Ken Lelen

Ken Lelen
Ken Lelen sings ragtime, jazz & swing and plays vintage acoustic guitars.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


The Lorizio
1937 Martin 00-18H

As the Great Recession swept into my neighborhood in early 2009, I needed money to pay some bills. So I decided to sell this 1937 Martin 00-18H, one of 255 made between 1935 and 1941 and priced at $45 to $55. A grand concert-sized guitar (14¼-in. lower-bout width), it originally was set up for Hawaiian-style play.
                                                                                            PHOTO: Vintage Instruments
The Lorizio — 1937 Martin 00-18H
     Today, the instrument is known as the Lorizio after its original owner, Jeanette Porcello Lorizio. Born Jan. 2, 1913 and deceased Dec. 30, 2000 in Norton, MA near Boston, her surname and Soc. Sec. number are hand-inscribed on the back of the guitar's headstock.
     Long-ago converted to standard play, I bought the Lorizio (SN 65183) at the height of the vintage guitar market, when a mid-thirties 00-18H in excellent condition could fetch $9,500. Offered in “good condition, needs work” at $6,500 in Jan. 2007 by Fred Oster of Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia, I was able to buy it six months later at $5,500. By year's end I'd spent $1,650 more for its restoration by luthiers Greg Hanson and David Crawford of Durham, NC (formerly in Raleigh).
                                                 PHOTO: Lark Street
Lorizio 00-18H headstock —
with inscribed name & SSN
     Hanson and Crawford's repairs included the following work:
       resetting the neck;
       planing fingerboard to obtain uniform radius and removal of a hump at the 12th fret;
       refretting fingerboard with modern T frets;
       installing a forgery-grade ebony bridge and intonating the bone saddle;
       adjusting the set-up to accommodate my flatpicking playing style;
       gluing a thin pad of maple rescued from a 100-year-old piano onto the original bridge plate to eliminate string-ball damage;
       repairing two small irregular holes in the upper treble rib.
     The quality of Hanson & Crawford's work was beyond reproach. Still, Oster sniffed dismissively when he examined the restored guitar in early 2009. He called the work "passable, not great."
     Accurate or not, Oster's opinion of this fine guitar meant trouble for me. His opinion of the guitar could spoil my chance to sell the guitar and obtain a good price either at his Vintage Instruments shop or elsewhere in the vintage guitar market.
                                                      PHOTO: Ralph Shirak
Ken Lelen with
 Lorizio 00-18H
Kennebunk, ME in June 2008
     So I looked to sell or trade it in a non-East Coast market. Luckily, a 1920s Maurer Style #493 guitar made by the Larson Brothers appeared on Eric Schoenberg's website. Based in Tiburon, CA near San Francisco, he priced the Larson, a grand concert beauty restored by Chris Berkov, at $6,675. In addition, Schoenberg agreed to my suggestion of swapping the Lorizio 00-18H for the Maurer #493. Like icing on a cake, I netted $1,000 cash from Schoenberg in the process.
     The Lorizio 00-18H is a great instrument and I enjoyed playing it for two years. Still, I don't miss it. The Maurer #493 is an outstanding guitar that offers sublime pleasures to any player. Indeed, it is hard to put down even after playing it for an hour.
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References & Links
                                               C. F. Martin & Co.          —      martinguitar.com
                                               Vintage Instruments     —      vintage-instruments.com
                                               Schoenberg Guitars       —      om28.com
                                               Larson Bros. guitars      —      Maurer Style #493
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A journalist for 30 years before opening Vintage Music Concerts in 1999,
Ken Lelen sings ragtime, jazz and swing & plays vintage acoustic guitars
at concerts for diverse groups, niche markets and sundry venues across
the East Coast. He has played acoustic guitar since the summer of 1963.
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© 2014 by Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

         2014 — Concert Schedule
Jan    8      Meadowood, Lansdale PA
Jan   15     Heath Village, Hackettstown NJ
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Feb   16    Valentine's ConcertLegendary Love Songs
               3:00 pm, Town Center Auditorium, www.ericksonliving.com
               Oak Crest Village, Walther Blvd, Parkville MD 21234
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Apr    5     Heritage, Raleigh NC
Apr    7     Lakewood Manor, Richmond VA
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Apr  14     Public Library Concert  Sunny Side of the Street
              7 pm, Library Theatre, 973-627-6555, www.denvillelibrary.org
              Denville Library, 121 Diamond Spring Road, Denville NJ 07034
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May   9     Friends of the Library Concert  Tin Pan Alley Cats
               7:30 pm, Meeting Rooms A-B-C, 908-526-4016, www.sclsnj.org
               Bridgewater Township Library, 1 Vogt Drive, Bridgewater NJ 08807
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May 18     Fountains, Millbrook NY
Jun  10     Glebe, Daleville VA
Jun  11     Cypress, Raleigh NC
Jun  12     Springmoor, Raleigh NC
Jun  13     Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk VA
Jun  16     The Oaks, Orangeburg SC
Jun  17     Stewart Health Center, Charlotte NC
Jun  18     Bermuda Village, Advance NC
July  14    Shannondell - Bradford, Audubon PA
Sep   3     Heath Village, Hackettstown NJ
Sep  18     Country House, Wilmington DE
Sep  25     Arbors, Manchester CT
Sep  26     Overlook, Charlton MA
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Oct    9     Volunteer Recognition Concert  Legendary Love Songs
               10:30 am @ Beaver Brook Country Club, Annandale NJ
               Sponsored by Hunterdon County Senior Center
               4 Gauntt Place, Flemington NJ 08822; 908-788-1359
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Oct    9     Wellington, West Chester PA
Oct   13     Riddle Village, Media PA
Oct   16     Sherwood Oaks, Cranberry Twp PA
Oct   20     Lakewood Manor, Richmond VA
Oct   22     Cypress, Raleigh NC
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Oct   26    Public Library Concert  Ragtime Rascals
               Friends of the Library commemorate the centennial of World War I
               3 pm, Community Room, 973-827-8095, www.sussexcountylibrary.org
               Dorothy Henry Branch Library, 66 Rt 94, Vernon NJ 07462
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Nov   3     Shannondell - Ashcroft, Audubon PA
Nov  13     Springmoor, Raleigh NC
Nov  14     Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk VA
Nov  18     The Oaks, Orangeburg SC
Nov  19     Bermuda Village, Advance NC
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©  2014 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mid-South Tour — June 2014

