December 9, 2010

Jack Rose's 1997 Island Koa Slide Guitar

by Buck Curran

photo by Buck Curran

This summer Shanti and I visited Glenn Jones and took photos of Jack's guitars in Glenn's back yard. It was quite surreal looking at those instruments in the afternoon sun and thinking never again would Jack conjure music out of those bodies of wood and steel. The most curious thing I noticed when looking at all the guitars; underneath the strings on the top between the soundhole and bridge, a patch of white residue that looks like violin bow rosin. I hadn't noticed this before, but I guess most of the time hanging out with Jack was in room lighting. Glenn informed me that for the longest time he didn't know what it was either, but after sometime realized it was the residue from Jack's white thumb picks. I had to laugh when I thought about Jack shredding his thumbpick as he fingerpicked, but it holds testament to Jack's attack on the strings and the strength of his hands. Of course, not so hard to understand when watching him perform or when listening to his records. His right hand was a beautiful thing of power and precision. 

photo by Buck Curran

Jack's guitars include two Taylor dreadnoughts, but the significant guitar of the batch is a unique handmade slide guitar. A Weissenborn style lap guitar made of very lightly figured Hawaiian Koa and featuring a metal saddle and nut. The instrument, serial number 97099 Island Koa Instruments was made in 1997 by English luthier Pete Howlett. This guitar can be heard on Jack's best recordings, and the piece Now That I'm a Man Full Grown II from the 2005 release Kensington Blues is a perfect example of the dynamics and power he could summon with this instrument. There is also some great footage of Jack playing this guitar on the highly recommended DVD The Things We Used to Do released by Strange Attractors Audio House this year. 

One thing is for certain...Jack really loved and cared for his guitars. Looking at his Island Koa (though the finish is worn) and both Taylor guitars, I noticed they are structurally in great shape. He may have played hard, but it was the strings that took the blissful punishment. Jack and I exchanged quite a few emails over the years, talking about guitars a lot of the time I really got to know what his preferences were when it came to acoustic guitars. I was building a guitar for him when he passed. I really felt like I could've built him the perfect guitar and it's sad to think we'll never be able to finish that collaboration. It's very clear when thinking about Jack himself and when listening to his music...the World is a much better place for the Life that Jack put in it while he was here. He will be missed always!
~Buck Curran 8 December 2010

Buck and Shanti Curran are the Indie folk dou Arborea 
and are working on a new release.


  1. Hard to believe it's been a year.
    I still think of him daily.
    Thanks for tunes Jack Rose.

  2. Fantastic article Buck.

    Out of interest does anyone know which model Taylor(s) Jack Rose played? Also the 12 Fret 000 he plays in the Kensington Blues videos on youtube.

    Out of interest what kind of guitar was being built for Jack Rose by Buck?

    Seems like it was only yesterday the sad news of Jack's death broke out. Few days pass when I don't hear one of his tunes and I have to thank Jack for introducing me to the acoustic guitar.


  3. I believe Jack played a 1986 'Lemon Grove' Taylor 510 dreadnought with a sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides sold to him by Glenn Jones.

    Glenn described the guitar 'as possibly the greatest Taylor guitar in existence'.

    That particular guitar was too precious for travel (and had some damage from previous owners), so Jack also bought a year 2000 Taylor 310 dreadnought with sitka spruce top and sapele back and sides for touring and general 'on the road' use.

  4. to the poster above

    thank you so much for the reply, i thought it looked like a 310 from various video clips i've seen.


  5. I'll be making these again some time this year... Jack contacted me the year before he died and I was hoping to meet him on a tour of the UK. He bought this guitar from Elderly instruments I think since my distribution was through this store and John bernunzio in Newe York.

    Pete Howlett

  6. Wow, what an amazing day I have had discovering Jack Rose's music!
    I'm very curious about the L-00 sunburst guitar that I have seen in a couple of photos.
    Does anyone know what it is? I can't find a photo of the headstock?

  7. That was a Blueridge -- sorry I don't know which model number. Jack bought it just before one of our tours of the U.S. and Canada, but by the end of the tour he was very dissatisfied with the guitar and sold it as soon as the tour ended.
    --Glenn Jones