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Cole Clark guitars - Original, disruptive, inspiring, uniquely Australian.
It’s hard to believe Cole Clark is only a couple of years away from celebrating its 20th anniversary. Most guitarists still consider it to be the ‘new kid on the block’ as far as guitar brands go.
Give it a few more years and there might be a movie in it - Many of you out there wouldn’t believe the stories of triumph, heartbreak, endurance and much more that make the history Cole Clark so remarkable.
My own history with Cole Clark has also had some interesting twists and turns both as a guitarist and as a young man trying to forge a career in the music retail industry. It’s safe to say it hasn’t always been a smooth relationship, which is why it’s all the more satisfying to now say I’ve fallen back in love with this remarkable company and am proud to have Cole Clark guitars hanging up in my shop.
So let’s talk about Cole Clark, and why Guitar Station Melbourne is the best place to buy one.
I’ve never really bothered writing blogs, which might come as a surprise to those of you out there who know once upon a time I was writing for a living as a newspaper journalist.
Today I’ve got a compelling reason to make an exception because I want to open up and share my passion for Cole Clark guitars with you.
A big part of what we do here at Guitar Station is making sure we can stand by what we sell - We only sell products we believe in and for the most part, products we have real-world first-hand experience with.
My history selling Cole Clark
In a funny way Cole Clark has played a role in Guitar Station ever coming about in the first place - The story of building an all-new guitar brand against massive odds was something I always found inspiring and the opportunity to sell Cole Clarks from day one when I started working at Sky Music way back in 2008 was a big part of my professional development.
In fact, Cole Clark founder Bradley Clark was one of the first ‘big wigs’ from a brand or wholesale company to take time and teach me how the world of business really worked. His encouragement and nuggets of advice along the way meant a lot to me, and his eternal patience whenever I had a crazy idea for a custom build etc is something I now look back on and feel grateful for.
If you’ve ever been to my old stomping ground Sky Music then you surely know its a giant shop with an impressive guitar department but long before I built it up to be Australia’s biggest guitar store, it was primarily a piano shop with no real guitar department to speak of.
When I started there we didn’t have much of a budget to work with and none of the major brands wanted to deal with us - NONE.
Around that same time Cole Clark was attracting an impressive roster of artists who were touring with their innovative guitars. The selling points were compelling - Australian timbers, traditional Spanish-heel construction borrowed from classical guitar designs, and an innovative pickup system that incorporated a sensor on the face of the guitar. Cole Clark was making waves, disrupting the conventional guitar hierarchy that had existed in Australia for decades.
I was very fortunate that Brad and the Cole Clark team was happy to work with us and within a few short years we established ourselves as one of the biggest Cole Clark dealers in the world. Other brands took notice of our success with Cole Clark, and we finally saw doors opening for us that wouldn’t have otherwise.
Just as we started welcoming several big guitar brands to Sky Music circa 2010, things went a bit foggy with Cole Clark. Brad’s abrupt departure from the company coincided with some challenging times and a new (and short-lived) management team started tinkering with guitar designs as well as with business relationships, both with lacklustre results.
By 2012 Cole Clark was barely treading water and in need of fresh leadership ideas when music retail industry legend and original Cole Clark investor Miles Jackson decided to step in and take the reins - A move that has ultimately proven to be one of the most positive and important developments in the history of Cole Clark guitars.
As an ambitious young manager of the fastest growing store in the country, I was keen to develop a relationship with Miles. He was a key player in developing the Billy Hyde empire - Australia’s most successful network of music stores, I knew he’d have a lot of wisdom worth tapping into.
So you’d think the stage was set for me to set the world alight with Cole Clark guitars at that point, right?
Nope…Not at all.
The thing is, I was in charge of a big guitar shop the was growing at a furious pace. I needed more stock, consistent stock, no roadblocks. Time was of the essence to keep to upward trend going.
For Cole Clark, it was important for the company to strip things down and go back to basics if Miles was going to have any chance to get the company back on track. Supply was becoming an issue and I began relying less and less on Cole Clark for Sky Music’s overall revenue.
Then in 2013 disaster struck as a major fire ripped through the Cole Clark factory - So there was simply none of them to order. It took over a year before production and supply was back to normal.
By the time Cole Clarks were available again, my guitar department had basically moved on. We did eventually dabble here and there with a few guitars if for no other reason than for the sake of nostalgia but it was never quite the same for us because Sky Music had morphed into something different where things like Gibson and PRS guitars had become the priority.
