William Eaton

Of all the guitars heard on Guitar Soli, the one played by William Eaton is by far the most unique. Eaton is one of the few authentic geniuses in the world of guitar design and construction. On his untitled composition, he plays the first guitar he ever made, six strings and shimmering like the dry Sonoran sun that inspired it. In 1977, Eaton had been living off the desert soil, spending his days building instruments in the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, a guitar-making school he helped establish in 1975, while gathering wild food and sustenance from his natural surroundings. Eaton rarely slept in the same place twice…until he was drawn to a guesthouse at a mansion near Camelback Mountain, surrounded on one side by a quiet and colorful botanical garden; the other side faced the desert. As Eaton settled into this inspiring locale, the concept of a recorded document of his workmanship began to coalesce. He selected three flawless fruits of his craft, a 6-string, a 12-string, and a 26-string triumph he called the Elesion Harmonium. The concept was straightforward: an 11-song album of unadorned tone poems without titles, some of them entirely improvised, others based on previously composed chord structures. Drawn again from Eaton’s surroundings, the cover of the meekly titled Music By William Eaton depicts the desert, with the backside representing the nearly tropical setting of the gardens outside his window.

Eaton’s approach to fingerstyle is unconventional, forwarding his acute understanding of the range of notes he has access to in any given tuning. He eschewes a structured, repetitive pattern in favor of picking a melody and using the other fingers of his right hand to embellish, augment, or color that melody. Many of the songs on the album were played once, with the tape rolling, and never again.

William Eaton Appears on: