I started doing restaurant work in my early teens. I worked my way up to chef and owner by my mid thirties. It was never a passion but I was good at it and it paid the bills. I grew up around music as both my mother and father were professionals. Music saved me from utter despair, drug addiction and the senseless violence of the times. After a stroke and three surgeries led me out of food service I began a new career as a health care worker. I have worked extensively with kids on the spectrum, elderly with Alzheimer's and with many Hospice patients.
Guitars Kauai grew out of a life time dual romance with the solid bodied guitars of Southern California and the rich Culture, craft, woods and sounds of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian Guitar and Ukulele driven music. I received my first Fender Telecaster as a present from my mother in the the early sixties.
We drove her '61 T-Bird to Fullerton to see Leo the Radio Man as my mother called Mr. Fender. He fancied my mom as she was a vivacious blond actress and I guess they flirted while the deal was made. Then Mr. Fender put a brand new white Telecaster in my small hands. I have never fallen out of love with with Leo's inspired and timeless design and am honored to have met The Creator.
I first played out in 1963, I've never grown out of it and probably never will. My father is a talented composer/lyricist and a piano man. He had successful hits that are considered standards today. He took his inspiration from Cole Porter and Rogers and Hart, but I was drawn to the works of Francis Vincent Zappa, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, McGuinn, Van Morrison and the Three Kings: Freddie, B.B. and Albert. Later in L.A. it was Tom Waits and Warren Zevon then moving to Texas, I was captivated by the storytelling of Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and the talented balladeers hanging around the Austin club scene and playing The Armadillo in the 70's . There I first heard the T Birds and their leader, Jimmy Ray's brother, a lanky white blues player with the initials S.R.V. who was stirring up quite a fuss playing an ugly sunburst Strat.
I was back in L.A. and then San Francisco just in time for disco and punk. I played the Mabuhay Gardens, The Roosevelt, The Off Broadway, the Palms and The Goodman Building with my four piece band, Buck$. When the bank account had 13.00 in it it was bac to L.A and then I became an expatriate.
Upon my escape to Kauai, now some 23 years ago, I delighted in discovering Gabby Pahinui, The Peter Moon Band, C and K, Ms. Cindy Coombs, Teresa Bright and a son of Nihihau now remembered as Brother Iz, to name but a few.
I met master restoration craftsman and ukulele historian Tero when I gave him a job in 1990. He had a collection of off beat Harmony and Silvertone guitars the memory of which still makes my heart beat faster. He was a California escapee and we both had considerable knowledge and shared a passion for wood and strings, although I am a hopeless electrical junkie, and he more the purist. We lost touch after Hurricane Iniki and were reunited just last year. I am blessed to have him as a partner and guide once again, in the shop and in my life. He is a consummate gentleman, and a highly skilled perfectionist. He can take a plastic bag of Koa splinters, utter an incantation which in time will transform the jigsaw puzzle into a pre-war Kamaka that will sing again for generations. Tero handles the finishing alchemy for our Custom Electrics.
I have been doing electrical repairs and setups for a small but loyal customer base for the last 15 years. I also buy and sell and offer Auction Brokering, verification and documentation. I have handled vintage acquisitions for clients with collections in Japan and the mainland. We will be introducing our line of custom guitars and bases this winter. Client requests for quality gear has led to a web presence and hopefully this blog will help during the site construction.
I have good relationships with several talented luthiers and can aide clients by exposing them to these different builders and assisting in accurately determining their wishes and needs and translate this information faithfully to the Artisan in guitar speak. This service can make all the difference in the world of professional, investment and presentation grade custom instrument purchasing.
The majority of our products are not off the shelf items. The big boxes and the factories of the Far East serve that need. I choose products made by companies with real faces, voices and hearts. I am not greed driven and do not want to be Mr. Taylor or Mr. Paul Reed Smith. I want to expose the talented players in Hawaii to products they might never know existed. I also believe in fair prices and look for products that represent value and are accessible to the working person, i.e the majority of the folks here on the island and throughout the state. A potion of the sales of all site merchandise will go to Kauai-based charities: Nana's House, Malama Pono and Kauai Hospice.
In future posts I'll introduce the products and the folks that make them. Until next time,
Aloha from Koloa
T. J. Barnes