Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

Home · Articles · News · Music · A passion for guitars
. . . .

A passion for guitars

Robert Downes - December 14th, 2009
A Passion for Guitars
By Robert Downes
Tim Miller built his first guitar in his eighth grade shop class using
coat hanger wire for strings and an old, smashed-up microphone for a
pickup.
He never looked back.
“I’m probably one of the few people who can say this, but I have an
extreme passion for what I do for a living,” says Miller, 36, who has
been building or repairing guitars and other stringed instruments for
more than 20 years.
Miller launched The Great Lakes Guitar Center Co. a year ago at a
storefront at 171 Woodmere in Traverse City. Approximately 80% of his
business involves repairing stringed instruments, with the rest of his
time spent building guitars from scratch.
“I tend to build guitars around whatever piece of wood I acquire,”
Miller says. “Each guitar is so individual in nature that I avoid
having a production line. What I like to do is rough the guitar in and
then have the customer pick out the appointments.”
By appointments, Miller means the hardware, such as the tuning keys
and electronics. He built one such guitar for rocker Kenny Olson using
a Stratocaster design along with Petoskey stone inlays and the kind of
electronics and hardware which he felt mirrored Olson’s style. The
Petoskey stone inlays -- carved into Michigan ‘mittens’ have become a
signature item for Miller’s work.

LEARNING CURVE
Born in Grayling and raised in Frederick, Miller started playing
guitar when he was eight or nine years old. His first guitar was a
gift from his mother, Valerie, whose love of music included playing
the organ. As a child, he recalls his mother taking him on trips to
inspiring musical venues ranging from the Grand Old Opry to the Sun
Recording Studio, sometimes with an OzzFest tossed in the next day.
Other influences included various teachers, including an elementary
school music teacher who used to arrive for lessons on a motorcycle,
wearing black leather pants and a sexy red blouse. Miller also served
as an understudy with a luthier in the area, but he says the majority
of his education has involved “trial and error and experimentation.”
“I’ve done studies with other luthiers, but I’m never going to stop
learning my craft,” he says. “There are so many different brands and
styles of guitars, and sometimes it takes longer to build a jig to
hold the guitar than it does to repair it.
“It’s never slowed down for me,” he adds. “I get to create art so that
other people can create their art. How awesome is that? To take these
raw materials and turn them into something that will become an
heirloom.”
Miller has built both acoustic and electric guitars, but says he loves
the latter best. “I like building electric guitars because there’s a
mysticism of going from wood, steel and wire to the feeling you get
when you tie that to some huge stack (of amps). It’s literally
electrifying.”

GENERAL LEE
An unexpected jackpot for Miller has been his creation of a General
Lee guitar, which is an homage to the Dukes of Hazzard TV show which
aired from 1979-1985.
“My nephew came to me seven or eight years ago and asked me to paint
his guitar orange, like the color of the General Lee in The Dukes of
Hazzard,” Miller recalls.
The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger with a Confederate flag
painted on the roof and the number “01” on each door. Miller has
added these features to his line of guitars, prompting a jaw-dropping
“no way!” response from fans of the show.
He put the original guitar on his MySpace page and was surprised to
get a friend request from Catherine Bach, the actress who played Daisy
Duke on the show. That contact put him in touch with Ben Jones, who
played a mechanic and tow truck driver named Crazy Cooter.
Jones went on to become a congressman in Georgia and a successful
businessman. Today, he owns two Cooter’s Place stores in Gatlinburg
and Nashville, TN, which sell Dukes of Hazzard paraphernalia,
including Miller’s line of General Lee guitars.
“He said he wanted to carry my line, so now I build them in batches of
a dozen,” he says, adding that he’s made 30-35 of the guitars so far,
based around a modified Strat design and retailing for $250-$1,000.

WORD OF MOUTH
Miller performed as a guitarist in local bands years ago, and has
served as a guitar tech for performers including Kenny Olson, but says
his heart has always been on the luthier side of the business. “When
my friends heard that I was working on guitars, I started getting work
right away,” he recalls.
He’s been a professional luthier for 10 years now, capable of
everything from building an acoustic guitar from scratch in 40 hours,
to analyzing and installing the best electronic mix for your electric
axe.
“I know a lot of musicians in Northern Michigan, including all of the
top performers, and most of my business comes from word of mouth.”

 
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