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From Jacksonville, FL and being a guitar player from youth, I spent much of free time as young players do in music stores. One frequent stop was the American Music Store on Lenox Ave. on Jacksonville's Westside, where I browsed around and bought my strings as far back as 1973. Liked to go in there up into the 1990's, especially to shop around for a guitar for myself or for one of my students who took guitar lessons from me at home.
It was in 1991 that I came to know Gary Smalley, the tech who worked there with the little guitar repair shop in the back of the store. Needing my acoustic setup, I stopped in the store one day to drop it off for Gary to lower the action and adjust the truss rod. He handed me back my guitar, and said, "Gary, you can do this." I said, "I can do this?" He said, "Of course you can -- all they are is wood & wire."
A light went on with that statement, "All they are is wood & wire." That statement started my work on guitars, and soon I was not only doing all the work on my own instruments but doing free setups on my students' guitars.
Gary Smalley became my No. 1 source about saddles, truss rods, pickups, tuners, fret work, etc. What better guy to learn such skills from -- he happened to be the road tech for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band! There was no Internet in those days, so I also went to the public library and checked out everything I could find on guitar maintenance, guitar making, sound, and guitars in general. Gary never tired of me asking him questions, and I am forever grateful to the memory of him handing me my guitar that day in 1991 and encouraging me to work on guitars. Soon I was doing my own refrets and building a few of my own custom electrics. Gary died of cancer in 1999, a great loss to the Skynyrd Band and to all his friends and family, and certainly to me.
Years passed, and as wife and I worked day jobs in Jax that we were frankly tired of, we were looking for a change. It came about in Dec. 2008 that a close friend in Tallahassee who is quadriplegic suddenly, tragically, and unexpectedly lost his wife and only caregiver. Left with no one to do the care, and knowing me as a close friend and experienced caregiver, he asked us to consider moving to Tallahassee and share a nice home with him becoming primary caregivers. Being in a position to quit our jobs and looking for a change, we made the move and came to Tallahassee in January of 2009 and took up residence here on Folkstone Road. It wouldn't be until the following year that I discovered Folkstone Road as the only street in Leon County shaped like a guitar body!
Cash flow was slow at first, but eventually, I was able to become established as a busy entertainer doing acoustic gigs in Tallahassee and the surrounding area, as well as giving guitar lessons. But as players and students learned of my skills to do setups and repairs, they began bringing me their guitars for work. Before long, tech work caught up and passed my time for playing, and I incorporated Gary Hudson Music Inc. on Sept. 1, 2011. 2012 came and went quickly, and I must worked on at least 200 guitars (and other various stringed instruments) the first year alone. In 2013, we changed the corporation to its current name, Folkstone Guitars Inc.
REPAIRS, SETUPS, REFRETS
Doing everything from minor setups to major surgery on acoustic and electric guitars, I love the business and give the love to every guitar that comes into this shop. Refrets are a major part of the work, and stainless steel fret jobs are my specialty. There is nothing quite like playing jumbo stainless steels on a hot Strat or Tele, which I also build as custom, pro guitars made to order. Here at Folkstone, high dollar, quality Martin and Gibsons are given professional care in the areas of neck resetting, refrets, partial refrets, binding repairs. scratch and dent touch ups, pickup systems, top belly lowering, bridge gluing and replacement, etc., etc. Got a Les Paul needing a refret but you want to retain those little plastic nibs on the fret ends? -- even this is done here at Folkstone. Broken off headstocks are repaired and given the factory-touch.