A Look into the Life of Local Legend Andy Beech
Maybe you’ve seen him at The Shakedown or The Wild Buffalo, bobbing his head along to the music under a moody shower of stage lights and neon fluorescents. Maybe he was even on stage with one of his bands, nonchalantly shredding a guitar.
For luthier Andy Beech, 54, it’s just another day in the life. Since 1980, the Maple Falls native has crafted and sold a myriad of handmade instruments through his business, D’Haitre’ Guitars, which he now operates out of Bellingham.
“All I’ve done my whole life is play and build. The secret to that success is that I’m a pretty good player,” Beech says. “If you don’t know how to play [an instrument], you don’t know what’s wrong with it.”
Beech is a master of his craft whose quality craftsmanship has received ample recognition. As detailed on his shop’s site, his work has taken him on a whirlwind of star-studded adventures, such as serving as a guitar technician for Zakk Wylde, former lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, and creating more than 32 custom guitars for the late pop star, Prince.
“I’ll tell you what. Regardless, it’s a ton of work. I don’t care who you know,” Beech says. “You still have to work your ass off so this isn’t as easy as people think.”
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Against the backdrop of lush forested lands, Beech was raised in charming Maple Falls. For as long as he could remember, he recalls always having an affinity toward rock music. From The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, Beech says the artists he listened to ignited his interest in guitar-making.
With the help of his dad, Beech began piecing together his first guitar at the age of 13. Although the pair lacked the tools and experience, Beech says his father always had a way of simplifying challenges. “At the end of the day, there was no obstacle that was too big to overcome. [My dad] had that mentality.”
From the bridge to the whammy bar, Beech says his first guitar was all handmade. When asked what compelled him to do that, the Washingtonian let out a hearty laugh.
“Everybody gives me shit about this… but I thought Eddie [Van Halen] made his first guitar,” Beech says. “I literally thought he was in his dad’s shop doing what I’m doing ‘cause I’m stupid.”
In time, he found that his motivation changed. Although he enjoyed the crafting process, his favorite part was plugging the guitars in, wanting to see what the instruments were capable of.
He went on to spend most of his high school and college years with one thing on his mind: guitars. Whether he was at home or at a job, Beech was doing one of two things: playing the guitar or thinking about how they are made. “That’s all I did, constantly, like 24/7. Nothing else mattered to me.”
CREATING LEGENDS FOR LEGENDS
In the mid-to-late ‘80s, Beech and his girlfriend at the time were living in Seattle. At a certain point, the couple realized they wanted something different, so they took a chance and moved to Los Angeles, the city of stars.
The budding luthier began working at a guitar repair shop conveniently located near A&M Records, where his girlfriend worked. While there, Beech says his girlfriend met someone who turned out to be Wylde’s then-girlfriend. “They became friends, then one day Zakk [Wylde] comes into the shop where I was working, and the rest is history.”
Beech and Wylde struck up a friendship that quickly blossomed into a working relationship. Serving as Wylde’s guitar technician, Beech spent five years living the exhilarating life of a roadie, which included going on Ozzy’s worldwide tour for the album “No More Tears.”
When Ozzy’s tour went on break, the base technician at the time was hired to work for Prince. By word of mouth, Beech was told the late musician needed a number of instruments built. One thing led to another until one day Beech was commissioned to build The Cloud, one of Prince’s most iconic guitars.
From there, Beech was asked to make an additional 26 renditions of The Cloud, each one as impressive as the last. Although he never personally met Prince, Beech’s talent and finesse were clear signs of his artistry, landing him the job of creating The Symbol—the legendary guitar Prince used during his 2007 Super Bowl Halftime Show.
“I mean, coming from Maple Falls and dropping myself in LA and doing that, well, it’s sort of like a dream come true,” Beech says.
SHAPING WHAT COMES NEXT
These days, the acclaimed craftsman likes to spend his time out of the limelight. Though he tends to keep busy, Beech loves making music in his home studio and jamming out with friends.
For the past few years, he’s alternated between carpentry work and D’Haitre’ Guitars commissions. Despite his vast experience with woodworking, Beech says he’s always trying to do better. “Play-ability and functionality are my main thing… If it doesn’t play then it’s not worth it. Why even bother? I make sure it plays good and it kills first.”
Sometimes, Beech reflects back on his youth and how things have changed. When he first started making guitars, he remembers there weren’t any nearby shops in Bellingham where someone could go and buy parts, much less order a custom instrument.
But that was the end of an era.
Recently, he met with a first-time customer who had a very specific vision in mind. With every request thrown his way, the master luthier easily assured the client that the job would get done. “I love the challenge of it,” he says. “I love to see something come from that block of wood… I love doing the stuff that just can’t be done.”
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