Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One beautiful banjo touched so many!

Hi Chuck and Tamara,

As I said in my Facebook message to you, I am truly enjoying my banjo and Steve and I are finding some healing through the gift of music.  (See additional story)

We wanted to touch base and let you know how one beautiful banjo touched so many!

It seems that my banjo dreams awakened musical dreams within our family. Steve started playing and composing beautiful pieces on his electric and acoustic guitars, my sister Shannon is composing and started playing the guitar, in fact she bought an electric and has an acoustic on order. Our brother in law, Dwight, is starting to play his acoustic guitar, a long forgotten enjoyment, and my Dad actually decided to learn to play the piano. He has had two lessons and is thoroughly enjoying himself. At almost 79 he is learning to play his first instrument.

Once a week Shannon and Dwight come over, we visit and then we all play our instruments together. It doesn't get any better than that.

Chuck and Tamara, you are good people who probably never realize the impact you have on others. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. We've had a tougher road than we ever thought we'd travel, but God sends angels along the way to help smooth out the potholes.

You two are heaven sent. I think of you every day when I pick up my beautiful banjo and play.

Steve and I will be forever grateful that God sent you two our way.

We wanted to share a picture of a photo collage Steve and I put up in our music room. As you can see, Chuck has a place of honor with the rest of our family. On the top row left, is Steve with his electric guitar, next is Kendra with her guitar, and then me playing my banjo. The middle row is our son Cody with his guitar, Kendra taking piano lessons from me while I did her hair, and Kendra and Cody having fun; the bottom row is my sister Shannon with her electric guitar, our friend and banjo maker Chuck Lee, and our brother-in-law Dwight playing his acoustic. I don't have one of Dad playing his keyboard yet but I'll get one, one of these days.

The second picture is our music room right before we started to practice. We all play different styles of music, but once a week we get together a just play anything and everything. We are practicing Christmas tunes as well. It's all good. ☺
We hope all is well with you and pray that God sends you as much goodness and light as you have given.

Cheryl and Steve

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Banjo player celebrates 50th birthday in style!

Fifty years old is pretty special!  The following quote is from our wonderful customer Kris Herfkens:

I have always wanted to play the banjo.  I’m not sure why, but the sound of banjo music thrills me.  I played a bit of guitar when I was a kid, but had wandered away from it by the time I hit college.  As much as I love music, I never tried to play anything as an adult.  My education and work took nearly all of my time.

Middle age has a way of reworking priorities, and it occurred to me one day that I might actually be able to learn to play the banjo.  I quickly acquired my mom’s banjo (which had never been used) and started taking lessons.  In short order, I knew I would persist and I wanted my own special banjo. 

I scoured the internet for information on banjos, listening to sound files and reading reviews.  I was convinced that the banjo of my dreams was a Chuck Lee banjo.   A musical instrument like Chuck’s, however, should belong to a fine musician, and I am most definitely not that.  Through an odd series of circumstances (Chuck is a friend of a friend of a friend), I spent some time on the phone with Chuck one Saturday afternoon. He is an amazingly approachable, down to earth guy, and he patiently answered my questions and educated me on the workings of a banjo.  By the time we hung up, I decided that I wanted a Chuck Lee banjo soon, and that I could justify it to celebrate my 50th birthday.

Much quicker than I could imagine, I was the owner of a beautiful Chuck Lee Ovilla.  Chuck was great about sending pictures and talking with me multiple times to pick out the parts of this instrument.  I initially felt a bit awkward about owning such a magnificent banjo.  It sounds and looks amazing.  I really felt like I didn’t deserve it!  For sure, the quality of my playing does not do justice to this banjo, but I benefit from the quality of it every time I pick it up to play.  And, I pick it up nearly every day.  Slowly but surely, I am learning to play clawhammer banjo.  The beautiful sound of this banjo and the ease with which it plays constantly inspires me to keep on playing. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stolen Instrument Alert

Stolen Instrument Alert               
Lone Star Deluxe Custom serial number 568 was stolen from a car in Forrest City, Arkansas on or about June 6, 2012. 

The instrument has a walnut rim and neck.  It has a "Custom Made for Tim LaBaron" plate on the side of the dowel stick above the "Chuck Lee Maker" plate.  The plate was held on with two small screws, so if the plate is gone, the holes may still be visible.

The serial number is on the dowel stick near the "Chuck Lee Maker" plate and in the rim near the rim cap.

If found call the Forrest City Police Department. The non-emergency number for the police department is (870) 633-3434.

