EVANS PULL STRING B-Benders
BY DAVE EVANS
HISTORY OF THE EVANS PULL STRING
In 1969 I was working as a recording engineer at Continental Sound in Hollywood. During this time, Joe Wilson started work there also as an engineer. As well as being an engineer, Joe was a great guitarist and had worked with the Classics IV. One day he told me of a guitar that stretched the B string by means of a mechanism that attached to the shoulder strap. Now this is where my memory fails me. I think he built something on the back of his Telecaster or it may be that I helped him build something. I do know that whatever the case it was on the outside of the guitar and I did build him a very crude cover to enclose it. He then asked me to build one for his Les Paul. I made an improved version of the mechanism on his Tele and also recessed it completely into the body of the guitar. This, to my knowledge, was the first Les Paul Pull String and the first recessed mechanism. This lever style mechanism was a very simple (and a bit crude) but it worked.
Guitarists coming to the studio to do sessions would see Joe’s guitar. One thing led to another and I was asked to build one. Then another. And another.
I think about this time I met Bob Warford and he showed me the guitar that he and his Dad had built. I liked some of the ideas that they had come up with, so I decided to redesign my lever style and utilize a bell crank mechanism, which made for a much smoother action. Someone suggested that I should set up shop and build them. Good idea I thought! I then found out that Clarence White and Gene Parsons had a patent on it. A very secure patent. So I shelved that idea.
Shortly after that I met Clarence. I showed him my bell crank style prototype. He played it and really liked it. He said that Leo Fender had been trying to develop a “bender” for about a year and a half, with Clarence and Gene’s permission under their patient. But that Clarence had not been happy with it. Clarence and Gene said that if I wanted to make them they would grant me permission. I said I would, I was granted permission, and Leo was told that he no longer had the rights to build a “bender”. Thus began the Pull String guitar adventure.
I continued building Pull Strings out of my garage in my spare time.
Billy Ray Lathum comes into the story about here. Billy Ray was playing with the Dillards at the time. He got the 3rd guitar with the new mechanism. Sadly it got stolen. Billy Ray was one of my best salesmen! He hooked me up with Albert Lee (at the time with Heads, Hands, and Feet), and later, Davey Johnstone (with Elton John).
I placed an ad in Guitar Player magazine. I got quite a few responses to the ad and made up some brochures and mailed them out. It was during this time that I built the Pull String for Bernie Leadon then with the Eagles. I remember I worked through the night to get it finished. Bernie arrived the next morning, took the guitar and went off to make a significant part of Pull String history with hits like "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Take It Easy", and "Tequila Sunrise".
I think about here I met Fred Walecki of Westwood Music. He took an interest in the guitar bodies and put them on display in the store. He also gave me a job in his repair shop. This is when I met one of the most gifted individuals to ever come in into my life, John Carruthers. John was working for Fred doing repairs. He took me under his wing and taught me about how much I didn’t know about building guitars! The man was and still is amazing. Up until this time I had just been building bodies with Pull Strings already installed, and putting in the customers necks (from their guitars, that is) and bits from Tele’s and Strat’s into the bodies. I also installed the Pull String mechanism in customers’ guitars. But at John’s suggestion, and with his help, I was able to build about 3 or 4 complete guitars. John had a little work shop in Santa Monica where he would go after working at Westwood and do his own thing. It was there that we did a lot of the work on these “complete” guitars. They also included pickups that John wound himself on a machine of his own making. During that time John and I collaborated on the building of a 5 string electric bass for Emory Gordy. The bass was stolen while Emory was on tour with Emmylou.
About this time Clarence came over to my house for a visit. He wanted to see the progress on a special guitar body I was building for him. Being a recording engineer, I had tape machines. I suggested to Clarence that maybe he could put down a couple of licks on tape that I could use for promotion purposes. He pondered it for a moment, plugged in my prototype Pull String and did a couple of licks. Then a wry smile appeared on his face and he proceeded to put down one of the most amazing licks I had ever heard. He turned to me, now with a full grin on his face and said, “Let ‘em figure that one out”! Wish I had that tape today! Sadly, shortly after that, Clarence was killed. This had a big impact on me emotionally as to whether or not I wanted to continue with the building of more guitars. Added to the fact that I was financially in dire straits. I was looking to take up engineering again. Then Gene Parsons came to me and said that he was going to start building his string pullers, and asked me not to build anymore Pull Strings and I happily complied……with one exception. I had one last “complete” guitar that was 90% finished. I held on to it for a couple of years, then finally finished it and sold it to Tom Curtis. And that was the last of the original Evans Pull Strings.