Author: Varner, Mark

Random Welcome-ness

Dear friends,
This is going to be a short column. I just found out what the deadline is for the June Breakdown and the FDF event program and it’s horrifying. I will probably be a husk of a human being by the time I get it to the printer. But allow me to illuminate your computer monitor (or your Google Glasses, or however you view this wonderful CBA website) with some random stuff before my imminent demise.

I wanted to remind you non-Parkfield attendees about a CBA event that our redoubtable Area VP, Chuck Poling hosts in San Francisco on May 10. This is an event I have had the honor to attend and it is VERY fun. So much jamming you’d think you were at a festival. Great pickers of all levels attend and there’s food and the inestimable beauty of Golden Gate Park. Hint: get there early and you can find parking pretty easy!

Here’s what Chuck says:
“The spring activity schedule wraps up on Saturday, May 10th with the annual Pickin’ Picnic in Golden Gate Park. This event starts at noon and continues until 5 pm in the Dahlia Dell Picnic Area near the Conservatory of Flowers (close to the intersection of Fulton and Stanyan Streets) in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

There’ll be a barbeque grill set up and your hosts will be serving hamburgers and hot dogs during the early part of the picnic and then turning over the grill to anyone who wants to cook their own food. Guests are encouraged to bring a side dish, beverages, and a jug of water. Your hosts will bring plates, cups, utensils, and condiments.
There’s plenty of room to spread out and have several jams. Bring your instruments, friends, and family. Chairs or blankets to sit on will be handy too. Questions? Contact Chuck at”

A couple of guitar related notes: I don’t usually resort to links but this is a new one on me: The Rickenbacker Model 331LS Lightshow electric guitar. See

I seem to remember something that Roger Siminoff told me, that some old banjos had light bulbs in them. I think that was for the warmth to help them stay in tune? I tried Googling that and only found “how many banjo players…” jokes. Anyway, I think it’s time to light up those bluegrass instruments with gaudy flashing lights. That’s my considered opinion anyway.

Also! Did ya hear the story about the fake Chinese Martins and other knock off guitars that got confiscated by the feds? Here’s the story from Ron Zeitlinger of The Jersey Journal:

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at a bulk mail center in Jersey City have confiscated and will destroy more than 185 counterfeit guitars that would have sold for more than $1 million, authorities announced.

Shoddy package and craftsmanship, as well as the country of origin, drew CBP officers' attention to five guitars bearing the Gibson, Les Paul, Paul Reed Smith, and Martin trademarks, as well as the marking “Made in USA,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said.

Suspecting that the guitars -- which, if authentic would sell for anywhere from $2,000 to $54,000 -- were fakes, officers at the International and Bulk Mail Center examined them further and found they were indeed counterfeit.

CBP officers has since identified more than 180 counterfeit guitars bearing additional trademarks of Epiphone, Fender, Taylor, and Ernie Ball — all being shipped through the same facility, all with business cards inside the packaging linking them to a single website.

The website indicated these guitars could be purchased from China for approximately $200 to $500; but the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for authentic guitars range anywhere from $2,000 for basic models to $54,000 for signature models.

“CBP is on the forefront of protecting the American economy and trademark holders," Robert E. Perez, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations, said in a statement. "Counterfeit goods pose a serious threat to the consumer and economic loss to American business.

"Enforcing intellectual property rights remains a priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”
In a news release, CBP did not say when the guitars were seized and it could not immediately be determined if anyone has been charged.”

So always buy from a trusted source, like CBA sponsors 5th String Sacramento or Elderly Instruments.

Your pal,
Mark Varner

Posted:  5/5/2014

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email