Recently we added a selection of Washburn Acoustic Guitars to the store and online shop.
With a history that roots in the civil war era, it is a complex task to trace the history of any particular instrument of this period. Not only did Washburn in those days often change designs to follow the rapidly evolving consumer demand, but they also repaired instruments, and offered engraving services, including decorating instruments that it retailed but did not actually manufacture. As well, they built instruments for other retailers and distributors under various house brands.
In 1912, Washburn introduced the Lakeside Jumbo guitar, which some consider the first dreadnought-sized guitar, without receiving the dreadnought name as Martin did a couple of years later. The Jumbo bridged the gap between smaller-bodied “parlor” guitars of the late 19th and early 20th century and modern-day dreadnought and jumbo acoustic guitars. The original Washburn manufacturing company did not make it past the Great Depression, but the brandname somehow stayed alive and was re-energized in the early 1970s.
The new company produced its first electric guitar in 1976 and became a go-to-brand for heavy metal virtuosos such as the late Dimebag Darrell, Paul Stanley, Bootsy Collins, Jennifer Batten, Rudy Sarzo and others. As with their solid body electric lines, also the acoustic series took the brand to a new height as In the 1980s, Washburn introduced the Festival Series of acoustic/electric guitars (the EA series, for “electrified acoustic”).
The Rebirth of Washburn’s EA Series
They were thinner than standard acoustic guitars, thereby reducing susceptibility to feedback, a significant problem using acoustic or electrified acoustic guitars in large-venue performances. The addition of patented sound slots (rather than the traditional round soundhole) further reduced the occurrence of feedback, and the guitars quickly became the go-to stage acoustic for artists such as Jimmy Page, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan. In the early 1990s when MTV introduced their Unplugged series, hardly a show went by without seeing a Festival Series guitar. The design also lent itself well to acoustic basses, and Washburn’s AB Series quickly became popular both for its look and its tone, whether amplified or unplugged.
Many top musicians and up and coming talent turned to Washburn’s selections and today Washburn features signature artists such as the inimitable Portuguese guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt, Swedish monster guitarist Ola Englund Solar and phenomenal American rock guitarist/singer/songwriter Warren Haynes and some 65 featured artists of regional and national fame.
Today we’d like to feature two of these warriors of the road: Kata Hay and Forrest Lee Jr.
Kata Hay stepped on stage for the first time at the age of 2. She proudly belted out her rendition of Hank Williams “Hey Good Lookin'” acapella, wowed the crowd, and hasn’t slowed down since. Over the years she became the youngest person to EVER win Ed McMahon’s Star Search at age 5, took home the AWA’s Rising Star Award, became a hall of fame inductee of the Oklahoma Opry, won 5 International Yodeling Championships and was honored with being the ONLY recipient of the Grant Leftwich Legacy Award.
During her teenage years Kata traveled the US, and toured Australia twice in 2004 and 2005 playing a combination of her original songs, and Western Swing classics. Her cd “Cowboys, Guitars, and a Lil’ Bit Of Swing” made it in the top 5 on the Western Music Charts, and her cover of “Cattle Call” held the #1 spot for 3 weeks. At age 18, Kata made the move to Tennessee, and met Robbie Helton, who became her bass player, co-writer, and eventually her husband. They formed the band Kata & The Blaze in 2006 and opened for legends such as Merle Haggard, Wanda Jackson and played for over a million people in 2008 alone. Kata started a Youtube page in her spare time in late 2008. Taylor Swift hand picked Kata’s “Hey Stephen” cover as one of her 4 favorites, out of over 500 videos and posted it to the Taylor Swift website. Literally over night Kata’s youtube page exploded, and went from just a few subscribers, to over 2,000.
And that was only beginning. Just recently turned 30, Kata has recorded several albums.
“Cowboys, Guitars and a Lil Bit of Swing” made it to #1 on the Western Music Charts. Two of Hay’s original songs from the album made it into the Top 5 singles chart. Kata & The Blaze released their debut album, Reckless in 2007, which was followed by an EP called Remember That Summer in 2009. During this period, Hay and Helton also founded the bluegrass rock band The Grassabillies which spawned an album called Here Come The Grassabillies released in 2009.
During this period, Hay and Helton became the featured house band entertainers at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in 2008.
In 2011, Hay began performing the popular Hatfield & McCoy dinner show in Pigeon Forge, performing several shows each night.
Hay was named the Dolly Parton Mountain Soul Vocal Champion in 2013 for her version of Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, before she toured the United Kingdom in 2014. In 2016 Kata Hay, became a contender on season 10 of The Voice, as a member of Team Christina Aguilera. Since then her youtube views have been sky-rocketing and this proud Washburn featured artist, looks at a promising future in the music business.
Watch I only smoke when I drink
The son of country music legend Forrest Lee Sr, Forrest Jr. was born in San Gabriel CA on Jan 6, 1970 and started playing live music by age 7. A Singer, Songwriter, multi instrumentalist in Nashville TN, he is primarily known as an ace guitar player.
He received his first guitar for Christmas when he was just 2 years old.
For many years he played lead guitar, and sang harmony in his father’s band, Forrest Lee and the Shenandoans.
In 1985 Forrest formed a grunge metal band called Equinox, and released a cassette tape to friends in his high school. It was later in 1985 that Forrest moved to Texas and started playing country music with his father around the Dallas – Ft Worth area, mostly in Arlington TX.