My history playing Cole Clark
I played my first acoustic pub gigs at 16 - I can’t even remember the brand of the first shitty thing I was performing with back then. I thought it sounded good but really, I’m now certain it must have sounded pretty bad. The Fender I started using a year later couldn’t have sounded much better.
By the time I finally bought my first decent acoustic guitar - A trusty Maton EM225C - I was gigging regularly. I was thrashing the guitar 3-4 hours a night in an uptempo acoustic show that was all about getting the girls to dance. I was pretty good at it and made reasonable money now that I had a halfway decent plugged-in sound with the Maton.
300+ gigs later I had to retire my first Maton coz it was stuffed. So I bought another Maton - the EM325C - And like the previous one, I played heaps of gigs and was very happy with it.
In fact, over the journey I’ve owned and gigged with a number of Maton guitars - All the way up to an exceptional Custom Shop dreadnought built by Andy Allen. I’ve also owned numerous other acoustics from CF Martin & Co, Gibson, Takamine. I’ve liked them all, I wouldn’t have bought them in the first place if I didn’t like them!
When I first heard of Cole Clark I was a little confused about the short history of them and what they were about. It seems Brad Clark’s and Adam Cole’s time building guitars at Maton somehow managed to make the guitar buying public think there was some sort of automatic similarity to Maton guitars which couldn’t be further from the truth.
But when I finally got a chance to play a few left handed models the first time I visited the factory, I was immediately hooked.
I bought one - A two-series Fat Lady cutaway model with Spruce top, Rosewood back/sides, Maple neck and Ebony fingerboard, and took it out for a few gigs. It spoke to me in a way that I’d not experienced with an acoustic guitar before. I felt like the instrument was an extension of me, the pickup perfectly translating what I was expressing with my live performance.
I needed another one! I asked Brad to build me another two-series Fat Lady, this time with no cutaway - Bunya top, Blackwood back/sides, Rosewood fingerboard and a Blackwood neck. I was in love with it from the first time I performed with it - Undeniably it had the best plugged-in tone I’d ever heard from an acoustic guitar.
The years ticked by and my sales career took off, so no more gigs. When I started saving to buy my first home I sold off a bunch of my guitars which included the Cole Clark guitars I so loved.
A few years later (2015-16) I was hoping to recapture the magic and buy myself a Cole Clark to replace the ones I’d sold but every one I picked up and strummed just wasn’t doing it for me. I was convinced Cole Clarks had moved in a direction that I didn’t like and I thought I was never going to play them again.
Well I was wrong!
2019 rolled around and a friend reached out asking if I was up for dusting off the cobwebs and performing live again. I was excited to take up the challenge and set out to buy an acoustic guitar to gig with.
In the interest of full disclosure, it was nothing more than happy accident that I ended up with a Cole Clark in my return to the stage. I had reached out to Maton (who I also have a long professional history with) about getting a guitar but when they never followed-up on the initial conversation I decided time was running out and needed to get hold of a guitar ASAP.
I called a good friend of mine, Richard Berkman at Big Music in Sydney. I knew he had a few left-handed acoustics on hand that he’d happily cut me a silly deal on, and he compelled me to take a punt on an all-Backwood FL2EC.
Now Blackwood is definitely an unconventional timber for the top of an acoustic guitar because it’s quite rigid, limiting the amount of acoustic volume the guitar will produce. But seriously, this guitar has a lovely tone, and plugged in it f#*%ing kicks ass - First gig back after so many years, it was a reassuring confidence booster knowing the sound of my guitar was so damn good.
Now we sell Cole Clark at Guitar Station
I was so enamoured with my new Cole Clark I decided to hit Miles up for a factory tour because I wanted to see first-hand what they were up to out there at Bayswater…I wanted to know why my new guitar was so bloody good.
A factory tour and several hours of conversation later, there was only one thing left to do - I had to have Cole Clark guitars in my shop.
Guitar Station is two years in, growing steadily, I didn’t need a new guitar brand but whenever anyone asks for my advice about what the best acoustic guitar is to gig with there’s only one answer I can give them - Cole Clark - It makes perfect sense that we’d have a selection of them in the shop so I can help customers find the right guitar for the job.
We’re all passionate guitarists at Guitar Station, with extensive live performance and studio experience with a wide variety of gear. When it comes to acoustic guitars we’re all on the same page when it comes to Cole Clark - There’s simply nothing better out there for the performing musician, Cole Clark is where its at.
Cole Clark guitars are simply the world's best choice for a performing acoustic guitar. Incredible playing action, comfortable neck and of course - The world's finest pickup system.