“Lick Of The Week” with Stevie K
This week's lick is a parallel key study in D.
Steve Kuykendall is a lifelong musician and remains an active indie artist and teacher. His music is available on Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify.
You may also find Steve on Cedro Rosa and as an active member of the guitar community on Linkedin.
Greco produced some wild guitars in the late 1960s as well as some very nice Gibson/Fender knockoffs. Generally speaking, their guitars are of very good quality. Most of Greco’s products came from the outstanding FujiGen factory that also produced guitars for Ibanez, Yamaha, and Fender Japan.
In the late 1960s Greco introduced the model 921, a double florentine rosewood beauty with three single coils, and a Bigsby style vibrato.
In the bowels of unique guitar history, there was a one-off label and signature model for the same guitar. The headstock read “Merlin” and the model, an Arthur Smith Country Squire. It was not sold directly through Greco, but rather, through what is now the hardware conglomerate Lowe’s Home Improvement. The guitar lineage of stores such as Sears (Silvertone), Montgomery Ward (Airline), and Western Auto (Trutone) are very well known, however, it appears Lowe’s briefly dipped their toes in the guitar waters for the Christmas season of 1967.
Who is Arthur Smith?
An accomplished musician, Arthur Smith was originally from South Carolina and made his way up to Charlotte, NC in the early 1940s working as a radio host for WBT-AM and performed on-air with his band, “Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks”. Military duty called shortly after moving to Charlotte and while serving in the Navy during WW II Smith recorded “Guitar Boogie”.
Released in 1946 the single went on to sell 3 million records and you may be familiar with Tommy Emmanuel’s version of the same song or The Ventures rendition, “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”.
After his tenure in the Navy, Smith returned to WBT radio and within a few years launched “The Arthur Smith Show” in 1951 on WBTV. It was the first nationally syndicated TV show focused on country music and was eventually broadcast in 90 markets across the U.S. Some of the guests included Johnny Cash, Vice President Richard Nixon, Loretta Lynn and Andy Griffith.
He also had another hit that was yet to be a hit. Smith wrote and recorded “Feudin’ Banjos” in 1955. Otherwise made popular as “Dueling Banjos” from the movie Deliverance. The audio in the movie and on the soundtrack was recorded by guitar picker Steve Mandell and Eric Weissberg on the banjo earning the two a Grammy in 1974.
Warner Brothers didn’t get his permission to use the song in the movie. Whoops! It cost a bundle for Smith to fight in court, but an easy win in his favor and Warner Brothers had to pay up. In a 1998 interview with the Charlotte Observer, Smith was asked how much he won in the settlement and he simply pointed “to a photo of a 42-foot yacht on the wall of his office and said that the studio had bought the boat for him.” Another familiar tune among the 500+ songs Smith wrote or co-wrote, is Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger”.
Other notable highlights of Smith’s career included owning a recording studio in Charlotte and producing fishing shows for ESPN.
The exact origin or reasoning behind the Arthur Smith Country Squire is unknown but here is the logical conclusion: Lowe’s was founded in North Wilkesboro, NC, a rural town in the western part of the state about an hour’s drive north of Charlotte. Lowe’s was also a primary sponsor of Smith’s TV show and on occasion Smith would make appearances at Lowe’s grand openings.
After all, it was the guitar craze of the 1960s and variety retail stores were having great success selling guitars that were easily sourced domestically or from Japan. Why wouldn’t Lowe’s try the same thing? They had a world renown player on their side.
Merlin Arthur Smith Country Squire specs: Rosewood body, Lemonwood neck, Rosewood fretboard, Mother of pearl fret inlays, 3 single coils, 3 volume and 1 tone control, 3 on/off pickup selector switches
If you’d like to learn more about Arthur Smith here’s a wonderful video showcasing his career. It’s 14-minutes long and well worth it!
Looking to buy:
• 1987 Les Paul Custom- wine red 3-piece top. All original except has Seymour Duncan Jazz/Jb4 pickups. Minneapolis/St. Paul area
• 1970s era Fender Jazzmaster in either tri-burst trans finish or solid teal with original or period correct OHSC. Buyer is looking for one that is 8.5 or higher, all original.
• 1972 Les Paul Burst
• 2017 Fender American Pro Telecaster, Mysic Seafoam with maple fretboard, Boone, NC
• 2012 Gibson USA 1970s tribute Les Paul Gold top, Tuscan AZ area
• 1956 Gibson J160e, New York City area
• 1968 Gibson Dove with a mid 60s DeArmond sound hole pickup, New York City area