From the December 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
In 2004, the fingerstyle virtuoso Steve Baughman was visiting the Source Guitar Festival in Lewiston, Maine, when he encountered a steel-string that changed his life. “I needed to borrow a guitar, and John Slobod [the luthier behind Circa Guitars] offered me one of his instruments,” Baughman says. “It was the nicest small-bodied guitar that I had ever played. So I traded it for another guitar and have been a huge fan of John’s work ever since.”
The Circa Steve Baughman 7/8 Dreadnought shown here has been Baughman’s primary guitar for the past 13 years. This 14-fret cutaway model has a German spruce soundboard and Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Slobod usually builds in the Martin tradition, and the 7/8 Dreadnought—which, as the model number suggests, is slightly shorter and shallower than the typical dread—is a departure. The guitar takes inspiration from Bourgeois’ Martin Simpson model and is built to have an open-sounding modern voice, with a commanding low end, a dry midrange, and lots of projection and headroom.
Baughman’s guitar is embellished with a single curious inlay—a cannabis leaf, created by the luthier and inlay artist Harvey Leach, on its ebony fretboard. While recreational marijuana use is now legal in Baughman’s home state of California, that wasn’t the case at the time of the instrument’s construction, so the guitarist chose this motif to make a statement. “I have never been into smoking pot, but I’ve been outraged for decades about the war on drugs, especially people being thrown in jail for possession of pot. So I had a little political temper tantrum at the fifth fret,” he says.
The guitar bears ample evidence of use, especially in the vicinity of the soundhole, where clear putty has been placed on the soundboard to prevent it from getting worn through. “I obviously haven’t been precious with the guitar,” Baughman says. “Despite it being a very expensive instrument, I’ve taken it everywhere . . . camping, traveling in gig bags, etc.”
The 7/8 Dreadnought has become such an important part of Baughman’s musical life that he commissioned an identical model, with the same specs and tonewoods, but without the marijuana-leaf inlay. He keeps this guitar, which unlike its twin has remained in pristine condition, under his bed. “I don’t take it anywhere,” he says. “I only got it so that in case something ever happened to this one, I would be able to keep playing a familiar instrument.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.