man, it's super sweet, yea.
Phil- Yea, I Love it. And this is simian to the other one?
Different color top?
Patch- Yea, same wood, same everything.
Phil- What kind pick up is this?
Patch- A steel resonator guitar maker makes them,
& I then I put a carriage on them.
Phil- So is that a wooden carriage?
Patch- Yea it is. His resonators look like their in Th Delta era,
so they kind of like have a similar vibe, so I said I
gotta try this pick up, and I feel like their a good match.
Phil- Yea. So do you have a shop that you hang at? Or how
do you sell your guitars?
Patch- It's all been online, so far, now we'll see maybe
people will start hearing stuff. I've got like 40 guitars
out there now, 25 of those.
Boyd- You've already made 25 of those? (PL1)
Patch- Yea, and 8-12 strings, they are'nt too hard for me,
that's another thing I do that I get asked for all the time.
Phil- What's the turn around time on them?
Patch- It takes me a month to build two of those.
Phil- That's not too bad.
Patch- Yea, which is kind of being generous too, so it
makes it so I don't have to stress out. But I do a bunch of
the piece work for ten at a time, so it helps in making it
quicker, but there's still bending the woods, there's a lot
of materials so there's lots to do. I prep the materials in
groups so it cut's down on things to do.
Phil- Did you apprentice with anybody?
Phil- What's that? (Phil's playing this entire time)
Patch- internet (laughter) But I was a guitar tech years ago at
Brauers studio rentals, I dent know if you've been there.?
Phil- In Hollywood?
Patch- Yea, for 2 1/2 years or somthing, I did'nt do
repairs but, I kept the guitar intonated and all that kind of stuff
Phil- Right ( Phil's still playing)
Patch- So I had my hands on all those instruments.
Did you ever go there?
Patch- So then you know what I'm playing with.?
Phil- The best, yea.
Patch- So that was an awesome experience just to have that kind
of muscle memory knoweledge of like, I feel it, back then I decided
what I really, Really liked to play.
Phil- So You're building these just to please yourself?
Patch- That's why I use that neck on all my instruments, because
I love that SG so that's what every guitar gets.
Phil- And this ones gonna sell for? What do you get?
Patch- 38 ($3,800) without the pickup it's 36.
Phil- Right. Adjustable bridge.
Patch- Its about the funnest thing to hear you play that.
(Phil had Patch up on stage with his band over 20 years ago)
Phil- Oh oh dude this is a fucking great guitar! I almost want to
not play it electrically, I mean I like the electric sound.
Patch- Yea, that's the thing.
Phil- Oh you know what, the pot makes it darker.
Patch- Exactly, cause as you roll it up.
As he plays a crisp clean blues version of Georgia, it’s time to go.
This is a busy sound studio. A few days after the show, Phil said to
Patch that his PL1 was, "The best guitar I played at the show".
The best musicians and luthiers agree that the finest guitars are made by hand. To witness the respect and humility of these artists was on no greater display then at the end of the show, when master luthiers from around the world bid their last respects.
Patch Rubin -Taos NM, Glen Maxwell -New Zealand, Egon J. Rauscher -Switzerland, Isaac Jang SF CA.