A few days ago, I was writing an assigned article for one of my magazines that was about Memphis' attractions. I always like writing about my home town. It's easy to do research!
The article concerned music, a natural for Memphis. It started at the Gibson Guitar Factory, proceeded to the Rock N Soul Museum, went down Beale Street, and stopped at a few of Memphis' other downtown attractions.
Just before I had completed the article, I was made aware of another guitar factory in Memphis. Great timing! The St Blues Guitar Workshop is behind the Sun Studio on Union Avenue near downtown. I checked out their website and found they had tours also. I emailed the owner, Jeff Cox, and discovered they did not have the same restrictions on visitors as Gibson did. Gibson says "no photography". St Blues - "take all the pictures you want". Gibson says "silence your cell phones, don't even take them out of your pocket or you'll be removed from the tour". No such restriction at St Blues. Jeff even introduces you to his workers in his workshop. Nice touch.
Granted the Gibson Guitar Factory is a much fancier and elaborate building. Much larger. More workers. Higher output - 60-65 instruments a day. St Blues -much less fancy. Much less output. But the fact is: Gibson Guitar Factory is a great place to visit and learn about guitar making. And so is St Blues.
I took both tours. I like them both. But St Blues is much more personal.
St Blues makes three types of guitar: the workshop series, the Juke Joint, and their specialty - the Cigar Box Guitar. Jeff says the Cigar Box has really taken off in Europe and that the Blues are really big there.