What began as a tribute by a custom wood worker from Maine to his beloved Allman Brothers Band culminated Saturday in a jamming session at The Big House and the handing over of his labor of love.
The “Eat a Peach Tribute Guitar” came home to Macon.
“I grew up listening to the Allman Brothers,” said Jim Macdonald, who crafts one-of-a-kind marquetry and inlay playable guitars. “I’ve been been a guitar player all my life. They were hugely influential in the way I play — just that whole band, the way they made music.
“When I started making guitars, I knew they were going to be unique custom instruments, and I looked back to my roots, and I wanted to say thank you to the bands that meant the most to me, and the Allman Brothers were No. 1 on the list.”
His electric tribute guitar is based on the band’s “Eat a Peach” double-album gatefold cover, and it took him about year to complete.
The guitar is made out of Honduras mahogany like a Gibson guitar and has an ebony fretboard, Macdonald said.
The instrument is embellished with marquetry, a form of inlay where wood veneers of different types such as mahogany, walnut, cherry, maple and holly are sawed and fitted to form a picture.
Macdonald then goes back with a wood-burning pen and adds detailing.
The guitar features a whimsical creature carrying a mushroom based on artwork created by Wonder Graphics for the album.
“It just harkens back to the day when we had albums and albums were little canvases for us to look at to see the pictures of the band or the art they wanted to present,” Macdonald said.
He finished the guitar in 2015, having shared images of the instrument as it was being built on social media. He also took it to shows across the country.
Based on the response he was getting, Macdonald said he started realizing that this guitar shouldn’t end up in a private collection but belonged to the public.
As fate would have it, in June 2016, Macdonald opened a private Facebook message from Warren “Skoots” Lyndon, the younger brother of the original tour manager for the Allman Brothers Band.
Lyndon wrote to Macdonald about how the “Eat a Peach” guitar had moved him and why it had become important to him. That rocked Macdonald’s world and moved him to tears.
Lyndon introduced Macdonald to Richard Brent, the director of collections at The Big House, and that resulted in an epic trip for Macdonald to Macon for him to show off the guitar.
“When I saw the guitar, I was really enthusiastic because it was a wonderful instrument and well-crafted,” Brent said Saturday. “It’s beautiful. It looks great, plays great, sounds great.
“We get a lot of things here at the museum. ... Rarely do we get a instrument that’s this well built, and knowing the history of it, and the design of it, and the artwork that’s on it, it’s quite special,” Brent said.
In May, Macdonald successfully completed an online fund-raising campaign to bring the guitar to The Big House where musicians and fans can view and play it. All of the contributors names are displayed with the guitar at The Big House.
“It seemed like an equitable way to do it where nobody was going to really take a big hit,” Macdonald said of the fund raising. “The museum is not like the Metropolitan Museum (of Art) or anything. It’s a house. So they didn’t have funds to actually purchase the guitar.
“Myself, I’m really relying on the sale price of the guitars to fund the next build. It’s like the gasoline in the tank that allows me to keep doing this. So just the notion of crowdfunding seemed like a way to include a bunch of people and let them participate in the ride to get it down here and offer things like T-shirts and my own maple syrup we make. ... People gave but they also got back and enjoyed doing it,” he said.
The win-win situation placed the guitar, valued at $15,000, in its now permanent home at the museum.
Saturday, Macdonald played a few tunes on the guitar with an ensemble at the GABBAfest 2018, an annual music festival held by Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association, before handing it over to Lyndon and Brent.
“This particular guitar — this whole experience — it just brings me back to my young self of like what you might hope might happen in the big world of rock and roll,” Macdonald said. “I aspired to be a rock and roll star from probably the time I was 5 until 20.”
He found his niche in wood working.
“I just want to live the most creative life I can,” Macdonald said.