Partially because I have a similar relationship with my dad, and the bond that ties parents to their children is truly like no other.
If you spend a little bit of time learning the backstory of Billy Strings, it is extraordinary. From growing up in a trailer park in poverty to making it on the stages he plays today, he remains humble even in the limelight.
The other day I stumbled upon a touching interview from 2018 when Strings opened up about his Dad’s Martin D-93 guitar.
Dad refers to his stepdad, Terry Barber, who is not only a role model in his life, but also the man that taught Strings about music and shares the same love of bluegrass.
“My dad’s guitar… you know that’s how I learned was sitting on the other side of that thing.”
Strings say as he opens up the story.
Quickly diving deep and being vulnerable, Strings reveals that to pay to keep the electricity on and the hot water running during his childhood, his father had to make the tough decision to part with his beloved Martin D-93.
“He decided he was going to sell the Martin.
The one thing in my house that had not only money value but had so much sentimental and family value.
He decided he had to sell it to provide for us.”
Strings recalled begging his dad not to sell the guitar, but in the end, his father decided it was best for the family.
As time went on, Strings veered away from bluegrass music, playing with a metal band and not even owning an acoustic guitar, to returning to his roots at 17.
When he started listening to a lot of Doc Watson again, he decided to get an acoustic guitar. After looking on eBay and other guitar forums, the unthinkable happens.
“I was just looking at used guitars, and I came across one… it says ‘D-93,’ and I was like “You don’t see those very much.”
So I clicked on it… and it’s my dad’s guitar.
It’s got his wear down by the pickguard. It’s got the little cracks in the fretboard binding that I remembered. It’s got his case… the original case.
And this is like six or seven years later, you know. The guitar’s been gone forever.”
Strings then tells the interviewer that he went back and forth, BEGGING the seller to sell him the guitar. As a teenager trying to buy a very nice guitar, he had no money to pay for it upfront.
“I was just typing him, I mean pages, crying kind of like, ‘I can’t believe this is my dad’s guitar.'”
After some convincing, he got the seller to agree to take a payment plan for the guitar to get it back to his dad.
“I drove over to my dad’s house, and I brought it inside, and I set it on the table.
He could hardly open the case; he was almost crippled by it. He finally opened it, just saw the guitar, and kind of sat there and started crying.
Then he pulled it out and played “John Deere Tractor.”
The guitar carried significant weight to the family, carrying meaning long before Strings even; reminding his father of his mother.
“My dad put so much love into that guitar… one day when he is dead and gone, I’ll be able to pick up that guitar and talk to him.”
Years later, Strings and his dad cut a studio version of “John Deere Tractor” for their duet album Me / And / Dad.
The full circle moment nearly brings me to tears, it is just so heartwarming.
Another tender moment is the video where Strings gifted his dad the first of the thirty-three Billy Strings Signature Model Guitars made by Preston Thompson Guitars.
His dad is in shock and breaks down into tears at how beautiful the guitar is.
No bond compares to a child and parent that share the same love for music, and that bond is so apparent between Strings and his Dad.
If you haven’t heard it yet, give their version of “John Deere Tractor” a listen too.