2004-Duesenberg USA & new workshop
2004 - L.A. NAMM-Show & my new workshop in the Oesterleystraße
And again at the subsidized German joint stand, where once again hardly any visitors dared to go. Four relatively boring and less interesting days - apart from the evenings.
Back to NAMM: as I said, not much going on. But on the last day a big, proper Yank walked through our hallway, saw the Carl Carlton guitar, stopped and entered our mini-room. Nathan was thrilled, especially since the DCC reminded him of a guitar his father once owned. He actually only wanted to go to König & Meier to order various stands for some special event. Otherwise he would never have come to us, here at the end of the NAMM world. What coincidences in life. He asked if we already had a distributor in the USA. "Not really", was our answer. So he gave us his business card with the words "Nathan Fawley - don't forget this name!
For further details we arranged to have dinner at a so-called Italian restaurant - "Mario's Italian Family Restaurant". The food there really had nothing in common with Italy's fine cuisine: mountains of pasta with badly prepared tomato sauce - simply terrible.
But we got closer. Nathan worked for a company that sold copper wire of all kinds throughout the USA. He called his customers on the East Coast in the morning and then, as the hours went on, he called his customers on the West Coast, because they got up much later. That's the way it is in the USA, a glaring time difference from west to east. Nathan turned out to be an absolute music freak with the intention to finally get out of the copper wire business and switch to the music business. He had his office in Fullerton, that mini-city in L.A. - Orange County, where none other than Leo Fender started his business.
Ingo and I, drinking Sambuca, consulted in German and came to the conclusion that this Yank could at least be a serious businessman - or at least not a decrepit freak. After a few failed attempts, we had really nothing in terms of Duesenberg distribution in the States. And the man has energy. "Let's just try it!" And so Duesenberg USA was born.
Nathan went into the business and first contacted all kinds of boutique stores in California. His first order: 40 guitars!
As always after the NAMM, the inevitable Frankfurt show. We went together with Clover and Sandberg, good mix and best success. Especially our Carl-Carlton guitar was very well received.
A few fair shots from left to right: our Japanese distributors Tom Hosokawa, Yoshi, Tom's son Shinji, then our Indonesian importer, Kuddel (famous), my daughter Jule with her friend Kim and on the far left Michael Dommers.
„Action Brothers"I have to tell a little story on the side: there was a Korean company from which the Clovers got magnets for their pickups. Bosses: the two gentlemen in the photo. And they couldn't get anything done, so Reinhard and Sabine were always desperate. But the gentleman on the left in particular knew how to radiate absolute confidence "that everything was no problem at all" with his incredibly engaging, almost ambassadorial friendliness. We will inform you right after the show! But the desired information never came, so I had the idea to call the two gentlemen "The Action Brothers": Mr. Tardy & Mr. Slow. In the future, when they came back, I would always introduce them to other people as "Mr. Tardy & Mr. Slow", which was very embarrassing for them. But they deserved that!
Nathan in Hannover
And, wow! Nathan even came to Hannover in June for my birthday. Respect! He just wanted to see how we did (and probably before he had to make the final decision whether to quit the copper wire business or not).
Of course I wanted to pick up our guest of honor personally from the airport, that's the least I could do. And there he was, walking through the narrow airport exit door, a bear in short sports pants and T-shirt, between the arrivals in their business suits or jeans with jacket like the perfect caricature of an American tourist. I looked around anxiously to see if someone might see me with him, no familiar face, "Hey Nathan!", heavy handshake, accompanied by the standard "Nice to see you!" and "How was your flight? Shortly after that I had a burning need to educate him about a "certain degree" of "dress code" in Europe, or rather in Germany. I know that this may seem funny, maybe even prudish, because nowadays you can see the dress code in a more relaxed way. But not 20 years ago. Nathan Fawley must have thought: "They are crazy, the Germans". But he understood "other countries, other customs".
Well, from then on he always appeared dressed in normal jeans and a T-shirt. And after a short time in our company he must have realized that he would be dealing with serious business people. Yes, goodbye copper wire!
