Dick Boak from C.F. Martin & Co. regaled an intimate crowd at NCC’s Fab Lab Coffee House on Thursday evening, May 18, with stories of his fascinating career, songs performed on his beloved autoharp, and jam sessions with musicians from the audience including local luminary Dave Fry. One of the most amazing careers anyone could ever imagine began as a wandering artist and erstwhile dumpster diver and resulted in a lifetime of collaborations and close personal friendships with many of the most iconic musicians in the world.
Boak showed photos of his early experimentation with illustrative pen and ink artwork, beautifully intricate wooden bowls and boxes, and creative guitar designs. His stories of life in the counterculture world of the 1960s and early 1970s resonated with the mostly Baby Boomer audience, many of whom experienced their own rekindled memories of that fabled time.
Dick described how his career trajectory changed forever when he returned to the Lehigh Valley in the early 1970s and discovered the dumpster at the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth. The first time he visited he loaded his car with scrap pieces of exotic woods to use in his own woodworking projects. Then he went back for more. After about 500 visits to Martin’s dumpster, Dick was on a first name basis with people at the company. He showed some of his projects to one of the people on the dock and one thing led to another until eventually C. F. Martin III, himself, offered Dick a job.
Forty years later, Dick is still with the company, having held an amazing variety of jobs working his way to what has to be any Boomer’s dream job—head of artist relations. Dick’s stories of collaborating with more than 150 musicians like Eric Clapton, Steve Miller, Jimmy Buffet, Willie Nelson, Gene Autry and Johnny Cash were poignant and always entertaining. Everyone in the audience had to feel a little special realizing that by simply knowing Dick Boak they were all just one degree of separation from many of their musical heroes.
But it was Dick’s autoharp and guitar playing and his singing that made the evening special. He performed his own songs on autoharp as well as a beautifully haunting cover of the Rolling Stones song “Blue Turns to Grey”. He played several songs on various acoustic guitars accompanied by friends from the audience including Dave Fry and Rameen Shayegan, who showed their own musical chops in some wonderfully unrehearsed sessions.
When anyone talks about people who “live life large” they are talking about people like Dick Boak. NCC’s Fab Lab is honored to have been able to bring Dick to the Southside.
Southside Bethlehem is widely recognized for its outstanding music venues like Godfrey Daniels, the Steel Stacks campus, Zoellner, and the Sands Event Center. Dick Boak helped to add the Fab Lab Coffee House to the list. The next show is in July. Check out NCC’s Fab Lab calendar for upcoming workshops, classes, and Coffee House performances.