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The Real Al Bundy Night
May 11, 2019 @ 7:00 pm
When Buena Vista resident Al Bundy told his son, Trace “The Acoustic Ninja” Bundy – a world renowned classical guitar player – that he could build a guitar that played as well as most of the expensive guitars his son owned, Trace was rightfully uncertain.
With a wooden salad bowl, a cheap set of strings and an electric guitar pickup, however, Al Bundy did just that.
“I called it the bowltar,” Bundy said. “Including the free strings and pickup, it cost about $14 to build the first guitar. I wanted them to be made out of things that you could find laying around.” Bundy noted the free parts came from his son’s numerous sponsors.
Bundy said one of the main reasons he began designing the instruments was to give him something to do during the long winter months.
He expected the design and construction of his first guitar to take most of the season. He completely finished his guitar in less than a month and began designing others.
After finishing the first guitar, he put it in the hands of his son. Trace took it up on stage and played it at one of his concerts.
“The crowd really liked it,” Bundy said.
Along with Trace’s signature playing style of using multiple capos and utilizing intricate fingerpicking arpeggios, Al’s home-crafted guitars have become idiosyncratic with Trace’s style.
Before building Bundy’s first homemade instrument, he said he had never worked with wood before, though his mechanical and metalworking background came in handy, especially the thousands of hours he’d spent restoring antique cars and building hot rods.
“Everything comes kind of easy after that,” Bundy said.
Since building his first instrument in 2010, Bundy has been prolific in creating even more unusual ones. Among the instruments, his arsenal includes the paddle bass, a bass guitar with a canoe paddle for the body; the sewtar, a guitar made from a 1930s sewing machine box; and the packtar, a portable boxed guitar that can be taken apart and essentially stored within itself.
While Bundy has spent a lot of time crafting the instruments, he hasn’t invested much time in learning to play.
“I’m all problems when it comes to playing,” Bundy said. “I’ve tried playing these instruments I’ve made and I can get a little bit of sound out of them. With having a son that can play like he can, that’s one of the best in world, what’s the sense in trying?”
Bundy’s creativity and engineering ingenuity have also garnered the support of his neighbors and fellow musicians in Buena Vista and the surrounding areas.
On Nov. 14, the Lariat hosted its 4th annual “Real” Al Bundy Night – the fictional Al Bundy being a character from the 1990s sitcom “Married with Children.” The night is both a tribute to Bundy’s one-of-a-kind instruments and an opportunity for musicians to perform and fiddle with Bundy’s creations.
“They’re absolutely one of a kind,” local musician Ellen Larson said about the instruments. “You never hear or see anything like this. Al is such a craftsman but doesn’t play. It blows my mind.”
Rick Matiya was playing on the snapping turtle shell banjo at Bundy Night. He’s been playing music since 1972 and said he’s never seen anything like Bundy’s creations.
“There are two things that made these instruments unique. They’re handcrafted and quality instruments. They may be odd in shape, but they’re musical,” Matiya said. “I’ve never seen or played anything like this in my life.”
Deb Needll played a cover with the paddle bass and some other musicians at Bundy Night. She said she’s tried to buy the bass from Bundy several times but he’s not interested in selling it.
“He’s a creative guy and he’s made the same instruments that you’d find at Guitar Center with the same tone,” Needll said.
“We’re all a part of the Al Bundy fan club here,” Needll said, gesturing toward the packed Lariat bar.