Every January, music professionals from across the globe come together in Southern California for one of the manufacturing industry’s biggest events: the National Association of Music Merchants Show. Buyers, dealers, retailers, musicians and more come seeking the newest innovations in music, recording technology, sound, stage and lighting products — and sometimes to rub elbows with famous names on and off the stage.
Ventura’s own master luthier Randy Parsons of Parsons Guitars was featured in the Boutique Guitar Showcase at this year’s NAMM (held Jan. 25-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center), where he showed off his latest collection of handcrafted instruments, the Wonderland Guitars. Beautifully fashioned with inlaid wood, marquetry, mother-of-pearl and other embellishments, these limited-edition instruments include eight styles inspired by characters from the Lewis Carroll stories.
“120,000 people come through those doors,” explains Parsons. “It’s just four days of massive people.”
While pieces from the Wonderland collection have made their way to some famous hands — Jimmy Page is the proud owner of The White Mare, while Hawaii Five-0 star Alex O’Loughlin recently purchased The Red King — this was an opportunity for Parsons to promote his craft on a larger scale.
“As an artist, these things are uncomfortable to do,” the luthier says of NAMM. “But it’s important to get out of that comfort zone. It’s a very necessary event that takes a lot of time and effort.”
It was a memorable occasion. “At one point, my display started to rock,” Parsons recalls. “Bootsy Collins was on the other side, and a crowd had gathered. There were hundreds of people pushing against the wall!” Industry giant Chris Martin of Martin Guitar also wandered in, and was intrigued by Parsons’ work. The Wonderland Guitars created quite a stir, with their colorful and inventive construction, and Parsons is currently in negotiations to sell the entire collection.
“It’s fun because it’s almost like a record deal!” Parsons says. “Some really cool stuff is coming out of this shop – and it’s in Ventura.”