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As promised in the introduction of the Front Porch, new friends will drop by. Kevin La Due launches our Mission Man Series.
Mission men pursue dreams with focus and intent. Success is not a pursuit but a by-product.
They are men made to move; to get things done; to make things happen.
As craftsman of fine leather goods, we can appreciate the soul of Mr. La Due. The selection of a leather hide, thread for stitching, and authentic copper rivets are part of the raw materials crafted into a finished leather bag. We see ourselves in his handiwork. His finished piece takes the musician on a different sort of adventure—one of deep roots in the history of our country.
Without spoiling the essence of the film, we sat down with “The Luthier” to learn more about his work, his soul and his mission.
Kevin, the youngest of seven children grew up in a house of musical influences — everything from Al Jolson to Henry Mancini to Paul Simon. Guitar found him early. Andre Segovia, Chet Atkins, George Van Epps and many others led him to discover the technical complexities of folk. “I play anything that sounds good to me. Duke Ellington was right, ‘If it sounds good, it is good.’ James Taylor, Cheryll Wheeler, George Strait and Hoagy Carmichael often find their way onto my strings. I just love to play.”
Incredibly comfortable in his immaculate shop, we get a sense that this guy has some thoughts about life and how to live.
“It’s simple,” he says. “Leave a broad and bright trail of being good and doing good for all others. Exercise stewardship with respect to consumption.” Kevin’s smile punctuates the next few thoughts that flow from an often-tapped reservoir of wisdom. We get the sense he’s someone that others have learned from. “Cultivate the good in yourself and celebrate it in others. Contemplate regularly. Make things.”
We ask him about his father and whether there is an incumbent duty for kinfolk to instruct the next generation. His reply? “Is a bullfrog waterproof?”
Adjusting his weight on the wooden stool where he is perched, Kevin continues. “My father was a gifted carpenter by trade, but also turned his hand to masonry, plumbing, mechanics, electrical work, most of the trades, because he worked in many of them having entered the workforce by 1922. He was a thinker and a home-spun philosopher which made him uniquely capable of exposing me to wisdom as well as instruction and they were delivered hand in hand always in a context. Better still, he modeled it, always. My mother did the same thing.”
So, we have to know. Who’s the beneficiary on the receiving end of what he has learned?
“I have two daughters, clearly different from one another in many ways, one living near by and the other in Santa Monica. There’s something funny about passing on knowledge and wisdom. My daughters are the only one’s that really know if I did and how good it was. The proof is in the pudding. I love my daughters and I’m proud of who and what they are —‘nuff said.”
It appears that our interview is over. Kevin stretches his back and leans towards his workbench. “Any last thoughts?” I ask. He stands and walks around the room. Words flow as if he’s giving a tour to an aspiring group of apprentices.
“La Due guitars are built here, in a 750 square foot shop in the Town of Triangle, NY. Guided by a simple philosophy of pleasing sound, aesthetics, craftsmanship and stewardship, each guitar is made one at a time, using traditional machinery and hand tools. Every wood part of the guitar is made here. It’s my purpose and goal to make excellent, conservatively priced one-off guitars that use the beauty of our local hardwoods combined with tasteful appointments. The combinations of woods, rosettes, bindings and purflings makes an aesthetic statement punctuated by good craftsmanship and enhanced by pleasing tone and presence. A La Due guitar is a polite assertion of the beauty and diversity of our Northeastern hardwoods and a demonstration of the wise and frugal use of a precious resource. Making guitars is my art. It’s my dream. It’s where I live. Every guitar is my signature in sound and aesthetics. —‘nuff said.”
You can visit Kevin here: www.facebook.com/kevinladueguitars