String music

O.C. Bear custom-made guitar
to be given away in prize drawing

Raffle tickets for Bear guitar
part of Folk membership drive

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(May 2009) – Clint Bear has always loved to work with wood. He even built his own home overlooking Madison, Ind., and painstakingly constructed most of the interior woodwork, including flooring, trim and cabinetry. Bear, 59, has also had a fascination with playing, repairing and tinkering with guitars.
When he decided to combine his two passions more than a decade ago, the result was the creation of a line of high-quality, handcrafted acoustic guitars. O.C. Bear Custom Guitars have attracted the attention of musicians, including well-known professionals, across the country. Recently, Bear’s custom work was juried into the exclusive Indiana Artisan Project, which accepts only the finest of high-quality work.
The Ohio River Valley Folk Festival committee has teamed with Bear for its new Ohio River Valley Folk Music Society. Members who join this year will get the chance to win one of Bear’s custom-made guitars, a $3,500 value.
The new folk music society is a way to help raise money for the annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival, which is preparing for its fourth year and scheduled for May 15-16 along Madison’s riverfront at Madison Bicentennial Park.
“The society is an extension that grew out of the banner space that we use to sell for the festival. Companies used to pay to hang a banner on the fence by the festival,” said festival chairman John Walburn. “We thought a membership society would appeal to businesses and individuals as a way to support the festival.”

Clint Bear

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Luthier Clint Bear works on
one of his handcrafted acoustic
guitars in his Madison, Ind., studio.

There are two types of membership – business and individual or family. Membership includes a festival T-shirt, lapel button, poster and a 2009 Ohio Valley Folk Festival Sampler Music CD. Businesses get event signage included.
As of the end of April, 40 businesses and 25 individuals had joined the music society, and more than $8,000 had been raised for the festival, said Fred Shimfessel, the folk music society coordinator.
Bear, a member of the folk festival music committee, said he was thrilled with the chance to help raise money for the event. “”I’ve always been an enthusiastic supporter of the festival. I was an exhibitor last year in the artisan village, and I also had my guitars on display in the entertainers’ area.”
Back in 1972, Bear had a guitar custom-built by luthier, or guitar maker, J.W. Galliger. He was totally intrigued. Later, he began taking guitars apart to measure and research how they were put together.
After attending some workshops and studying guitar-making guides, he built his first guitar. “My grandson still has it,” he said.
He uses six basic body types to construct guitars of various woods, scale lengths, depths and bracing designs. He makes three different sizes of guitars, each of which are used for different types of music, he explained. Much of the work requires fine detailing and precision. He said his work at his father’s jewelry shop helped him develop some of the skills for the finer details, such as adding the half-herring boned top purfling.
His favorite woods are cherry, maple, walnut, rosewood and tropical hardwoods, which he tries to buy local as much as possible. He re-saws the wood himself when he can.
Each guitar is finalized with the addition on the top of the neck of a bear-shaped logo made of abalone or mother-of-pearl.
“No two of my guitars are ever the same, even if all the factors such as size, bracing and materials are equal,” he said. “Tone and playability are my main goals.”
Although each guitar is unique, he said each luthier establishes his own sound. “Everyone has a different way. I’ve had people tell me they can hear my particular sound.”
Pairing variations of back and side woods with different top woods produce unique sounding guitars. When a preferred style of playing is known, different woods can be matched to produce the tone and sound that is desired, he said.
“Picking out a guitar is like trying on a pair of shoes,” he said. “You pick your favorite.”
With only about 50 of his guitars currently in existence, they have already wound up in the hands of accomplished musicians. One is in California being used by singer-songwriter Jill Knight, whose work has been requested by Roberta Flack for her new album.
Sitting in his workshop under construction is an almost-finished, beautiful guitar that Bear custom-designed for Greg Foresman, the guitar player for country music legend Martina McBride.

• For more information about the Ohio River Valley Folk Music Society, call (812) 701-7105. For more information about O.C. Bear Custom Guitars, visit www.OCBearGuitars.com.

Back to May 2009 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta