In 1981, I landed in a turn-of-the-century General Store located on the Blue Star Highway in the small berg of Ganges, MI. My shop was located in the old store and we lived above. It was quite the fixer-upper and I fought that leaking flat roof for 18 years. Here the first production Blue Star, the Travelcaster, was born. This compact traveler filled a void in the mini guitar market at the time. It was shipped worldwide by my longtime distributor Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. All of my current production instruments are still available to this day online at elderly.com. The birth of my now "famous Blue Star finish" began with that motel-traveling companion. The material covering the face was unique to 60's era drum kits, and has quite the dazzling stage presence. The back and sides of the body are sprayed with a satin black textured and durable finish to mimic the vinyl sides of a vintage Danelectro guitar. Considered an off-the-wall collector piece at the time, this quirky and just becoming valuable guitar influenced me in the entire design process.
The psychocaster soon followed - a full-size guitar and basically a Telecaster clone, which was very popular at the time (and still is). The hundreds of guitar markers now (read import invasion) hastened my foray into the building of other electric and eclectic instruments. While both of these guitars are no longer in production, per se, they are always available in standard or deluxe and super deluxe models from the Blue Star Custom Shop - factory direct. This includes the Lapmaster 6 string lap steel, which also came along in this era.
The Mandoblaster five string electric mandolin was born next (Thanks Frog). This instrument has proven itself, along with the 4-string sister that followed, as my all-time bestseller. Single course stringing, rather than its double course acoustic brethren, allows for accurate, non-dissonant bends and at amplified levels it still projects as a mandolin. The doubleneck Mandoblaster of grammy-winner Jami Szmadzinski includes the only 8-string neck I've ever built.
Now on a roll, I proceeded to design and enter into production the Banjocaster 5-string electric banjo. ( Thank you Stan Werbin). Forced into a name-change (long story), the Banjoblaster (better name anyway) was a hit with adventurous pickers. Otis Taylor purchased the prototype and as a result of our friendship, the Bluesman Otis Taylor model was developed. With it's bigger retro 50's style body fitting his larger frame better, OT proceeded to use this instrument on "Ten Million Slaves". included in the soundtrack for the Michael Mann movie "Public Enemies". Otis is currently a fan of the newer Model T Banjoblasters that I now make.
Building a couple of Mandoblasters for, and becoming friends with, Allen Woody (RIP) led to our collaboration on the design of the Konablaster Electric Ukulele. Designed to the tune of a $190.00 phone bill (pre unlimited calling era) it is the ultimate traveling electric. Woody loved ukes and told me the story of it being the world's first travel guitar, brought to Polynesia by the Portugese. Designed to utilize all of my too-small-for-anything-else wood scraps, it is a joy to noodle on and made its debut on Woody's shoulder at the '98 NAMM show in LA. Paired with a practice amp it can be fit in a suitcase and travel well. I ceased production of the original Pacific Blue autographed model after his death. It then became available in my stock 4 colors, sans auto., and with a rosewood fingerboard. Big brother Baritone joined the ranks some time after. And a tenor Konablaster is developed now also.
In 1999, I relocated 40 miles south and east to Paw Paw, MI. I built a raised floor and installed a knotty pine ceiling in what used to be a horse barn. The shoveled out manure turned into a perfect compost for the rasberries I planted in the backyard...
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My first stringed instrument was built in an attic. The next was crafted in a
basement shop, where I kept hitting my head on the plumbing.
On to a garage, where I witnessed the lacquer turn white
(blushing) on my next guitar while spraying during a rainstorm. Live and learn!
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