Local Musician Gavin Coe To Release Documentary Film About Guitar That Contains His Family History

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click to enlarge The guitar that Csapo built. - Courtesy of Gavin Coe
Courtesy of Gavin Coe
The guitar that Csapo built.
For the past few years, local musician Gavin Coe has worked on a project involving a book his great grandfather’s brother wrote about his family history. Coe basically used that book as a road map to find all the farms his family lived in and built from the 1700s through today. He then took a piece of wood from several of them going back nine generations, and had Attila Custom Guitars in Parma assemble the wood into a custom-made, original design guitar that he’s just started using.

“My uncle Ray wrote a co-history book about my family,” Coe explains in a recent phone interview. “He started the book in the late ’60s and then finished it in the ’80s. He did it before Internet and computers. He drove across Ohio and went to libraries and courthouses. He found old newspaper articles and traced our roots to 1600s. I found the original farms my family lived on over the last 250 years. Between the nine generations, I think there were three or four different barns. The oldest one was in Virginia, which was burned down. The only thing that was left was the church built in 1810.”

When Coe told Clint Walker, the current owner of one of his old family barns that’s located in Mansfield, about his project, Walker said he was very familiar with Coe’s family history.

“My grandfather had built the farm and painted his name on the wall,” says Coe. “The people who own it now are as much into Ohio history as I am. They respect the previous owner like I respect the owner of a previous guitar. Clint Walker looks at the barn in the same way.”

Coe has worked with Attila Custom Guitars since he was in high school, so he knew owner Attila Csapo could build him a guitar.

“[Csapo] built me my first guitar when I was 18,” says Coe. “He can do anything. If you have this crazy idea that I had, he can do it. He liked the idea. And the cool thing about working with a luthier you know is that’s like having a trusted bandmate. When I’m on stage with a drummer I’ve been playing with for ten years, he knows what I’m going to do before I do it. It’s the same with a luthier. It was a process getting the wood ready for him. A barn beam had old nails in it that it took me hours to get out.”

On Feb. 5, Coe’ll debut Remember My Family: The Coe History Guitar, a documentary about the guitar. The film will detail that history within it and the thought process behind designing it. The documentary, which will be on YouTube, will conclude with a 25-minute performance inside a barn built in the 1870s by his grandfather, Civil War Captain Alben Coe Jr. Black & Coe, a local group featuring Mike Barrick from Armstrong Bearcat, Bill Ransom from Beth Hart’s band, and local singer-songwriters Reese Black and Taylor Lamborn, will perform as well.

“Originally what the idea was similar to how Dave Chappelle started doing shows in the middle of the cornfield with anybody he wanted because everything was shut down,” Coe explains. “I was sitting there thinking that all the good guys aren’t doing anything. The guitar got finished and I took a band down there to record in the barn. It’s cool because it’s historical but the science of it is cool too. The guitar and the room are made from the same tree. We were going to just do a video, but we made a 20-minute video about the history of the wood and how I designed the guitar. I borrowed from the different main companies whose guitars I play.”

Looking ahead, Coe says he’ll use the guitar for his performance with Liz Bullock on Feb. 26 at Brite Winter. And he has a record with the Brakes coming out on March 27 that will feature the guitar heavily too.

“I try to save the guitar for special occasions,” he says.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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