Making hardware for Telecasters & Stratocasters in South Austin, Texas

I met Mike in Memphis at The Memphis Blues Challenge and I had no idea he was such a world-class craftsman for Telecasters & Stratocasters!

When I won the Piedmont Blues Challenge in Greensboro, NC I became eligible to compete in the finals in Memphis for the Memphis Blues Challenge.

When we made it to Memphis 6 months later, I met so many wonderful people! I enjoyed it as I moved thru the competition, met even more. On the final afternoon, I met Mike Slotboom and his friend Tony, who was also competing. They were fantastic folks, and we kept in touch.

So, fast forward 6 months: Now I am on the road in Texas and I happen to be coming through Austin. I called Mike up and he invited me over to his house.

Off the beaten path, Telecasters & Stratocasters…

I arrived at the address Mike had given me. It was a driveway with an RV next to a low Mid Century Ranch just off a main drag. That could have been Manchaca Road, just not sure. But the house, RV, and driveway were on a beautiful, shaded street. In the back of the house, behind the RV, was a small garage Mike had turned into a workshop.

It had all the stuff a metal fabrication shop would have: a few custom lathes, a band saw, finishing tools, a milling and boring machine, and a wall of additional tools and a lot of Telecasters & Stratocasters!

Well, dang! I was impressed. But then came the real amazing thing: Mike is one of the top custom manufacturers of Telecaster hardware; that’s knobs, toggle switch plates, bridges, tailpieces and, wait for it… Whammy Bars!

I enjoy making and crafting hardware for Telecasters & Stratocasters: sending out a full set of knobs, a bridge, a faceplate and a custom whammy bar – all machine’d here at the shop – is a great feeling…

I have clients who want the best for their rigs, and I am honored to be able to deliver – every time!

Walking around the workshop, surrounded by Telecasters & Stratocasters, the energy pulse is noticeable: it is a vortex of energy, craftsmanship, and purity, the pure joy that Mike exudes as a human being doing what he is really, really good at. If you check his website (listed and linked below) you’ll be amazed at the workmanship.  That’s the point, really.

Gentle Reader, it was a beautiful afternoon being surrounded by all the things this writer loves: Telecasters & Stratocasters, a guitar tech, and people who are really the best at what they do – Oh, and who are also beautiful humans, who enrich the planet with their presence.

Client List includes Jeff Beck

Mike has a number of clients who you would recognize immediately but the one who is perhaps the most innovative player is Jeff Beck. Let’s talk Telecasters & Stratocasters!

Mike creates the whammy bars Jeff uses to get that amazing sound. His custom whammy bar allows him to do the things he is capable of doing using the bar.

It is made with a uniquely angled-up 2″-3″ length at the end of the bar, making it more flexible to bring the tone down beyond the face of the body. If you’ve ever used the whammy on you Strat or Tele you know you can only go so low – Mike’s designs solved that problem for Jeff. You can see Jeff use this design here at Crossroads.

Pretty amazing, wouldn’t you say? Damn right!

And Mike makes sets of these and ships them all over the world to Telecaster and Stratocaster players who need replacement parts for their guitars… it is a highly specialized process, one that requires fine engineering and a real set of milling and finishing skills. And Mike’s clients?

It’s a Who’s Who of Guitar Players

Well, they are a who’s who of Telecaster and Stratocaster players, going back to the late ’60s. All the real guitar players are very familiar with Armadillo Guitar Works and the incredible talents of  Michael Slotboom.

His work really speaks for him! If you’d like to stand next to perfection, give Mike a call or send a note or throw up a few smoke signals. And if you cook and are any good with Jambalaya or BBQ, even better!

Mike is a remarkable VooDoo Chef, so if you show up with some ribs or brisket and a unique sauce, you’ll have a wonderful afternoon! Call first, and it’ll be Telecasters & Stratocasters and BBQ in South Austin…

About the Artist

“If there’s a place for musical perfection, it’s wherever you’ll find Eric Sommer – A blistering acoustic style plus a variety of slide and open tuning formats will knock you for a loop…” wrote Studdie Burns, New Melody Maker/UK in 2013. “How one guy can do this so well is remarkable, but if you look a little deeper there’s a batch of road miles around this lad… and it all makes sense.”

Eric started his musical career in the Boston area under the eye of legendary promoter Don Law and was onstage at The Paradise Theatre in Boston for a record 40 appearances. He has been a regular player on many national and international tours and showcases, and worked in Europe for two years with Nick Lowe and acts Bram Tchaikovsky and Wreckless Eric; during this period Eric worked on Danish, German and British rock stages, returned to Boston and formed The Atomics.

As a founding member of Boston’s legendary pop/new wave cult trio “The Atomics”, who toured non-stop with Mission of Burma, Gang of Four and The Dead Kennedy’s and were on the leading edge of several musical transformations, Eric never lost sight of his acoustic roots, returning to his heroes and mentors often: David Bromberg, Steve Howe(YES), Duane Allman (Allman Bros.), Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Robert Johnson. Mr. Sommer’s current project with power trio “The Solar Flares” shake up Chet Atkins and David Bromberg’s influences with those of Randy Travis and British Rocker Elvis Costello – a remarkable mix.

And to keep track of it all, Eric started keeping notes, which evolved from napkin scribbles to paper and pen efforts, writing stories, making poetry and capturing the roads and bridges as they went by, plus people, places and… more people which become his notes, then become characters for songs, stories, and prose.

Eric currently has four volumes of verse, 5 studio albums, a LIVE in AUSTIN DVD as well as an electronica project titled “The Smallest Particle” and more on the way… this blog is an attempt to keep track of it all…

Amen.

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You can reach Eric directly at ericATericsommer.com and see more of his projects here on this website. Red Chairs, Black Pancake and Blue Turtle are all available here, as well as all current releases. Please share and comment below.

Mike w/ lather
Jeff Beck Style bar
Working on a Stratocaster
Some Wacky stuff
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