What influenced me and you to become instrument builders?

As a kid, I was always looking for a piece of wood to whittle or drive a nail into. I was always tinkering and creating something, be it a birdhouse or a drum, a tree fort or a walking stick. I loved to experiment with wood, and that drive to create never ceased or even slowed as I grew older.
I grew up in a musical family. My parents played nightclubs in the northeastern US for a living, so it was natural at some point for me to pick up an instrument. I began playing bass at 11, and when I was about 17, I heard Jaco Pastorius for the first time on the Heavy Weather Album. At the time, I was playing a 1963 pre CBS Fender P-bass. I noticed that Jaco had plucked the frets out of his fender, and decided that I wanted to learn to play fretless bass. I subsequently plucked the frets out of my bass, (If I had known what that bass would be worth today, I NEVER would have done It.) and being that hindsight is 2020, and because I did not have another bass, I was forced to learn what the word intonation really meant. After hacking on the thing for awhile, (I’m sure those around me were being more than kind for not giving up on me) I began to develop my own style.
In the meantime, I got married to my wonderful wife, and began to raise a family.
I never stopped playing, and to date, I have now been playing fretless bass for 30 years.
I never lost the desire to create with wood, and because of the lack of quality fretless basses on the market, I began building my own instruments. What I began chiefly to satisfy myself has blossomed into a passion to build great fretless basses, in hopes that others will find as much pleasure playing them as I find building them.
Now, concerning the Sipsey River Steel, that was a complete accident. It all started in the summer of 2008. Me and my son threw the flat bottom boat in the back of my truck and decided to take a day trip to west Alabama. In our travels that day, we stopped at the Sipsey River and motored our way upstream. We were just out for a ride, and enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We came to an area where there were a lot of cypress trees, and a farmer had cut a path through a pile of cypress knees to allow his cows to reach the river to drink. I thought the knees looked pretty neat, and being who I am, figured that I could make something out of them later, so we threw a few in the boat.
They laid around the shop for months, and I actually thought about throwing them out on several occasions. In the meantime, my brother kept asking me to build him a lap steel out of some walnut that I had in the shop, and on a whim, I decided to try and build one out of the cypress knees. The rest is history. My love for tinkering with wood coupled with my brother’s persistence to build him a lap steel, is responsible the Sipsey Steel.
I love to build instruments. Unique instruments. Unique fretless instruments. It’s my passion.
Jack Dudley

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Comment by Jack Dudley on May 27, 2009 at 8:03pm
Thanks for the comment. They're lap steels. They do sound awesome! I have a couple of small audio clips on my page. I hope to have video soon.
Comment by bairfoot cajun on May 27, 2009 at 7:53pm
really cool builds you got going with those natural formation wood boxes you turn into instruments they prolly have a most ultimate tone because of their natural formation. it would be great if we at the nation could get a sample video of the sound of one of those instruments with that natural formation wood. are they a type of dulcimer of a type of lap steel acoustic electric guitar? any how they are awesome looking,great work man.
Comment by Low Budget Luthier on May 27, 2009 at 7:29pm
ur builds are the most impressive i've ever seen. I'm in awe of you're craftmannship.
Comment by Cogdell boy (Robert J.) on May 27, 2009 at 6:07am
And what a passion you have ....Great job ... Love that Bass and would like to see more....

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