Not every folk instrument has a past, but Jeff Morrison is looking for a few that do. Take his 1946 National resonator guitar. Its cache of stories run the gamut from horseback rides with Jeff's father Leonard in the 1950s to Jeff's foray into playing the guitar as a Gillette, Wyo., preteen too little to hold the neck so he balanced it across his bed.
Leonard (pretending to be another singing cowboy ala Gene Autry) slung the guitar across his back as a boy when he lived near Hamilton. Bucked off his horse, Leo nard's fall was cushioned only by the guitar. A violin repairer was able to put the pieces back together using a chair leg for support, something Jeff Morrison discovered recently when he had the guitar restored. The National resonator guitar, rather an ugly duckling in the guitar world, has a steel sound board and an inside plate of aluminum that Morrison said resembles a hubcap to help magnify the sound.
"They wanted to make a guitar loud enough to be heard in a big band. And this one makes an obnoxiously loud sound," Morrison said, demonstrating as he picked a song.
Morrison, who works in sales at Eckroth Music, 922 Grand Ave., is putting on the store's first vintage folk instrument show Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. His family guitar and a mandolin, made by Stetson sometime between 1910 and 1915, will be on display along with a variety of other folk instruments.
Morrison said he's more interested in showing instruments with rich stories and other unique qualities than he is in displaying those with high value. He's been working with instrument repairer John Treat to coax customers to bring in their vintage instruments for the show, which he hopes to make an annual event.
"There are collectors out there trying to find the Hope diamond and then there are people who inherited an instrument and don't really know what they have," Morrison said. "Guitars are like cars; a Yugo isn't going to be worth anything, but a Mustang has some value to it."
Morrison plans to research the history of each instrument and include stories about them at the exhibit.
The plan is to show off curious vintage instruments to help set the stage for a new guitar — the Variax — that can morph into all kinds of different styles.
"It can mimic any vintage guitar with the flick of a switch," Morrison said. "What they did is sample all the vintage guitars out there and, through the magic of digital technology, they put all these sounds on a chip. It looks like a Stratocaster, then you hit a switch and it sounds like an acoustic."
Morrison also invites folks in Saturday who have acquired guitars and want to get estimates on repairs or who just want information on the guitar.
"Our saying is 'Everything is repairable, not everything is worth it,' " Morrison said. "If the repair exceeds 50 percent of the restored value of the instrument, I wouldn't bother."