Forrest moved to Bellingham, WA in 1986, and reformed Equinox, which continued to play Metal, Grunge, and classic rock. The band recorded off and on for 5 more years.
By 1987 Forrest Lee Jr was playing 7 nights a week at The Palms in Birch Bay Wa. Monday – Thursday Forrest fronted a trio (Big Whiskey), with Ray Neyens on Bass, and Greg Babcock on drums.
On weekend nights, his band would back Forrest Lee Sr. as the Shenandoans. Forrest also played lead guitar on weekend afternoons with the bands that played locally.
He continued improving his chops as he continued to play 7 nights a week and 2 days, for 3 years until 1989.
From 1989 to 1990 Forrest played lead guitar and sang harmony with almost every band in the NW Washington State area.
Forrest joined Bobby Teesdale, to create the duo Bobby T and Forrest Lee. They toured Canada 1990-1991, playing 6 nights per week. They released a single to radio and had a European and Canadian hit with “Exception To The Rule”. Bobby T and Forrest Lee were voted Country Duo of the Year in Twang Magazine in 1991. After the duo joined Canadian super group Gerry King and Sudden Thunder for a short stint in 1992, they broke up and Forrest reformed the trio Big Whiskey, playing regionally in Washington State.
Big Whiskey released their Debut album “I Can’t Fall In Love” in 1994.
Forrest Lee Jr moved to Nashville in 1995, and by his third day in Music City, he was subbing for Redd Volkaert in the Don Kelly Band along with Jimmy Yeary (songwriter) on Vocals.
In 1998 Forrest joined a new band of songwriters, with James Otto as the primary singer.
Forrest moved to Seattle in 2000 and went to work for Microsoft off and on for the next 5 years. (The music business is a tough mistress, even for very talented musicians). He built a recording studio in his house and started recording film and TV music, as well as four, self released solo albums. In 2001 he started recording the Useful Guitar Series of guitar instruction videos.
From 2001 – 2005 Forrest played in several bands in the Seattle area, as well as fronting his own band Forrest Lee Jr. and the Broadcasters. By 2005, Forrest was playing live more frequently, with Lee Anderson and 90 Proof, and Lucky Lawrence and the Souvenirs. Forrest Moved back to Nashville in 2006.
Forrest released his tour de force instrumental album “Telethon” (Telecaster Marathon) in 2005 with guest guitarists Roger Fisher (Heart), Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard, Don Kelly Band, Twangbangers), Matt Rae (Arlen Roth), and Jimmy Yeary (Shenandoah, The Isaacs) and his uncle Geno Burbank. Forrest eventually signed Telethon to Steve Vai’s Favored Nations record label offshoot Digital Nations.
In 2006 he started working with Columbia recording artist Jace Everett touring internationally. Through the next few years Forrest worked as lead guitarist and harmony vocalist with Trent Willmon, Minnie Murphy, Mammoth Jack, Krista Marie, Ricky Lynn Gregg, Jay Taylor and Sunny Sweeney.
2008 marked the release of The Bendegos debut album. The band featured Forrest Lee Jr, Tim Wallis, and Matt Rae, with guest guitarists John Bohlinger and Sol Philcox.
In 2008 Forrest started producing at Loretta Lynn’s recording studio in Hurricane Mills, TN
In 2010 Forrest’s father Forrest Lee Sr. passed away, and it was a devastating blow to Forrest. As a tribute to his father, Forrest started recording “King of Kings” a Gospel tribute to Forrest Lee Sr. The album represents Forrest Lee Sr’s gospel songs originally recorded in the early 1970s. Forrest assembled some of the original musicians to play on the tribute. With Albert Lee, Forrest Lee Jr and Johnny Hiland, Redd Volkaert and John Pettifer on guitars, Lonnie Wilson – Drums, Jay Dee Maness – Pedal Steel Guitar, Joe Lamont – Keyboards, Jeff Allen – Bass, and his old friend and former band mate Bob Teesdale on Piano.
In 2010 Forrest started Forrest Custom Guitars. FCG installs B and G Benders in fellow Nashville and Texas musician’s instruments. The company turned into a full custom shop making custom designed and paisley painted guitars, with benders installed.
In 2011 Forrest co-wrote “Erin Tennessee” with Joe McShane and Daniel O’Donnell, which was recorded at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and released by Irish star Daniel O’Donnell.
Forrest was one of 5 finalists of the 2011 Guitar Player Magazine Guitar Superstar competition.
2012 Washburn released the Forrest Lee acoustic bender guitar, the first production acoustic guitar with a B bender installed. This marked the first full signature Forrest Lee Jr. guitar for the company.
Forrest has has songs in hundreds of Film and TV shows from “The Office” to “Friday Night Lights”. HBO’s Real Sex, Showtime’s “Weeds” , 2012 Lionsgate horror film “The Possesion”, Lifetime movie “Unanswered Prayers”. He wrote and produced most of the soundtrack to the film “Palo Pinto Gold” with Trent Willmon.
His songs have been used by CMT, MTV, VH1, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, TBS, HGTV, TRAVEL, PBS, AUDIENCE, SCIENCE, TRUTV, DISCOVERY, WOMENS ENT, GREEN CHANNEL, LOGO, ANIMAL PLANET, LIFETIME, SHOWTIME, HBO and more.