A CD release concert is a pretty big deal, and a CD release concert at a museum dedicated to perhaps the most iconic musician in the history of bluegrass is an even bigger deal. How do you go about making it an even bigger deal still?
Well, for Nu-Blu, preparing to celebrate the release of Vagabonds at the Earl Scruggs Center next Saturday, they decided to enhance the museum vibe and bring along another piece of bluegrass history to share with concertgoers.
As it happens, a fan of the band has acquired a Martin guitar that was previously owned by both Lester Flatt and Keith Whitley, and they will be bringing it along to Shelby, NC for the show. It is believed that Lester never played it on stage with Flatt & Scruggs, as he obtained the guitar towards the end of their time together. But he played it regularly with The Nashville Grass after the breakup.
The D-28 is distinctive for having had a section of the top near the soundhole gouged out, and another repair mark adjacent to the pickguard. This is not the D-28 we see so often in pictures of Flatt with the oversized pickguard, but another made in 1944.
Whitley got the guitar from Lester while he was touring with Ralph Stanley in the early 1970s and kept it as his main axe as he went on to work with J.D. Crowe & The New South, and then as a solo artist in country music. It was the one he used in his epic 1988 music video for When You Say Nothing At All.
Daniel Routh with Nu-Blu says that the current owner of the guitar prefers to remain anonymous, but that he is excited that the band will be able to display it at their April 22 show in Shelby. He has let Daniel take it a few times before, and he used it in the studio on two previous Nu-Blu recordings.
Unfortunately, the Scruggs Center didn’t have time to create a permanent display for the guitar, so Daniel will play it for at least a few songs on the show, and have it at their merch table afterwards. Attendees will be welcome to have a good look at the guitar, and take photos, but given its rarity and value, no one will be allowed to handle or play the guitar.
Vagabonds will be the band’s first release with Voxhall Records, run by Nashville veteran Jimmy Metts. It will officially release on April 28, but the band will have copies for sale at the Scruggs Center show. Tickets for the concert can be purchased in advance online.
This album also marks a slight turn for Nu-Blu, towards a more country-flavored sound. Pre-orders are available now online.