The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56478 Message #3062918
Posted By: GUEST,DWR
28-Dec-10 - 07:07 PM
Thread Name: 'The Grammer Guitar'
Subject: RE: 'The Grammer Guitar'
The link I posted on 08 Dec 04 - 09:31 PM about the Johnny Cash Grammer guitar selling for $131,000 is still good. The article is worth reading mostly for the story of Billy Grammer's life.
Cash had owned the Grammer guitar, labeled "Custom Made for Johnny Cash" since the 1960s. The guitar was presented as a gift to Cash shortly before Grammer sold the company in 1968. Grammer estimated that the guitar would have sold for about $1,500 when it was given to Cash.
Grammer said he formed the fledgling company "on a shoestring" because of the need for quality guitars in Nashville.
"I had a good friend that owned a record and music store and he kept complaining that he couldn't buy a guitar that was worth a flip," Grammer said. "I was about a year getting into production, perfecting things and getting things the way I wanted. The first year we made one guitar per day and then upped that and at the end I had 18 employees and we made about five custom-made guitars per day."
If people are truly destined to work at certain professions then it's a fair statement to say that Grammer was born to be an entertainer.
The oldest of 13 children, Grammer was born in 1925 and picked up a fiddle for the first time at age 5. In those days nobody could have dreamed that music would shape his life and open a door that would lead him to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, where he was inducted as a member in 1959.
And while Grammer began his long musical career with a fiddle in his hands it was a love he developed for playing guitar and later making them that brought him both fame and fortune.
"My dad kept handing me a fiddle but I guess I had 'guitar-itis' because all I wanted to do was play the guitar," Grammer said. "I started playing chords when I was 5 and by the time I was 7 or 8 I was playing most of the songs my dad was playing on his fiddle. I'm certainly not a musical genius by any means, but I do have the natural rhythm and ear of a musician."
A 1943 graduate of Valier High School, Grammer also served in the U.S. Army. The hardship of the times also played a role in Grammer's future. Needing a job after World War II, Grammer pursued one with nationally known disc jockey Connie B. Gay, who had a live radio show at WARL Radio in Arlington, Va.
An example of how difficult the times were can be found in the method and the means that Grammer used to travel to Virginia for the audition.
"I didn't have the money to get there, so I went to Palmer Rea, he ran the relief office, and told him what I wanted to do and that I needed help," Grammer said. "He asked me what I needed and I told him that I needed at least $50 to get me there and back. I'd known him all my life and he gave me the money."
With guitar in hand, Grammer hitchhiked to Arlington, Va., where he was hired for the job over 150 guitarists.
"After I had worked about three months - I was making pretty good money - I sent a check for $50 to Palmer Rea to repay him," Grammer said. "And maybe he had a feeling I was going to do well, because he never cashed that check, and instead had it framed and hung it on the wall."