Saturday was a loooooong day.   I left at 7:30 in the morning and got home at 3 in the morning.  Frank (Doucette) and I took a drive up north to the Santa Cruz area for 2 specific errands but also a hopeful sighting of a well-known harp guitar “recluse.”

First stop was to meet guitar collector Jim Forderer to pick up the rare Maccaferri harp guitar he had recently passed along to me (as alluded to in blog of 12/2/10).   We hope to see Jim again when he displays at the La Guitarra festival up the coast next year.

Second stop was to pick up the infamous Al Carruth “Beast” from Jeff & Bina Titus, who safely drove it home cross-country for me from Indianapolis (as mentioned in blog of 12/3)

We were in luck, as Jeff was planning to visit Fred Carlson anyway, so it worked out that we could meet there.  I haven’t seen my friend for far too long.

We arrived at the perfect time of day – there was an almost endless bank of fog blanketing the ocean, which offers a spectacular view at the first crest of the “private mountain” Beyond the Trees.  It looked like we were perched at the edge of the world.

As we bounced along the long private road, who should squeeze past us but the mysterious Todd Green, who was getting some work done (on some of his other instruments, not the new Barikoto, or many other Carlson creations he owns).  The sucker didn’t even stop!  We passed within inches as we (barely) recognized him and immediately honked and waved.  Jumping out of the car and still honking and waving frantically, we watched as his car wound inexorably down the hill to the highway (there are few turnarounds or I would’ve just chased him).  Alas, like the fabled Mickey Fischer, I think Todd is just one of those harp guitarists I am fated never to meet.

Jeff and Bina soon arrived, and I showed them the Macc, which is a super-important non-catalog, pre-Selmer instrument.  I’ve discussed it at length on the Maccaferri Harp Guitar page, but now that I own it, there is more to do.  Specifically, I want to send it to John Thomas for full X-rays to see what’s going on both inside and with the strange headstock construction.

Fred and Suzy were both home and gracious as always.  Fred, of course, is one of the sweetest and most interesting (and creative) people on the planet, and we didn’t have enough time to fully explore his many latest harp creations.

One new surprise was a drawing for a new harp banjo he hopes to soon create a prototype of, with thoughts of actually doing a small, simple (for him) run of them one day.

We were curious to see where he was at with his own personal project, the Banjalarpe, and thrilled to see it was finally started.  This is the top, which is 2 thin pieces of redwood sandwiching a drum-tight piece of calfskin, showing only within the soundhole cut-out.  Needless to say, I don’t think anything this crazy has been ever attempted before.

The (unfinished) top braces show some Carlson secrets, which I can’t divulge, though perhaps close inspection can ferret some out.  Note the four scattered bridge plates (1 within the “floating” skin itself) for main strings, subs, trebles and sympathetic banks.

Here he’s explaining how the symps will ride under the subs, partially outside and partially inside.

Did I mention that Fred is a true genius, but also certifiably insane?  P.S. That’s Suzy in the background…

Jeff was there to discuss the next evolving details of his second Carlson instrument.

I won’t spoil the surprise (actually, it’ll be a whole series of surprises), but feel free to try to pick out details in Bina’s iPhone photos…

And of course, Fred was anxious to see Alan’s similarly strange creation, a “harp” guitar, if there ever was one!

Bina shot some iPhone video of the historic moment.

What a fantastic day!  Needless to say, Frank and I had much to absorb and discuss on the long ride home…