It’s unlikely anything is going to give one the talent to pen a song like the man of a thousand songs, but if there’s a bit of magic in having a Ron Hynes signature guitar, would-be songwriters can now get their hands on such an instrument.
MacKenzie & Marr Guitars is offering the Ron Hynes Songwriter — a hand-crafted dreadnought-style guitar with solid mahogany back and sides and a solid Canadian red cedar top.
It’s the third signature guitar the company has made, the first two going to Ian Tyson and Tom Rush. Hynes has model 002, the second to come off the line.
“It plays wonderfully. It plays fabulously. It suits my needs,” says Hynes, who has been using the guitar for about a month.
A few months back he was approached by John Marr and Jonathan MacKenzie about the idea of getting a Hynes Signature out there. Marr says his friend and business partner had the idea of doing a guitar with Hynes since they got their business up and running several years ago. They had a couple of meetings set up with Hynes over the years, but the project never seemed to pan out.
“It was a lot of sort of misses until we finally connected this spring, put a guitar together, sent it to him, said, ‘Based on our conversation, we think this is what you want,’ and he responded by saying, ‘Yes, it’s absolutely what I want,’” says Marr.
On finding himself in the trio of signatures with songwriters Tyson and Rush, Hynes was humbled.
“I was quite honoured,” he says. “I considered myself in good company.”
Marr says putting together a signature guitar is tricky. The artist speaks about what they want in terms of playing — what they want to hear and feel. Then it’s up to the guitar makers to interpret that and make it into an instrument.
“It can be incredibly difficult in that it’s very frustrating. Nothing is working,” says Marr. “It can also be incredibly rewarding.”
They listened to what Hynes had to say and then went to work.
“Ron is a very accomplished finger picker and to accommodate Ron we widened the nut by about a millimeter and a half just to open up the strings a little more just to allow him to really be able to attack each string with a fair bit of clarity,” says Marr.
Hynes wanted that dreadnought shape and they wanted to craft an instrument with a body that was projective and loud.
“I can’t explain it, but you get a guitar and you say, ‘Nope, this isn’t the guitar for this guy,’” says Marr.
That happened at one point with Hynes’ guitar when they got it back with rosewood rather than the mahogany it now has on its back and sides. Marr says they knew mahogany was going to be the deal for Hynes.
“We were pleased with Ron’s pleasure, I tell you. He was ecstatic about it, which is exactly what we hope an artist is going to be.”
As beautiful as the instrument sounds in description, it has a job to do.
“It’s a working man’s guitar,” says Hynes.
Hynes has been back to doing what he does best — playing his songs live. A year ago, he announced he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Surgery was not necessary, but seven weeks of rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatment was. Except for a few brief public appearances, Hynes fell off the map.
He was declared cancer-free in December and started to work at getting his voice back in shape. This summer, he started taking to the stage again.
“It feels absolutely wonderful and exhilarating and a sigh of relief. There was a point during my illness where I started to wonder whether I would actually ever do it again — whether I would be capable of doing it ever again. And this is all I’ve ever done all my life. It’s all I know how to do. And I do it better than most people I know.”
And for the past month, he’s been doing it with his MacKenzie & Marr Ron Hynes Songwriter. The company has 78 in stock at the moment and has sent three dozen to the province in the last month. The guitar suits the company’s mantra perfectly — high-quality guitars for a low price.
Marr says they accomplish this by cutting out the supply chain. The Ron Hynes Songwriter will run about $550, and that’s with a hard case. For $42, they ship to anywhere in North America. Marr says there’s no plans to make this a limited edition and they hope to sell it as widely as possible.
As for whether it will sharpen a user’s songwriting skills to Hynes’ exceptional quality, ”There’s no magic dust in the case,” Marr admits.
Hynes has shows coming up locally at The Fat Cat Blues Bar Sept. 13 and 14, and then he continues on tour out of the province.
When asked how he’s feeling these days when off the stage, the man of a thousand songs proves he’s sometimes a man of few words.
“Just fine,” he says.