John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Here you can discuss details about instruments, equipment and all those other bits that non-musicians won't understand !

Moderator: GORDON

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:51 pm

I'll try and keep this brief - much to say!!!

Jon Garvey, who owned GG's famous Bailey doubleneck between 1984 & 1993 ish directed me to this forum.

In any event, my mother and stepfather Larry (d2007) were teachers at Haverstock school in London, the UK's first Comprehensive and quite a Bohemian place in the 1950's. John Bailey was the woodwork teacher at the time. JB, his wife Maureen, mum and Larry became good pals and were in contact until JB's passing in 2011. Mum is still in contact with Maureen.

Over 50 years ago JB gave my stepfather a guitar. This guitar has variously been hung on a wall or collected dust in a corner ever since but neither Mum nor Larry had any idea what they had.

Knowing that I am a minor league guitar geek mum asked if I could have a look at it, repair it, or perhaps adapt and use it myself (I'm a leftie). I asked her about it and she explained that her friend 'John' made it many years ago. John who? John Bailey, she replies. OMG!

Over the last few days I have been contacting a few people and I gather this is quite a find and a few people know of its existence as John had told them of it over the years.

Cutting to the chase. JB gave Larry what is certainly JB's first ever guitar, made circa 1955.

I questioned mum, are you sure this was his first ever guitar? She thought so. I have managed to contact an old friend of JB who heard him tell of this instrument. Not only is the provenance clear but as to being the very first JB guitar? Well I described it to this friend of JB's who knew it existed and sure enough this NYLON strung acoustic was (I am given to undrstand) the only nylon strung guitar JB ever made, he only made one and it was indeed his first - and now I have been entrusted with it care.

HELP!!!

As a first effort by an inexperienced luthier it is pleasant but perhaps unremarkable. However as the 'first effort' by THE John Bailey, to me at least, that makes it properly special and I need guidance.

1) Although unique and irreplaceable it needs to be insured. So I need valuation help.

2) It is in ok condition for an old girl but it needs the attention of a top flight luthier. Needs a light clean, new strings, and, regardless if I adapt it as a leftie or not, it needs a new nut.

3) Selfishly I'd like to play it and mum doesn't want to sell it but I cannot help but feel that it should be known to the wider audience of Bailey's fans. Perhaps some of you would like to see it? Perhaps some of you might like to play it?

All advice is most welcome. Happy to supply photos and I look forward to your comments.

David :-)

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:46 pm

PS Recently mum offered the guitar (as a gift) back to Maureen (JB's wife) as she thought someone in the family may want it but she kindly declined. It was a gift from John and so it should remain. Incidentally, some of you may know Maureen and mum would prefer it if no-one hassle Maureen about this guitar coming to light. Anyway, keen to hear your comments :-)

David

User avatar
Russ Gannicott
Posts: 222
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:28 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Russ Gannicott » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:27 am

That is an amazing story - what an incredible find. I am pleased to hear that you are treading slowly with this as the guitar has been minding its own business for the past half century and shouldn't be rushed now!
As far as value is concerned, I think it's down to guesswork as it is a totally irreplacable instrument.
Good luck!
Russ

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:53 pm

Totally thrilled to have received a call from Gordon today and to speak to one of my heros! As I was saying to Sue, in my book GG is right up there with Pallestrina, Allegri, Bowie, Dylan and Joan Baez (in no particular order!). OK an odd group perhaps to include Bowie, and both Pallestrina and Allegri have been dead for five hundred years, so you've gotta take your chances when they come along :-)

Looking forward to meeting GG and introducing him to this little Bailey guitar that lead to so many great instruments in the 60's and 70's.

David

PS, Don't worry Russ, I can't believe the people that are coming out of the woodwork with good advice to ensure this little bit of history is well looked after :-)

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:36 am

Quick update :-)

Have spoken to Gordon at length and have come to hugely value his advice.

Hopefully I'll be able to introduce Gordon to this first Bailey Guitar on the 6th July in Peterborough.

Although we've not yet spoken I've decided to follow Gordon's advice and to entrust the guitar to Roger Williams of Litchfield for the restoration and repairs. If GG trusts him with Flydes and Martins then that is good enough for me :-)

David Crozier at Old School Guitars in East Sussex will hopefully be able to do an insurance valuation once she is looking her best.

David

User avatar
Jon G
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:17 am
Location: Deepest Devon
Contact:

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Jon G » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:00 pm

Sounds like a result, Duvet!

Don't forget to post some photos.
Nothing can possibly go wrong...

User avatar
Sue
Site Admin
Posts: 506
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 9:15 am

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Sue » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:02 pm

Hi all,

the next "News Update" page on 1st July will have some photos for you.

cheers
Sue
GG webmaster

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:35 pm

Hey Jon,

Gotta say you brightened up my day on two counts!

