In part 1 of my interview with Rick Rutherford of Textone Guitars, Rick talked about the origins of the company and his love of guitars. Here, in part 2, Rick reveals the inspiration behind the company’s latest model, the GCR60®, and why the guitar holds immense significance for him and his family.
The GCR60® is a Strat style guitar – something of a departure from the rest of the company’s range. Why?
As we went to various guitar shows and stores people kept asking for a Strat type of guitar. I really had no interest in that as we had all we could do to keep up with the Twang King and Blues King models. And there is no more iconic guitar than the Strat. In fact, I sold my Eric Johnson model to help fund the start of our business. But, as you can see, we gave in and created the GCR60. Why?
My younger brother Gary had always tried to follow or copy my interests as we grew up. Sports didn’t stick with him, but my love of music and guitars grabbed hold and he developed his own deep love. Back in 1975 I helped him get his first real guitar, a used white Strat with rosewood neck we bought from a guy I knew in Austin. It was a little beat up but played and sounded great. My brother built a career in lighting and sound working for Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. He was exceptional at what he did. Great with his hands, and great at keeping the show going no matter what. And while he never played in a band, he always had a guitar or two in his possession.
Unfortunately, my brother had demons he never was able to beat. Smoking and drinking robbed him of his health, his family, his career, and ultimately his life at the age of 50. He lost his job two years before he died and ended up living with my parents. During this time he became depressed and hardly left his room. And his health grew worse. It frustrated me that he could not pull himself together and our relationship became strained. The last time he was in the hospital was when I was at the San Antonio Guitar Show in 2010. I stopped by to visit him, and it ended up being the last time we spent time together.
A couple of nights later I took our guitars by the Saxon Pub in Austin for Bill Browder, one of my favourite Austin players, to try. I first saw Bill in 1974 playing his Gretsch Country Gentleman through an old black face Fender. It sounded amazing! I never knew Filtertrons could sound so good. It inspired me to go on a quest for the perfect Gretsch, which I never found. Bill played our guitar that night with the Austin All Stars. It sounded amazing and a lot people there were interested in the guitar.
On the way home from the club an amazing idea came to me. Why not get my brother to assemble our guitars. We were having a really tough time finding a quality-driven person to get them assembled and set up perfect. I thought, Gary could do this in his sleep. Why not hire him and give him something inspiring to do? I called Ken and he agreed. It was set. I got home and made a note to call my brother the next morning to discuss the idea and get the ball rolling.
This sounds a little hard to believe, but the second I sat down after bringing my guitars into the house my phone rang. It was my mother…my brother was dead. To say I was crushed would be an understatement. I can’t tell you the sadness and guilt I felt, all at the same time. I wondered if I had approached him months before, would it have made a difference. I know his health was what it was, but he might have had hope and a reason to get up and conquer the day. I’ll never know.
Back to the new guitar…There are times when I am driving or alone in thought and I feel my brother there with me just as real as the air I am breathing. Those moments are so emotional for me – tears often flowing. It’s not a bad thing…I am thankful that I feel his presence and my memories of him are still so strong. We were connected more profoundly than I realized. It was one day while I was once again pondering the Strat question that he showed up in my heart, I knew what I had to do – make that model in his honour. And so I did. It’s the GCR60 (Gary Cox Rutherford, born in 1960). We completed the first one on what would have been his 52nd birthday. My parents, kids and Gary’s son were so proud when they saw it. I couldn’t have been happier. There are four so far. The sunburst one you can see on our website and a white model with rosewood neck which I will either hold on to or give to his son when the time is right, a Bel Air Green one, and a T-Bird Red model. We worked hard on the design and we’re really proud of the way they turned out. And with the hand wound ’54 clone pickups, they sound amazing – better than the E J Strat I sacrificed to start the business.
Anyway, that’s the story of where we are today.
Started by Rick Rutherford, Ken Johnson and Jeff Neville, Textone Guitars is based in Austin, Texas. The company makes hand-crafted guitars from the finest materials.