And so it was a nice birthday party in my house in Hannover's Südstadt, on the seventh floor. He was especially taken with the balcony in the shape of a ship's bow, with a view over the roofs of my quasi-hometown. Seventh floor in Hannover ... my thoughts get lost ... This house must have been one of the first to be equipped with an elevator. And - for whatever crazy reason - a sign had been put up inside. Precise instructions: "Transporting furniture and the like in the elevator is forbidden".
As an autodidactic leisure pedant, my eyes were glued to the abbreviation "dergl.", which of course meant "the like.” Logically. But "dergl" always seemed like a bad joke to me ... dergl, dergl, dergl .... It haunted me, and simply did not leave me alone. I had to do something! To make peace with myself, I had an engraver make alternative plaques in two versions:
- the transport of furniture and dergel in the elevator is forbidden
- the transport of furniture and birds in the elevator is prohibited
It is essential for the English and Spanish version of my website to explain that the word "Vögeln" can mean the majority of the word bird, as well as the act of sexual intercourse in German!
Sure, it was silly and stupid nonsense, but I have now banished this once and for all from my life. And - as an intended side effect - I wanted to see if the other tenants even noticed that this old sign suddenly had a different text. Will there be reactions? Of course not - not even after the second one. That's just the way people are. Instead of being happy about a technical achievement, such as the elevator, they don't even look at it anymore after a short time.
But back to my birthday party: Everything was nice, and Nathan had brought me a bottle of a sinfully expensive California wine as a present. The party was in full swing, and suddenly he came up to me with the sentence: "Dieter, somebody opened the bottle.” There was horror in his eyes and it seemed like the typical American tragedy, after all, this bottle was not exactly cheap. And I'm sure he would have liked to try a glass of it himself. So we went to find the bottle, of which fortunately only little was missing, and drank some together with pleasure. (Please do not tell Nathan: For me, besides various Spanish wines, an Amarone from the Valpolicella is still the crowning glory of wine.)
Anyway, we had a good time with Nathan in Hannover, and I always feel a certain pride when I can show an American that we have a grown, aesthetic architecture and urban culture here in Germany - not the sheer amount of fast-construction silos, shopping malls and wooden houses with gardens around them in the land of unlimited possibilities. Yes, yes, they can construct flawless high-rise buildings, the Americans ...
Anyway, what might be going on with an American when he finds himself in such beautiful, historic Spanish cities like Madrid or Seville? Or at least in Palma de Mallorca, where I took Nathan on a Balearic trip. 3 days on this big island and then by ship via Ibiza for four days to Formentera. Nathan's summary: Mallorca reminded him of Hawaii and Formentera rather of Mexico. Well, well... In the end, psychologically speaking, the worst case scenario would be that the Americans' ability to appreciate our European values would lower their own self-esteem to such an extent that they would feel absolutely inferior, as measured by our scale of values. And that is where the American superego steps in very quickly!
After Nathan's return trip, we received a first draft of an "USA" Duesenberg folder from him. Headline: "NOT ALL WORKS OF ART BELONG ON THE WALL". Well done, but with a few graphic insults to our corporate identity - just American frills. At least he corrected that right away, and the thing started to take shape. Of course, you have to accept that the Americans are very good at design, typography and unfortunately also at perfidious psychology.
I was very fond of Lonnie Mack back then. Why not create a Duesenberg V-model? No sooner said than done, but unfortunately we had trouble with Gibson, so that this fine guitar did not have a long life. But see in the next chapter how it went on in 2005!
And per Grönemeier we became "Imperial". A fat rockabilly guitar. On the bottom left you can already see our new pickup frames. To realize our typical Duesenberg sound we had to have a special toggle switch made. And I had extended my collection of chairs and armchairs with chrome or nickel plated tubular steel by this one on the right ...
It had always annoyed me that we couldn't adjust the inclination of our pickups parallel to the strings. Schaller already had such pickup surrounds with one screw on one side and two screws on the other. That was technically ok, but this asymmetry bothered me. So I set about developing a "tilter.” A small, round disc with an eccentric threaded hole, sitting centrally under the ring towards the bridge side. This disk reached under the lower edge of the pickup's bottom plate and could lift the pickup with a "normal" humbucker height adjustment screw until it sat parallel to the strings. Technically and visually perfect!