Firstly no-one has addressed me as Duvet in years. Sure it is my profile name, email address etc but Duvet was a nickname I gained as a first generation raver in the 80's; I'll leave it to your imagination to guess how I came by it. Anyway, it made me smile.

Secondly, at the tender age of 44, I think I have had my first 'senior moment'! :(

I read your comment and simply didn't put together that Jon G is one and the same as Jon Garvey - you! I saw your profile pic and thought to myself, who is that dark haired youth that Gordon has trusted to play the legendary Bailey ('Visionary') Doubleneck. This Jon G must be a properly cool kid! Then the penny dropped that the cool kid pictured is YOU when you owned that Bailey in the 80's /90's

We're all getting on I guess :P

Oh, I'll drop you an email in a moment.

Cheers

DUVET

User avatar
Jon G
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:17 am
Location: Deepest Devon
Contact:

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Jon G » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:46 pm

Yes - I've now dyed my hair to match Gordon's. The pink shirt's gone too. That pic was Greenbelt Festival 1986, and the doubleneck was used as a backup to a Roland guitar synth and a Lowden acoustic which I'm gigging with tomorrow.
Nothing can possibly go wrong...

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:02 pm

Jon,

You really shouyld post gig dates on your web site! If I knew where you were playing I'd come and have a listen :D

Anyway, gonna email you now !

Duvet

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Thu Jun 28, 2012 7:06 pm

Hi,

I really wanted to thank you all here, publically and collectively, for all the help you have given me. In no particular order:

Marcus Brierly - An early contact, Bailey fan, and an owner of a 1966 (?) Bailey.
Jon Garvey - An early contact, one time owner of the Ralf Denyer / Gordon Giltrap Bailey Doubleneck
Nick Penny - former pupil of John's, fan and a huge support to me.
Dave Carroll - former pupil of John's, fan, family friend (The Bailey's) and owner of the LAST ever Bailey.
Roger Bucknall - luthier, fan and a patient man!
Andy (Andy's guitar's formerly of Denmark Street) - owner of a 1970 Bailey and an early source of advice and support.
Guy Mackenzie - collector, fan, and an early support
Roger Williams - luthier, fan, and the man who will bring this first Bailey back to life.
Ray Burley - for offering to play this first Bailey in concert (all going well with the repairs).
Bob Wilson - for filming and recording the Burley concert.
Gordon Giltrap - for being a HUGE support. John, this guitar, and I, am forever indebted.

And indeed Maureen Bailey - Thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm. Hopefully we can reunite John's first guitar, you and mum when the old girl struts her stuff in the hands of Ray Burley.

I think Gordon summed it up when he wrote to me:

"This guitar IS of historical importance because it was created by one of THE great pioneers of British guitar making. John wasn't a player, but by God in his hands he created beautiful and unique works of art.”

Maureen is going to provide the guitar with one of John's few remaining labels and a letter briefly detailing the history of the guitar. She met John in 1954. She remembers the instrument well, and remembers John making it in the workshops of Haverstock school in London in about 1955/1956. John about 23 or 24 at the time was keen on Skiffle, wanted a guitar and wanted to play. Quality imports were expensive so he set out to make his own and this is indeed the product of his labours and lead to his later career. My stepfather was quite taken with the guitar and thus John gave it to him in 1957/1958 and in his and my mother's hands she has remained ever since.

There are so many stories I have heard and could tell but I won't labour them here. Suffice it to say John, the man, is clearly held in great affection, and his instruments speak for themselves.

Thanks again

David

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:43 pm

Hi y'all,

Well, this story has reached its conclusion and for those of you who are interested I thought I'd cut and paste an email that I have today written to Roger Williams (luthier, and in whose capable hands she has been entrusted), Gordon Giltrap who needs no introduction on this forum, and the legendary Ray Burley who offered to play this old girl in concert (as a nylon strung instrument that we once thought she might have been)...

Hi Roger, Ray and Gordon,

Ray - I am hugely indebted to you for as you wrote, "...as I've said before, I'm willing to give it a go." The thought of giving her a moment in the spotlight after 55 years of silence is hugely attractive. I thank you and I am sure John would be hugely tickled by all the fuss this old girl has created.

Roger, Ray and Gordon - As often repeated I am a no better than a Sunday league picker but I am musician enough to recognise the limited talents of this old girl. I am and never have been under any illusion that this, in isolation, is a fine instrument. Even the great man himself (JB) acknowledged over fifty years ago that she was of, shall we politely say, limited ability, but that is and never has been the point of my efforts to do the right thing by her.

