Guitar Man

LCBO Picton store manager Stewart Bailey. September 2013

Guitar Man

Guitars strike a chord with LCBO Picton manager.

(SEPTEMBER 2013)—Not only can Stewart Bailey, the store manager at the LCBO in Picton, play guitar, he can repair, restore and even build them.

Stewart’s knowledge of his part-time craft is evident as he describes the process of gently restoring a 1949 Gibson Archtop valued at $12,000 without harming its sound quality. “I cleaned it up without altering its tone or paint,” he says. “Just as you wouldn’t repaint an antique Jaguar, you restore an old guitar as best you can by polishing it with a specialized product that doesn’t compromise its tone. Guitar bodies like to breathe and, if you use an item like floor polish, you alter its tone right away.”

Stewart’s repair expertise is acclaimed among LCBO music aficionados who have entrusted him with repairing and rewiring their guitars.

“An LCBO events coordinator owns a Hofner Beatle Bass – the right hand version and the same year as the guitar played by Paul McCartney,” he recalls. “It was previously owned by his father and it hadn’t been taken out of the case too often.

“I cleaned it up, polished it and after finagling with the switches, discovered the input jack was not fitting properly. I moved it about one-eighth of an inch and the sound improved dramatically.”

Stewart began his LCBO career in 1983 as a customer service representative at the LCBO store at Bathurst and Wilson streets in Toronto. He subsequently held a variety of roles, including product consultant and acting store manager. He was also a 19-year member of the VQA tasting panel. In 2010, Stewart became manager of the LCBO store at Fairview Mall in Toronto until assuming his current in October 2011.

He began playing guitar at age 13 but admits he didn’t take it seriously until age 40. However, as a university student, he played on television movie soundtracks where he was exposed to his first Stratocaster which instantly propelled his playing ability.

As a Toronto rock band roadie and musician, he occasionally played bass but favoured the six-string rhythm guitar. “I was predominantly a spontaneous fill-in player,” says Stewart. “I liked funk and blues but now I’m working on jazz.”

Unable to find a coveted Fender Telecaster guitar, Stewart made his own, constructing the first of five guitars. Working with his father, Dick, a former LCBO manager with a background in cabinetmaking, the pair crafted the guitar body from exotic woods Dick had stashed away.

These days, Stewart enjoys participating in an informal jam session in a Picton barbershop each Friday lunch hour, as his work schedule permits. The event draws an eclectic crowd of talented musicians, haircut customers and spectators who cram inside the old limestone building.

A core group of the jam session musicians, including Stewart, plans to hold a benefit concert for the at Picton’s Regent Theatre later this winter. Proceeds will benefit the Humane Society.

“I rescue Jack Russell terriers, so it’s a cause that resonates with me,” he says.

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