Sim Daley back to instrument work in Cornwall

Sim Daley, well noted for his excellent hand-crafted musical instruments when based in Nashville, Tennessee, is setting up his workshop once again. This time in Looe, Cornwall, England, where he grew up. 

He reported recently … 

“I am setting up my workshop again to do some repairs and build a mandolin and a guitar or two on a part time basis.”

Sim Daley has had a varied and often challenging working life. Initially, he worked as a commercial fisherman and, at just 21 years of age, he skippered his own 30ft boat, trawling in the English Channel for, “lemon sole mostly but, went after anything that lived on or near the sea bed. Squid, cuttlefish, place, hake, whiting etc. At the time I was the youngest trawler skipper in the port of Looe, which at the time was the number one inshore port in the UK.”

While doing that he started building mandolins, using debris collected from the local woods after there had been a gale and some trees had fallen. “I’d cut the ends off the trees, haul them out of the woods to the sawmill, and got them cut up, seasoned them out,” he remembers. 

Then in January 1995 he visited Nashville, Tennessee, knowing no-one there but banjo ace Curtis McPeak. Daley was introduced to the legendary mandolin repairman Charlie Derrington, and it was with him, later in 1995, that Daley got his first real job in the states. He spent a year working as a repairman and studying under Derrington at the latter’s National Guitar Repair company. After Derrington was bought out by Gibson Guitar Company they both moved there. Daley worked in the banjo division, initially, re-organizing the banjo resonator operation, then in the Gibson repair shop. From there he supervised and re-tooled the Gibson mandolin line. 

On a personal level, Daley married Renee Missy Daley, a very talented fiddle player and singer, in August 1996. 

In the Autumn of 2000 Daley left Gibson to start his own instrument repair shop, Daley’s Instrument Co., which catered to the needs of professional road musicians, studio players, and hobbyist musicians alike. “I built mandolins and guitars under my own name, and had some of the very best musicians in the world playing my instruments and coming to me for repair work.” His client list for that period features the names of Jimmy Martin, Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, Adam Steffey, Jerry Douglas, Brooks and Dunn, Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Ronnie Bowman, Aubrey Haynie, Butch Baldassari, David Grier, Roland White, Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, Del and Ronnie McCoury, and Brad Davis, to name a few. 

With all that experience there can be no doubt about Daley’s abilities as a repair man and luthier. 

Not surprisingly, the winner of the Edale Bluegrass Festival’s banjo contest in 1994 and now an expert picker, Daley has gone on to share the stage with some of the clients mentioned above. 

From 1992 to 1995 he played in the band Wild Turkey, performing extensively in and around the southwest of England. During his three-year tenure with that band they had several dates in Brittany, France. 

While in America he played with the Tina Adair Band and, before that, Melonie Cannon and Tennessee Road. “It was with this band that I played with the likes of Adam Steffey, Brandon Rickman, Deanie Richardson, Randy Kohrs, Mike Anglin and Kim Gardner.” It was while with Cannon that he also shared the stage with Ronnie Bowman; Bowman’s wife, Garnet Imes Bowman, sang harmony with Cannon, and invariably Ronnie would have been invited to Cannon’s shows. 

Also, around this time, he was a member of a band called the Rescue Unit that came out of playing with Cannon, “It was a myself on (banjo), Mike Anglin (bass), Brandon Rickman (guitar), Stephen Mougin (mandolin), and Jenee Fleenor (fiddle). It was a great band but, we didn’t play many gigs unfortunately.”  

The last band of which Daley was part was a short-lived group consisting of friends, who played mainly at the renowned Station Inn in Nashville. It too had a somewhat revolving-door of personnel that included Jennifer Strickland, Craig Market, Randy Kohrs, Nate Lee, Ashby Frank, and Steve Thomas. 

He filled in with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike occasionally and, travelling further afield, “I once flew to Wyoming to play a show with Kenny and Amanda Smith for the weekend.” Daley, playing banjo, is featured in Mark Newton and Steve Thomas’s video of Old McDonald sold The Farm. 

Even though he admits he “does not really play mandolin,” Daley found himself playing a short set on the Grand Ole Opry with banjo funny man Mike Snider. 

With another group of friends, billed as Sim Daley and Friends, he was invited to play at the Station Inn, “This band included myself, Missy Daley (fiddle), Ashby Frank (mandolin), Kevin Thompson (guitar), and Tim Dishman (bass).”

“I’ve also played on stage at Bean Blossom with Jimmy Martin, my good friend,” he volunteers with evident pride. 

Also, Daley put together a band, Cages Bend, to come over to play at the Cornish Bluegrass Festival in 2007. The line-up consisted of Missy, Daniel Harding (bass), Tony Watt (guitar), and Jenni Lynn Garner (mandolin), as well as Daley. The following year Cages Bend released a highly-praised CD, Now I’m Lonely, produced by Stephen Mougin. 

Last, but not least, he featured in the documentary Porch-light Sessions, thanks to Glen Duncan’s introduction. “The documentary had me rubbing shoulders with an array of bluegrass legends and luminaries,” Daley says, excitedly. 

In this video, Daley talks of his love of bluegrass music as well as demonstrating a few licks on the banjo …. 

Before returning to England he worked for a time at the Beechtree whiskey distillery in Nashville, where he honed his distilling craft on a commercial basis. 

However, Daley had, for several years, been homesick and so he moved back to Looe – he actually now lives in East Looe, just a short walk from West Looe by bridge across the River Looe – in May 2017. He went back to sea, skippering a trawler and setting up his own craft distillery. 

Now he has added another string to his bow – forgive the pun – by setting up an instrument workshop at his cottage home in Looe. 

Daley, who plans to re-publish his Daley Inst Co Facebook page, says that he is open to expanding the business ….

“I would like repair work and if anyone would like a mandolin or guitar, I’ll build one.”

Current contact details for Sim Daley’s workshop are ..

Phone (mobile) number is 44 + (0)7708 827 267. 
Email address – 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.