Upon moving to TN in 1997, I, Cory Batson, was working for a custom millwork company in Nashville, TN. My guitar had just been stolen in a car-jacking, along with several other things. Grant had just purchased a hand-made George Lowden guitar. The look, tone, and feel of this guitar was awesome and completely foreign to me. I was desperate to own a guitar like this, however, I was flat broke. I tried to get financing which came up about $2,500 short and I didn’t have enough stuff to sell to make up the difference. One day, I was in the shower praying. I was giving God all kinds of great ideas as to how I might acquire this $3,800 Lowden. Well…I got my answer, ‘Build your own!’ I immediately thought, ‘What? Okay..cool!’ The custom furniture shop proved to be the perfect situation for doing just that. After all, I was surrounded by wood and tools.
I bought a book, Guitar Making – Tradition and Technology….
This was an excellent starting point for me. I had zero instrument building knowledge or experience. Within the first few weeks of this pursuit I had taken a few measurements of Grant’s Lowden to get a hands-on feel for the things I was reading about. I quickly realized the importance of precise jigs and fixtures. I recall making the rosette on my first guitar taking over 12 hours. But, I wanted to use solid black Mother of Pearl. Cutting all of those radiuses by hand took a while. I had never worked with pearl before but I was very pleased when it was finished. I was about 4 months into this project and decided it was time to move back home to Texas. I had finished assembling the body..and that was about it. My parents had a small garage behind their house in Taylor, TX. That’s where I finished up my first guitar and spent the next 4 years engrossing myself with researching guitars and their construction. I was determined to build a great guitar, and make that guitar cheap enough so that broke guys like me could afford a great sounding guitar. Prices are more difficult to harness than physics..
Early on, I read that the most difficult frequencies to get out of a guitar are the lower, bass tones. So, I started searching through guitars and guitar makers theories about creating a guitar with good bass response. I soon realized that my mind was being confused by too much conflicting information. For example, I was looking over my uncles Goodall guitar and noticed a very slight, if any backset at the heel of the neck. I also noticed his very thin bridge. This made sense in that there was less mass weighing down the soundboard. Martin, and many others, would use a greater backset in order to raise the height of the strings at the saddle. This makes sense, too. This gives a greater drive angle and force to drive the soundboard. But, the bridge needs to be more massive to accommodate this height…weighing down the soundboard. So, each of these practices made sense but only when presented from their own perspective. The second guitar I built had a two piece bridge. I designed it to be very light weight while accommodating a very high string position at the saddle. The results were good, but I was just getting started! Being a drummer, I began thinking along the lines of how a drum head, rim, and stick function. The more I thought along these lines I realized that there were several things in a traditional guitar that didn’t make sense to me. I thought, ‘dude, I’d never cut a hole in my drum heads!’ That thought took a while to come to fruition. My mind was moving at light speed, consumed by new thoughts and concepts for guitar construction. I built a few guitars here and there around my work schedule. Now, back in TX for 2 years, my best friend, Marty Jaksch, and I were working together and living in an apartment in Round Rock, TX. My mom and dad were moving to Nashville. Grant and Jill had just blessed them with grandchildren! My mom was tearing up the interstate between Taylor and Nashville!
I was determined to stay in Austin, TX and not move back to TN. I spent the next 2 years working and trying to figure out how to get tools and waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas for guitar design. In 2002, I moved back to Nashville and went to work with my dad for his electrical contracting company. It was then that I was able to begin testing all of my thoughts and theories for guitar construction. In fact, my shop still sits just behinds my dads house in Nashville to this day.
The first bracing design I tried on the ‘no-hole’ soundboard I called a ‘truss-brace’. This was born sitting on Old Hickory Blvd bridge over I-65. My dad and I were in the truck when a semi rolled by. The bridge moved nicely up and down. He and I discussed how to create that. He reminded me of the trusses he built for our carport in Taylor. He used sucker rod welded about 12″ at each end of a piece of drill pipe. Then he spread it apart with a short rod to give it shape, tension, and flexibility. That’s pretty much exactly what I did, but with wood..and they weren’t round pieces. My desire to develop my ideas for the acoustic guitar always out weighed my desire to make a living building guitars. Though that was always runner-up. When my mom died, I decided it was time to pursue my dream. Knowing they would continue to evolve, I was confident enough with my prototypes to start selling guitars.
The No.5 was born!
Late 2009, when I began using a lattice bracing design, I thought I could make a run at manufacturing a less expensive guitar. Having a degree in Public Relations, Grant began working with me to start getting the word out. It turned out that manufacturing is a very costly endeavor, if profit is your goal anyway..
I began realizing that my true passion is pursuing the continuing evolvement of the acoustic guitar. I’m a designer and builder, not an assembly line kind of guy. However, the No.5′s will keep coming in small limited batches because I want to provide this awesome design to all who want it. Honestly, I wish I could get the price lower!
The last few years have been difficult, humbling, and inspiring. I’m still building custom guitars and continuing to develop new ideas. That is my passion and pursuit regardless of trying times and obstacles.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~ Thomas A. Edison (1847 – 1941), American inventor and businessman
JAN BATSON was born on October 20, 1951, in Crane Texas. From her childhood she was on a mission to help and please others. She befriended everyone she met and her positive attitude and winning smile were infectious to everyone around her.
In 2004, having never smoked a day in her life, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Determined that she would live as long as she was alive, she served others for the next year and a half. She cleaned, cooked and prayed for others in need until she was unable to make it out of bed. The impact of her life is still felt in the small world we live in.
In Loving Memory, I dedicate my passion for guitar-making to my mom, Jan Batson. She was a champion, full of passion, grace and love. She brought a smile to everyone who knew her. I love you and miss you, Mom.