My happiest memory of this journey is the day I introduced her to Gordon. He didn't see a crude, amateurish nor rudimentary instrument. He held in his hands genesis. He recognised traces of what would later become the hallmarks of the great Bailey's that would follow a decade later. Without this old girl there never would have been a Ralph Denyer / Gordon Giltrap doubleneck. There never would have been the astonishing Bailey guitars that Bert Jansch made sing. To me that makes this old girl special.

I also hold dear Gordon's comments, "This guitar IS of historical importance because it was created by one of THE great pioneers of British guitar making. John wasn't a player, but by God in his hands he created beautiful and unique works of art.”

Even the roughest of country girls dreams of being Cinderella and their father's also hope that her dance card will be filled one day by Prince Charming (Ray or Gordon) and that she will have her moment in the sun. But as they say time and tide wait for no man, nor a relic of the 50's and the first efforts of a novice luthier. So, as sad as it is, gentle retirement seems to be the way to go.

Decision made...

Roger - dress her up and make her look fine but don't undertake any major surgery. Fit new light gauge steel strings as we have determined she originally wore. 10's should do it and, as you suggest, it would be wise to tune her down a full tone. We don't want to stress her too much.

At the end of all this I am going to allow myself one selfish decision. John made her for himself and indeed played her as a right handed instrument however John was actually left handed as am I. As she is in need of a new top nut anyway, fit a left handed one and string her accordingly. She may not have her day in the Albert Hall nor dance in the hands of Prince Charming but from time to time she will have her voice if only in my hands and in the comfort of my home. She will be heard :-)

Regards

David

User avatar
GORDON
Site Admin
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:05 pm
Location: SUTTON COLDFIELD

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby GORDON » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:15 pm

Hi David.

You made the RIGHT decision sir.

THANKYOU for sharing all this with us and it was indeed a privilege to hold in my hands the first ever guitar made by a man who eventually became a MASTER.

It was good meeting you.

Be Well.

G.

Duvet
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:17 pm

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby Duvet » Sat Aug 04, 2012 1:48 pm

Hey Gordon,

I was in Sussex yesterday so took the time to meet your mate David Crozier at Old School Guitars in Newhaven. If other readers haven't made the trip down there it is an amazing place in perhaps the most odd location I've ever seen for a guitar shop but man once ur inside - heaven on earth - complete with relatively affordable stuff up to the astrnomical guitars of dreams.

He was keen to see the guitar so I took it along. Whilst he described it as slightly agricultural he thought it wasn't that bad as a first effort - he compared it to the first efforts of others who shall remain nameless and thought it actually compared well. He was surprised by the tone - yes far far from today's standards but as a finger picking instrument, even with a bloody awkward (neck lifted) action, tonally it kinda works, its only when you try and strum a consistant chord that her short comings become apparent.

Now post restoration / conservation, he agrees with your pre-restoration thoughts, such that it should still be played and recorded (slightly contrary to RW's hugely respected thoughts). He also suggested that it could/should feature in new album artwork. Although I had RW string it as a leftie, RW didn't change the top nut which in this instance only acts as a string guide, so there is nothing to prevent it returning to right handed play with a new set of strings. Incidentally, although I keep it tuned down a full tone to D, I have taken my life in my hands and tuned her up to E. No damage, she holds tune and sounds ok. Played her and then took her back down to D to take the strain off 60 year old glues used on the bridge.

He said it was impossible to put a value on it as it is totally irreplaceable - there is only one 'first' in all things. Not that I'd think of selling it, perhaps one day, but he thought there would be a good market for it amongst those who recognise John's pioneering work. He said he'd be happy to delve into his contacts book if/when the time came to place it in the hands of someone who, like you, totally 'gets it'. He thought the best bet would be someone like (another friend of his) Ralph McTell, albeit not a Bailey Player, he would get the significance.

So chuffed was David C at seeing it that he had a few pictures taken of himself with it, complete with my copy of John's 1965 book, 'Making a Folk Guitar'. It did my heart good seeing his little boy smile on an older man who has seen it all before... He's going to publish the photos on his site as a news feature and I hope you don't mind if I copy him the words I wrote for your July News segment to go with the photos.

Speak soon

David :)

User avatar
GORDON
Site Admin
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:05 pm
Location: SUTTON COLDFIELD

Re: John Bailey Guitar - An astonishing Discovery!!!

Postby GORDON » Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:39 pm

Nice one David.

SO glad it all came together in the end.

Mr Crozier is a nice man and friend.

What a great shop he has there!

There should be few more ex GG guitars on their way soon for him to move on to even more appreciative homes!

Be Well.

G.


Return to “Guitar Anoraks Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests