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Froggy Bottom
In spring of 1970, Michael Millard found himself at a crossroads. He was living in Buffalo, NY, when the graduate program he'd been enrolled in was discontinued. As he considered his options for the immediate future, a friend suggested that he pursue his oft-stated interest in building a guitar. A visit to Michael Gurian's workshop led to a job offer with Gurian Guitars, along with a promised move to New Hampshire. In October of 1970, Michael began his work for the Gurian company and in that same year he built the first Froggy Bottom in the kitchen of his apartment on New York's lower east side.Froggy number one was commissioned by a professional player and was a modification of a Gurian JM, built of Mahogany and German Spruce. In 1973, he made the move to New Hampshire along with Gurian Guitars, and in March of 1974 he left Gurian and began building Froggys full time.Over the next fifteen years, Michael built guitars one at a time, for customers who were almost exclusively working musicians. Orders came through word of mouth as well as through personal contact with players, as Michael was spending half of his time as a working musician as well. He quickly came to value the personal interaction with these varied players around their needs and desires in guitars. It was particularly useful when he found players who would take each guitar for what it did best, and play to its strengths. This process helped Michael to identify specific characteristics in guitar voicing and to associate them with design features.He adapted methodology from Gurian Guitars, which grew from traditional classical guitar construction, to develop a system of construction that was almost completely free from constraining jigs and fixtures. This allowed him to be completely responsive, from a design perspective, to what his friends and customers were asking for in their guitars. Through careful listening, and trial and error, Millard found that he could identify ways to vary his designs in ways that were useful to building the guitars that lurked in his customers' imaginations.As time went on and his guitars went their way out in the world, Michael began to get requests from music stores for instruments. Though he resisted selling wholesale at first, by the mid-eighties it became apparent that selling guitars to a blend of wholesale clients and direct sale customers would offer the possibility of greater predictability and a broader market, so he drew on contacts from his days at Gurian, started attending NAMM shows, and began to develop a dealer network.Such was the state of affairs when Michael met his partner, Andy Mueller, at a concert in the winter in 1994. As the two talked, it became clear that they had remarkably congruous needs, abilities, and philosophy. At that time, Michael was beginning to consider adding a simple CNC router to his operation to facilitate speed and accuracy in repetitive operations, and Andy had an extensive background using similar machines in a metalworking context. Andy, for his part, had been independently pursuing a goal of building a guitar, and had an underlying dream of supporting himself doing musical instrument work of one sort or another. He had grown up working in a small machine shop building custom motion picture equipment, so he was very much at home with precision craftsmanship.They worked out a loose barter of shop construction help for advice, materials, and shop space for construction of a guitar. By the time that first guitar (a mahogany/Sitka K model) was complete, it was clear that Andy could contribute usefully to work on Michael's guitars, so in August of 1994 Mueller went to work on Froggy Bottoms.Over the years since, the company has become a full partnership between the two, with the assistance of three part time employees. In total, the five people involved in the building process work about three full time positions each week, and produce roughly one hundred instruments each year. We still build many commissioned guitars on a direct order basis, and we have a small network of the best dealers in the country. Our goals aren't much different than Michael's were in 1970. We still strive to respond to a player's functional needs and desires and to build guitars that fill those needs and expand the customer's imagination about what's possible in a guitar.
Chelsea, Vermont
Scott Ainslie, Louise Taylor
Parlor, L, P12, P14, Concert, A12, Grand Concert, M, H14, H12, F14, K, SJ, D, F12, D12, J, B12, G
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