Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

What Robert Earl Keen Plays

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

What Robert Earl Keen Plays

Article excerpt

After learning how to play on his sister's Alvarez classical, Keen got a Martin D-35. "My parents were notoriously cheap," he says. "They were the kind of people who would say, 'Son, that costs $12. You can get one for $5.' But when I came home from school after my first year, my mother, from out of nowhere, said, 'We're going to go get you a good guitar.' I said, 'Great whatever.'

"So we went down to this little music store and she said, 'I want the best guitar in this place.' And the guy said, 'Well, we have this Martin 0-35.' I was thinking, there's no way my mom's going to buy me a Martin guitar, no way. And she said, 'Okay, does it have a case with it?' And he said, 'Yes, ma'am.' I thought God, this is really going to happen. She just wrote the check. I couldn't believe it

"When I got that guitar, it was one of those things where I took it in the backyard and just played and played, non-stop, day after day after day, writing songs, just doing whatever I could do to get fairly good on it

"I had that guitar for several years before I got a D-28, and since then I've had all kinds of guitars."

Eventually, Keen became a Codings player. "I've known Bill Codings for years. We were pals. We've even gotten into some trouble together, because Codings...." He trails off. "He knows how to have fun."

Codings is also serious about his guitar business, Keen says. "I used to take my Martins to him to get them re paired-fret job, neck reset that kind of thing-and one day, in the early '90s, he says, 'I'm not going to do this for you anymore.' I said, 'What?' He says, 'Because you need to buy one of my guitars' I said, 'You're right'

"So, we sat down and decided what he would make for me, and we drew up the plans for this C-10-it's a beautiful guitar- and I played it for about a year and I felt like I was going to bust it up. I was on the road a lot So, I got on this record- a compilation of Merle Haggard songs called Tulare Dust, on Hightone Records. …

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