A master musician: Jason Lamberth has played with some of the best in a career that spans more than eight decades | Local News
Jason Lamberth won’t say this, but others will: he’s as great a musician as a person, and he’s kept great company over the years for both reasons.
It’s no surprise when he was once a sought-after fingerpicking-style guitarist in a number of bands and musical groups, or his decades as owner of Jason’s House of Music in Statesville, or now as he quietly repairs string instruments for young and old musicians.
The common comment when you ask those who have known him over the past 91 years is that Lamberth is not just a musician, salesman or music repairman, but his kindness and his love for music came together in all phases of his life so far. .
“He’s a master musician, a master instrument tech, and he’s a friend to everyone,” said Clay Lunsford, who has played with Lamberth for the past few years. “And he’s a real American. He’s honest and straightforward…he’s just a great Christian and a friend.
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These days, you’ll find him working quietly in his own garage. He accepts work as he feels comfortable, charging reasonable prices despite the fact that his work and care remain in high demand.
But don’t expect it to be ‘perfect’, because in music you want something authentic and real, as far as Lamberth is concerned.
“Sometimes with music these days, you can do it just as perfectly,” Lamberth said.
He said he was amazed at what computers can do for music production these days, something he couldn’t have imagined when he first picked up a guitar. “But it doesn’t have that warmth, it doesn’t have the style or the sound of a real instrument.”
It’s not just that aspect of making music either. Lamberth said that when he works on someone else’s instrument, he wants it to sound perfect to them, the way they want to hear it.
And judging by those Lamberth has played and worked with over the years, it’s hard to argue against him.
What started with Lamberth picking up a guitar at age 11 or 12 brought him to the area as a talented guitarist, but you wouldn’t know that from talking to him.
“There weren’t a lot of finger pickers back then, so it was easy for me to get work,” Lamberth said. “If someone did a little fingering, there wasn’t much competition. At that time, people might have thought you were better than you were.
Fingerpicking is a style where the fingers are used to play notes directly, allowing the guitarist to play rhythm, bass, and melody at the same time.
“You pretty much do the same thing as three guitarists,” Lamberth said.
After graduating, he didn’t just go on stage. Lamberth said he started working at Bunch Music Company to pay the bills while he pursued gigs. The bands Lamberth formed or joined would give him the chance to play locally at the WSIC, which increased his visibility. Eventually, television would provide more opportunities not only to perform on stage, but also to record with other artists.
While Lamberth often downplays his talent, in the 1950s he played with folk and bluegrass legends and luminaries like Doc Watson and Jim Shumate. In fact, Watson, who won seven Grammy awards, opened for Lamberth.
Lamberth performed with Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Don Gibson. And although he never played a formal show with Chet Atkins, the two were friends and shared stories and performed together in more informal settings. He can also count among his colleagues and friends folk and jazz guitarist Guy Van Duser and luthier Wayne Henderson.
While he wasn’t humble about his skills as a guitarist, the business Lamberth has kept over the years when it comes to music might say otherwise.
“At the time, luckily, I worked a lot playing music,” Lamberth said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play a lot over the years.”
The groups he was in took him to North and South Carolina, as well as Virginia and Tennessee for the most part. There were shows in West Virginia, Georgia and other places, and he would be in the studio recording and he continued to play throughout the 50s and into the 60s.
While the love of music was still there for Lamberth after a decade on the road, caring for his family at home was more important, and he knew he couldn’t be in two places simultaneously.
“It’s something that you have to dig into 110% and you have to make a decision. You leave all the time, and that’s why you have problems sometimes, so I just decided it’s not for me.
Although he would open the store, he had not finished playing the guitar. Whether in the store or elsewhere, Lamberth always found time to play with other local and area musicians.
One such person includes Lunsford, founder of the North Carolina Thumbpickers Convention. Although the first time Lunsford saw Lamberth he was just a boy in the crowd at an auction in North Iredell where the fingerpicker was playing. It wasn’t until a decade or two ago, after Lamberth’s usual playing days, that the two teamed up to create the Guitar Express, which showcased both of their musical talents.
“We worked well together when we played, we blended in, so to speak,” Lunsford said. A good musician when you’re playing with someone else, when it’s their turn to take the lead so to speak, then the other fades away.
“You could put it this way: It’s not how many licks you hit, it’s where you put them. You know, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit them all, they have to be in the right place and the right guy. And Jason was a master at that. We had great chemistry. When it came to that, you two put your licks on and pulled away.
Jason’s Music House
With those days on the road to gigs over for Lamberth, his days of playing and being involved in the music scene were far from over.
After the Bunch Music store was sold to another company, Lamberth decided it was time to branch out by opening Jason’s House of Music before eventually moving the store to Broad Street.
On Broad Street, he opened Jason’s Music World, filled with the instruments he loved, as well as some of the music. His reputation from his playing days may have drawn people in, but his friendly approach has kept people coming back. It was also the understanding that making the sound perfect for the client was as important as Lamberth’s own expertise.
“Jason is a great guitarist, both technically and stylistically, but like his good friend Doc Watson, he doesn’t play for other musicians, he plays for the audience and the style he wants to hear,” Jim Tarman, one of many Statesville guitarists who have stopped by the store over the years, said. “He was very good at his job there and he’s also a great guitar maker…I would bring him a guitar that I thought was a great guitar, and he would show me the five things that were wrong with it, but he would fix them too.
The store opened in 1963 and closed in 2008, with many local and even national musicians stopping by to talk or play guitar with Lamberth. One of those better known names was Atkins.
“You could tell people he stopped, but they wouldn’t believe me,” Lamberth said.
Lamberth is quick to point out that he’s never performed on stage with Atkins, but he’s had a chance to perform with him away from the spotlight, including in the store.
But whether you’re famous, the understanding that the relationship between buyer and seller shouldn’t end once the customer walks through the door has kept people coming back.
“Grab it, set it up, get everything perfect, then show it off. It accompanied the instruments, it was like that,” Lamberth said. “When it comes out, you want it to be as perfect as possible. Making people happy is just good business.
“Take care of the person who leaves you the money.”
This attitude left an impression on customers like Ed McClelland who bought him a guitar decades ago.
“He is humble. He will do anything for you, anything that can be done,” McClelland said. “He’ll do it for you, whether it’s guitars or tractors, it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s the same type of personality who is humble and just ready to help you.
don’t stop the music
Although he sold the store years ago, he still works his own schedule out of his garage in Statesville. Besides getting the best guitar sound, he said that about 20 years ago he also started making custom guitar stands. He still keeps a few guitars around, although he doesn’t play as much as he used to. The records are also ready to play, a few with the names of people he has called friends at one time or another.
In one way or another, alongside his church and family life, he remains involved in the world of music. And one of the reasons he stays involved is the friendships and camaraderie he’s formed with others over the years.
“Some of the best people on the planet, our musicians that I’ve met,” Lamberth said. Whether it’s a phone call or a card in the mail, the distances of miles and years are close and it reminds him of those friendships. “They are like a family.”
He just considered himself blessed.
“I feel like one of the most blessed people on the planet because I was able to earn a decent living for my family, doing what I truly loved. I never dreaded to go to work, and I still don’t. I have a ball. I’ve been able to do what I love and meet a lot of great musicians over the years.
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