I was interested in fixing guitars after I started playing around the age of 12, after leaving school I worked with my Dad as a builder/labourer, I’d do anything to get off a building site!
Being brought up in Penzance and Newlyn, Cornwall, UK, there were not a lot of opportunities that grabbed me.
We’re in Cornwall, we’re surrounded by the blue stuff, I quickly realised I’d have to pull trade from one direction only; from north of PZ! That meant the whole country to me, and remains one of my achievements today.
In 1991 I did a business course and applied for a Prince’s Trust Bursary, I was awarded this and officially started to trade as ‘Professional Guitar Repair and Tuition’ in June 1992.
The ‘Guitar Doctor’ moniker came along in late 1996 and have grown from strength to strength annually.
Initially, I was teaching guitar privately from my small workshop in my house, and over the coming years started to teach in 12 local Primary Schools, the YMCA, Penwith College’s Adult Education Programme and the repairs were probably 30-40% ratio to the teaching. I wanted more experience in repairing, I started this off my own back with no training or tuition after all.
I dropped the teaching gradually over 2005-2012 and continue to teach in only 2 primary schools; Alverton and Heamoor, where I have been for 20 years, thats a lot of children!
I have had 8 workshops so far, and at the current one in Heamoor since April 2015.
The ratio is now 90% repairs against 10% teaching; just as I want it.
I love teaching children, passing on my knowledge and watching it blossom elsewhere. A few of my previous students have gone on to bigger things, one teaches guitar himself locally now, one plays with the artist Jamie T, another with Ben Howard, with another signed to Sony. Others are in ‘in vogue nationally/internationally’ bands.
Teaching kicks me out of the workshop keeping me fresh on my return.
My big passion is breathing new life in to fretted instruments, especially very old and vintage guitars, being as ethical to the methods and parts used in order to maintain as much originality to an instrument as possible.
Over the years I have been lucky to work for thousands of people, somewhere in the region of 6000 instruments have passed through the workshop, and among them a few well known clients.
Tim Renwick, a very well known and respected session musician, who was the guitarist for The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Al Stewart, Eric Clapton (playing at his Live Aid, Philadelphia set in 1985, with his custard coloured hardtail Strat nicknamed ‘The Ratocaster’; Clapton made his guitar tech scratch the ‘St’ off the headstock as a joke, in reference to Tim’s house in France at the time being infested with rats), also collaborations with Dionne Warwick, Andy Gibb/Bee Gees, Elton John, Procol Harum, David Bowie, Saturday Night Live and most famously for his studio and live work with Pink Floyd.
I have serviced and maintained Tim’s fleet for well over a decade. I particular like his silver Strat used on the live ‘Delicate Sound of Thunder’ album.
Also Graham Smith (Eric Clapton, Al Stewart, Cat Stevens, Harry Nilsson, Alan Price, Bob Weir, Lena Zavaroni), Graham Jones (Haircut 100), Malcolm Joseph (Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry, The Grace Jones Band), Louis Eliot (The Grace Jones Band, Rialto), Stephen Tintin Duffy (Duran Duran, The Lilac Time), Lionel Morton (The Four Pennies, Play Away), Sarah McQuaid, Zoe (Sunshine on a Rainy Day), Chris Woodhead (Jamie T), Neil Halstead (Slowdive), Edison Lighthouse, Cornish heroes King Creature, Flats and Sharps, Nat Wason (Ben Howard), Ritchie Thomas (Brothers and Bones, Ben Howard), Eric Faulkner (Bay City Rollers), John Robertson (Yolanda Charles, Joss Stone, The Grace Jones Band), Tom Katz (Hello), Joe Francis (Winter Mountain) and others I have forgotten!
My job is my life, as my late Dad used to say…
‘Jules, it sure beats working for a living’!