Castle Pines official gets down with the blues

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If legendary Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson, gone since 1938, somehow ended up in modern-day Castle Pines, there is a house containing something he knows intimately.

It's at Castle Pines City Councilmember James Einolf's house — or rather, his basement.

That's where all the new-old guitars are — Einolf's guitars, which take him about 200 hours each to make and are meant to be reproductions of the guitar Johnson played — the 1926 Gibson L-O, known as the “Robert Johnson guitar.”

Einolf made his first guitar at age 14, but had several different careers before he decided to get serious about guitar-making when he retired about six years ago. There is now a two-year waiting list for his guitars. He makes about a dozen a year and they've sold worldwide. But he keeps trying to get better. “I'm still not making what I think is a good product,” he said.

But that's his opinion.

The famous guitar maker Wayne Henderson — whose work is chronicled in the book “Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument,” about the making of a guitar for musician Eric Clapton — has had Einolf go to North Carolina with him to help teach a guitar-making class.

And Einolf's onetime teacher, guitar-maker Robbie O'Brien, who is based in Parker and attracts guitar-maker students from around the world, says Einolf has done what he set out to do.

“He has reproduced the 1926 Gibson in all aspects — tone, sound quality, craftsmanship and finish,” said O'Brien, who studied guitar-making in Brazil. “He in essence has reproduced the 1926 Gibson.

“He makes great guitars.”

Einolf makes them in a full unfinished basement and takes all the space, big enough for a small family to live in — and his wife, a classical musician and master gardener, is supportive. It's full of various types of supplies and equipment, some Einolf-made and some bought off of Craigslist — maple, spruce, mahogany and ebony woods, saws and molds, a contraption with spidery arms that holds a new guitar's wooden supports in place to be glued at precise angle, a heat blanket that helps force the wood to change shape, and shelves and drawers of endless tools. But it looks as orderly and clean as an operating room, as if his dad, an IBM engineer and designer, were the maintenance person.

Einolf, raised on the East Coast and England, and whose first aspiration was astronaut, put together his first guitar at age 14.

“I didn't have a clue,” he said. He used in part a neck from a broken guitar and a cheap guitar pickup. The instrument was serviceable until he smashed it onstage for theatrics' sake when his band was opening act for MC5, a Detroit. He left college for six years of being on the road with “sleazy rock and roll bands” where he played bass and sang lead vocals.

Then, he left all of that for a longtime career as a computer programmer, at one point working as a database designer in San Francisco. At another point he decided to try something else, moving to Hollywood and using his skills to produce and be a sound mixer for such films as “Silence of the Hams” starring comedian Dom Deluise, and for television, such as “Nash Bridges,” starring Don Johnson. He also was the designer for software to enhance the use of the Palm Pilot, precursor of the iPhone.

Next chapter: He had always wanted to learn to fly, and promised himself when he got old he'd learn, and at age 50, which he considered old, he did, and became a pilot taking tourists over the Grand Canyon and delivering UPS packages from Sheridan, Wyo., to Billings, Mont. He got enough hours in to get a job with Northwest Airlines, did it for a year, and hated it. Everyone wants to be pilot for the airlines, the airlines know it, and the pilots aren't treated well, he said.

Einolf retired. He and his wife, Harriette, moved to Colorado to be near grandchildren. And found Castle Pines.

“It's the most wonderful place in Colorado to live,” he said. With Lone Tree and Castle Rock on either side, there are all the necessary amenities. And there's a guarantee of beauty: “It's like living in the mountains, but the guy next door doesn't have a car sitting on blocks,” he said, and smiled.

And he found guitar making, again.

“One reason I never became a really good musician is I was always more interested in tweaking my guitar and making modifications instead of practicing,” he said.

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