Welcome to Santa Cruz Guitar Company
1935 – 2018
Padding past the Philco record player in my sleepers on a Saturday morning in the first half of the ‘60’s, I stopped in my tracks hearing Nokie Edwards’ solo on Walk Don’t Run. I was smitten with the guitar playing and I thought…I’m gonna do that too!
So began my story of a life in partnership with the guitar and how 50 years later, we were allowed to become the maker of Nokie’s signature acoustic instrument.
I’ve grown to love the Edwards. Nokie and his devoted wife and handler, Judy, earned our respect and affection through many years of paying it forward to each other. Nokie had basked in rock star glory in the ‘60’s when his band outsold the Beatles in Japan and when he was adopted as the world’s premiere surf guitarist when that genre was at the top of the charts.
Today Nokie’s stature among the greats needs a little more of an explanation than do many of his contemporaries, and Judy works tirelessly to remind the world who he is and where he belongs. Nokie stood in our NAMM trade show booth and played for hours without any recognition, but once someone whispers “The Ventures” the crowd became unmanageable.
Being Nokie’s “bud” was all about patiently listening and translating his dreams about sound into a viable guitar, redirecting or distracting him from his vision of an all wood self-tuning tremolo tail piece or just listening to him play on our shop couch for a nearly the whole day. He would stop and call me over every few hours and plant an idea using no more than about 15 words to convey his concentrated thoughts. That is, until he got into jokes. Nokie had an arsenal of sublime to ridiculous humor that he would deliver in partial sentences. When he anticipated the punch line, he couldn’t bring himself to complete the story because he couldn’t stop shaking with silent laughter. Over our history I think that he may have spoken no more than a few hundred words to me, but his crinkly eyes flashing with the delight of a new discovery would always fill in where words might fail.
Nokie was pushing to do a final tour when he broke his hip last Christmas Eve. Nothing seemed to go his way after that. He suffered the relentless assault of six separate surgical procedures and numerous attempts to undue one failure after another. It was a grinding process of diminishing hope and painful physical degradation. He was luckier than most to have Judy, accompanied occasionally by some family and friends. They comforted him as advocates and as an encouraging presence in his cold and institutional surroundings. At other times, like too many of our elders in their dark and final hours, he was attended by hissing mechanisms and the occasional aide who only knew him by assignment.
“Sunday”, Judy said, “was good”. It was a riot of jokes and laughter with her and son Rick at Nokie’s bedside. They spent those last hours together “like it was the best of times ever”. He died in the pre-dawn hours on Monday March 12, while his ever present Judy had reluctantly taken an exhaustion break. She got the call and raced to his side only to find the somber aides telling her that he was gone. Judy said that he looked the same as moments before, only now his eyes were closed.
“Open your eyes, Nokie, Open your eyes!” Judy says that she mournfully pleaded while she collapsed next to him and fixed her own eyes on the little beside candle that was her last gift of hope to him from the day before. Judy said that it was now only a faint glow after the flame had gone, but as she whispered to Nokie one last time, “the little flame sprang up and danced like it couldn’t stop shaking with silent laughter”.
Like many of our revered elder artists; Nokie didn’t end up with much after acrimony and business interests took their cut. Judy has spent a lifetime of loving support promoting Nokie and his music and without him; her reason for living is to keep up the good fight lest we forget his legacy.
Her livelihood will depend on the modest sales of Nokie’s ephemera and the very limited production of his signature Hitch Hiker electric guitar. This legacy instrument is available through NokieJudy@gmail.com or we would be happy to introduce you to the builder. This a serious professional guitar and the proceeds of your acquisition will go directly to Judy’s well -being and her heart-warming cause. Thank you!
Santa Cruz, March 15, 2018
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