Danny Paisley talks about his father’s guitar

Danny Paisley playing his father Bob’s 1949 D-18 – photo by Marla Singleton

Katy Daley is starting a new series where she talks with musicians who have been entrusted with the care of an instrument that had already made bluegrass history before coming into their possession. You may be surprised by how many she finds.

Danny Paisley, IBMA’s 2016 Male Vocalist of the Year, has played bluegrass professionally for 40+ years, starting in his father’s band, Bob Paisley and Southern Grass. When Bob passed in 2004, Danny continued the family’s musical tradition of hardcore bluegrass under the name Danny Paisley and Southern Grass. And like father, like son, Danny’s son Ryan is part of the band. I asked Danny to tell me about owning part of bluegrass history, his father’s 1949 Martin D-18.

DP: Dad had a Martin D-21 that was stolen in the early ‘60s. Dad couldn’t afford another guitar when it happened so his long-time partner, Ted Lundy, bought the guitar and dad paid him back in payments after bar gigs and such. It’s a 1949 D-18, which came from a gentleman in Reading, Pennsylvania. I still see him when we play in that area.

KD: Tell me about owning part of bluegrass history. It must be very special since it was your dad’s guitar.

DP: Dad passed away in 2004. He wanted his guitar to be played. Not only is it a great guitar but it’s like having a piece of my father’s music with me. I can still hear those guitar runs come booming out.

I didn’t play it for a while because it made me too emotional. I’d open the case and there would be one of his old handkerchiefs he used to wipe down the strings or wipe the top. Just holding it I would think, “A year ago my father held this all the time.” It would just bring tears to my eyes. I would get melancholy when I thought about it.
The Lundy family are like my brothers. We’re together all the time. Their father had this guitar, too. So it’s like a double whammy. As for TJ Lundy, that’s part of his dad, too.

Dad’s wish was for it to be passed on to Ryan. Dad never saw Ryan play an instrument but always said when Ryan was a toddler, “That boy is going to play. He’s ate up with it.”

KD: So Ryan will own that guitar someday?

DP: He sure will. He’ll own them all. Basically, it’s the gift that I can give him. He can do what he wants but I think we all know that his delight is music.

KD: In between times when you didn’t play it because it was too painful, what did you play?

DP: I had a Martin HD-28. And I still have it. Now I travel with my 2016 Blueridge BR-160. I don’t travel with my dad’s guitar much anymore because we’ve been flying to more gigs. I just don’t want anything to happen to it.

KD: What recordings did your dad use this guitar on?

DP: All the Ted Lundy-Bob Paisley recordings. Basically, any recording that my dad was on.

KD: What about your recordings? Did you use your father’s guitar on your albums?

DP: (laughter) No, I did not because Tom Mindte lets me use his. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but Tom knows what his sounds like. And, I would probably use his again.

KD: Anything else you want to tell us?

DP: No, that’s all.

KD: Short but sweet.

DP: Yeah, that’s the way I am.

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About the Author

Katy Daley

Katy Daley has been a part of the Washington, DC bluegrass and country radio scene, on WAMU's Bluegrass Country and WMZQ-FM. She received DC Bluegrass Union's 2017 Washington Monument Award and named IBMA's Broadcaster of the Year in 2009 and 2011.