Hidden in a hole in the wall in downtown Hawkins is the Action Sound music store. The gray brick storefront is easy to miss; but once you open the door, the space opens up to reveal a musician’s nirvana.
Rows of guitars, guitar parts, basses, drums, amps, and music accessories litter the walls to the point that the entire music store is one long, narrow aisle. You might have to walk through a few shipments of unpackaged gear, but once you get to the back, you’ll likely see long-haired owner Kelly Barber in her workspace straightening the handle of the customer’s guitar.
On a recent Thursday, Barber was found installing a new Bedell acoustic guitar for young Charli Parker – her very first guitar. Barber is no stranger to young musicianship.
“It’s the building where I got my first job,” Barber said. “I worked there when it was a grocery store. I wanted a drum set and I was 13. My father told me: ‘If you want a drum set, go find a job’. So I went to work. »
Now, over 50 years later, fate has brought Barber back to 157 Beaulah St.
“I was always a drummer, but I could pick up a guitar and say when it felt good or not,” Barber said. “So, I started buying used guitars and fixing them, doing fretting work, changing the electronics, straightening the necks, getting them to play well. People just came and wanted to buy them.
After working 25 years in the oil field, Barber decided to change careers to his passion for repairing guitars when he felt the oil industry was becoming unstable.
“I was a square peg in a round hole in the oilfield, and that was fine with me. Every time I tried to stop doing that, people would call me on the phone and beg me not to. I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and at this place about 11 years. I just have a talent for mechanics. I have a mechanical mind, and guitars are a bit mechanical to me, especially when they came out with the Floyd Roses in the 80s.”
Although he established his roots in the unassuming town of Hawkins, Barber has worked with world-class musicians.
“I’ve worked for people all over the world. A guy came through the door and he had a funny accent. I asked where he was from and he said “Australia”. I was funny and started singing “I come from the land down under” (from Men at Work). Then the guy said, “I was the drummer for that band. I asked him, ‘What the hell are you doing in my store?’ and he said someone told him about me.
Sitting up high on a shelf is an old bass guitar standing upright with a picture of Elvis Presley.
“It was the bass guitar of second Elvis bassist Chuck Wiginton,” Barber said. “Elvis bought this bass personally just for him. It’s not for sale. »
Barber then began dropping names.
“I worked for King’s X guitarist and bassist Ty Tabor and Doug Pinnick. Ovid Stevens of Seals and Crofts, England Dan and John Ford Coley,” Barber said. “I’ve done tons of work for Doyle Dykes. I sold stuff to Eric Johnson and Ian Moore – Will Sexton, Charlie Sexton. Charlie played with Bob Dylan, he is Bob Dylan’s musical director. When Stevie Ray Vaughn died, his rhythm section became Charlie’s rhythm section, and they started Arc Angels. They played with David Bowie. We have met so many people. The celebrities we’ve met, it’s just crazy. We met everyone.
Barber said that while he was part of the gruff music scene, he cleaned up his act a bit.
“I used to have a really rude mouth and people thought it was funny. I used to tell jokes and swear. Before, people would come to my store and they’d walk in and say, ‘Finally , a real music store! I heard it’s the only place you can go and get a good deal, get insulted and walk away happy.
Barber said that while he’s always tried to provide good customer service, he doesn’t know why his business has spread “like wildfire.”
“I mean, we’re not really…” Barber’s voice trailed off. “Well, I guess we’re different from the others.”