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Gordon Bok - A Rogue's Gallery of Songs for 12-Str :

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Gordon Bok - A Rogue's Gallery of Songs for 12-Str

McKeon's Coming
Old Fat Boat
Woodworker's Litany
A Most Unpleasant Way, Sir
Belamena
Bimbo De Colonello
Blackbird
Bonnie Galway
Duncan and Brady
I'm A Rambler and a Gambler
Marina
Mist Covered Mountains
McKeon's Coming
Old Fat Boat
On the Wallaby
Ramble Away
St. Thomas
Thumpy
Woodworker's Litany

A Rogue's Gallery of Songs for 12-String. In the hands of a true master (such as Gordon) the 12-string guitar can sing in a variety of voices, many of which are demonstrated here.




GORDON BOK
"A Rogue's Gallery"

I'm of the opinion that the twelve-string guirar has not been entirely invented yet. Surely Leadbelly, Seeger, Kottke, and a host of others have done some pretty incredible exploring of the instrument as it stands a big double-six, monstrously cabled in steel, timbered-out like the State of New Hampshire, a guitar-like object whose tone has always depended on its qualifications for survival.

Sam Tibbetts (for me) changed all that. He built a twelve based on my old family guitar, the Mango, which was never really designed to last, even as a nylon/gut-strung guitar. The "Sam-Box" only lasted a few years, but it gave Nick Apollonio a vision which he has pursued for years: "It's an organ in a shoe-box," he said. "Let's build some for tone alone."

So he did. And we've fired many a stove with the results of years of Nick's experiments in tone.

"Thinner top!" hollers I; "lower braces in the back!"

"She'll implode!" hollers Nick, and builds her anyway.

They imploded, of course, but, Lord, they sounded good. You could get all the tone and texture out of them that you could get out of a classic, and I was happy.

At some points I had the grace to leave Nick alone, and he came up with ways to keep that range of tone and expression (and power) and start to build a machine that would stand up under:

1) the heavy stringing I subjected it to, and
2) the weird conditions I subjected it to, summer and winter.

This bunch of recordings was done over a period of two years (in three different locations on four different sets of recording gear), using two twelves that Nick built:

1) "Adrian Primero" (the blonde one) is strung with medium-gauge D'Angelico strings and tuned three frets below normal.
2) "Little John," my travelling instrument, is tuned four frets below normal and is strung with fire-tower cable and towing wire.

[The La Bella String company, by the way, has been working very kindly with some of us musicians to develop a good set of heavy-duty strings for these pitches.]

Both guitars are now using the "Bok/Apollonio Balanced Bridge" and tail-pieces. If I remember correctly, Adrian has a classical bracing system (with a very thin Sitka top) and Little John is more conventionally braced, with a cedar top. Our "balanced bridge" allows a very strong, but adjustable, string connection to the face, but eliminates torque (twisting) problems on the face from string tension.

So what is a twelve-string, after all? I don't know. Play it like a backhoe and it sounds like "Old Fat Boat;" play Carolan's Concerto on it and it sounds like a clairseach.

I want to encourage guitar builders to accept the technology that can bring out the versatility of it, and encourage us players to think of it, not as a louder six-string, but as a different animal altogether.

Should anyone want to know more about Nick Apollonio (or his twelve-strings, bells, laudos, boat guitars, tenor mandolins, dulcimers, etc.), they can write to him at Shearwater Designs. Tenant's Harbor, Maine, or to me at Box 840, Camden, Maine, 04843.

Gordon Bok

THE SONGS AND TUNES

McKEON'S COMING
(Bok, BMI) Side 1, Band 1.

The story goes that McKeon was a fisherman from Canada. Had a little schooner; ran it with his son, or another man. Back during Prohibition, the lucrative trade of smuggling booze into the States attracted many people, and McKeon was one. Unfortunately, he got caught, his schooner was impounded and sold at auction, and he was thrown in jail in Massachusetts. When he got out, years later, his health was ruined, and it took him almost two years to work his way back home.

Now when the wind is bright with the spring
And the snow has gone away,
The days grow long and the time has come
To hoist my sail and go.
And I'll hear no more your dungeon door,
Nor eat your bitter beans.
Surely it's a long and a hungry road
'Til McKeon's home again.

I'll go down by the Naskeag sound
Where the tide runs fast and strong.
The water's deep and the hills are steep
And the nights are cold and long.
And through the rooks of Jericho
I'll wind my weary way
And roll her off for Sable, aye,
And the grey seas of Fundy.

For the wind is fair and the tide's at the spring
And the time has come to go.
Heist my sail on a Northern wind
And I'll be on my way.
Ah, but there's no one can go with me,
And there's no one by my sides
Surely it's a long and lonely road
For the Straits of Canso.

Oh, the wind is fair and the tide's at the spring
And the time has come to go.
Heist my sail on a Northern wind
And I'll be on my way.
And I'll hear no more your dungeon door,
Nor eat your bitter beans.
Surely it's a long and a hungry road
'Til McKeon's home again.



    
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