George Rezendes has about 25 guitars in his home studio. But two have special value: a 1966 Fender Stratocaster that was a gift from his mother when he was 12 years old and a six-string acoustic that he built a few years later.
Shortly after acquiring the Stratocaster, he set about making it his own, stripping the finish and adding a wooden pick guard to replace the plastic.
“My mother told me I shouldn’t do this,” Rezendes remembers, “because it might be worth money some day. And if I had kept it in mint condition, it would be worth $25,000 of $30,000 today.”
As it turns out the guitar is now priceless, at least to Rezendes.
Born 56 years ago in the Bronx, N.Y., Rezendes moved outside the city when he was very young.
He dropped out of school in 10th grade and got a job on the line at the nearby Guild Guitar factory and built his first guitar at that time.
He recently found that guitar in storage and added new strings. It was still solid, he determined, after all these years.
Rezendes, who has lived in Port Townsend since 1996, is the go-to guy if you have a question about an old guitar or, more to the point, if it needs to be repaired.
He’s also built a reputation as a music producer, building a home studio where local musicians can make professional-quality CDs.
His most famous client is Maria Muldaur, who recorded her latest album, “Garden of Joy,” in Rezendes’ studio in 2010.
Other local clients include Jack Reid, Dave Sheehan, Shady Grove and the Crow Quill Night Owls.
“I don’t necessarily have to like the music I’m recording,” he said.
“It’s my job to enjoy the process and support the artist’s work, and the artist needs to be passionate about what they are doing.”
Rezendes gradually moved west to the San Francisco Bay Area where he continued to build and repair instruments while taking on a series of odd jobs, like building furniture.
While delivering furniture to an office one day, he noticed a picture of Bruce Springsteen on the wall. While he respects and admires Springsteen, Rezendes has never been a big fan.
He remarked about the picture, asking the office manager, an older woman, if she knew Springsteen’s music.
“I’m his mother,” the woman said.
To this, Rezendes said he had only one question: whether Springsteen was a good person.
“He’s a very good person,” she replied.
And why, he asked, do you still work in an office with such a prominent son?
“What else am I going to do?” she responded.
“I’ve avoided meeting the artists I admire because if they turn out to be unpleasant it gets in the way of my enjoying their music,” Rezendes says. “I know they need to protect themselves, but they don’t need to be a jerk.”
He recalls standing in a Northern California parking lot when he was nearly knocked down by Tom Waits, who was driving carelessly.
“I yelled at him, and he yelled back — and he got out of the car,” Rezendes recalled. “So I said, ‘I never liked your music, and now I don’t like you either.’”
Rezendes married Lindsay Hamilton, a nurse, in 1982, and their two sons were born in California.
The family moved around and ended up on a large tract of land in the Sonoma County town of Sebastopol but found it to be too isolated.
They set about finding a new place to live and heard about Port Townsend and came to visit the town on a gloomy Easter Sunday in 1996.
They liked what they saw, aside from the absence of a music store.
“We were told that the town was too small for a music store,” he said. “We didn’t believe it, since it had four times the per capita number of musicians than any other town in the country.”
The couple opened Crossroads Music, still at 2100 Lawrence St., and it became an epicenter of the local music community.
Rezendes sold the store to Dan Gessner and Sarai Lopez in 2006, although Rezendes continues as the store’s guitar technician.
Rezendes’ two sons inherited his creative streak; Ben, 23, is an actor in New York while Sam, 27, is a musician and chef in San Francisco.
Rezendes’ home studio, the Toolshed SoundLab, is comprised of two parts, an airy performance space and the adjacent control room.
The performance room contains his guitars, music collection and is comfortably furnished. When not used for work, this is one whopper of a man cave.
There are baffles that can be arranged to channel the sound, but there is no soundproofing.
“It’s impossible to soundproof any room,” he says.
“Our favorite records were made in these funky little studios where there was no soundproofing. A good record happens not because of the equipment or the room but because of the vibe.
“People who come here really love the space. A lot of studios are dank, dark, windowless rooms. We have high ceilings and a nice view of the garden.”
In the Toolshed, Rezendes uses both analog and digital technologies, recording the music on an analog machine and manipulating it digitally.
Each project is best served by a different combination of the two processes.
Rezendes downplays his own talent, saying, “Anyone with the initiative to learn how to build their skills can do anything I have done.”
In addition to orchestrating house concerts and this summer’s Key City Cabaret series at the Key City Playhouse, Rezendes teaches guitar and plans to expand his repertoire to include a program that teaches recording techniques.
He’ll begin an eight-week program this fall, to give students the basic skills needed to become recording engineers.
“The record industry is in a big slump, but the recording industry is thriving,” he says. “There are jobs available, but if you want to work as an engineer, you need to expand your ambition beyond music.
“Everything you see on TV or online or hear on the radio needs to be recorded, so there is a lot of work out there.”
Rezendes and Hamilton also plan to teach singing classes.
“More than half of the people participating in this year’s Voice Works at Centrum were local,” he notes. “There are a lot of people around here who want to learn how to sing.”
While there is the sense that he is always “keeping the wolves from the door,” Rezendes is optimistic about his business prospects and new ventures.
“It’s hard to make a living in a small town, especially in a recession. And being in the music business makes it even harder,” he says. “But I’ve always done what I wanted to do as if money doesn’t matter. The money part always seems to resolve itself.
“I’m a follow-your-bliss kind of guy.”
________Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.