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LoBue Guitars/Guitar Lab (206 Thompson)

The shop at 206 Thompson had become the main stop for touring musicians wanting to get their guitars tuned up or supercharged while in NYC. Unfortunately, in 1975 the Guitar Lab was broken into and a number of professional musicians including Rick Derringer, Dickey Betts, Randy Hobbs and Johnny Winter had their instruments stolen. LoBue took this very personally and took it on himself to make sure that each musician was made whole. LoBue was a perfectionist with his work and like many artists put the satisfaction of his craft and his customers above profitability. Paying off the musicians who lost their instruments was important to LoBue but may have resulted in the sale of the Guitar Lab in 1976 to Alex Carozza who owned Alex Music.

Another guy who worked with LoBue was Mark Iannello. Charles was bare bones, trying to replace the stolen guitars. So there wasn't much money. 1973-1974-5 Mark was just out of High School. “ I lived on Thompson St. I played a bit and always was checking out the guitar shop.Then I went up to Charles and said I studied Cabinet Making and was looking for a job ,and "I would do anything, sand wood" if that was all he had, take out the trash. Not really expecting him to hire me, but he said there is no money, and he would give me a trial period. I was so grateful, and we worked together a couple of years. Oh there is a great Johnny Thunders story when after trying all day and every shop  to find the reason why Johnny's '59 TV model Les Paul refused to play. John took it to everybody in town, no one could figure it out. Charles told Johnny to come back for it around 5pm. At 4:30 Ralph Novak came out with that guitar singing like an angel. Johnny had BLOWN up so many amps, so many times the wire from the jack to the first terminal was melted, fried, and disintegrated. We all laughed when Charles told Johnny $5.00. I wish I had a photo of Johnny face, the memory will have to do. Novax indicates that Mark knew everyone at CBGB’s at the time. He brought a number of his friends by and was a direct influence on Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls who did play a custom LoBue with a spear head top, the first. Check back for pictures.

Kettle Of Fish
The Kettle of Fish

Another frequent visitor to the Guitar Lab was Lawrence Wheatman. Lawrence was a local musician playing at the Kettle of Fish and the owner and performer at "Cockroach Art" (also known as "The Roach" and "The Art") Club with his band, the Fear City Ramblers/ New York Frets at 150 Bleecker Street, directly around the corner from Guitar Lab. Wheatman described his country blues/rock band as "Acid & Western". Wheatman indicated that although he knew from experience that LoBue knew the fretboard like the back of his hand, he would never entertain joining the band on stage when asked by his friends. Wheatman describe LoBue as technically very good, extremely meticulous in his work, and timid one minute... outrageous the next. Wheatman recalled LoBue as a very generous man. One story that came to mind was an appearance of Rick Derringer in the shop. Derringer had brought a Danelectro into the store wanting the pickups taken out and put into another guitar Charlie had made him ("can you make me a guitar around these pick-ups?"). After Derringer left, Wheatman was

helping clean up around the place before close. LoBue came out of the back with a new hand wound pickup installed in Derringers discarded Danelectro and gave it to Wheatman "for his birthday". (insert danelectro pic) Lawrence indicated that he had lugged this LoBue setup guitar around the country numerous times over a 20 year period. Other instruments that he might carry would need adjustments to make them play properly but that the LoBue would always still be in tune. Wheatman is still the proud owner of an early style bass (nearly identical to Al Johnson's, cut from the same piece of wood but fretted). While working on these 2 basses, Charlie liked to show them off by displaying them both together, so the the grain was a mirror image from one body to the next. Wheatman also has 2 Crescent shaped bodies indicated that LoBue sold them to him for essentially nothing because he was "done making guitars" (for now, or just that style, Wheatman thought he meant).

Phifer told me that he was greeted at a NAMM show a few years back by another guitar builder… Paul Reed Smith. Smith indicated that he used to come into the Guitar back in the day. Smith indicated that it was the work that they did on Thompson that inspired him to make his now world renown instruments. Phifer, who has been making highly regarded guitars for over 30 years can be found at Phifer Designs.

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The Story
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The Beginning (West 48th Street)
LoBue -Thompson (701 7th Avenue
LoBue Guitars/Guitar Lab (206 Thompson)
Alex Musical/Guitar Lab (165 W 48th Street)
LoBue Guitars (394 Hayes)