Or call Chuck Lee Banjos at 972-617-5576.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Memory of Kendra Ann Calhoun

Chuck tells me this is one the hardest, yet most rewarding banjos he has ever built.   We know how special every child is, and when he was contacted by a mother who had tragically lost her daughter, he knew an emotional roller coaster was headed his way. Cheryl's daughter Kendra was a feisty, engaging and active young lady.  Chuck studied her pictures intently many times, read and reread all her mother had to say, before beginning her memorial inlay.  There were hours of mental preparation before the redrawing began.  It was a banjo truly finished with laughter, prayer and tears.

Below Cheryl tells the story of the life of this banjo.  To follow Cheryl's journey, check out her blog.

In Cheryl's words:

"It's hard to tell the story of my beautiful Chuck Lee banjo without a little background so here goes.

 Ever since I was a little girl, I loved the banjo and wanted to have one of my own. I played the piano, flute, and piccolo, but as much as I loved playing those instruments, I knew there was something more. I can remember staring longingly at banjos on the walls of music stores and antique shops when I was a child. When I'd say I wanted a banjo someday, whoever was around would smile. It never occurred to me to ask my parents, and looking back I know they would have gotten me a banjo if I'd just asked, as music was a big part of our family.

 As adulthood happened, so did responsibilities and life in general. Although I still played my instruments, I didn't have as much time for them and my banjo dreams faded.

On April 30, 2011, we lost our beautiful 24 year old daughter Kendra in an automobile accident. Words can't describe the anguish Steve and I felt. Heck, words can't describe it at all. Once we got through the service, we pretty much sat around numb. I won't go into details as neither you nor I want to go there. At some point in June, the words, Buy the banjo, Get the banjo, kept going through my head. No I wasn't hearing voices, it was probably my childhood self paying me a visit. And so I bought a beginner banjo. Playing the banjo took me to an almost meditative state that helped start the healing process. In time, Steve took up the guitar and through music, we are both able to express and heal where words fail.

 Fast forward several months and as I learned, I would go to the Banjo Hangout and read and read about all the wonderful banjos. I listened to sound clips and watched videos. There were several that were just beautiful and I thought that one day I might have one.

 One day, I saw a Chuck Lee Ovilla with a girl under the moon. The banjo brought tears to my eyes as that girl reminded me of Kendra and the moon reminded me of the many times our family sang Fly Me to the Moon (Sinatra/Straight version) while on the way to visit the kid's grandparents.

 Thanks to the Banjo Hangout, I discovered Donald Zepp and his music store. He has a great website with sound clips from all the different banjos he carries and plays. Let me tell you, that man can play the banjo in a way that touches the soul. I listened to him play the Ovilla over and over and knew that I wanted one. After hearing me obsess about all things banjo for months, my husband said, "If you could have any banjo, what would you want?" With no hesitation I said, "An 11" walnut Chuck Lee Ovilla customized in remembrance of Kendra." He said, "Then you should do it."

 I emailed Chuck and he emailed right back. He is a kind and thoughtful man, an artist really. He said he would be honored to build my banjo and asked for pictures of Kendra. He also asked intuitive questions about her personality. The process and the man were wonderful. He told me that his wife, Tammy, prayed over each banjo as she finished them. I was, and am touched by that. On April 30, 2012, Chuck shipped our beautiful Ovilla to us. He remembered the date and shipped it to us on the one year anniversary to help lighten our load. I will never forget his act of kindness.

 Yesterday, she arrived. She is the most beautiful instrument I have ever seen and held in my life. Her voice is even more beautiful than that.  The inlay is a wonderful representation of Kendra, with a boot on one foot and a sock on the other. The finish on the walnut is smooth as silk. I chose walnut for the sound and because it reminded me of Kendra and the hours the kids played in our walnut orchard. She has the rich woody tones I wanted, each note clear and full. I played and played her yesterday and will play her every day.

When I could tear myself away from my beautiful banjo, I called Chuck to thank him. He said, "You can't play a sad song on the banjo." He is right. Steve and I will be forever grateful for our beautiful banjo, honored that the kindhearted banjo builder that is Chuck Lee crafted it for us and for Kendra too." 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

European Customer says it all!

I live in Switzerland, and my brother delivered my new Marble Falls banjo to me recently- and I just cannot put it down.

It looks really beautiful, but not too flashy/decorated. The Irish knot looks great in the sunlight, almost 3-dimensional, and the maple wood is wonderful. It even smells fine :-)

Now that I've played it, I know what they mean when they say that you build the best banjos; There is some magic in the sound. This banjo fits me perfectly and it lets me actually play better :-) And, I think that as my banjo playing gets better, I will discover even more of the strengths of this beautiful instrument.

Thank you for building such a fine banjo for me. I am much more than satisfied - it's a pleasure and an honor to play and own such an instrument.

Casper Noetzli