The Fretboard Journal

The Fretboard Journal
Winter 2008 - Number 12
Coffins In The Corner: The Guitars of Punk Pioneer James Williamson Spring Back To Life
By Derek See

Hawaiian Punch – Williamson Get the Weissenborn Bug

In addition to rediscovering his Gibson Les Paul Custom, James Williamson has also picked up acoustic guitar and begun to study the slack-key style. “I was out and about and I ran into a guy selling this guitar,” he recalls. “I looked at it, and it was koa. My wife and I have been going to Hawaii a lot, and I was attracted to the guitar and the wood, so I looked inside of it, and it said “H. Weissenborn.” And so I got it for a song, so to speak, and it sounded great.”

Trying to find more information about Spanish-neck Weissenborns, Williamson ended up contacting Tony Francis in New Zealand, who seemed to know everything about it. “It turns out this one is one of the last models and best of them all,” says Williamson. “It’s a Style A, which is the simplest style, but it was when they had actually put additional bracing underneath the bridge on the inside. There’s only about 50 or 100 of them made.”

Williamson then turned to renowned Weissenborn restorer Bill Asher, who’s done restorations for Jackson Browne, Ben Harper and others. “He did a fantastic job on it,” Williamson notes, “and I was very happy that I had taken it to him.” Armed with his vintage Weissenborn, Williamson has experimented with slack-key guitar and is learning different open tunings. In the process of having his old instrument restored, however, he was immediately taken with Asher’s Weissenborn-influenced Electro Hawaiian guitar, first commissioned by Harper.

“Now,” he says, “I’ve got the Weissen-virus, and so I’ve now started trying to play lap steel, which I’m really lousy at.”