Special guitar finds new home

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comOctober 15, 2012 

Lynn Castner and James Mumm hold the guitar that started it all.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Thanks to Deonne Parker of Moss Creek for sharing a tale that should be music to your ears.

'THE STORY OF A GUITAR'

By Deonne Parker

This story begins in 1954, when Lynn Castner bought a Martin guitar in Berkeley, Calif. Lynn played an accordion as a child in Minneapolis and took lessons at Gould School of Music long enough to play in a student recital -- once. He was so young he had to carry the accordion with both hands and could barely lift it onto the streetcar to go to his lessons. The accordion was not a "cool" instrument. His next instruments were a baritone horn and a trombone. He played in the school orchestra.

The guitar was his first "cool" instrument. The Martin was an early Martin classical guitar for nylon strings, number 00-18, fondly known as "double O eighteen."

Lynn took guitar lessons from a friend who played professionally in San Francisco. Lynn was good enough to play at parties for his college friends at San Francisco State. His beautiful voice probably made up for a lack of virtuosity on the guitar.

Lynn returned to Minneapolis with his guitar. He performed folk songs in coffee houses and in the homes of friends. These gigs were gratis. Lynn met Bob Dylan, who is also from Minnesota. Dylan, who was not yet famous, was paid a few dollars for his gigs. Lynn recalls that Dylan was constantly honing his technique, practicing methods he learned from others and asking musicians to demonstrate their techniques. Dylan discovered Woody Guthrie by listening to 78s at Lynn's Minneapolis home. In his autobiography, "Chronicles, Volume One," Dylan describes the powerful impact of Guthrie's music on him.

Dylan went on to fame. Lynn finished law school. The Martin guitar was set aside as Lynn pursued a law career and earned a private pilot's license. He never played again. But he kept the guitar.

When Lynn retired from the practice of law in 1999, he and his wife, Deonne Parker, moved to Port Royal Plantation on Hilton Head Island. He became a real estate broker. And he still had the guitar.

In 2005, Lynn was diagnosed with cancer. He recovered and continued his real estate business. He felt it was time to find a worthy home for his Martin guitar. It would take seven more years.

An ad in The Island Packet this summer caught Lynn's attention.

Joan Maute, an island resident, was offering free guitar lessons to school teachers and military personnel. Joan is a retired school teacher, guitarist and composer who gives teachers free guitar lessons through a nonprofit group called "Guitars in the Classroom" that emphasizes classroom techniques using guitar music.

Lynn donated his Martin guitar to Joan for her charitable work. She used the proceeds from the sale of the Martin to buy six guitars for her lessons. She found a buyer in New York who plays and collects guitars. James Mumm bought the Martin guitar and wanted to meet Lynn, the original owner.

Joan arranged for James to come to Hilton Head to play the Martin. James came with his friend Peter Laux, who lives in Canada. They have played guitar together since their college days in the 1960s.

Lynn invited friends to his home in Moss Creek, where he and Deonne moved in 2005. James and Peter gave a spellbinding concert in their living room on Sept. 22. Joan also played and sang. She composed some of the beautiful songs she sang in her strong, rich voice. Because 2012 is the year Woody Guthrie would have been 100 years old, Joan led a rousing evening finale of "This Land is Your Land." Guests joined in with gusto.

The Martin guitar, neglected for half a century, had a home with James, a talented musician who lovingly brings it back to life. An evening of magical folk music will be remembered by everyone who attended, including Deonne's 80-year-old aunt, Louise Player, who came with a friend who drove her from Lobeco, where she lives.

Lynn suggested making the concert an annual event. There was a chorus of agreement.

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