A Labor of Love: Nigel Price Fulfills Master Luthier Charlie Crabtree’s Last Wish

Nigel Price is a top shelf Jazz Guitarist out of the UK who was featured in a Jazz Guitar Life Desert Island Picks a few months ago. I originally came upon this heartfelt story on Nigel’s Facebook page a little while later and felt a need to share it with you all. It is a bittersweet anecdote and I hope you get something out of it. The following text below is from Nigel himself with no alteration from JGL- Lyle Robinson

“We only get one chance at some things. Life is included in that.” – Nigel Price

RIP: Charlie Crabtree – Master Luthier 1942 – 2019

In May 2019 I received a text message from Charlie’s phone. It had a sense of urgency about it. He said he needed to see me as soon as possible and I made my way down to Lewes, East Sussex.

Charlie was almost unrecognisable as a result of the pancreatic cancer that had gotten hold of him. Although laying completely still, emaciated, tired and barely audible he still had the burning passion for his work and asked one of his sons to “fetch the guitar”. I knew he’d been working on a unique instrument. He always was, to be honest. Always an innovator.

It was an acoustic/jazz hybrid guitar with a flat top. It was naked and unfinished but it had strings on it and he asked me to play ‘My one and only love”, which I duly did, with tears stinging my eyes.

When I finished he croaked “I want you to finish it.” He told me he wanted it to be tobacco sunburst and gave me strict instructions as to which pickup he wanted in it.

I didn’t stay for too long. There were many other loose ends he wanted to tie up and he knew time was short. I kissed his cold head as I left and told him he was a beautiful man, then drove home in total silence.

It was a much bigger job than I realised. The binding needed replacing, as did the machine heads.

Anthony Goulding from Goulding guitars up in Canvey Island kindly donated some wonderful Grover machine heads and Liam Mulford did a wonderful job of fixing the guitar up. It then went off to Bow finishing in Godstone to get the tobacco sunburst that Charlie had asked for.

When it came back it wasn’t really quite happening.

The acoustic guitar pegs weren’t really doing the job they were supposed to be doing so I took the executive decision of attaching a tailpiece. Also a scratchplate. Liam expertly fitted these too, as well as rewiring the stacked humbucker. It still wasn’t quite right and had to go for a new nut which Charlie Chandler made and fitted.

So here we are. Job done. Just over three years since dear Charlie left us.

I can’t quite believe it’s taken that long. I thought it would be appropriate to play “My One and Only Love”, and thought of doing a guitar overdub arrangement but today I just decided to record a totally unrehearsed improvisation on it. Warts and all. Just like I did for Charlie.

We only get one chance at some things. Life is included in that.

Thanks a million to Liam Mulford, Anthony Goulding, Chris and John at Bow and Charlie Chandler for making this happen. I will treasure this guitar forever.

Dedicated to Anna Crabtree, Tom Crabtree, Matt Crabtree and the memory of Charlie Crabtree. xxx

To view the video of Nigel playing Charlie’s creation, please click on the following link. Please keep in mind that you may need to be an FB friend of Nigel’s: https://www.facebook.com/nigel.price.9/videos/379276827697145

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About Lyle Robinson 265 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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