When I was an undergraduate, the University of Minnesota had the best bookstore in the world. Not so much my first year, when the main campus bookstore was housed in an older building, but the next year (1977) saw the opening of the amazing Williamson Hall, which was entirely below ground. Totally space age, it was like a huge tiered auditorium full of books and other goodies, and the really great thing was that only about 20% were course books. You could wander in and get lost in art, philosophy, science, or music. I almost always ended up with music.
There were several large racks of assorted music-related books just to the right of the entrance, and whenever I had the opportunity, I would stop in. I was just learning to play guitar then, and so I bought the huge and expensive (at the time) slip-cased Songs of Bob Dylan from 1966 Through 1975 volume, because it had chord blocks for each song. Still have it, too.
I also acquired the 1977 edition of The Guitar’s Friend, a catalog-cum-guide-for-the-perplexed, sort of after the spirit of the Whole Earth Catalog. In it, I discovered wonderful guitars I would meet (like the Bozo Bell Western, the Ovation series, the magnificent and lamented Gurians) and some I never would (the Seagull and Sun Rise). Two guitars in that book stood out for me. The first was the Alembic, a highly technical electric guitar custom-built in California and carrying the unheard of, at that time, price of $1,750.
The second was an odd duck. The Giannini Craviola, built in Brazil. It was an acoustic, and looked like this (a scan from my own copy of The Guitar’s Friend):
That is not an ordinary-looking instrument, and the description of its sound (“dark, Brazilian resonance” ) made me want one all the more. As you’re aware if you read this blog, around this time I acquired a wonderful little Martin, which I still own. But this guitar still fascinated me.
Last year, I encountered an Alembic guitar in the flesh for the firs time. I had seen Alembic basses before (they are far more common) but I achieved a goal of more than 30 years: to play an Alembic. They’re fantastic, but the price tag is now more like $10,000. Personally, I think they’re worth it, but since the car I drive cost 1/5 of that, not for me.
However, in December, the local Craigslist advertised–yes–a Craviola. I contacted the seller and went to see and play it, and I was very pleased. Unfortunately, I could not afford it at the time, and so I resigned myself to having finally, after almost 35 years, knocked off both the Alembic and the Craviola. Pretty good.
Last week I turned 54, and my parents sent me some money for my birthday. It so happened that the next day, the Craviola turned up again on Craigslist. Still available. A couple of frantic emails later, I had a deal (I spent some money and traded some stuff). And the next day, it was mine:
It has a long-scale neck, and the cutaway is to die for: I can use every fret on the instrument, right up to the soundhole. The large bout on the bass side of the instrument deepens the tone, and the hard, Pau Ferro wood that the laminated sides and back are made from gives it a very clear voice. It has a compensated saddle and the intonation is very, very good (a few fret buzzes that need cleaning up, but only on the highest part of the neck).
So I’m learning that some things are worth waiting for. It took me 35 years from the time I first saw a Craviola until I owned one, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. And now that I play one (and I can’t wait to play it in public) I think I’m going to enjoy every moment even more.