When the opportunity presented itself to open a guitar shop in the San Francisco East Bay, I realized that the only shop I’d really be happy creating would be the one I’d like to walk into myself. It’d have to be a haven, a refuge; a quiet, classy little joint, absolutely chock full of really top-shelf acoustic guitars. Luckily for me, having been on the guitar scene as the former fingerpicking frontman of whiz-bang string band The Waybacks and occasional contributor to Acoustic Guitar magazine—as well as a denizen of The Healdsburg Guitar Festival—it seemed to me I might be a fellow who is well-positioned to help get fabulous instruments into the arms of people who could love them. –SC
Stevie Coyle is one lucky bum. His dad ran a radio station in southern California and brought home all the promo LPs that didn’t fit the Spanish-language format. The Ventures’ Guitar Freakout, The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett and Alvin And The Chipmunks Play The Beatles’ Hits all came home on a single fateful day.
It didn’t hurt, either, that string-meister David Lindley played in a bluegrass band that rehearsed right next door and gave Stevie his very first lessons, or that his dear Granny was a pianist in the heyday of vaudeville and that his sainted mother was a whiz in mandolin orchestras during the 1930s.
Not even several years of playing Folk Masses every Sunday could quash his musical spirit, and in high school he began fingerpicking, inspired – as so many were – by that first Hot Tuna album.
After securing degrees in Theatre and Theology at Santa Clara University he hit the road for 3 years with The Royal Lichtenstein Circus, doing comedy, magic, wire-walking, sword-swallowing, unicycling, juggling & rola-bola and working with dogs, cats, birds, bears, monkeys, horses and even house-cats.
Once back home, he signed on as actor and stage manager for The San Jose Repertory Company, and announced orca, dolphin, sea lion, water ski, lion, tiger and elephant shows at Marine World / Africa USA.
He and his good friend Roy Zimmerman have worked closely in several collaborations over the past 25 years, including folk tribute / parody band The Foremen and comedy duo The Reagan Bros. in Los Angeles. While there, Stevie appeared on Cheers and in many television commercials and had a regular role on The Young And The Restless (which was utterly subsumed by then- daily broadcasts of the interminable Iran-Contra hearings.)
Safely back in the Bay Area, he continued his acting career, doing commercials, radio, voiceovers and films and played in folk duos The Frontmen and The Back Room Boys. In 1999 he co-founded The Waybacks and toured steadily with them from 2001 through 2007. He went feral and toured solo until spring of 2012, when – driving back from the Pacific Northwest – he thought to himself, That was a really great tour. And guess what? I’m done touring.” It may have been two days later that his niece called to tell him that she was expanding her tiny music store into the giant space next door being vacated by a health club, and that she wouldn’t need all of that new square footage. Had he ever considered running his own guitar shop? Well, no, but after much thought and research it occurred to him, clever lad that he is, that he might be the logical guy to run a high-end guitar shop. He had written extensively for Acoustic Guitar magazine, and had taught guitar at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto for many years. He knew collectors and collectors knew him.
Needless to say, he pulled that trigger. So far, so very, very good. Lots of Mighty Fine Guitars are going to good homes, students of all levels are taking lessons, and touring pros and local lights are performing in The Big Room, immediately adjacent to the shop.