Wilkie Stringed Instruments
By: Chris Graham
Just when you think you know a place you meet a guy who changes all that. I’m fully aware that we have some cool stuff going on here, a boat load of talent on display of artists, musicians, foodies and the like. But, as it turns out, these things are just the tip of the iceberg and there is a whole lot going on beneath the surface. Take Wyatt WIlkie for example. Here we have one of the best makers of archtop instruments, (guitars and mandolins), on the continent A man who apprenticed under the famous guitar builder, Robert Benedetto in Savannah, Georgia. Today, Wyatt is living and working, creating his beautiful instruments right here in the valley.
His roots in the valley go back to when his father, Dave Wilkie from California, played with island legend Valdy in the band Hosanna. When still a boy, Wyatt and his family returned to the U.S. but he never forgot our small piece of paradise and, after completing his apprenticeship, moved back, bringing his own family. This is where we find Wyatt and Wilkie Stringed Instruments today, in Royston, tucked away in a magical shop where he handcrafts each and every instrument. He uses no machines, no lathes or shortcuts whatsoever. All are handcrafted works of art. There are great videos on his website, http://wilkiestringedinstruments.com/ where you can see how he does it. It really is something to see.
There are some great musicians playing a Wilkie including Quinn Bachand, Ed Cherry and Tony DeCaprio. The notoriety that comes from this list speaks to the instruments themselves and to what Wyatt has been able to achieve with some simple tools and a ton of dedication to his craft.
So, what’s next for Wilkie Stringed Instruments? He is considering opening a school right here in the valley. What a legacy that would be! Wyatt imagines 5-6 students at a time all learning the traditional method of creating beautiful instruments by hand. Each student will be adding to the history of archtop guitar building and keeping the art alive.
After chatting with Wyatt today I asked him what is the one thought he would like to leave with my readers. He said, “Let the work speak for itself”.