At first it may seem like a gimmick ...not what you're used to. But when you think about it for a few minutes, and especially after you try one, it really makes sense!
That's what I thought when I first saw a picture of Gary Swallows' new concept in guitar steels at the Nashville NAMM show in July of 2002. My first reaction was that players would not accept it because it was too different. But when I met Gary, and he let me handle some of his beautiful hand made bars, I immediately realized that the pictures didn't do them justice. These things look and FEEL so nice that someone would want to own one whether they play an instrument or not. Within minutes I became a believer in the concept of a guitar steel made of two materials: wood for the handle, and stainless steel for the playing surface. We spent quite awhile talking about his bars, and I learned just how much thought and care he had put into their development. The history of guitar steels has been an evolution away from the "found object" towards a more specialized, ergonomic tool. I soon realized that he had made not only the next step in that evolution, but the next two or three steps at once. Besides his creative use of materials, he had sculpted the shape of the tops of his bars so that your hand lays on them in the most amazingly relaxed and natural position. He had carefully considered every angle, every surface, every radius. From its edge, designed to deliver the clean pulloffs that today's players love, to the weighted, counterbalanced handle, this bar is about as far from a "found object" as you can get. Before we left Nashville, I told Gary that I was interested in becoming involved in the production and marketing. Shortly thereafter he sent some prototypes to me and my partner, Dave Coontz. Now it was our turn to get to work. Our job was to devise production techniques which would not compromise the attention to detail that Gary had given each bar that came out of his workshop. Dave's own genius for production was up to the task, and before the end of 2002 we knew how to produce the GS Steel. Collaborating closely with Gary on a couple of design refinements (we always have to put our own touch onto these things), we now are in production.
Rick Shubb, December 2002