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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Keeping Local Musicians' Gear In Working Order

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Shelly Hulce
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WYSO

Imagine life without mechanics, plumbers or IT help. For working musicians, a damaged instrument or piece of gear could lead to lost gigs, tours or recording sessions. So who do musicians of the Miami Valley call when things go wrong? Community Voices Producer Shelly Hulce introduces us to the world of Dayton musician, restoration and repair man, Chris Wright.
 

In a nondescript house on a busy street in East Dayton, amps, pedals, instruments, tubes, circuits and tools are not limited to the workbench. The kitchen, full of parts, resembles the stock room of a mail order guitar store. These are staging areas for a very long list of repair jobs.

In the living room, guitars are displayed as art; they're hanging from walls, standing in corners, even decorating the mantle. Welcome to Wrightfield Instrument Salvage and Repair.
 

Chris Wright is a Dayton musician and repair guy.
Credit Shelly Hulce / WYSO
/
WYSO
Chris Wright is a Dayton musician and repair guy.

Chris Wright is a Dayton musician and repair guy that locals trust to keep their gear in top shape.

"I eat, drink, sleep, breath, dream guitars," he says.  "Like it truly is what I live for, so, being able to get up every day and do this, you know, I mean, just the fact that I am doing this in this capacity, that's the best part of it, is that I get to do it."

The jobs range from specialty repairs like fret replacements and neck breaks, to the mundane; like re-stringing and basic set-ups. This is a guy who loves his job. Some tools are just as entertaining as the instruments.

But sometimes, the situation is more serious. The occasional emergency for one musician can effect business for the band, even the venues booking them. When an overflowing toilet from the second story bathroom above a stage ruined his amp, Justin, a member of the band Hey There Morgan, turned to Chris with his crisis.

"I think because he's a working musician, I think he relates to everybody, especially everybody that's working," says Justin. "He turns stuff in and out quickly for me, you know, people like me that are working musicians."

A 1930's National Guitar. Clearly played and cherished by the family. Chris makes mention that he will leave the fingernail divots in the fret board.
Credit Shelly Hulce / WYSO
/
WYSO
A 1930's National Guitar. Clearly played and cherished by the family. Chris makes mention that he will leave the fingernail divots in the fret board.

Working musicians aren't the only ones who trust Chris with their valued instruments. A local family discovered an heirloom guitar in their attic. In this case, the instrument's value was sentimental. These are the jobs that tap into Chris's deep respect for the voice of the owner; an experience he finds sacred and humbling.

"Look at the fingernails that have worn this this," Chris says, examining the guitar.  "You know how long was this played for this kind of wear to be in the fret board itself; not on the frets, but the actual fret board has giant divits from somebody playing and playing and playing this. And when I true up this fret board, I'll try not to file or sand out too much of that, because, you know, I want that. I want that wear to be there, because that's history. Somebody loved this thing and clearly almost played it to death.

Wrightfield Instrument Salvage and Repair may be a one man show, but Chris is surrounded by a network of musicians. They share knowledge, parts and tools, a community has been built beyond the workbench.
 

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"I sort of keep my garage open to everybody who wants to use it, because, the best part of this job is definitely the connection with like-minded players [and] musicians. I especially love it when somebody just comes down here and geeks out on the pedals and the weird pieces I have laying around. I do appreciate that connection."

Geek sessions and shop talk aside, Chris says he appreciates the connection to other musicians that his job provides. More than putting pieces back together and making people sound good, he's a caretaker in the music community.