Clapton’s Guitar. Book Review.

Clapton’s Guitar | 2006 | Allen St. John | Freepress

Clapton's guitar

At a trim 266 pages, Allen St. John’s “Clapton’s Guitar” is just the right size for portability. In fact, I read t on a plane flight! Whilst it may be dimensionally small, the breadth of the book is considerable. It covers a mucisian’s search for a lifetime guitar, the passion and humble philosophy of a craftsman and the constuction of several instruments.

You can sense the passion of Henderson through this book. His uncompromising approach to instruments and his ability to transform raw materials into a superb reproduction of prewar Martin guitars shines through. The technical prose never gets too detailed or pedantic but serves as a gentle education in guitar making.

St. John has punctuated the linear process of guitar building a delightful sidecast. Called the general loafers, they provide a very human side to the technical side of the book. Gabby, the self proclaimed dumpster driver. Ralph, the penpal to a convinct. They form an important supporting cast with their own stories, jokes and of course, guitars.

Whilst a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating read, there are a few issues which may have improved the volume. Editing is occasionally patchy- inconsistent spelling and a lack of closure about Clapton’s guitar is somewhat more dissappointing. One gets the impression the guitar is held in it’s case somewhere admidst a vast collection somewhere in Clapton’s underground cellar. But it’s more of a minor point because the real story here is about Wayne Henderson, a cluttered workshop and a group of friends.

Henderson commented on the younger makers “They may be neater and cleater. But no, they’re not better. They never did learn what makes the old ones tick.”

Well, maybe I study journalism and writing techniques from Allen St. John- he learnt what made Wayne Henderson and his guitars tick.

Wayne Henderson playing a similar guitar to Claptons:

Take me out to the ballgame

Sally Anne


Allen St. John
©2008 Terence Tan.