RUFUS: When I was growing up, I had a keen interest in rock and roll
in the time of Elvis, bebop jazz and just about any kind of
music I could expose my ears to. Being a natural mechanical
tinkerer, in my early teens, I built an impressive portable
sound system and met up with a school mate who had the gift
of the DJ gab, and the two of us hosted the “record
hops” of the anglo areas north of Montreal for the next
3 years. During that time, we began to bring in live bands
and I got my first exposure to guitars and other instruments.
intrigued me and I, who had never played a note, thought I
might like to learn how to play. When I expressed an interest
to some of my playing friends, some asked if I might take
a look and see if I could figure out what was wrong with their
guitars. “If you can fix it Rufus, I'll show you some
stuff...”. Well, I did figure them out but never got
to learn much about playing back then.
quick note to say the octave mandolin is restored more
than I had thought possible. Thanks again ever so much.
- Hugh McMillan
Bought my favourite (nylon string guitar) from you, and after that sweet set up with pick up, I get nothing but compliments on the sound everywhere I go. And my
Taylor is like new and a joy to play! Who knew
a tune up in your hands could make such a difference
to this instrument I thought I knew so well. Many thanks.
- Reid Jamieson
just wanted to thank you again for your work on my Gibson.
I haven't played in a while and I've noticed an amazing
difference in the ease of fingerwork after your adjustments
on the nut, bridge and frets. Wow! It's a new guitar.
I've fallen in love with playing it all over again.
Thanks so much!
I am very happy with my "new" guitar. Thanks
again for fast tracking the work, I appreciate it. -
One of the most wonderful memories I have in recent
years is delivering his (my late father's) newly, refurbished
guitar to him in the midst of my mom's challenges with
cancer. I didn't tell him it was his guitar, but suggested
he play for her one of the old songs he used to sing
in the early days of their courting. When he discovered
his old Martin ringing out so true and beautifully,
he kept on playing for a long while...I have a picture
of him singing, "Have I Told You Lately That I
Love You?" to her. Pretty special. He didn't do
alot of playing after that - full time care of my mother
consumed him, but his guitar was always close at hand
if anyone was interested in hearing a song... -
folk scene was booming in the mid 60s, and I was spending
much more time in Montreal surrounded by musicians and working
in the recording, booking and promoting business. I had been
given a Martin D18 that had been smashed in a domestic argument
and in my quiet hours pieced it back together with the encouragement
of Mr. Fogel at Anton Wilfers violin shop in Montreal. After
it was completed, he suggested I should do more and I did,
casually, until I was in Andre Perry’s studio during
the recording of an album for Ronney Abramson with the very
young and brilliant guitar player, Scott Lang. When it was
time for Scott to lay his tracks down, as well as he was playing,
his guitar was badly out of tune and Andre was not going to
use him. That night, I took the guitar home and figured out
what was wrong with it, spent the night on it and Scott laid
down some great tracks the next day. All of a sudden I had
the studio guys asking me if I could get them set up too.
the late 60’s and early 70’s I had settled in
a second floor shop on the corner of Sherbrooke and Guy Streets
in Montreal with some great budding repair techs including
Rockin’ Randy Kemp, Campbell Calder, George Stein and
Kevin Head. In 1972, Chuck Baker came on as a business manager.
this time I had developed a relationship with the Martin company,
Guild, Fender, Gibson and Yamaha. Between the phone calls
and visits to factories, I had developed a good working knowledge
of design and construction, and had developed the ability
to repair just about anything. The specialty that grew out
of that was the ability to take any instrument and customize
a regulation to suit a particular player; feel, intonation
accuracy and tone. I confess that I know not exactly where
this skill came from ... but I’m very grateful for what
Montreal shop was a very busy place with four benches on the
go full time. As the shop grew I began to research finding
good second hand instruments and doing them up for resale.
This took me down the Eastern seaboard to Boston and New York
and then back through Eastern Canada to Halifax. While there,
I reconnected with an old friend, Doug Fenton who lived in
a converted gun emplacement on Chebucto Head, just outside
Halifax. Before I knew it, I had been offered a house to live
in, and the opportunity to start another shop in the Maritimes.
