WATCH: Author of Kalamazoo Gals Book Plays Gibson For Jeff Beck In London
Not long ago a book was released about The Kalamazoo Gals, the ladies who built Gibson guitars during WW2. With the recent tragic loss of guitar legend Jeff Beck, I came across a video of the author sharing a special moment with Beck.
John Thomas actually owns a Kalamazoo Gals Gibson, a 1943 Gibson Southerner Jumbo to be exact, and played it at a show in London at Ronnie Scott's in December of 2013.
After his 10-minute short telling of the Kalamazoo Gals' story, Thomas picked up his guitar and played a tune. But before he even hit the stage, he tells how the pressure was on:
When I entered the venue, the manager said to me, "Jeff is coming to see you." "Jeff, who?" I asked. "Jeff Beck." Gulp. He sat in the front row. The management had graciously unscrewed the light bulb above his table. Speaking of graciousness, Mr. Beck was complimentary of my performance. As the camera pans left, you'll see Mr. Jeff Beck, sitting behind his glass of champagne.
I've included a link where you can check his book out below with a brief description of this crucial piece of Kalamazoo history. This story also shows how after the show, Jeff Beck hung out with John briefly and played the guitar backstage:
On his personal journey, Thomas tracks Orville Gibson from his birth in upstate New York to the founding of his namesake company in Michigan and to his return to his birthplace and death in a mental hospital.
He takes us to meet these women in Kalamazoo and to travel with them through the Great Depression and into WWII. He wanders the hallways of the abandoned Gibson factory in search of the ghost of its founder, Orville Gibson, steps into the imaging clinic to seek radiographic evidence of the sublime quality of the Gals' craft, and tracks the "Banner" Gibsons from Kalamazoo into the hands of their first owners.