                                                                              PHOTO: Melanie Jones
Ken Lelen in October 2013 at Bermuda Village in Advance
NCwhere he played a 1941 Gibson L-00 guitar, one of 28
that was built with a natural finish and retailed for $42.
I'm excited to announce my June concert tour through the Mid-South begins in a few days.
     Between June 9 and June 21, I will play six Vintage Music Concerts in central North Carolina, south-eastern Virginia and mid-state South Carolina. As usual, I'll also visit several vintage guitar dealers and luthiers along the way.
     My concert hosts all are long-time sponsors, including a pair of senior villages that have presented my concerts twice a year for nearly ten years. Audiences at these venues are great groups to play for since they love the music, enjoy seeing and hearing acoustic guitars from back-in-the-day and appreciate the concert themes I present.
     In addition to In The Mood, an audience favorite, this month I'll deliver two new programs for the first time: Radio-Dial Ramblers, which honors the songs, singers and shows of radio's heyday; and Broadway's Song Souvenirs, which offers hit tunes spawned on the Great White Way during the 1930s and 1940s.
     Here's the line-up of senior communities (linked) where I'm performing:
          •     June 11     —     Cypress                         —    Raleigh NC
          •     June 12     —     Springmoor                    —    Raleigh NC
          •     June 13     —     Lake Prince Woods          —    Suffolk VA
          •     June 16     —     The Oaks                       —    Orangeburg SC
          •     June 17     —     Stewart Health Center     —     Charlotte NC
          •     June 18     —     Bermuda Village             —    Advance NC
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Sadly, three long-time concert sponsors — Arbor Acres of Winston-Salem NC, Heritage of Raleigh NC and Glebe of Daleville VA — cancelled their June concerts.
     Arbor Acres skipped this year's concert "due to budgetary cuts," one community official said. "We have so many local resources [that] we are not using as many traveling groups as we have in the past."
     In March the 480-resident facility announced a $10-million nursing and assisted-living building project. This caps the recent completion of a five-year, $32-million multiphase expansion.
     Meanwhile, Heritage, a division of the 600-facility Brookdale Senior Living, cancelled due to a spate of logistical difficulties and resident issues. In my opinion, the problems arose because the facility does not provide a program person on premises to manage its Saturday evening events.
     And one Glebe official cited "conflicts in scheduling and other unforeseeable circumstances" when it abruptly pulled out in late May. This cancellation by the Blue Ridge facility was particularly vexing, since the program coordinator in December had requested the creation of a new Vintage Music Concert theme for its June event.
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However, over the past dozen years of concert touring on the East Coast I've had the good fortune to meet many vintage guitar dealers, players, collectors and luthiers. I expect to visit the following vintage guitar sources (linked) on this month's tour. Each holds a special interest for me.
     For example, Tom Wentzel of Vintage Blues Guitars in Lititz PA near Lancaster is holding a 1920s Oscar Schmidt guitar for me. The back, sides and top of this grand concert-sized instrument are made with beautiful Hawaiian koa wood. Its long scale length (26-1/2 inches) helps produce a huge volume. Now nearly 90 years old, the guitar has a deep thumpy bass and sparkling trebles that are perfect for the classic ragtime and speakeasy jazz I perform at my concerts.
Luthier Greg Hanson of Durham NC
inspects a 1939 Gibson KG-14.
     This month I'm planning to bring two guitars for inspection and repair estimates by luthiers Greg Hanson and David Crawford. Their Durham NC firm, Hanson & Crawford, has repaired, restored and set up most of my vintage guitars since my initial concert tour across the Southeast in September 2002.
     Picker's Supply, a downtown Fredericksburg VA instrument dealer, has been tempting me with vintage guitars for years. Owned by Bran Dillard, the shop currently has five vintage Washburn guitars, a 1930 Larson Brothers guitar and at least three Gibson guitars I'm eager to play.
     Finally, at the tour's conclusion, I plan to visit the twice-annual Great American Guitar Show held in Oaks PA near King of Prussia. Among the show's many guitar gurus, I look forward to meeting dealer Alex Whitman of TR Crandall Guitars, New York NY and luthier James Burkett of Burkett Guitars, Dothan AL. Both have been helpful with my research on recently converted (x-braced) vintage guitars, a subject I'm investigating for a forthcoming blog posting. Stay tuned!

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©  2014 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved