Journalist Maureen Smith knows how to do an interview and, more importantly, how to translate that into great copy. A recent piece of hers was published in The News Leader (Landrum, SC) and the Polk News (Columbus, NC) on Lichty Guitars. We are pleased to share it.
Local Luthier Brings Wood Back to Life
By Maureen Smith
Jay Lichty has a way with woods. Not just any woods like pine or oak. We’re talking exotic woods with barely pronounceable names like bubinga, cocobolo, and Pau Ferro.
Lichty is one of those people who revels in making lemonade when presented with lemons. After enjoying a 25-year career as a successful building contractor, he began looking toward other creative outlets when the housing market took a downturn.
As a lifelong musician, he reasoned that he could combine woodworking and music and develop a new full time livelihood for himself. He’d been playing banjo and mandolin as a member of The Lone Derangers, so the fit was a natural.
Lichty says he learned to be a Luthier in the same hands-on fashion that he learned to be a builder: by apprenticing with a seasoned master of the craft. He jumped at the chance to sign up when he learned Wayne Henderson, an acknowledged master, would be teaching a guitar-making class at Tryon Painters and Sculptors in the fall of 2009. Lichty signed up immediately. He took to that class like a double-jointed finger-picker, and the result was that he devoted nearly all his waking hours to becoming a “Luthier,” a musical-sounding word itself, which mean a builder of stringed instruments.
Within nine months, he had created more than two dozen meticulously crafted guitars and more than a dozen ukuleles.
He speaks of the instruments, lovingly handcrafted in his studio, as if they are, in fact, his babies. “I just enjoy bringing the wood back to life,” Lichty says. And there has been no shortage of adoptive parents.
Corrie Woods, his partner and published author in her own right, has used her marketing expertise to work tirelessly on getting the word out on their collector-quality instruments in print and social media. “I could not have done this without Corrie,” Jay insists. “She is the one responsible for getting their high-end Lichty Guitars known in the world of musicians. Without her, I’d just be some dusty guy walking around in a wood shop filled with unsold guitars and ukuleles.”
In a scenario that all entrepreneurs dream of, word of the quality of Lichty’s instruments has spread nationally, earning him features on television, in magazines and, most recently, a spot in Sotheby’s Reside magazine.
Most rewarding of all to the couple is that nationally known musicians have ordered and been thrilled with the unique smell, feel and sound of the Lichtys. Those musicians in turn, have spread the word to other professionals. Well-known artists, including Tom Gossin of the award-winning group Gloriana, who raved: It’s absolutely amazing, fantastic, and exquisite! It sounds awesome. For any serious guitar player, this is out of control cool!” Jody Porter of Fountains of Wayne, chose to play his Lichty Honduran Mahogany Acoustic on his latest solo album, and Doug Lancio (Nashville Producer and lead guitarist for John Hiatt and Patty Griffin) is playing a Lichty as well.
Lest you worry, all the recognition has not swelled this Tryon Luthier’s head. He recently donated an African Bubinga guitar to be auctioned at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF), with all proceeds going to LEAF’s non-profit programs.
Perhaps the most valued compliment Lichty has received comes from the world-renowned Luthier and musician who taught him the art. “I am proud to say I taught Jay to build his first guitar,” says Wayne Henderson. “His guitars show great craftsmanship . .”
In case you missed it, Lichty Guitars celebrated their first year in business by hosting Guitars in The Round at the Saluda Wine Cellar last Friday. Doug Dacey, Dale Rucker and, of course, Jay Lichty cam together to play a variety of handcrafted Lichty guitars and ukuleles to the delight of a full house. Doug Dacey, Dale Rucker and, of course, Jay Lichty took turns playing original and traditional tunes. Frank Beeson of the Saluda Inn joined them for a few tunes.
What could be finer than to be in Carolina with homegrown guitars and musicians.
Article published November 10, 2010 in The News Leader, Landrum, SC