From music fan to musician to instrument builder

Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

In just a little over a year, Bob (Dr. Buck) Snodgrass has gone from a pretty serious country music fan to a bass player and maker of novelty guitars, Virginia style dulcimers, guitar-jos and just about anything else he sets his mind to.

Buck and his wife, Linda, would travel to Mountain View, AR, to listen to the live music. Then, he got bit by the bug and wanted to play.

So, he bought a bass guitar and asked local musician Ron Swopes to show him how to play it. Soon that was happening.

On a trip to Mountain View, an 85-year-old musician, shaking badly from Parkenson’s, invited Buck to join him on stage. Bob said he was afraid he would hit a sour note. The old guy told Buck the only mistake he could make was not hitting a note at all.

Buck is still amazed at what happened when the old man started to play: His hands became rock solid.

Buck went to Larry Smith of Village Music and told him he wanted to build something. With parts purchased from Larry and Larry’s advice he started his first four string resonator guitar. Buck’s next project was making a Toiletcaster guitar using a bedpan as the body. He has sold several of the electrified instruments.

Then Buck got interested in a Virginia style dulcimer and, as far as he knows, is the only one in the United States building them. He designed a special jig to shape the instrument.

Then Buck got into building cigar box guitars and ukes (ukulele). He buys old wooden cigar boxes off e-bay and anywhere he can find them. A certificate on the wall of his instrument shed proclaims to the world that Buck is a luthier. A luthier (lu-tiər/LOO-ti-ər)[1] is someone who makes or repairs lutes and other string instruments. In the United States, the term is used interchangeably with any term that refers to a specific, or specialty type of stringed instrument, such as violin maker, guitar maker, lute maker, etc. The word luthier comes from the French word luth, which means “lute”. The craft of making string instruments, or lutherie, is commonly divided into two main categories: makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed and makers of stringed instruments that are bowed.[2] Since bowed instruments require a bow, the second category includes a subtype known as a bow maker or archetier. The proclamation says: “Bonified Luthier. Presented to Dr. Buck C. B. G. Completion of full analysis and research for the production of custom built cigar box guitars, bed pan guitars, guitarjos, banjos and minor repair work.”

Buck added the shed a few months ago so he could have a better place to work than in his barn.

The technical level Buck has attained in a few short month is amazing. He places the frets (metal crossbars) on a new instrument neck measuring in thousands of an inch so that the sound will be true when the person playing presses the string against it to change the tone.

He has a special coping saw with which he cuts the grooves in the neck just the right depth. He taps and then glues each fret in those carefully spaced grooves.

Buck is always on the lookout for good wood. He gets a lot of his music quality walnut from W.D. (Bill) Seitz.

The Snodgrass living room is where a dozen or more finished instruments reside: two or three Virginia style dulcimers, a guitar-jo, a banjo, ukes, a bass electric guitar which Buck plays, an acoustic bass guitar tuned an octave high so Buck can accompany his wife on the Virginia style dulcimer. They play an hour or so every evening for their own enjoyment.

Now, two or three times a year, Buck and Linda go back to Mountain View where he plays music, including one night at the Jimmy Driftwood Barn, and just enjoys hearing others belt it out.

Every second Friday night, they head to the Milford Church with a covered dish. The jam session starts at 6 p.m. then breaks at 7:30 for supper. Y’all come, with or without your instruments.

You can hear the Toiletcaster guitar in the hands of a professional, Jason Richison, at the Ft. Scott Country Music Show, just after Buck handed it to him. Go to Google: Jason Richison playing bedpan guitar on YouTube.

Buck is quick to give credit to a bunch of folks for making it possible for him to learn to play and to learn to make and rebuild instruments: his wife-Linda, Ron Swopes, Curtis Hunter and family, the Ft. Scott Country Music show staff, Larry and Brent Smith, Rick Baker and John Trainer, Osceola, for the new sign over his music shed door.

Buck had to give up something, so his son, Ron, and wife, Peggy, have taken over the deer processing and sausage operation although Buck still has, as always, his input.

So, if you want to buy one of his classic instruments (they are really priced reasonably) or just talk music, give Buck a call. As good as he is at building and playing instruments, chin music is his specialty, with or without coffee.

 

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BEGINNINGS OF A BED PAN GUITAR - Dr. Buck Snodgrass works on one of his novelty Toiletcaster electric guitars in his workshop. More photos on Community Page.