Perseverance Pays Off: Cousin Found after 30 Year Search…and Other Stuff.

May 29, 2018 by · Comments Off on Perseverance Pays Off: Cousin Found after 30 Year Search…and Other Stuff. 

Preface: I’m going to minimize or omit altogether many names in this story to protect the privacy of the living and most of the dead. Much of the information about my cousin Bob’s early years came from talks with my late mother, who was very fond of Bob, and was very concerned about his well-being, which, as things turned out, her concerns were justified. It’s also important to note that my mother had a great sense of the dramatic, and was not always willing to let the truth get in the way of a great story, so some of the musings about Cousin Bob may be very, very off-base, and I will apologize now for any offense taken.

Background – Meet the Family

My father, Norman Franklin Grinnell (1906-1958), died when I was four years old, following a valiant battle with lung cancer. My father was close to his siblings and his mother, but was geographically separated, so he didn’t see them as often as he would have liked, with us living in Indianapolis, and his mother, sister, and brother-in-law living in a big, beautiful old house in Providence, Rhode Island. His brother, an Osteopathic surgeon, lived in Michigan, and later Oklahoma, where he helped open the first Osteopathic hospital in Oklahoma City. Read more

Doug Raney — Not Just A Chip Off the Old Block

May 29, 2018 by · Comments Off on Doug Raney — Not Just A Chip Off the Old Block 

Doug Raney, a fine jazz guitarist, died last month (this piece was written in June 2016) of heart failure, at age 59, in his beloved Copenhagen, Denmark, where he had lived off and on since his early 20s, when he went off on his own to be a jazz musician. To get things out of the way up front, it has been rumored for years, and finally stated by Doug’s brother Jon, that Doug had a substance abuse problem. He had apparently gotten past the drugs and was working to eliminate his dependence on alcohol. But the life he led took a severe toll on his body, as evidenced by photos of him taken in the last five to ten years of his life. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Doug was born in 1956 in Louisville, Kentucky to famed jazz guitarist Jimmy Raney and Esterlee (Lee) Hirsch. He grew up in his father’s shadow, taking on the guitar from a young age, but found his own voice by the time he became a professional musician. Read more

Buying a Custom Hand-Made Archtop Guitar in China

May 8, 2018 by · Comments Off on Buying a Custom Hand-Made Archtop Guitar in China 

Starting with the L-7

My Grandmother’s 1933 Gibson L-7

I am a huge jazz fan, but am a rank novice at guitar playing. I have only been under instruction for about 30 months and with a full-time job, and me approaching my middle-60s, progress is slow, slow, slow.

When I started my lessons, I played my grandmother’s guitar, a lovely 1933 Gibson L-7 with a custom factory black finish, and a rosewood fingerboard that came from a Recording King guitar. I have no idea whether it was ordered this way or not. It was 1933, at the worst part of the Great Depression. It’s always possible that to save some money, first, the guitar may have been finished in black to mask any visual imperfections in the wood that would not affect its acoustic properties. It’s also possible that the Recording King fingerboard, having been made in the same Kalamazoo factory as “regular” Gibsons, was lying around, and that a production manager may have chosen to use any high end fingerboard that was readily available, rather than spend additional time and money to fabricate a proper L-7 fingerboard. I might have been able to perform some research with the assistance of Gibson serial number wizard Joe Spann, but when I was a small child, I took a screwdriver to the inside of the guitar to get the label out so I could read it (the things young kids do when unsupervised…). Of course, to avoid discovery, I destroyed the label and disposed of it, without my ever recording the serial number somewhere. Read more