Vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Peter Rowan, who was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame earlier this year, is one of the most iconic roots music artists around. From his early days as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys through projects with David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, and many others to his own bands including the Free Mexican Airforce and the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Peter’s highly identifiable vocals have graced a wide variety of roots music styles. While his bands have included some of the finest virtuosos in acoustic music, Peter is a capable guitar picker and aficionado of fine guitars himself. His association with luthier Preston Thompson goes back to the early 1980s, when he purchased one of Thompson’s very first guitars, a 000-42, which he still owns and plays (check out this Peghead Nation demo of the instrument!). Wishing to honor this 40-year relationship, Thompson Guitars is now offering a limited number of Peter Rowan signature models. Available in either 0000 or dreadnought sizes and in Indian, Madagascar, or Brazilian rosewood, the guitars were designed with Peter’s input and feature custom inlay work. He recently stopped by the Peghead Nation video studio to demonstrate his personal 0000 version of the guitar.
Thompson Guitars is known for using top-grade woods, and Peter’s instrument is no exception. The Brazilian rosewood used on the back and sides is richly colored and beautifully bookmatched, and the Adirondack spruce top is straight-grained. An orange sunburst gives it a distinctive appearance, but the guitar’s inlays take center stage. “They wanted to make a connection with my songs,” says Peter. “Landscape and music is the big connection there.” Turquoise is used in the guitar’s rosette and parts of the fingerboard inlays, which include symbols of water, diamonds, a lotus flower, a variation of New Mexico’s sun symbol, and a buffalo skull. The peghead features a Buddhist endless knot, inlaid in koa. “It’s the spirit that animates all living things, and also the sign of music, as it evolves from space; the reverberation of sound,” he says. Koa is also used for the binding of the guitar.
Peter has only had the guitar for a short time, but he’s already finding it to be a versatile playing partner. “I love the midrange of it,” he says. “ When I use it as a bluegrass guitar primarily, I put .013s on it, but when I’m just playing for songwriting at home, I like .012 gauge, or even .011s; it’s a very flexible guitar.”
In this video, Peter discusses the process of working with Thompson and performs his songs “Voices of Children” and “Waiting for Elijah.”
SPECS: 14-fret 0000 body (also available with dreadnought body). Adirondack spruce top with scalloped, advanced-X Adirondack bracing. Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. Ebony bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $17,700 as shown ($11,800 with Madagascar rosewood, $10,700 with Indian rosewood). pktguitars.com