The Docherty Guitars

 So… this is the way I was raised; the house I grew up in was, and still is, full of antique clocks, furniture, and assorted doodads in disparate levels of usefulness.  Some are objects of everyday use, such as the round oak kitchen table and the William Morris chair, the one with the carved lion heads.  That table has been the center of our conversational circus for as long as I remember, and the chair has been re-upholstered with leather that is now full of tiny puncture holes.  The cats discovered it long ago and we refuse them nothing.

The house itself was built in 1910 by a Norwegian man named Conrad Anderson, a man that I never met but feel as though I know personally.  His touch is on every part of the house, and the place has a soul of its own.  It’s a part of the family now, and it’s very persuasive in its own, weird way.  We can’t keep up with it.  The house, its inhabitants, and its content all add up to a beautiful disaster.  I’m very comfortable there.

The point is this: the most beloved things in my life are bits and pieces of treasure that were constructed with love and skill, and have a real life to live.  They’re beautiful, but they’re not on display – they were made to be used, and to last a long time.  These things actively participate in a conversation that goes on for years.  Yes I do personify my surroundings, of course I do, I’ve given names to all the vehicles I’ve ever owned, and I talk to my instruments.  They talk back, and they sing to me.  Which brings me to the most lovely guitars I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.

I’ve played a lot of guitars in my life.  I’ve avoided playing many beautiful ones, for fear of falling in love.  One has to be careful with one’s soul around things like that and anyway - my traveling workhorse instrument is a Larrivee OM outfitted with a Fishman matrix that sounds terrific and suits me.  It's a very good guitar, and the matrix blender setup helps it to sound warm and authentic even in the most challenging rooms. I’m very happy with my Larrivee and expect to keep using it for years, so I can usually resist the temptation to pick up any creations of other established guitar companies or the many fine independent luthiers. I try to step back and safely admire them all from a distance. 

The guitars made in England by Terry Docherty found me though, in a manner of speaking. My friend Wally Bell plays Docherty instruments exclusively, and I play music with Wally, so after spending some time surrounded by citterns, octave mandolins, and guitars all made by the same man, I caved in and accepted the opportunity to play the Docherty “Mistral” model guitar.  There had been whisky.  My defenses were down.  I’m not particularly proud of the fact that I burst into tears when I started playing the Mistral, but there it is; it was so lovely in every possible way that I couldn’t help myself. 

By now, I’ve played a few more of Terry Docherty’s guitars, and become friends with Terry.  It seems that he has a lovely way of living.  Apparently he’s focused and committed to everything he does, whether he’s playing and singing, carrying on a conversation, shopping for dinner, or making instruments.  I’m sure this is the deepest reason why the Mistral I finally ordered from him is the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.  It belongs in this life of mine; it was made with great care and simple elegance, and fits into the surroundings of my home and professional touring life.  All treasures there (and clutter too, let's be realistic here) have something to say for themselves. I expect this guitar to be a part of a lifetime musical conversation. I've already recorded with it, written new stuff with it, and played concerts with it.  Now I can't wait to play it in broader concert settings so that all of you can hear it.

Of course, I'll put some samples online so you can hear it that way, as soon as I make some.  But in a live show, I've found that guitar players always come up to me during the break and say, "who made that guitar??"

The Docherty instruments are masterpieces; they have souls and original voices, and there’s lots of Terry in all of them.  I don’t know how he does these things, but what he has to say on the subject can be found on his website:

My own guitar, the Kat Eggleston Mistral, is constructed this way:  Back and sides of Indian rosewood, soundboard is European spruce, Fingerboard, bridge and head veneer are made of ebony. The neck is of “big leaf” mahogany. New Zealand Paua shell rosette. There are some gorgeous photos of it on Terry’s site.  Please do have a look, and listen also to the samples of Terry’s playing.  I promise your life will be richer for it, as mine is.

Over and Out... 'til next time.