March 27, 2009

The Podium's 50th Anniversary

We wanted to do something special for our 50th anniversary.

It was 1959...

The Podium had just opened its doors when a young and scruffy looking musician came in looking for guitar strings. In those days, The Podium sold pipes, tobacco, and classical sheet music - but he wanted guitar strings...specifically, Martin guitar strings. Well, we had to become a Martin dealer to get them - and we would have to order a few Martin guitars to get started - but since the folk boom was just starting, selling guitars seemed like a good idea. Subsequently, he wound up spending a lot of time hanging around and playing Martins, and Martin guitars really took off for us.

The young musician often played across the street at The Ten O'clock Scholar coffee house, and was generally so broke that we wound up giving him strings. Back then he was still sporadically attending classes at the University of Minnesota, registered as Robert Zimmerman. Of course, he's known to most folks today as Bob Dylan.

In 1974, when Dylan was in town to record his "Blood on The Tracks" album, we lent him a vintage Martin OO and The Podium staff was tapped to be his backup band during the recording of that album.

Since Martins were the first instruments we carried when we started the store, because of the nice history we have had with Martin guitars, and because we think they are making some of the best guitars they ever have, we thought we would work with the wonderful folks at the Martin custom shop to build something really special.

So behold - The Podium 50th Anniversary Martin.

It is similar to a Martin OO18V, but with an Engelman spruce top, Waverly tuners, special vintage bracing, and a heaping portion of juju. The result is a spectacular fingerstyle guitar with a rich, resonant bass, great volume and sustain, and ringing complex overtones throughout its dynamic range.

Here's an audio clip of this fantastic instrument in action.

Speaking of audio clips...

There are two questions that all of us in the shop seem to get asked, at least on a weekly basis.

1. Who plays the clips on your website?
2. What is the song, and can I get a transcription of it?

Well the answer to question one is...

Kevin Lee

Kevin is the store manager at The Podium, and records all of the tracks for the website. He also takes all of the beautiful pictures of the guitars - on top of, you know, running the place. Recording is done with a Zoom H2 recorder, in stereo. Editing is done using the incredibly useful shareware application, Audacity. The sound samples you hear are adjusted for length, but are unprocessed - no eq, reverb, etc. The are then encoded from 16/44.1 wav files to mp3s for the website.

And the answer to question two...

The song is River Road Drive, and was written by Kevin as well. In his words: "The piece was inspired by the beautiful section of Highway 35 between the Wisconsin towns of Prescott and Nelson. Majestic bluffs, wonderful back roads and the Mississippi River are the main elements of this magical area."

While a transcription of the piece - always a work in progress, as Kevin puts it - is not currently available, he took the time to give The Podium 50th Anniversary Martin a workout in front of the video camera.

Here's a slightly slowed down version of the instrumental - River Road Drive - courtesy of Kevin Lee. (Apologies for the slight phasing in the audio...YouTube's codec can do some unfriendly things to audio in the uploading process. For a more representative example of the guitar's sound, see the link above.)

Enjoy! And thanks Kevin!