Making melodies | News | The Press and Standard

by | February 23, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: February 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

By GEORGE SALSBERRY
gsalsberry@lowcountry.com
Rossi has moved on, but Buddy and Carmine are resting comfortably in Cottageville.
Buddy was the first guitar Rossi made. He named the second one Carmine in tribute to his father.
Rossi, the name he gave his third acoustic guitar, left home with his son-in-law after he became enamored with the instrument during a visit. “He said I’ve got to have it. He took the third one because he thought it was the best.”
Rossi’s friend Bob Gramann, a professional guitar maker in Fredericksburg, Va., initially talked him into trying his hand at building an acoustic guitar from scratch.
Rossi and Gramann had formed a bond at the Lockheed-Martin plant. Gramann, a manager at the plant, hired Rossi.
“We hit it off. He liked music, I liked music. He built guitars, I fixed guitars.
“For years I had been fixing amplifiers and fixing guitars. I started out fixing electric guitars, but in Fredericksburg, there are a lot of acoustic players, so I started fixing acoustics.”
Gramann, also a folk singer, ran the Fredericksburg Singer-Songwriter Showcase.
After Gramann retired from the plant, Rossi joined him in working on the showcases. When Rossi encountered a problem fixing an acoustic guitar, he’d seek Gramann’s assistance.
Gramann would often say, “Why don’t you build a guitar? He finally talked me into it,” Rossi said.
Each basic six-string guitar Rossi constructed represented about 18 months of work. Gramann, by comparison, could produce a guitar in about three or four months. Rossi was still working at the plant, so he could only work on his guitars on the weekends.
“I would make a mistakes, and he would let me make the mistakes and then he would give me a new piece of wood or correct it. That’s how you learn,” Rossi said.
To form the guitars’ body, Rossi used a mold from a 1939 Martin OM 28 — a guitar, Rossi said, that was made back in the golden age of guitars.
Between the 1930s and 1950s, acoustic guitars had thinner tops. In the 1950s guitar manufacturers, companies like Gibson, Martin and Guild, began using thicker tops.
The change was pure economics, Rossi explained. All the companies provided lifetime guarantees with their guitars. Guitars with thicker tops would stand up better to use and cut down on the expense of standing behind those guarantees.
When Rossi relocated to Colleton County three years ago, he left his guitar making equipment back in Virginia.
Now he is back to repairing instruments and amplifiers for the members of the Going to the Dogs Band. Rossi plays bass for the band, which donates all of its profit to the Friends of Colleton County Animal Shelter (FoCCAS) and other charitable organizations.
They will be back on the stage in early March, performing at FoCCAS’ Paws at the Plantation fundraiser.
He is also working with Scott Brennan, Going to the Dogs banjo player, on a project Scott is in the midst of putting together.
Rossi first met Scott at the Colleton County Farmer’s Market and quickly learned that they too shared a love of music.
One day Scott called up and asked Rossi if he wanted to play bass with the band.
“I said sure, but got a problem. I don’t have a bass and I have no idea how to do it.” Scott said he’d teach him.
Before signing on with Gone to the Dogs, Rossi said, “I never had gotten up in front of people before. But I did it and I am still doing it.”

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