Tom Bingham – The guitar man!
GUITAR maker Tom Bingham’s weird and wacky instruments have helped him gain a loyal following.
So far he’s made guitars in the shape of the Millennium Falcon, Capital Sensible LP cover and the Busker model which comes complete with a bottle opener, 12- inch cigar, amp to name but a few of the components. He’s currently with others setting up Corby Independent Creatives, a group which promotes events in Corby and involved with The Alternative Edge, an organisation highlighting local talent. The 65-year-old grandfather-of-one is also behind the launch of a countywide poetry competition and currently in negotiations with BSKYB to make a film about his beloved instruments for its 35MM programme. He talks to LEI CHANabout his guitars, influences and promoting the arts scene in Corby.
How did you fall into the ‘creative music’ business?
I retired as a printer and had a go at making a cigar box guitar about 10 years ago, but it was awful and I ended up binning it and starting again. I visited Cigar Box Nation (a community of musicians who build and play instruments) in the USA who taught me a lot about how it was done. But after 10 Cigar Box Guitars I ended up being pretty good at building them.
So how many guitars have you made so far?
Around 30, most of them are on YouTube or www.guitar-list.com. I find parts on eBay and in car boot sales – I love rummaging through other people’s stuff. Star Wars has been quite a big influence, but I have also made shapes in the form of a wine box, cricket bat, book, vinyl record, Millennium Falcon and even an oil can guitar.
Is it important to get the detail right?
I can spend from three weeks to a couple of months making one. I take my time and don’t get stressed. They have to look right and play well – that’s important. I do have the odd failure when I take things too far.
Tell me your most difficult instrument?
The most difficult was the Busker guitar. It has within its body: a flute, clock, ninevolt amp so it can be played anywhere, a bottle opener, 12-inch cigar, a guitar tuner, a zippo lighter and other things too. I just donated it to our local Corby busker Chris Browne (Hat Man Can) on Facebook. He’s out in all weathers trying to earn a few bob. Busking is a hard life, security always moving you on.
What are the rewards?
I love when it’s finished and you plug in into the amp, you are never sure of what you are gonna get,
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from shapes I think I can get electrics into and a neck on. I’m currently pondering on making a guitar in the shape of a 16mm cine camera.
I get a lot of encouragement from the people at Alternative Edge (an organisation promoting new artists) up in the Rooftop Gallery in Corby Town Centre.
Which designs are you most proud of?
It’s not the Star Wars collection which draws the most attention. It has to be my vinyl record guitar. It plays nice, a little neck heavy but sounds sweet.
Do you get offers from people to buy your quirky guitars?
I get offers all the time, but I do not sell them. I make them and give them away to people I know. Last year I was offered $1,600 for my Millennium Falcon I do this as an art form as well as creativity as it brings great feedback.It brings in publicity and helps raise the profile for Corby Independent Creatives and Alternative Edge.
Have you been asked by someone to design a guitar?
No, but I recently made a guitar for local design artist Katy Lindsay (about to have a baby) in return for her doing me one of her astonishing drawings. I have bartered two or three guitars for oil paintings. I’ve also given musical artists my guitars to play in local bands through
Alternative Edge. Any family?
I am married, 43 years to Linda, and have a son Leon, 41, who’s married to Nicole, and a three-year-old granddaughter called Lula. I called one of my Star Wars guitars after her – “Lulacaster 3.”
Have you always lived in Northamptonshire?
I have lived in Corby most of my life, I love this town. The people are so kind and down to earth, their generosity is legendary.
What does your family think of your hobby?
My family don’t say much about my guitars, they just keep telling me to ‘Keep taking the pills dad!’.
Do you have any guitar heroes?
My guitar hero is a local guy called Mark Gill. He plays local gigs with a beauty called Adelle Kirk, the most under-rated player I ever met. He will make a break through one day. And of course I’m a big fan of folk musician Bert Jansch of Pentangle and have collected everything he ever did on vinyl.
Anyone famous in the music industry played your guitars?
Paul Balmer who has just been writing a book with Brian May of Queen called ‘How to build an electric guitar’ in the Haynes Manual series. He is a very fine guitarist and was instrumental in the 60s in the Liverpool scene around the Beatles etc and the Tavern.
If you weren’t in the guitar-making business what would you be doing?
Collecting vinyl 33/3rd as I do anyway and getting more involved in the local arts scene which is absolutely buzzing in
Corby at the moment thanks to the Rooftop Gallery and people like Phillip Anthony, philanthropic administrator for Corby Independent Creatives.