Serendipity is what I call it when I just search for something on YouTube and find a real gem of a tune. I searched for tenor guitar, one of my favorite instruments, and low and behold I found Jim Richter and his instrumental version of “Wayfaring Stranger.” I haven’t touched my tenor guitar in months, but I tune it the same way Richter does – the classic tuning schema for the instrument – CGDA. Others use GDAE, GDAD, DGBE, and probably a handful of other tunings, but the C tuning is the one I like. It makes the guitar sing, but unfortunately it does place a great deal of tension on the neck.
Unlike Richter who plays a National Triolian Tenor from the mid 30s, I have a similarly aged Gibson TG-0 that I bought for $80.00 from a guy out of the trunk of his car in about 1986. He was traveling from New York to Florida and stopped into a local music store trying to rustle up some cash. The salesman, the late Alan Martin, called me on the phone and asked me if I wanted it, I said sure and was there in fifteen minutes. It needs some work, but It still sounds great although the action is not as low as I would have liked.
I do have a National Triolian Mandolin from about 1937 that I purchased from Joe Dobbs when he had his store, the Fret and Fiddle in the West End of Huntington, WV. I paid $165 for it in 1980 – which was a bit of an outlay for me at the time, but I could not pass it up. It doesn’t sound near as good as Jim Richter’s Triolian Tenor though. The paint schema on mine is the darker greenish version of the Triolian finish and not the yellowish color on Jim’s instrument.
Richter touts himself as a mandolinist, but I feel that he is perfectly at home on the tenor guitar. Expect to hear some more of his songs on “Reading Between the Grooves.”