The Story of Natty Don

Earlier this year in June I was in the UK touring with Jeni & Billy. On June 16 I read the news about the passing of Don Young. Don was the co-founder of the National Resophonic Guitar Company which started making guitars in 1989. Jeni and I got to meet Don in 2010 in San Luis Obispo in the central coast of California where the National guitars are made and where he lived.


A composer friend, Garry Eister who is a National endorsed artist, helped set up a tour of the guitar factory for Jeni and me. Don gave us a personal tour on a Monday, a day the factory was usually closed. I must have played ten guitars that day and wanted to buy one that I liked. But Don’s policy was you had to buy one of his guitars from a retailer, even if you were an endorsed artist, because he didn’t want to undercut the folks that kept him in business. He also pointed out on the tour how important safety was to him and how he made sure that the safety of his employees always came first. He was gracious, passionate, colorful and a fan of life and music. We visited with Don on subsequent tours on the west coast after that initial meeting. I will miss him dearly.

Two weeks later, after we took the tour with Don in 2010,  some friends took us to a guitar shop in Palo Alto called Gryphon’s. They had a “vintage” room and there was a 1930 National Reso 12 fret Style “O” hanging amongst other elders. I picked the guitar off of the rack, sat down and played one note and knew immediately that I had found an instrument all musicians hope to find. One that has something to say and knows how to say it. The instrument was responsive and had a wonderful tone. I responded with generous amounts of pleasure and music making. It was quite ironic because I had been looking for years for one, met Don, and then found one two weeks later. It was magic. I have named my guitar Natty Boh, after the Baltimore (my hometown) icon who represents the National Bohemian beer company founded and brewed in Baltimore.


I wrote a finger style guitar instrumental for Don Young called Natty Don in southern Wales the day Don passed away. Thanks to Tony and Angela near Cardiff for hosting us and allowing the opportunity for me to write the piece for Don.

Here’s a video I made at our Artland Studio in Nashville in October.

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