Bundy brings his unique instruments to The Lariat

Challenged by his world-renowned musician son, Al Bundy built a guitar for $10 from a large wooden salad bowl. Al made it to prove to his son, Trace Bundy, that guitars can be inexpensive and still have a great sound.

Al said after playing the “Bowltar” for five minutes, Trace played it on stage in front of 200 people. This encouraged Al to make more unique and inexpensive guitars at his home in Buena Vista.

“I wanted to make instruments like they do in the Appalachian Mountains. I wanted to make crude instruments that sounded good.”

Among his homemade instruments is a 5-string banjo made from a snapping turtle shell, a guitar made from a canoe paddle (“Oartar”) and one made from a heart-shaped sewing kit box. He also built an Alpine harp from wood he found at high altitude. He said the wood had grown into a “D” shape.

Al’s favorite is one he built from a found piece of driftwood near Clear Creek Reservoir.

“I didn’t have to sand it because the water had polished it smooth. It must’ve been in there for years.”

When Al split the piece of wood, he decided to use the other half as a cover for the 6-string guitar. When the cover is on, “Sticktar” looks like a long piece of wood.

After making a few guitars, Al’s friend Lynn Noel invited him to bring them to the next open mic.

“I showed (Noel) my instruments and he thought they were cool.” So Noel surprised the regulars at the open night the following week with Al’s instruments. When the musicians showed up, Noel told them to leave their instruments in their box. “We’re playing Al Bundy’s tonight.”

And that is how The Real Al Bundy Night began. The Sixth Annual Al Bundy Night is at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23, at The Lariat in Buena Vista. The free show will feature about 16 musicians, including a few members of Leadville Cherokee. The musicians will jam on Al’s instruments – but not Al.

“That’s the weird part about it, no one can understand. I’ve never played in front of anybody. I just don’t have the talent – or the time to learn. It’s kinda remarkable that I can build an instrument that sounds so good without knowing much about them.”

Al said his guitars get a workout when his friends stop by, plus once a year during the annual Real Al Bundy Night and whenever Trace visits.  

His most recent guitar is made from a 75-year-old silverware box lined with blue velvet.

The silverware box required six new tuners and so it cost $60, making it the most expensive one in his fleet.

“I make one a year. I like to have a new one to bring to the show. My son says every one I make gets better and better. He encourages me. I’ll probably never sell them, he wouldn’t like that.”