The only thing that survived the fire was...
A few weeks back we had an older gentleman walk in by the name of Earl. Out of a plastic bag he pulled an old, charred, and nearly destroyed guitar strap. His house had tragically burned to the ground along with everything he owned - old photos, priceless and sentimental belongings of his deceased wife, his guitar collection, and nearly everything of real or personal value. The firefighters were able to retrieve a few things out of the home after the blaze was under control - one of which was his main guitar, a Les Paul Custom. The guitar was completely ruined by the flames. Yet, still attached to the guitar was his favorite guitar strap given to him in 1993 by his wife.
In talking with him he couldn't express how much that guitar strap meant to him. It was something he loved owning, received tons of compliments at his shows, and most importantly, a gift from a loved one he missed dearly. The destruction of the fire to the "things" in his life was something he was able to get past - but this guitar strap was a "thing" that became much more than a "thing" because of who gave it to him and all the many years that it had been associated with her and their memories.
So, he set out to find another one just like it. But there was one big problem. He didn't know who made it, where it was purchased, or anything about how to find another one like it. However, there was still a tag on the strap that got him going in the right direction. It was our old 'LM' logo with the awl and thread. Had the fire not pardoned that 1" little nylon tag, his searched would have most likely ended there. And with his daughter's help and the miracle of the internet, they were able to track us down. And low and behold, our factory is just up the road from his home.
The question then became, "Can we recreate this guitar strap for him?". The strap as you can see in the pictures is made from a 3" wide woven southwestern fabric - a model and fabric that has been discontinued for nearly two decades. Making more of that would be impossible and finding someone who sells it - even more improbable. So, we went up to our third floor warehouse to see if we could find some deadstock hidden among the piles and stacks. If you aren't familiar with our fabled third floor --- picture walking up into the most amazing mid-century attic you've ever been in that smells like leather. It is 50+ years of everything that came into our doors, never found a proper home, and never left. We scoured the 7,500 ft. of space from floor to ceiling. And then finally, on the top of a tall, tall shelf pressed up against the wall - all but out of sight - there it was. A few rolls of the material that was used for his strap.
It was a pretty spectacular find and we couldn't wait to get to work on making his straps. So, we asked him to give us a few days, come back, and we would have something for him. While he was away, one of our long-time employees, Karen, made him two new straps. And it couldn't have been written any differently if it were fiction. Because, she was the very person who sewed all of the straps that Earl had nearly lost in the fire. Some 20+ years later, there she was, sewing the same strap yet a new strap for Earl.
Earl walked back into our shop today and we had the absolute pleasure and joy of giving him two new straps to honor the memory of the strap that had meant so much to him. We're not sure who was smiling more, him or us.
It's a really incredible feeling when you're life's work gets entwined with something so central to another person's life. As a craftsman you work hard to make something of quality that another person can be proud to own. But, you just know how, when, or if it will ever become more than just a "thing" to someone. And to sit down with Earl, hear his story and see the way he clutched that charred and threadbare strap in his hands with pride was profoundly inspirational. We've long thought that the most important people that wear are straps aren't "celebrities" or "famous musicians". The person we really enjoy seeing wearing our straps is the teenager at his first "real gig", the band that nobody knows but is busting their butts in crappy bars and going broke, the kid who mowed lawns all summer to get a Mexi Strat, and good folks like Earl. Those are the people we are most proud to see wearing our guitar straps. Those are the stories we are most proud to be a part of. Those are the people that deserve the best work we can do.
Thanks Earl. Stop by anytime.
- LM Products
Earl's Fire Strap
Earl's New Straps
Loud, very loud. Like garage-rehearsal loud --- if there were 5000 bands all rehearsing in your garage at the same time. To put it in perspective, take any given Guitar Center at around 6PM (the kid "warming up" the 8V8's in a Marshall he's "probably gonna buy" as he stumbles through "Sweet Child O' Mine", the knucklehead "testing" the double bass drum pedals and china cymbals at full volume, and the 13 year old working out his slap bass who claims he is "Flea's second-removed nephew-in-law" and who "knows a guy that lived with Jimi Hendrix's aunt so he can probably get you some gigs") and amplify that by about 80x. It's what I like to call "NAMM loud". You don't technically hear "NAMM loud". Thankfully, the genetics of musicians have acclimated over the years to extremely high decibel levels (due largely in part to the 1980s; see-"Wikipedia: Manowar"). As a result, musicians have developed an involuntary, reflexive, biological act of self-preservation when confronted with "NAMM loud". This musico-genetic adaptation in musicians tells their to brain shut down their ears in much the same way your body instinctively closes your eyes when you sneeze --- less your eyes would pop out.
