Cakewalk Down the Color Line

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From examining, no matter how superficially, the interface between black and white in America, we find that all the racists are wrong. The blues is not black, country music is not white. Both those musics and a dozen more are products of that exact bleeding edge where the largest, unwitting and unwilling, experiment in cultural cross fertilization in the world occurred. More

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About St. Wishnevsky

Artistic Resume: Steve Wishnevsky

612 McCreary St. Winston-Salem, NC 27105,


Steve Wishnevsky was born in 1945 to a military family and has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, Northern California, Vermont, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He has been settled in Winston-Salem since 1984, and is well known as part of the literary and musical circles.

He started in his chosen art form of Lutherie with informal studies under James A. Rickard, Chief Engineer, Ovation Guitars in Connecticut, in the late 1960’s and was creating informal and assembled instruments as long ago as 1960. He concurrently began to earn a living as a woodworker, making wooden toys and smoking accessories, under the name JWH Woodworks in Hartford, Connecticut, and Newark, Vermont. A fortuitous employment assisting the cabinetmaker at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut exposed him to original masterworks of art and sculpture, and to the rudiments of conservation and display.

An interest in American Appalachian Musics led to an invitation from David A. Sturgill, a North Carolina Folk Heritage Laureate, to study musical instrument making in Piney Creek, North Carolina in 1973. There he studied with such luthiers as banjo maker Kyle Creed, fiddle maker Albert Hash, and guitar maker and National Folk Heritage Award winner Wayne C. Henderson. A few years later, the Sturgill family bought and moved two established guitar manufactories, Harptone, of Newark, New Jersey, and Microfrets of Maryland, to Independence, Virginia, under the name of The New River Music Company. Mr. Wishnevsky was foreman and production manager for this facility.

In 1978, Mr. Wishnevsky accepted a position with Ovation Instruments in New Hartford, Connecticut, where he was able to study under James Rickard again and to exchange ideas with other master luthiers such as Seth Hedu, of Watertown, Connecticut, and Richard Starky, now of Martin guitars. Two years later, Mr. Wishnevsky moved to Middle Tennessee, where he was able to open his own studio devoted to the design and construction of mandolins and to also further his interest in sculpture. He was able to win some awards in local art festivals and to study under local sculptors such as Tom Jackson, and to study the Gallagher Guitar factory, in Wartrace, Tennessee.

After further studies and touring the Gurian Guitar shop in New Hampshire and the Taylor factory in El Cahon, California, Mr. Wishnevsky has established a studio in Winston-Salem, where he makes guitars and basses, while also employed as a Master Cabinetmaker. He is one of the very few craftsmen in America to ever complete a full sized Double Bass Viol. He is now working on his tenth instrument of this class, and is also in serial production of the epitome of guitars, the Archtop, or Cello, Jazz Acoustic Guitar.

He is also continues to experiment with Unique, Folk, and Art instruments, and has formed alliances with local visual Artists Jon Blackburn, Laurie Russell, and Ted Lyons, among others, to create decorated instruments of a new category and style. He has works in the permanent collection of some local establishments and has had a few gallery sales, notably at Morning Dew Coffeehouse and at Urban Art Ware. He is a fixture at the Summer on Trade Series for the last several years and usually vends at nearby Festivals and Shows such as The Enofest, Merlefest, Apple Chill, LEAF, The Mount Airy Fiddle Festival, Many Hands, and others. He believes that Lutherie is the pinnacle of woodworking, invoking as it does of all the senses except taste, and having a cross-disciplinary impact on the arts of music, sculpture, and ergonomics. A musical instrument must have visual appeal, produce pleasing sounds, be comfortable to the hands and body, and most importantly, serve as an interface with the nervous system of the performer in such an instinctive, supportive way as to facilitate that performer’s creation of his own art, and communion with his audience. The challenge is to induce mute wood and metals to give voice, and he feels he is becoming at least facile at this task.

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Review by: Chuck Kleesattel on Feb. 03, 2012 :
I just finished this book and its a real delight. An enjoyable and informative view of one of the great expressions of America. Mr. Wishnevsky gives (for this reader) a well needed look at the Blues from a southerners point of view and clears up many well worn cliches. Wishnevsky's style of writing is clear, unique and as American as the subject giving a great deal of history, information and insight without the slightest hint of academic stuffiness. A fine read for anyone interested in the Blues.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Obese Andy on July 17, 2011 :
A must read for music lovers. This book is so fascinating and entertaining that it is easy to forget how radical and contentious the main argument is. The argument is very well made, and provides an excellent counterpoint to the usual racial veiw of American music. There are so many wonderful anecdotes here, so much delicious knowledge. It is an important, encyclopedic work that is skillfully compressed into an enjoyable romp through the wonderful story of North America's greatest art forms it's "home grown" music.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

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