The Resurrection of the Recording King

Fred Sheppard's tale of its demise and how it came to be whole once more.
Clicking on photo will connect you with a page where you can see photos taken during the process of its reconstruction.

I had gone to see John play in Minneapolis in '82. We got to talking guitars, and I asked him what he had used for recording Fare Forward Voyagers, as that was a very good sounding recording, my personal favorite. He told me about the Recording King. I asked him what had happened to it, and he related the story that follows:

John had had the flu, and had been in bed for awhile, not feeling well at all. His girlfriend at the time was encouraging him to get up and around, and this wasn't taken well by John at all. As John put it, "She just wouldn't leave me alone." At some point in the conversation, the words "What do you love more John, me or your guitar?" were invoked.

The truth of what happened next is known only to those two persons who were present. Having access to all the forensic evidence, and holding a board certification in Orthopedics, I would have to say that the point of impact is more consistent with an impact with a rounded, padded, but solid surface. Marilyn's head? Possibly. Only her hairdresser knows for sure. A girl's necklace was in the debris field. Maybe someday Marilyn will come forward and shed some light on this episode. As I knew John, he wasn't the kind of guy to go around hitting women. Not then, not ever.

John had purchased a Hawaiian guitar from me that very same night, after his had been stolen, and he offered me the remains of the RK. The real hero of this story is the guy who collected the pieces after the unfortunate encounter. All but a few fragments were somehow preserved by a gentleman in California. I contacted the fellow in California, sorry, but his name escapes me. He was very gracious to me, and shipped the remains of the King shortly thereafter.

My own life got in the way of the restoration project, and the King stayed in it's little box for another 18 years, through 5 different moves, 3 careers, and my never ending good intentions.

I attended John's funeral and memorial service, which were very moving. Shortly thereafter, Peter Lang told me that there was a tribute CD in the works, and I knew the time had come. I turned the ringer off on my phone, and buried myself in the project. I had no idea if the pieces would even fit after the trauma and the days gone by.

After 12 days, the final piece to complete the sides was fitted with complete success, and the body fit the top. I would describe the process as similar to piecing together a broken dish. The rosewood shattered like glass but had retained its shape. Luckily the top had it's bracing intact, or the King might have been a lost cause. The neck is built like a baseball bat, and didn't even need to have its truss rod adjusted. The guitar has great action, great sound, and is very playable.

I feel very fortunate to have been allowed to be the caretaker and caregiver for this piece of Americana. Hopefully the King will be used for recording projects for many years to come.

I am interested in compiling as much information of the recordings John used this instrument on, photos of John with the instrument, etc., and am preparing to make a limited edition copy of this fine guitar available to the public.

I can be reached at: FKSDC@AOL.COM

Fred Sheppard
Green Bay, Wisconsin