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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bacon and Day Senorita guitar

John Fahey album cover with him holding the Bacon and Day Senorita guitar

    The Bacon and Day banjo company made a few guitars they called Senorita. No one seems to know how many of them were made. This was maybe during the 1940's. The Senoritas were a bit different. They had one that was quite elaborate with stones and inlays and color and one that was plainer. They were bigger than a parlor size but not as big as a dread naught size. When I first came to Berkeley in the summer of 1965 I worked for a while in Lundberg's Guitar shop. Jon and Dierdre Lundberg moved from the Midwest to Berkeley in 1960 with the intention of starting a guitar shop in San Francisco. After talking with Barry Olivier at his guitar shop near the University of California campus above Telegraph Avenue they opened Fretted Instruments their shop on Dwight Way in Berkeley just above Shattuck Avenue it became a haven for all people who played steel string wooden instruments for decades.

       When I moved to Berkeley in the summer of 1965 I found a job working the counter of Lundbergs' and helping and learning about guitar repairs from Jon Lundberg. This was before Country Joe and The Fish. I met Ed Denson who owned Tacoma Records with John Fahey. The label release Johns' first ground breaking guitar instrumental LP's. John lived in Los Angeles but would often come to Berkeley. I also became the boyfriend of Pat Sullivan. Pat Sullivan had been girlfriend of John Fahey. Pat and John and Ed all came from a town back east and knew each other well. Pat played the guitar very well in the many folk styles that everyone was trying to play back in the early sixties.

            Below is a sound file video of a mystery person playing his brand new ARK New Era Senorita, enjoy!

         John bought a Bacon and Day Senorita from Jon Lundberg and that guitar is seen on the cover of the album above. The guitar came back to Jon Lundberg and I bought it in 1970. Stefan Grossman also owned the guitar at one point. Later I found out through Bill Belmont who was "managing" my career that Dougal Stermer (sp) had and wanted to sell another Senorita. I bought his. It was not as fancy as the other one. Less ornate. A few years later I sold both guitars through Sam "Fat Dog" Cohen of Subway Guitars in Berkeley. It was something I have regretted for years.

      About two years ago I was playing a gig at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists hall at Cedar and Bonita. On the show was Henry Kaiser and he showed me a guitar made for him by a guitar maker named Tony Klassen.  He had a history of making classic steel string guitar replicas under his own name. They were perfect. Henry told me that Tony had just found a Senorita just like the one I had and had sold and asked if I wanted him to make me one.

      I contacted Tony and made a deal for him to make me one. He made three. One for Henry Kaiser. One for Stefan Grossman. And one for me. Those are the pictures above of the brand new ARK New Era Senorita.


  1. Beautiful guitar! Have you seen the story on restoring Fahey's Recording King? http://www.parachodelnorte.com/AGRKArticle.htm

    Bacon and Day made some over-the-top banjos as well.

  2. News for Country Joe and others:
    My name is John Titford, and I live in England.
    I was inspired to play guitar by a high school pupil at a school in Cambridgeshire at which I was teaching in the mid 1960s. He in turn was inspired by John Fahey and others.
    We admired Fahey's Bacon & Day Senorita (don't you love the mirror image of the guitar on the Fahey album? As if he was left-handed!).
    Later, I was at San Francisco State College in the early 1970s, and many times paid a visit to Jon Lundberg's place.
    After returning to England to live, I paid a visit to California a few years later and literally stumbled across Subway Guitar Store in Berkeley.
    The guy there showed me a few Martins, and asked if anything else might interest me. Jokingly (and to get safely out of the store without making a purchase) I said: "No, not unless you've got a Bacon and Day for sale, ha, ha".
    He asked me what I knew about the Bacon and Day that John Fahey had played. I said that I'd read that it was then owned by Country Joe MacDonald.
    "True," he said. "Country Joe has had a messy divorce, is away playing in Oregon, and has left instructions with his brother to sell the B&D".
    "Where does the brother live?" I asked.
    "About four blocks down the street..."
    I couldn't believe the coincidences involved in all that. I garnered some dollars from a friend, and went back to Berkeley to buy the guitar.
    When I got there, a consortium of guys (Marc Silber and others) said (quite rightly) that they weren't happy about this classic American guitar going to some jerk from England whom they didn't know, unless I could prove that I was a worthy owner. They auditioned me. In those days I could knock out Fahey and other pieces quite well, so they agreed to let the guitar go. I was thrilled and astonished.
    When I arrived home, I took the guitar to a repairer in London, Sam Li, because it had a badly busted neck near the head.
    Then a friend and I took the B&D around to the house of our friend who had inspired us both to play in the first place. We blindfolded him and told him to play the guitar. What does it sound like? We asked. My God, it sound like Fahey's Bacon & Day! Blindfold off. Amazement and amusement all round.
    Some years later I sold the B&D to this same friend.
    When America friends come to England on tour, they are always keen to hear about the guitar and to play it - Woody Man, Roy Bookbinder, Stefan...
    So the guitar has found a good home.
    Thought you'd like to know that!
    All the best

  3. Fahey played the Bacon & Day on a TV interview show called "Guitar, Guitar" in 1969. It's pretty funny to watch him interact with the rather straitlaced classical-playing lady host. Here's a portion where he plays a pretty devastating version of "The Red Pony": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSh-YsyjpXk

    Great story, Joe and John. That guitar's had quite a life!