Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Man and His Guitars

From the beginning, Stuart Mossman was an outsider, a man who had been born up Chicago way, lived back east, went to high school in Dallas. I wonder if he didn't bring a fearsome taste of the outside world to a quiet midwestern town that was prohibiting things long before prohibition came along. But he was also the son of a bedrock Winfield family, grandson of a former Southwestern College president. "Therein squats the toad", as they say.

And young Stuart had a way with wood, an understanding of how to get it to sing. He was a friend and student of the legendary Don Teeter of Oklahoma City, one of a very few certified Martin repairmen back then. Don helped Stuart with some critical issues around his truss rod design and the placement of the Mossman bridge. As he learned his skills in his garage, if you would pay for the wood, Stuart would build you a guitar. If you didn't like it, he would buy the wood back, if you liked it, he would charge a fair price. He sold every one. When I asked Victoria Armstrong (who played both folk festival as Victoria Garvey) how she and then-husband Pat had come to play for a little folk festival in southern Kansas in 1967, she replied, "Well, we had one of his guitars." Apparently, that's all it took.

Loss of precious woods to fire, botched distribution deals, and health problems from all the dust and chemicals, all tried to slow Stuart Mossman down, with limited success. Many of the folks down on the Walnut understand why. In a quote from "Triple Exposure" he says, "It (music) is the single one thing I've done throughout my whole life. I don't think I could get along without it. I play everyday. I have no idea what happiness is. I'm driven. I try to achieve things to my satisfaction, and if I achieve it, that's great. But happiness is way too hard for me to figure out."

Stu Mossman passed away on March 2, 1999.

There is a complete history of Mossman Guitars on the web site of the current owners. It is a reprint of a 1997 article in "Vintage Guitar Magazine" by Eric Shoaf. http://www.mossman-guitars.com/History101.htm


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