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From two wheels to six strings, "I can build anything"

Paul Bigsby was a creator of not one, but two, American icons

I love Americana; but two areas where I have a particular passion are old motorcycles (as you may have gathered) and guitars.

I dusted off my '63 Gretsch Tennessean the other day and took a photo of the wonderful cast Bigsby tremolo which were a feature of Gretsches, as well as many other guitar makes in the fifties and sixties. I posted it on Facebook and a friend reminded me of the connection between the famous tremolo's inventor and Crocker Motorcycles.

If you read Dr Sprocket's column in GKM issue 45 you will know that Paul Bigsby was Al Crocker's right hand man in the production of the iconic motorcycle that was a substantially better performer than both its competitors of the day, Indian and Harley-Davidson. And he left to make and market his own patented tremolo arms (after developing the prototype with his friend Merle Travis); it was when he first discussed the possibility with Merle that he uttered his famous quotation, "I can build anything."

And so it proved. There aren't many people in the history of American industrial design who can claim to have created two icons in completely different fields. Paul Bigsby is smiling in every photo I could find of him (though there are surprisingly few of him available); he looks like the kind of legend you'd want to have a beer with.

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