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  1. #126
    I met Mr. Van Eps in NYC in the mid 1960's while I was working there temporarily. While having breakfast at The Deli-in-the-Park I met him and his agent? They were in NY for a guitar show. This kind and generous man gifted me his "My Guitar" album.

    Somehow during the conversation he told me how he built a miniature operating steam locomotive for which he had to design specialized tools. He even drew the design and specific measurement info on the back of the restaurant menu on which he had previously been recording music notes.

    I'm not certain of my memory, but I think I recall he said he or a relative of his was involved with the Manhattan Project.

    I have listened to and treasured the record ever since. I have no musical abilities, but know when something and someone are exceptional.

    Carolyn Siegel


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #127

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    There is a biography of him that you can order from Amazon called "Guitar Man." As I understand it, the manuscript was found after the author had passed away. I'm too lazy to run back into the house and go upstairs and track the book down, it might be that it was some sort of graduate school project or something. Anyway, a lot of it is "as told by" George to the author and is very entertaining reading. The breadth of George's life story is really pretty dramatic.

    His father was Fred Van Eps who was a famous banjoist in the swing era (and George initially followed in his footsteps). His brothers were also all musicians and the Van Epps boys played together in bands quite a bit. By the time George was in high school he was making pretty good money as a musician. His dad was friends with Dick McDonough who used to leave his Gibson L5 in George's care, which was where George started learning how to play guitar and that instrument. For a while during the swing era he took both guitar and banjo to gigs but eventually transitioned exclusively to the guitar. During the swing era, he apparently made money hand over fist (good money even by today's standards) and frittered an awful lot of it away. He had a fondness for fast cars, for one thing. When he met his wife, she took over managing his finances and he was able to hold onto his money a lot more effectively.

    Fred also manufactured banjos for a period of time. George learned to be a machinist working for his father; his grandfather was a watchmaker and he had learned at his grandfathers work bench the skills that later went into making the locomotive you mention (if I remember correctly, it is a working steam locomotive built at a scale of 1/10 of an inch per foot or something like that. He overheard someone say it couldn't be done and took that as a personal challenge; it took years to complete.).

    During World War II, probably somewhat before, his dad started a prototype laboratory that did high precision machining, with quite a few government projects. This was called Van Eps Laboratories. In addition to Fred and George, I think most of his brothers worked there as well. They built part of the detonation mechanism for the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan; Van Eps was quite upset as the family did not know this was the purpose of the items they were making. That laboratory also made a precision record tonearm that eliminated parallax issues with the cartridge in the groove of the records. If you search the Internet for "Van Eps tonearm" you will find some information about it.

    GVE is of course most famous among guitarist as the inventor of the seven string guitar. He had been working on this idea for several years and in 1938 approached the Epiphone guitar company, with whom he already had a close working relationship as one of their most prominent endorsers, about modifying his instrument to accommodate a seven string neck. They built him a prototype to test and see if it worked and then sawed of the neck off his existing Epiphone Deluxe and attach the new neck. He was delighted with the instrument and played it pretty much exclusively for decades until the Gretsch Van Eps model was put into production. Several times he has referred to it in interviews as the finest instrument he ever played.

  4. #128
    I now remember he told me his grandfather was a watchmaker. As I think back I'm amazed the encounter even occurred. I was 24, working for the NYS Department of Law in Albany on periodic assignment in the City. I was exceedingly shy, staying in the city on my own a few days at a time at one of the only hotels (it might have been the Hotel Manhattan) that accepted the State reimbursement rate. Don't recall how I happened to have breakfast where I did --- and can't imagine how the conversation began. And yes, he told me (or perhaps it was his agent who told me) that he invented the 7 string guitar. I can now recall he told me about his involvement with the detonation device. What a strange encounter -- but as I said earlier I have listened to that record over and over and marvelled at the beauty of his playing. And the encounter had such an impact on me that I kept the placemat with the notations in the record sleeve all these years.

  5. #129

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    I have all 3 of the books I will sell them cheap to anyone who wants to pay me a bit and the shipping. I found them not so good but George is a truly great and fantastic guitarist but his books make very little sense to me at least the later HM.