ALBERTON — After more than 30 years in the musical instrument biz, John Walker knows the makings of a guitar like the lyrics to a one-hit wonder, and his workspace is even more proof of his expertise.
Machines and tools from old colleagues and other big names in the industry line the walls of his garage. “I spend all day out here, every day,” said Walker.
Take a step back from the piles of impressive equipment, and you’ll find that the bustling guitar factory you’d expect to see, is actually a one man band.
Once upon a time, Walker had dreams of opening a production facility with a whole team of employees. “I drew up a three year plan, that was in 2005,” said Walker, chuckling at the memory, “The plan was to set up this shop and keep it as a prototype custom shop that I would work out of, and then in Missoula have a production shop."
Sometimes plans, and even dreams, change. “And then 2008 hit,” recalled Walker. The risk of the recession wasn’t worth pursuing a new business venture, so Walker reworked the plan, and today, he continues honing a craft few have the passion to master.
He builds custom, traditional guitars, meticulously crafted to be exactly what his customers desire.
For his love of Montana, it’s only fitting that he names these custom guitars after Montana’s rivers and streams, a tribute to the place where he got his start, and the place he now calls home.
In his younger years, Walker told MTN News he could pump out up to two dozen guitars each year. Nowadays, he’s down to around 10.
“I keep figuring out new and improved ways to take longer to build guitars,” Walker said, laughing.
Despite his relaxed attitude, COVID still managed to strike a chord with the master guitar maker. “I did lose two different sales. One was a custom order and one was a guy, we were all ready to ship a guitar, and he backed out.”
The single guitar festival Walker attends, held in La Conner, Washington, was also canceled last year. “I had built three guitars for that show,” he said.
Walker admits that the impacts to his business were probably minimal compared to most entrepreneurs.
Stepping back from his profession, he’ll tell you the real heartache of the pandemic wasn’t a couple of lost guitar sales, it was the toll on his family. “The hardest thing about it is not having been able to visit grandchildren and my kids,” said Walker.
While he waits for better times ahead, he’ll continue the sawing and sanding of his life’s work.
You can learn more about John Walker guitars here.