Master luthier celebrates release of 1,000th instrument
Steve Grimes’ clients include Paul Simon
Acclaimed luthier Steve Grimes is about to hold a major celebration, “The One Grand Party,” at the King Kamehameha Golf Club’s Waikapu Ballroom on Feb. 29.
Celebrating the release of his 1,000th instrument, he will perform along with some of Maui’s finest and some guest musicians from Oahu and the Mainland.
“I had no idea it would be such a grand event,” says Grimes. “It’s a milestone I will never hit again.”
The party will feature a display of some of his instruments, including the first one, a mandolin completed in 1973, and his first arch-top guitar. “It’s kind of like an art opening,” he continues. “I decided to get some instruments together to have an exhibition as well, and I’ve invited former clients who own my guitars to bring them to Maui.”
As a master instrument maker, Grimes has worked with many famous musicians, often creating unique designs for them. That impressive list includes Willie Nelson, George Benson (who would travel weekly to Grimes’ Kula studio when he lived in Kaanapali), Steve Miller (he has 11 and bought eight in one day), Pat Simmons (it’s his favorite acoustic guitar), Jackson Browne, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Leo Kottke, Keola Beamer and Jake Shimabukuro. And most recently, he just made two guitars for Paul Simon.
Grimes met Simon through a mutual friend, yoga teacher Danny Paradise, who first taught yoga on Maui in 1979, and has celebrity clients including Sting and Madonna.
“Danny Paradise has been teaching yoga to Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, and he told Paul about me,” he explains. “When he needed some guitar work done he called me in April last year. He brought it up and we ended talking for about four hours about guitars and music. It was incredible.
“I asked him if he’d ever played one of my guitars and he said, ‘Yes, I’ve played four of them, they all belong to Keola Beamer, I liked them.’ He said, ‘Just make me a great guitar.’ So I ended up building four guitars to his specs, and he came up in December and liked the Brazilian rosewood ones and picked both of them. He said, ‘The family loves the guitars.’ “
While Sting doesn’t own a Grimes guitar they got to chat. “I met Sting through Danny, and I’m backstage (on Maui) and Sting played my guitar. He’s a great guitar player, people don’t know, they just think of him as a bass player.”
His custom ukulele clients include virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. “I have a sense of what customers like, what feels comfortable to them,” he says. “Jake Shima-
bukuro called me and said he wanted to order one of my ukuleles. He said, ‘I’ve played four or five of them and I just love the neck.’ What mattered the most to Jake was the neck (of the ukulele). So I made him one.”
Hawaiian music legend Keola Beamer has been a fan of his guitars for years. “He’s had such an influence on my career,” he notes. “He walked into my shop in 1987, and he had a double hole guitar. I had only seen one before. It needed some repair and I felt I could build a better one. So I built one that had a bigger sound and I asked him if I could call it the Beamer model. I’ve made four for him and he helped promote it. I’d say three out of five orders for that style of guitar were referrals from Keola over a long period of time.”
Dedicating his life to crafting one of the world’s most respected lines of guitars, ukuleles and mandolins, he has also pursued a passion for creating music, releasing a number of excellent albums including “Mojo Gumbo,” “The Ocean Road” and “Labor of Love.”
Notable friends contributing on “Labor of Love” included acclaimed jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, Rick Vito of Mick Fleetwood’s Blues Band, Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, Norton Buffalo and Hutch Hutchinson from Bonnie Raitt’s band.
Musically on the album he journeyed from Little Feat style boogie to a breezy Jimmy Buffett feel with some jazz detours. While on “Mojo Gumbo” he served up a tasty stew lightly flavored with dashes of R&B, blues, Latin and New Orleans funk.
He’s currently compiling his next recording project. “I’m about to finalize a new CD of original material,” he says.
As far as music at the party, “after a few acoustic originals by “2ality” (Steve Stusser and Grimes), we’ll have John Cruz,” he says. “The Jimmie Dillon Band will follow, and then the Blues Rock and Soul Review featuring Ron Metoyer. And Brent Mason from Nashville will join the Ono Grimes Band.”
Guitar World Magazine has lauded Grammy-winning Mason as one of the “Top Ten Session Guitarists of All Time.”
“He’s like the reigning king of guitar in Nashville,” says Grimes. “He’s going to play on three of my original songs.”
The array of musicians on board also includes Gene Argel, Brian Cuomo, Rock Hendricks, Roscoe Wright, Mike Buono and Danny M.
The Waikapu event will be shot by the Inflatable Film company for a proposed documentary on Grimes Guitars, which will be shopped to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. “They came to my studio and are putting a 7-minute trailer together, and they’re hoping to interview some notable players who have my instruments. They’ve raised money for the trailer, then they will try to get financing for a feature length film. I hope it works out.”
* Steve Grimes hosts “The One Grand Party” at the King Kamehameha Golf Club’s Waikapu Ballroom on Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. The show is sold out. On Friday the Ono Grimes Band with Dave Fraser, Tim Hackbarth, Jim Cullen and Kerry Sofaly will perform at Mulligans on the Blue at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.
The Maui Pops Orchestra continues their 2020 season on Sunday joined by Hawaiian legend Keola Beamer and Kumu Hula Moanalani Beamer.
The 50-plus member orchestra, along with the Beamers, will perform traditional and contemporary Hawaiian songs, along with some surprising orchestra-only interjections.
One of Hawaii’s most revered singer/songwriters, Keola established himself early as a leader of contemporary Hawaiian music with “Honolulu City Lights,” one of the all-time best-selling recordings in Hawaiian music history. In 2018 the Beamer ohana was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.
* The Maui Pops Orchestra presents their Winter Pops concert on Sunday at 3 p.m. in MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $22, $35, $50, $60 (plus applicable fees), and half-price for students 18 and under with an ID except for the $22 seats. Tickets available at the MACC box office, by phone at 242-SHOW, and online at mauiarts.org.
The talented duo of Tempa and Naor are heading back to Maui from the Mainland for a couple of shows, bringing their “Living Room” tour to the Maui Coffee Attic on Friday at 7 p.m.
“We are so excited to be coming back to Maui Coffee Attic,” they say. “We will be recording this show live.” Guests include Kevin Garland, Earl South, David Fraser, Stevan Holt and Michael Elam. Desirae Garcia will open the show at 6. Tickets are $15.
Creating music together for around 10 years, their album “Ember’s Fire” was one of the most impressive recordings produced on Maui in a long time.
On Tuesday, Tempa and Naor will reteam with the Soul Kitchen band — all 11 members — for a special Mardi Gras 2020 show of zydeco soul at Mulligans on the Blue starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at www.soulkitchenmaui.com for $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.
Legendary musician John Prine has had to cancel his show at MACC on March 27 due to an injury in Europe. He was honored with the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement award in January. Bonnie Raitt performed an acoustic version of Prine’s classic “Angel From Montgomery” in homage at the ceremony.