A Handcrafted Guitar for Dolly Parton

In Leroy, West Virginia is a guitarmaker by the name of Jim Sutherland.  Jim’s daughter, Carrie Stutler and her husband Ken, assist Jim as well as make their own guitars, mandolins and dulcimers.  They do it mainly as a hobby and for fun, but their quality is at a professional level.  Each instrument is very well built and each has a unique sound based on the wood type used.  Jim gets most of his supplies from Woodcraft in Parkersburg, which makes this story very special.  It is not every day we have the honor of presenting you with a story that involves a country music legend such as Dolly Parton, and we are grateful to the Sutherland-Stutler family.

It is very cool to know that this guitar for Dolly has a connection with Woodcraft and we appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it all.  I would also like to state that during my phone interview with Jim and his family, they kindly invited us to their home where we met some of their musically talented friends.  Pictured right is David Davis with Darin Lawrence.  Darin is director of Woodcraft’s product development team and is a long time musician.  He accompanied me on this trip, in what I hoped would be a jam session!  We were not disappointed!  Darin has actually accompanied many professional musicians including Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House and traveling circuits in the past.  Having Darin along for this blog story was fun and entertaining to say the least, and I thank him for taking the time.  In the photo above, Darin checks out another guitar made by Jim.  Jim’s home was filled with handcrafted instruments, ready for the playing!

Carrie’s sister, Cheryl Riddle works for Dolly Parton as her personal assistant.  The sisters put their heads together and came up with an idea for Jim to make a guitar for Dolly’s birthday.  Little did he realize he was the one to get a surprise visit to meet and present the guitar personally to his  favorite all-time country singer.  The family dragged Jim to Nashville under the pretense that he was just delivering the guitar to Cheryl!  You can imagine his surprise when Dolly came walking out to greet them!

Some of the wood Jim uses in his guitar builds are harvested right from his land.  Other wood and most woodworking supplies Jim, Carrie and Ken get from being patrons of Woodcraft in Parkersburg.  Dolly’s guitar has a maple front, spruce top, padauk sides and back with maple butterfly inlays at each fret position on the bloodwood fret board.  Below are the different build stages through completion.

Jim, family and friends join in on the successful completion of Dolly’s guitar gift.

Jim presented the guitar to Dolly in Nashville at her studio and Dolly surprised Jim with a cake and a song, celebrating both of their birthday’s together.

Jim amused, “Dolly might write a song with the new guitar, and I might get a royalty check… for a buck!”  He also stated, “Dolly was very nice, down to earth, and just like one of us; we had a great time with her!  Dolly loved her new guitar, especially the butterfly inlays and was excited to know it was all hand built just for her.  She played us some tunes and sung happy birthday to me.”

Here are some additional guitar creations by Jim, Carrie and Ken.  Note Carrie’s detailed carvings on the fret board.

Mandolins by Jim:

Jim, Ken & Carrie also make countertops and cabinetry:

Special thanks to Jim and his family for their fine hospitality, treating us like family, and spending the day with us.

We hope this inspires you to be creative in your woodworking.  You never know who you might get the opportunity to share your woodworking with!

So get to your local Woodcraft store or go on-line, then head to your shop and make a difference!  If you are a newbie, start with a woodworking classand have some fun!

auf Wiedersehen…Frank!

Back to blog