The surrounds got a corresponding extension in a three-tiered design, and the pickup cutout had a small nose to prevent the pickup from turning away. We first made them out of metal and later (see right) in an elongated form out of plastic. And the narrow sides of the surrounds were now conical in order to visually match the fanning out of the strings. The neck pickup surround was slightly narrower, so that our stepped metal strip fitted perfectly to both surrounds.
In addition, we finally had our very own three-stage knobs in the "corporate" Duesen design, and that in two different diameters. Before, these were the "Sparkle Inlay" knobs (left), sometimes with a rhinestone inlay. The skull knobs (right) we had already reserved for Keith Richards and Ronnie.
Duesenberg Tunómatic Bridge
Practically all tunómatics available on the market have always been annoying. The ones with the spring clip don't work at all, because they are always rattling, and those with the small retaining rings have a failure rate of at least 30%.
In addition, all brands have slightly different mounting spacing, namely between 72 and 74mm, center to center. To compensate for this, we simply made the right hole for the mounting thread from below as a longitudinal hole, which gives a lateral tolerance of +/- 1mm.
In addition, the six saddles should not be made of zinc or brass because, especially for guitarists with sweaty hands there is a kind of electrolytic reaction with the steel strings. Corrosion and strings breaking are the result. So we have sintered our steel saddles. The screws for string intonation are manufactured with extreme precision.
The result: a superior bridge that also fits as a replacement on all guitars of this kind!
November 2004 - Oesterley:Once again too little space in the company. And my tinkering workshop there also annoyed me. Small, cramped, constantly phone calls, no room for creative work.
We discovered a nice back building in Oesterleystraße, 150 meters away from our company, by chance. In particular, there was a large central room where we could store lots of guitar cases. My workshop would fit in two smaller adjoining rooms.
Fortunately Thomas Stratmann came by, looked at the situation and said: "Are you insane? You want to turn the most beautiful room with the most beautiful view of this wonderfully planted inner courtyard into a "warehouse"? Of course Thomas was absolutely right. But that's just the way I am: I don't really need wonderful views, trees, bushes, lawn, even sea views, etc. I just need a place where I can work in peace and where nobody disturbs me. And a good sound system for listening to music. And important: a table tennis table in the middle. Not only for physical exercise, but also as a huge table for various projects.
Every Monday I had to clear the table for our "TC Riesling" evening. This "TC (Table Tennis Club) Riesling", which had already been founded in the company building before, stood for Ping Pong including a considerable consumption of Riesling sparkling wine. The German Riesling soon gave way to a northern Italian "Rotari Brut Rosé".
Participants: Thomas Stratmann, the "Doc" (who had the idea for "It's not only Mercedes, which makes German products famous") and my old school friend Achim Sprengel. Andreas from Rockinger was also often present. First all single combinations, then doubles. And of course everything with the best music in the background and the best champagne. I was always the worst until I finally took a few training lessons with a professional ping-pong teacher. Soon we sealed off the machines and workbenches on the walls with cardboard and boards - otherwise too much searching for lost balls!
Meiomei, it's lucky that Thomas brought me to the funnel! The room to the left was filled with guitar cases and I set myself up generously in the center with everything I needed: band saw, router, a relatively precise though Chinese milling lathe, an old engraving machine by "Deckel", my old "Schanbacher & Ebner" router, a polishing buffer, circular saw, sanding belt and all kinds of small tools. (see photos!)
The "Oesterley" was already a little paradise. Besides the workshop itself, there was a kitchen with a huge refrigerator, espresso machine, an office for my computer stuff and also a bed that I often used instead of going home late at night. This workshop was taken over years later by Mr. Stratmann, who is overjoyed there to this day and not only builds and repairs guitars, but also holds his guitar building classes.
Wir sind Helden "We are heroes"
Oh how nice. This young, up-and-coming and thoroughly serious band had fallen in love with our instruments. To top it all off, in December, Judith Holofernes with our red-sparkle guitar was featured on the cover of a Stern special edition.