New documentary film on reso-guitar builder Frank Harlow

Reso-guitar enthusiasts have always had a special place in their hearts for Frank Harlow, who has been hand-building custom instruments from his shop in Vandalia, OH since the late-1980s. While he was still alive, Gene Wooten was Frank’s biggest booster, playing his guitars with The Osborne Brothers, Country Gazette, and others.

But as a rule, Frank has kept a low profile letting his dobro-style instruments speak for themselves. He doesn’t do any advertising or promotion, but he has had a steady stream of customers who love his easy going approach, and the three different body sizes he offers using Quarterman cones.

Another big Harlow fan is Dan Simon, a Michigan slidester who decided to show his appreciation for Frank’s hard work by producing a documentary film, The Sound: Frank Harlow, Luthier, which is set to air next month on KET in Kentucky. Dan created this project as a labor of love, without crowdfunding or sponsorship, and hired Elijah Knuckles of Alarm 25 Studios to shoot and edit the film.

Simon feels like he has captured what he set out to do with this project.

“The production is intended to show a side of Frank that most folks don’t get a chance to see. There are numerous guests appearances and some performances, public and private, in the program from some well-known top artists talking about Frank and showcasing Frank’s guitars. Frank is peerless with his builds. Other builders use techniques he pioneered.”

Dan put together this video trailer to give a taste of The Sound.

TV viewers in Kentucky have three chances to see the documentary in June:

Sunday, June 11 – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, June 12 –  7:00 a.m.
Saturday, June 17 – 1:00 a.m.

PBS has an app for ROKU, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, or AndroidTV and KET’s programming can be viewed there as well.

The documentary runs just short of one hour, and is available to other public television networks who may want to air it.

Home DVD copies are offered for sale directly from Simon. He requests that anyone interested in obtaining one for $15 (shipping included) should contact him by email.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.