The best people watching of the year. We saw too many weird/odd things too mention. And unfortunately, most of which we were afraid to even try to stealthily photograph to share with you. A favorite was probably the guy walking around with a black leather jacket with masking tape spelling out "SCABS" on the back, and a prosthetic tail hanging out from underneath it. I should say, I assume it was a prosthetic tail. But, it's LA... a toss up at best.
A tease. Every possible gear-nerd dream-come-true is at your fingertips all at the same time! There are enough effects pedals to cast a distorted, dotted-eighth reverb to the moon and back. And don't get me started on the guitars. You could strum each guitar one time and your hands would wither and fall off before you got to all of them. And yet... you're there on business and have to "watch the booth" so you can do what you're there to do.
Inspiring. For months and months we work on new products - designing, redesigning, sampling, cutting, sewing, starting over, making notes and sketches in the middle of the night, and tinkering until the 11th hour. And then on Jan 18th we pack up our best efforts and fly to California to show it to the world - or at least everyone who walks by booth 4285 in Hall C of the Anaheim Convention Center. And for the next 4 days we get to see people look at and react to all the countless hours we spent in our workshop in the basement of an old Montgomery Ward department store on Meridian St. in old downtown Anderson. Because in reality, for 361 days of each year, we toil away making straps that we are so proud of and so passionate about without ever seeing anyone actually react to them in person. We cut tens of thousands of feet of leather, sew miles and miles of stitches, and for 361 days never see the expression on a person's face when they pick it up, put it over their shoulder, and simply react to it. But for the 4 days of the year we are at NAMM we get to watch folks walk up to the booth, pick up the straps, smell the leather, contemplate if it would look better on their Les Paul or Stratocaster, if their D-15 or Hummingbird would look better with black or brown leather, if they're too old for a chrome Skull on their guitar strap (to which the typical reaction is "screw it, you're never too old to be a badass", or if whatever strap they are holding is going to make them feel a little bit closer to whatever and whoever they want to be up on that stage... behind the microphone, in front of their amp, under the lights, and belting it out for whoever is lucky enough to be in the crowd that night.
So, yes... NAMM makes your ears bleed and want to wash your hands. But, it also is a good kick in the you-know-what to remind you why it is you do what you do. And to be completely honest --- any company, like us, at NAMM can look around and see 50, 100, 200 companies who are all going after the same business. And that is one heck of a reminder of why it is so important to be critical of our craft and why it is crucial to always keep an urgency to improve.
Now that we are back on Eastern time, surrounded by snow-dusted cornfields instead of beaches and palm trees, we have re-learned two important things from our 4 days at NAMM.
1. We are doing a great job and can take a lot of pride in our straps.
2. It can always be done better- and we need to hustle to make sure we are the ones who figure it out first.
All our bags are packed and we're ready to go...
We are headed out to sunny Anaheim, CA for another Winter NAMM show where we will be debuting EIGHT new lines of guitar straps --- Plus a lot of new additions to our current lines. That's a ton of new straps! Needless to say it has been an exciting and energizing year of design and development. We've kept most of the designs under our sleeves up until now. But, with the creation of our new web site, timed with the NAMM show, all of the new products are up on our new web store. In the meantime, we'll be adding all of the current models (so if you don't see something you were looking for send us an email email@example.com) As for seeing and learning about all of our new lines, there's far too much to tell you about each of them here - so the best bet is to use the links below to take a quick look at each. As for NAMM, we'd love to share all of the great new gear/gadgets/instruments we see while we're there. Just follow us on Instagram (lmproducts) or Facebook (lmproducts) where we'll be using #LMNAMM2015 to document the fun/cool/odd things that NAMM shows are known for.
Links to new lines: