Forum - Banjo Ben Clark


Hi all, hope everyones healthy and doing well, been down for the count in the hospital for a week myself but home and doing ok now. :mrgreen:
Actually the reason I ended up in the hospital is related to guitar playing in a way. For the past four years I have been experiencing pain in my left arm at times and lots in my fingers and wrist at times as well, bad enough that i was having a hard time practicing some days. i usually put in at least 4 hrs. Well Orthopedic dr. told me arthritis and live with it. Va dr. said get over it, your old. Tried every cream, vitamin, joint formula etc. and still problems continued. Very frustrating to say the least, and I thought my playing days were numbered. :cry:
Well finally went to my wife’s spine dr. who had done her back surgery and she ordered a MRI which I did reluctantly, and what do you know,my neck was all screwed up and bone on bone in my spine. So a couple weeks later I had surgery, 4 hours worth and a week in the hospital, but now,NO HAND PAIN, wrist pain, arm pain etc.! When they opened up my neck the arthritis was so bad it was pinching off the nerves that lead to the fingers and now it’s removed so I am back to playing again pain free.
Now here’s where the new guitar day comes in. I play dreads and always have, had a OM for a year but have been big size guitar guy always. Problem is,I am in recovery for 6 months now and in order to play I need to move around and sit in different positions and can’t look down to play as my neck is in a brace for the next month.
My dreads are to large to be able to sit in a soft chair or couch and play so I decided to search out a smaller guitar I could use until I can go to the large again. Researched the heck out of everything I thought might work and read tons of articles. Well a friend in Portland Or. named Eric Skye ( who if you check out you tube I am sure you will enjoy) suggests the OO size guitar. He uses a Santa Cruz model, way out of my price league, especially to just try and see if I can adapt. Eric has had neck and back issues in the past and now Only plays small guitars, he says the large size wears him out on a 3 hr. gig.
Well I found the guitar with the exact specs as the SC OO in of all places Eastman. I used to have a Eastman OM and one of their arch top jazz guitars a few years ago and was always impressed with them.
They just came out with a OO size, 12 fret, 24 3/4" scale, 2 5/32" spacing, Adirondack top, EIR back and sides, mahogany neck with the large frets and a slotted headstock, with Ebony fretboard. The only difference in the Santa Cruz is the back and sides are Cocabolo, but for 5k more I can live with the Rosewood.
So it’s on the way as I write this from LA Guitar Sales in Ca. and should be here early next week. I have high hopes for the new guitar, so far every revue and article I have found on it are all extremely positive. Will be a new experience playing the new little guy and I am sure some time to adapt. If I find I can get it to work for me I may in the future look at the SC model but at 6500 bucks my wife may be the roadblock there, this one was only 1199.00 so no resistance at all, and a low enough price point that if it doesn’t work out I’ll have new music room wall art,or resell it.
So hope all this isn’t to boring but thought I’d let out what’s been going on in my world, sure feels good to know I won’t need to quit playing guitar, and making some changes in how i play is small sacrifice as compared to not playing at all… :smiley: :unamused: :astonished: …Jerry

Congrats on the diagnosis and the fix! That’s fantastic. I had a shoulder problem that I thought was going to end my playing a few years back, and that’s just a terrible feeling. I couldn’t even express it to my wife (but she knew why I was grumpy anyway).

I really like the smaller 12 fretters. They tend to have a voice that’s special. I’m looking at the Eastman site… looks like you got the E20 double O? Sweet! It has nice wide nut spacing too. Give us a review when you get it.

FWIW, I wouldn’t think of flatpicking on a OO as a sacrifice. I’d simply think of it as a different voice. If you go to a picking circle with a gazzillion dreads, adding a OO to the mix would probably improve it more than another dread. The smaller guys often have a projection that cuts and rings wonderfully.

Congrats Jerry on the successful operation and the new guitar. There are many good reasons to purchase a new guitar, but a successful stay in the hospital is one of the best.

Enjoy it!

Thanks guys…hey be sure and check out my bud Erik on his site, does some bluegrass tunes with Tim Connell on mandolin, good stuff.

Hey all, on my previous post I screwed up Eric’s address it is

Glad you made it through the surgery . I have the same thing in my neck but after a failed lower back surgery I am not willing to go there again , I just deal with it, mine may not be as severe as yours but I am happy to hear of a good out come with your surgery.

The Eastman should be a good fit for you . I wish you all the very best . Pictures I want pictures of your new guitar maybe an MP3 of you playing it .

