Here are some links to some cool businesses and people I have had personal contact with. These are very top-notch people and businesses that you may find to be helpful to you at some point.
Giant Size Designs
I am such a lo-tech guy that it took me years to finally decide I actually needed a website to support my already established teaching business. I didn't want some hi-tech, flashy, state-of-the-art website; I wanted something that would attract potential students who were serious about improving their musical chops. I wanted a website that would convey the breadth of my teaching experience, but was also fun to look at and easy to negotiate. I approached my friend, Adam Broman, who happened to be starting up a part-time website design and video editing business. Adam really helped me to get exactly what I wanted and now I have potential students contacting me from not only the Nashville area, but from all over the country. As of this writing, my website has been active for just 3 months, and I already have more new business than I can process. Adam has very reasonable rates, he has a lot of great ideas, and is extremely laid-back and easy to work with. He helped me get exactly what I needed and it is working great for me. His business is called Giant Size Designs and I highly recommend his work. If you are reading this, it is proof that he is good at what he does.
Custom Fretted Instruments and Repair
Jim Grainger and his partner Steve are two of the finest instrument craftsmen I have ever had the pleasure to deal with. They build custom instruments as well as do repairs on all kinds of instruments, including banjos and guitars. They rebuilt my 1969 Gibson Hummingbird a couple of years ago (my high-school graduation present) and it is now the best-sounding acoustic guitar in the civilized world (and also the un-civilized world)!!! These guys can do whatever you need done, and even though they are located in Sparta, Tennessee, its worth the drive into the beautiful foothills to visit their cool shop on the side of a mountain. If you don't want to make the drive, bring your axe to me and I will take it to them and bring it back when it's done. These are cool, old-school craftsman. They get my highest recommendation.
Steve Cropper is The Man. If you know your rock and roll history, you know that he was the guitarist with Booker T. and the MG's, the house band at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee in the 60's. He played on, produced, and co-wrote some of the most important recordings in the history of American music, the great songs by Sam and Dave, like "Soul Man", and Wilson Pickett, "In The Midnight Hour", as well as almost all of Otis Redding's recorded legacy, including "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay". Cropper's guitar work on the recordings that came out of Stax, including the killer stuff by Booker T. and the MG's such as "Green Onions" and "Hip Hug-Her", are some of the defining guitar ideas of early rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Cropper is one of the guys who literally wrote the book on classic rock guitar, and yet he is one of the most down-to-earth, modest guys you would ever meet. He is truly a giant among men as far as I am concerned. When the Beatles met him on the Stax European tour in 1967, they apparently bowed to him. The day he brought his daughter to a guitar lesson and I got to shake his hand was one of the high points of my life. If any of you hotshots want to know what some badass string-bending sounds like, listen to "Hip Hug-Her" by Booker T. and the MG's.
Carter Vintage Guitars
Walter and Christie Carter are old friends of mine. They were essentially running and managing the world-famous vintage guitar store (whose name I will not mention) that has been here for over 40 years, but in 2013 they made the move to open their own shop. This is by far the absolute coolest vintage shop in Nashville, and probably anywhere else, because the people who own it and work there are cool and nice!!! Theirs is not the condescending, elitist vibe that you can expect at vintage shops here and around the world. These are regular, nice people, who are also heavyweights in the vintage world. The physical shop is super-sweet and spacious, and they have a stage where some really cool major-league musicians perform from time to time. I give this store a 100% approval rating. This is a real classy place, Walter is one of the leading authorities in the world on this stuff, and has written some of the major histories of various instrument makers.... you may have one lying on your coffee table right now. In fact, if Walter could just improve his attitude slightly, this would be an awesome place. ;-) Fortunately his sweet wife, Christie, more than makes up for it (hahaha)! Seriously, this is a great vintage shop with a special vibe. If you are coming to Nashville for a visit, check this place out, it's near all the legendary honky-tonks and the Ryman and the Convention Center, etc.
This may be the only place in the world where you can buy a killer vintage guitar from a sassy redhead and then walk around on the same sidewalks that Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Earl Scruggs, Bob Dylan, the Everly Brothers, REM, and Waylon Jennings walked on. Highly recommended!!
Odie Blackmon is a hit songwriter, and one of my friends and students. He has started teaching songwriting skills; both through an instructional DVD he has released, as well as private coaching. Recently, he has started teaching a songwriting class at Vanderbilt University. Odie also does songwriting workshops throughout the country. You can contact him for any of this stuff through his website. Odie's a cool guy and his songwriting DVD is highly recommended.
This is just a really cool, all-purpose, banjo forum. There is a wealth of information here, including tabs, for any banjo picker. It is an extensive website, you are on your own!!!
It's practically impossible to find a decent, inexpensive banjo to learn how to play on. There are cheap banjos everywhere, but they are NEVER set up correctly, and they are usually unplayable. The Banjo Hut in Knoxville, Tennessee has built a great business selling well-made, affordable banjos that are perfectly set up as soon as you get them. They offer a wide range of low to medium-priced instruments, and they set up every banjo perfectly, which is the most important thing on any instrument, but even more so if you are a beginner. I have not yet met these people in person, but several of my students have ordered their instruments in the past year, and based on what I have seen, this is absolutely the best place in the USA to get a beginner or intermediate level instrument. They even have video clips of guys playing some of the various models so you can see and hear them "in action". Highly recommended!!!
