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Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  425 ratings  ·  65 reviews
In 1994, Eric Clapton came across a Wayne Henderson guitar in a recording studio and decided on the spot that he had to have one. Rarer than Stradivarius violins, these musical works of art are built from near-extinct Brazilian Rosewood, Appalachian spruce, black ebony, and fine mother-of-pearl. With Henderson's keen ear for the vibrations of each piece of wood he uses, ea ...more
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Free Press (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  425 ratings  ·  65 reviews


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Marilyn
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book on the sale shelf, thinking my husband or (especially) my guitar-playing son would like to read it. I picked it up myself, the next day after purchase - and didn't like that everyday chores got in the way of my finishing it as quickly as desired. Generally, memoir is the only type of non-fiction that mesmerizes me enough to keep reading like that. The author of this book, Allen St.John, pulls the reader into the entire process of a master luthier (that would be a guitar maker ...more
Sara Bruhns
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Allen St. John takes the reader through the process of building an acoustic guitar, per the style and methods of Wayne Henderson, one of the most celebrated modern guitar-makers. Simultaneously, he provides background on the development and famous players of "old-timey music", bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz, and many other styles. I enjoyed all the cheesy jokes and dialogue with Wayne which really made him come alive as a person. I could imagine spending time with him, so St. John did a good job ...more
Rod Horncastle
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A five star book about building 2 acoustic guitars for Eric Clapton. Wow!

This author got very involved in helping Wayne Henderson build 2 custom acoustic guitars for Clapton. And we get the story. Sure, they get some wood and work in a shop - that's to be expected. But we also get the history of Great guitar building. And the stories around what makes a musician and a guitar connect.

Wayne Henderson isn't just a guitar builder: he's also a very good player and musician. So this story also has us
...more
Paul Garfinkel
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As an acoustic guitar player and lover of the craftsmanship of guitar building (I own three custom built guitars by small volume luthiers and two factory made instruments), I found this to be one of the best books I've read in a very long time. It's NOT a book about Clapton, but about the building, or more to the truth, the builder, of a pair of twin acoustic guitars, one of which was order by EC. This i bout the should and philosophy of the man creating the instruments and how much the personal ...more
Helena
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I stumbled upon this book in a flea market I picked it up, as I remembered the pod I'd heard on Good Life Project talking about Clapton's guitar. That was 2-3 years ago.
Now I read it, and am very happy I bought it, that summers day a few years ago.
What a lovely book. About professionals. Something that never ceases to amaze me!

https://helenaroth.com/claptons-guita...
...more
J.K. George
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
Lots of this material was not only new to me, I was not aware that it existed, and I had not "thirsted" beforehand to know about (mainly) acoustic guitars. The author couldn't simply write a book about wood and gluing and the shiny glittering that make guitars lovely. That would be a simple "how to build a great guitar how-to book." Okay, that would work, and be used by a handful of luthiers and wanna-be's, but to make any non-fiction story interesting, it's all about the characters. St. John do ...more
Toeknee
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
We learned about Wayne Henderson over two decades ago (1998) by seeing some of his instruments displayed in the Visitors Center Museum at Grayson Highlands State Park. We finally got to see and hear Wayne at Merlefest last year (2019) when he presented and played an amazing workshop and old time music jam session as part of the festival. At some point, the story of Eric Clapton's Henderson guitar came up, after which i started looking for this book. Just the other day i found it on our local lib ...more
Allison Malter
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After seeing Wayne Henderson perform again at the River House, a B & B in Grassy Creek, North Carolina, I thought it appropriate to pick up Clapton’s Guitar. The book is an ode to Wayne who built one of his 700 plus guitars for Eric Clapton (Henderson No. 326). Wayne Henderson, whose day job was working as a rural mail carrier, is a guitar maker extraordinaire, old-time musician and raconteur, performing at venues as varied as his small town Rescue Squad and Carnegie Hall. The book is well writt ...more
Graeme Wright
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
My mother gave me this book; I grew up in the area, I'm a guitar player, and Henderson is a friend of my mother's. And the highest praise I could give is that St. John neither resorts to hillbilly stereotypes or fetishization. And I think the commonly mispronounced word "Appalachian" only appears once! ...more
Jared Bennett
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing book if you are interested in luthiery, craftmanship, and old fashioned music. Clapton is tangential to the story; it's really about the process of making a guitar and the life lessons along the way. ...more
Zack
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From guitars to baseball to fart jokes, this book has got it all! A thoroughly enjoyable read for those of us with perpetual GAS - guitar acquisition syndrome. A nice, easy read that will make you want to pick up a guitar and/or head to Rugby, VA.
Danny Allen
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Great review of Wayne Henderson and his process towards constructing his guitars. It made me more interested in how my guitars are built. Author is in book as it is written from his perspective, which I found taxing at times. Also some language errors.
Mem244
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining, educational and engrossing
John Verreault
Interesting story about Wayne Henderson, a local builder of guitars from NC VA mountains.
Tom Carrico
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
BOOK REVIEW

“CLAPTON’S GUITAR”
BY Allen St. John

Reviewed by Tom Carrico

This paperback caught my eye as it sat in the middle of the non-fiction new release table at the Short Pump Barnes and Noble for one reason and one reason only. There is a spectacular looking acoustic guitar on the cover. Although at first glance it appears to be a vintage Martin, the headstock does not have the usual squared off end. Additionally, the name across the headstock was not Martin, but Henderson. What’s a Henderson
...more
Adan
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I wrote a review of this elsewhere: https://sites.google.com/a/akertoys.c...