Thanks Welder, we are very fortunate here in Eugene Or. to have a world known surgeon here at the Spine Institute. Believe me when I tell you I am not a hospital guy, but was ready to give up because the more I played the worse it got. I will say I noticed the first few hours of playing my coordination was a little off but that has cleared up now and yesterday was my first full day of play with all the pieces back in place, feels great.
When I get my new baby boy here I will post a few pics and maybe a mp3 once I get settled with it. Thanks again, Jerry

HI all thought I’d post a little update, got my new guitar and returned it, got another and returned it, both nothing short of poor quality, being kind junk in reality. I had a Eastman a few years ago an OM and it was a nice guitar very good tone and well made, can’t say the same for these OO’s I received one had compression creases in the top, looked like they didn’t size it right before clamping to the sides and tone was awful. So I lost a couple hundred bucks in shipping back and forth but got my money back on the guitar. Won’t be ordering anymore China stuff soon.
I went to a Taylor road show they had here in Eugene a couple of weeks ago and was really impressed with their 12 fret small body guitar. Lot more expensive than the others but very nicely made and great tone. On the plus side also is it’s short scale as well as 12 frets so will be much easier on my body right now as not much reach out to the left at all, and the smaller body let’s my right arm down as well.
I will be getting the new Taylor 522 12 in about a week so needless to say looking forward to it. I have about 3 more months of recovery so should get my use out of it. Back to practice every day finally be it only 3hrs or so but I split it up across the day so as not to be too much. Feels good to be back playing for sure…Jerry

Bummer on the guitar quality. That’s sad to hear. Best of luck with the 522. I haven’t played one that I remember, but I am a huge fan of a small inexpensive guitar of theirs (GS-Mini) so I suspect it will be great for you. If nothing else, you won’t have the quality issues you had with the recent ones you shipped back.
Glad you are back to playing regularly!

Hey Jerry, sorry to hear about the Eastman problems. And I am glad you found a Taylor that you really like. I haven’t been a big fan of the larger Taylors (I’m a Martin Dreadnought tone kind of guy). but their smaller guitars have a very nice tone. And of course, Taylors are well known for their wonderful playability.

The only other guitars I would have steered you toward might have been one of the Canadian small body acoustics (Larrivee, Seagull, Art & Lutherie…etc). Those instruments often play/sound well above their price points, especially in the smaller bodied instruments.

Enjoy your new baby!

Hey DR yes I did look all over the place and read a ton of reviews as I don’t have a local place to try them out, since I was looking for a small body 12 fret and short scale as well the choices are pretty limited. There is a GC in Eugene about 70 miles from me but they never have anything out of the ordinary, and if your not the first one to grab it when they put them out they are trashed by the rockers banging on them. The new breed of Taylor, and I am not a big Taylor guy by any means, in the 800 series has been completely redone, thinner finish, new bracing, new top and back thickness’s etc. and I gotta tell you they sound terrific. None of the bright thin tone of the past, their 816 is stellar and if you didn’t know it was a Taylor and heard it your ears would say Bourgeois, Martin, H&D that good.
The 600 series they just came out with I’m not all that excited about, maple just sounds a little weird to me in the aquoustics, but that’s JMO. Now they had a Koa there in a dread that sounded really nice but I still like Hogs.
One thing is the quality being cad made and all is always consistently good.
But when I am back to normal and out of pain I will be back on my J45 still my favorite overall guitar. Someday I would like to pick up a Rosewood J45 as well, to me this guitar has the Perfect neck…and I’ve had a bunch! Jerry

Hi all, well I got my Taylor 522 slot head last night from the man in the brown truck,what a beautiful guitar! Plays like a dream, low action right off, no buzz, every fret rings and this small 12 fret has more volume than my J45. Fantastic tone from the all Hog and sustains great.
Taking me a little time to adjust to the 13/4" nut as I am used to the 23/32 so just a tad wider but it feels great. Such low tension on this short scale and 12 frets it’s effortless to play.
The finish on this thing is absolutely flawless. Gotta give BobTaylor a big well done on this one. Even though I bought it sight unseen I was pretty confident since it was a Taylor and even though they have in the past not been my favorite for tone the builds have always been right on the money.
Anyway a great couch and rv guitar as it’s small and only weighs in at 3.5 lbs. Just wish I hadn’t thrown away money on shipping the Eastmans, but that’s the way it goes. :mrgreen: Jerry


Final outcome on my new Taylor 12 fret, have had the guitar a while now and yesterday did the final setup on it. These Taylor’s really fall in line nice, took out the relief a week ago and set the neck dead flat, let it sit for a couple of days, then set in .003 relief with a feeler gauge, checked the frets level perfect. Took about 20 thousands off the saddle and the action is set at 5/64 @ 12.
Plays like a dream!! no buzz and tone is outstanding, harmonics chime very loud and intonation is spot on. Took a little work but I must say I am truly impressed with this guitar. The all hog has a rich tone and boom to the bottom end.
Very glad I took a shot at this one, was 1400 dollars shipped and the guy never played it. Sure am glad I shipped the Eastman back, for another 300 dollars this is a wonderful instrument.
I notice as well after setting the action and neck the sustain and ring are even better. Good guitar day!!! :sunglasses:

Excellent. Sounds like a keeper.

Great to hear!
Good luck with your recovery and enjoy the guitar!