The first 12 years of my professional teaching career were at Cotten Music Center in Nashville. This venerable guitar shop (originally located in Hillsboro Village) has one of the finest selections of upper-end acoustic guitars in the region. Owned and operated by Darcy Cotten and Kim Sherman, this is a serious guitar boutique for serious players. Chet Atkins used to buy picks here, Lenny Breau used to hang out, and the legendary Mrs.Cotten once apparently kicked Neil Young out for playing too loud. Richard Cotten, the original owner, told me that Jimi Hendrix had gotten a white Strat from the store back in the early 60's when he lived in Nashville for a while. A serious guitar shop.
Corner Music is located on 12th Avenue South in Nashville, close to the Vanderbilt/Belmont area. This is an excellent pro and semi-pro store with the latest and greatest stuff that real players use. A lot of the road and session players shop here. Larry Garris is the owner, and the sales guys I usually talk to are Todd, who is a great guitar player and very knowledgeable about all aspects of guitars, and Billy Jackson, who is a really nice guy and knows more random facts about everything than you would ever need. Any of these guys would be glad to help you, tell them I said "Hey".
World Music in Bellevue is a really nice, spacious store that is owned by Larry Faragalli. They have a wide range of guitar-oriented products, including the best selection of entry-level acoustic and electric guitars in the city. Their guitar technician Greg does great setup work on new guitars, so I usually send beginning students to World Music to get their first guitar. Their salesman are really nice, helpful guys and this is a nice store to do business with, especially if you are not an experienced musician. I usually tell my students to ask for Brandon, the general manager, or a cool young rocker named Todd, but if they are not available, any of the guys can help you.
Antique Electronic Supply
Antique Electronic Supply is a really cool store out west that sells tubes and other analog-era products for guys who like to keep their vintage tube amps going strong. They sell almost every tube that is available in the world, as well as other electronic supplies for amps, radios, keyboards, etc. A great source for anybody who tinkers with electronic stuff. Their print catalog is really neat.
Free Tab and Music Paper
This is a free website where you can design and print any type of music staff paper or tab paper, any number of lines, total custom sheets the way you want them. It's free. This is a great resource if you know how much music and tab paper costs in the stores!!! Check it out.
Discount Strings for Guitar, Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, etc.
This is a high-quality online supplier of generic strings. The fact is, there are only 2 or 3 string factories in the U.S. that manufacture all of the well-known brands that are sold in music stores. These strings from Webstrings.com are made to topnotch specs, and are available in many of the gauges and alloys that are popular with name-brand strings. The savings is very significant, especially if you buy several sets at once. These are the strings that I sell at my studio, and they are the strings that I use personally. This is essentially the same quality as name-brand strings, but much less expensive. It's hard to beat these prices if you are a pro or semi-pro player who restrings regularly. This website is well worth checking out.
Diamondigital Media/Diamondisc Audio
Doug Diamond operates a really cool multi-media service for independent artists, bands, and other businesses that need CD mastering and replication, website design, DVD editing, almost anything you can think of related to digital media. Doug has mastered and duplicated hundreds of CDs that I use in my teaching business, as well as mastered several other band projects for me. His prices are extremely reasonable, geared for the "little guy", and yet his professional expertise is very obvious. He did his early years as an assistant engineer at Ocean Way Studio in Los Angeles, and was working there when T-Bone Burnett was producing the first legendary Counting Crows album. Doug is an easy-going guy with great technical chops and good prices. If you have a recording project that needs the final mastering by a pro, he's your man.
Hatch Show Print
This is one of only a very few surviving letter press poster printing operations of this type in the USA. It has been taken over by the Country Music Foundation for safekeeping, and is a working entertainment industry poster printing company as well as a museum. It happens to be managed by one of my old friends, Jim Sherraden, who is the manager, curator, and chief designer. This is one of the coolest places to go in the city of Nashville if you want a major dose of Country and Rock and Roll history, and there are tons of cool vintage concert posters that you can purchase that make super-cool gifts and look great when they are framed and hanging on the wall. Check out some of the sweet posters that are online, but anytime you are in downtown Nashville, you should check the place out in person, its really interesting. It's right inside the Country Music Hall of Fame on 5th Ave S. There are beautiful classic posters of everybody from Elvis and Hank Williams to punk bands, it is a wild place!!! Tell Jim Sherraden I said "Hello".
Merle Hazard is a Nashville-based country singer who writes songs about mortgage-based securities, derivatives, quantitative easing, and other current financial issues. Merle's daddy was a coal miner and his mother was a Certified Financial Planner. His songs and videos have been featured regularly on The PBS News Hour and the BBC World Service; and he has been mentioned and quoted by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Financial Times and Newsweek, among others. Merle's satirical musical masterpieces are recorded in his Nashville studio and often feature the "do-anything-for-a-laugh" guitar wizardry of the underground legend "Wolf" Jackson. Check out "Double-Dippin'", "Bailout", "Greek Debt Song", and "Quantitative Easin'" on Merle's site.