A guitar-maker’s gift


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 4th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: making music.

A little over two months ago on Christmas Day a bomb exploded in Nashville, Tennessee. Lives were lost and property destroyed, including seven guitars owned by a country music artist.

What happened next caught the attention of WORLD Senior Correspondent Myrna Brown. Here’s the story.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: When Bud Veazey heard about that downtown Nashville explosion, and the musician who lost it all, he fired up his old-fashioned desktop…

BUD VEAZEY: I sent him a message through his Facebook page and just said, hey you want a guitar, I’ll send you one. So of course, he said yes.

Then, Veazey moseyed on down to his basement, handpicked one of his $1,200 custom-made guitars and rushed it to Nashville—no charge.

BUD VEAZEY: When you can step in, when there’s something you can do to help somebody in a situation like that, it’s just a good feeling.

Named after his father, Charles Wesley Veazey was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

BUD VEAZEY: My mother didn’t want to call me junior and she didn’t like Chuck, she just started calling me Buddy. I changed it to Bud because it sounded a little more sophisticated.

AUDIO: [VEAZEY STRUMS A FEW CHORDS]

Veazey, the teenager, enjoyed playing the guitar. But by the time he was studying journalism in college, he had lost interest in the instrument. After serving abroad in the Army during the Vietnam War, he returned to Tennessee, resumed his career in television news and started a family. 

VEAZEY: And then as I got oh into my 40s, I started thinking, well, I might want to play guitar some more.

But at that stage of life, Veazey was interested in more than just guitar picking.

VEAZEY: Well the best way to get a deal on a guitar is find one that’s damaged. So I would buy damaged guitars on eBay, repair them and then resell them.  And I actually would make a little money doing that.

That’s how V-Z Custom Guitars started when he retired 13 years ago. Today, nearly every inch of his 1000-square-foot basement is covered in tools.

VEAZEY: When I see one that I think I need, I buy it. And then sometimes I’ll buy a tool and realize, oh I already had that and it was under that pile over there.

Wearing a dark bib-apron and a salt and pepper ponytail, Veazey sits on the edge of a black, swivel bar stool.

BUD VEAZEY: Got to remove the masking tape from inside the neck pocket.

AUDIO: [SOUND OF REMOVING TAPE]

The neck is the long skinny part of the guitar. Veazey attaches it to the body of the instrument. 

VEAZEY: Let me show you how the bodies look when they come to me.

When Veazey buys his guitars they’re unfinished shells of mahogany, maple and other kinds of wood. Building a guitar often begins with finishing it. Take his latest creation for instance, a bright, emerald-green electric guitar.  It took him weeks to get the shade and the shine just right.

MYRNA: What’s this called?

VEAZEY: This is my paint room. This is where I do all the painting and finishing….

It’s a tight fit because the room is no larger than a walk-in closet. Splotches of color dot the flattened cardboard box propped up against the wall. 

VEAZEY: And so, It’s going to get noisy… [Turns on painting machines]

With his new guitar in one hand and a silver hose in the other, Veazey sprays the neck with a clear liquid that looks a lot like apple juice.

VEAZEY: It’s pretty smelly. If I was painting more, I’d be wearing a respirator.

It’s called clear lacquer. Stored in recycled spaghetti jars, lacquer is a finishing agent that makes the guitar shine. 

VEAZEY: Allow that to dry oh, for a couple of hours. Then I’ll spray another coat, and let it dry overnight and then tomorrow I’ll spray a couple of more coats. 

Veazey will repeat that process at least fives times. Experimenting with color is just as time consuming. He’ll use jars of clear lacquer for that as well. 

VEAZEY: So I’ll take a jar of this and mix it with a dye, that’s orange dye and I wind up with this orange lacquer. And that’s what I’ll spray for the color coat.

AUDIO: [TURNS ON BUFFER]

Then for the final sand and polish, Veazey uses a special buffer that resembles a dumbbell. But instead of heavy weights, the wheels are made of fabric that spin. 

VEAZEY: Then I put in the electronics myself and do what’s called the setup. Which means you adjust all the parameters of the guitar, like the distance between the strings and frets. Complete the setup and it’s ready to play.

AUDIO: [VEAZEY PLAYING GUITAR]

While he hasn’t forgotten the joy that sound brings, Veazey says there’s another phrase that’s music to his ears.

VEAZEY: To me I’m successful or I’ve succeeded when somebody else has one of my guitars.

That new emerald-green guitar already has an owner! It joins the first one Veazey rushed over to Nashville on Christmas Day.

VEAZEY: Yeah, I gave him one, then he decided he wanted to buy one with his insurance money, so now I’m making one to sell to him.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Lawrenceville, Georgia.


REICHARD: If you’d like to see Bud Veazey building one of his guitars, Myrna produced a companion piece for WORLD Watch, our video news program for students. We’ll post a link to that story in today’s transcript.


(Photo/Myrna Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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