4, 1974: Sue Ellen Lothrop and I arrive at Chebucto head and
look around at the incredible vista before us. But, we were
also, kind of, scratching our heads, wondering what we had
just done -- leaving a busy business and a good music career
for Sue. Well, the shop was in good hands with Chuck Baker
at the helm and Sue’s music was, hopefully, portable.
did thrive and found lots to do to build new business in the
Maritimes. The shop gradually moved to Halifax where it expanded
to include another business, a sound reinforcement company
called Speakeasy Audio. All went well until the financial
meltdown of the early 80’s, and in late 1983 after a
tremendous amount of toil and tears, the sound company closed.
The guitar business was very depressed, no one in Nova Scotia
had any money.
decided to take a break and was asked to go and build boats
at a small boat yard in the mouth of the Lahave River, and
did, for about five years. The break and the experience were
very valuable and I kept my hand in doing instrument repairs
from my home at the same time.
the decline in the fishing industry in the late 80’s,
I had felt ready to re-establish in Halifax but by 1989 it
was clearly not the time. I had been thinking for some time
about moving to the west coast of Canada. Chuck Baker had
long since bought the Montreal shop outright and moved the
whole works from Montreal to Vancouver where he seemed very
happy and prospering. John Larrivée had moved his shop
from Toronto west as well and seemed to be pleased with his
decision. As the opportunity was presenting itself to move,
I made my way west but stopped in Kingston to visit and do
some repairs for my old friend Kevin Head. (It would be five
fabulous years later before I would continue on my way to
Kingston, I teamed up with Gary Mullen, owner of Renaissance
Music and built up a shop in his building in the township
of Kingston. It was a perfect location. We had the Renaissance
music store on the ground floor on one side, Gary Traynor
who had a PA rental place on the other side, a bakery on the
end of the building, my shop and the Kingston School of music
on the top floor. It was a one stop shop!
new apprentice, Gord Mylks! Gord came in as a young (very)
and somewhat confused person about what he really wanted to
do with his life. Over the course of the next four years,
Gord mastered his skills as an extremely competent guitar
tech and a very good played too. During that time, I had had
the pleasure of meeting and developing a great friendship
with one of Canada’s finest guitar builders, Oskar Graf
(link). Over the years all three of us worked together on
various problems and projects and still do.
I decided to get on my way west, Gord took a break and spent
a year traveling to Australia and New Zealand and had not
really committed himself to setting up again in Kingston.
He had hoped for a more rural workshop setting. However, there
was work to do. We had been servicing 1,000 instruments a
year there and now there was nobody! I came through on two
of my annual repair tours set up in The Brew Pubs reception
room upstairs at the kind invitation of Van Turner. Each time
I left, there were always jobs I couldn't take on.
Mylks opens the Kingston Guitar Shop in 1997 and it is now
located on the corner of Clarence and Wellington streets in
Kingston in a great old limestone building.
I arrived on Vancouver Island, (having had no intention of
ever working in Vancouver!!) I thought it might be better
to find a community that didn't already have a Martin Warranty
Service Centre since Dave Cahill’s Old Town Strings
already is one.
moved on to the Cowichan Valley where I enjoyed the many friends
I made there, my new association with Dave Spinks and his
store, Duncan Music, and the music, and the water, the reason
I moved west in the first place -- to be able to be on the
water 365 days a year if need be!
enjoyable as it was, it was not enough.
year 2000 found me setting up in the Cook Street Village,
in Victoria, after having a lengthy health setback. Cook Street
turned out to be a great location and gradually I and
the various established music businesses found our niches
and the shop was thriving. In 2007, getting away from the retail aspect of the business, I moved the shop to our property in Parksville where I still service over 450 instruments a year.
We are pleased, for 37 years now, to be the Authorized Warranty Service Center for C.F.Martin & Co. guitars and for the last 17 years for Oskar Graf, fine classical and steel string acoustic guitar custom maker.