The Times - Music Book of the Year


A Story of Love, Obsession and The American Acoustic Guitar

is a must read for anyone with a passion for the acoustic guitar. Anyone curious to understand how a once little regarded, and at times little respected instrument completely reshaped 20th century music.

Foreword by George Gruhn

Original Illustrations by Drew Christie

About The Author

Fretboard Journal Podcast 305

The Podcast is here

The Journey

The frustrating and often hilarious story of the building and wait for the bespoke guitar inspired a journey through time and across America, the home of the modern steel string acoustic guitar.

During a two month road trip from New York to rural Pennsylvania, through the Carolinas, Tennessee, Mississippi and ending in New Orleans, guitar players, guitar dealers and a mystic guitar guru recount their perspective on the development of the guitar. In search of the ghost of Robert Johnson we encounter Dame Meghan and the Mayor of Clarksdale but everyone we meet, from the multi-millionaire lawyer who’d spent 5 years in federal prison to his guitar playing cousin, help explain how so much of the music culture we have today came from the poorest sections of the black and white communities of America. Picking up the story of the modern acoustic in San Francisco we meet Dylan’s flatmate from 1963, ‘Lucky’ the Nigerian Highlife guitarist and former ‘Byrd’ and enigmatic mainstay of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, David Crosby - playing the guitar he played at Woodstock in 1969. By the end of the journey, and just a few miles shy of the Mexican border, we finally understand how so much of the music we love today was inspired and facilitated by the acoustic guitar.

Joining the dots

Talking Guitar

Author John Stubbings sat down with The North American Guitar's Ben Montague to preview 'The Devil Is In It'

A Must Read...

"...for anyone that builds guitars, is interested in playing or collecting handmade instruments”

Jason Kostal - Luthier

Historical and Hysterical

"Historically fascinating and 'laugh out loud' funny"

Ben Montague - The North American Guitar

A culmination of years of experience and careful research

"A wealth of well researched historical context and well-informed opinions"

George Gruhn - Gruhn Guitars, Nashville

Touchingly Personal

A compelling, absorbing read from start to finish, impressively researched, touchingly personal, and cleverly constructed.  

LUKE GERWE - Managing Editor, Voice of Witness

A terrific achievement

Wide-ranging and informed. Affectionate, funny and beautifully written.

Mark Ellen - Magazine Editor, Journalist & Broadcaster

Luthier Jason Kostal on The Devil Is In It

"I received a copy early to read and enjoy and all I can say is this is a must read book for anyone interested in playing, collecting or making handmade instruments, or who just appreciates the lost art of making something by hand. This book takes the reader on a journey that talks about the history of the handmade guitar through the eyes and adventures of someone that participated in its story.

Yours truly even has a small part in the book as John talks about our introduction and eventual commission of a guitar that he received last year!

This book is truly a display quality book that will be worth reading over and over again!

Jason Kostal, luthier