Here's the text:

This book documents the construction of two nearly identical high-end acoustic guitars by a one-man-show guitar builder. There were many aspects of this book that were fascinating to me. One that jumps out, however, is the nature of the product that is being created. This builder is a classic craftsman, a man who has honed his skills over decades of building instruments. However, the guitars are actually
...more
Ric Sierra
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're a musician, read this book. If you're a woodworker, read this book. If you enjoy the history and culture of Appalachia, read this book. Hell, just read this book, it's a hoot. ...more
East Bay J
Dec 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-music
Clapton's Guitar is hands down one of the best books I read this year. Though ostensibly a book about a man who builds guitars, Allen St. John takes you to guitar contests, Christie's auction house, the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA and even to Boston's Fenway Park for a showdown between the Red Sox and Yanks. In fact, the breadth of this book is what makes it so special. But the most interesting time is that spent in the workshop of master luthier, Wayne C. Henderson. Whether St. John is descr ...more
Christopher Archibald
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home-library
A gift from a close friend at a major mile-marker in my life, this book was a great mix of education, inspiration, and comic relief.
MKayla
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Guitar Builders
Recommended to MKayla by: Appalachian State University
Shelves: 2014-reads
Allen St. Johns book Clapton's Guitar was not as interesting as the title would make you believe. In the book John hardly mentions Eric Clapton. He mainly talks about the wonderfully crafted man building the guitar, Wayne Henderson. Wayne Henderson is a beautiful human and I had the honor of hearing him speak at convocation at Appalachian State University (Go Mountaineers!). If you are interested in learning the technicalities of building a guitar then by all means read this book. If you were ju ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I finished this book it felt as though I'd just completed an interesting yet relaxing prolonged stay with master luthier Wayne Henderson. I met his friends and family, enjoyed seeing the role bluegrass and old-time music play in his life, and most importantly, watched him at work in his shop.

Author Allen St. John so adeptly describes his experience with Henderson that I could almost smell the wood and glue, and hear the rich sounds coming from his new creations. With no drama or tension, He
...more
Toni Taylor-Helser
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is a fan of guitarsm Eric Clapton, and music
Shelves: music
March 2013 I rating it 5 of 5 stars
Clapton's Guitar, one of the very best bio's on Clapton's guitars and one of the best books about Epic Eric Clapton & music I have ever read.
The book introduces us to Luthier, a man who builds guitars. The author a sound recording engineer; Allen St. John takes us on many treks through guitar contests, Christi's auction house, the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA. In fact the diversity in topics in this tome of trivia is what made it such a great
I think the mo
...more
Noodlze
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book on my ex's recomendation. Not one for biopics or true stories I was skeptical. But Hot damn this book was a great read. I hadn't thought of it till I joined this though. This book really helped me on a number of levels. The expected in guitars. It made me actually interested in construction of guitars. Unexpectedly it threw me into an interest of how they actually worked, no more correctly how sound actually works.

Don't get me wrong this is no instruction manual. This is a telli
...more
Daelyn Bentley-Gottel
An interesting read that introduced me to an aspect of NC culture I certainly never knew existed, but I felt lost throughout the entire book. If I knew anything about guitars it might have been a little better, since the jargon never lets up. I was constantly flipping back and forth between the page I was on and the diagram up front. Not bad, and Wayne Henderson is definitely a force to be reckoned with, but not my favorite. Then again, I love a good fantasy novel over all, so I may be a bit bia ...more
Michael Anderson
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A humorous and endearing story of a master guitarist and luthier, Wayne Henderson, in rural Virginia who is asked to build a Martin-like acoustic for Eric Clapton. Clapton appears on two pages up front and is never seen again. This is a story about building guitars, playing guitars, and tries to explain the love and obsession some people have for the instrument. Full of stories about Henderson and his friends, I was entranced throughout. If you care about guitars, their history, their constructi ...more
Timothy Neesam
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wayne Henderson is a West Virginia luthier responsible for hand-crafting a limited number of acoustic guitars for friends and select individuals. Much of the book revolves around Henderson making a guitar for blues musician Eric Clapton, who never actually makes an appearance and for whose music Henderson is indifferent. We also get many, many yarns about Henderson, the local yokels who gather daily in his workshop, and guitar-making in general. A well-told story about appreciating fine craftsma ...more
Joe Vess
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Awesome book. The Clapton part is really just a hook to talk about a great guitar maker and musician, Wayne Henderson. St. John does a good job getting to who Wayne is, to the extent that can ever be really known through a book. It's also a fond look at the history of quality guitars in the US, especially the CF Martin brand. Unfortunately I started reading it on the first day of a five-day trip, and spent the much of that time wishing I was back home and playing the guitar. ...more
Thomas
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Thomas by: Terry Straker
An extraordinary book! A page-turner. The story of one man (the author) getting to know another (the luthier) as he built two guitars - one for Eric Clapton. Wayne Henderson is an inspiration and Allen St. John was obviously the perfect man to tell his story. It was a pleasure reading this book. There wasn't a wasted sentence! And I hope someday I get the chance to play one of Wayne's guitars! ...more
Maura
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music-and-more
If you're interested in guitars, players and makers, this is a fascinating read. Don't let the title throw you; this is not a book about Clapton. It's about Wayne Henderson, an incredible musician and luthier. I had the good fortune to spend some time with Wayne and he is the real thing. I'm glad I read the book after I met him. I'm not sure I'd have had the guts to hang around and play with him. Lesson learned... ...more
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