Listen to Made by Hand

Ed Stilley pulled his truck into the parking lot and walked toward me, a vision from the past. Ed’s clothing, gait, language and demeanor all identified him as Arkansas hill folk, and his penetrating gaze telegraphed a powerful connection to his faith. From the cab of his truck he produced a handmade guitar, rough-hewn in every regard. With a spark-plug socket for a slide and a “Roosevelt dime” for a pick, he played a sleepy, creepy tune that crawled up my spine and gave me a shiver I won’t forget. This guitar’s tone, in Ed’s hands, was not conventionally musical or pretty, but excruciatingly beautiful in its prehistoric way. I asked Ed if he had made the guitar himself. Listen to the song to get the rest of this story.

Learn more about Ed Stilley here. (Thanks to Still on the Hill for their tireless curation of Ed’s legacy.)

Winfield cred: It was a showcase selection for Walnut Valley Festival’s NewSong Showcase, 2006


Made by Hand

© 1988 Bryan Masters

A                    D        A
Ed Stilley takes a piece of pine
        A                    E     A
and a knife and a saw and a shiny dime
   A                           D      A
works it in his hands til a guitar sings
   A                 E        A
shiny dime slappin' on the strings

       F  G   A
It's made by hand
       F  G   A
It's made by hand
         F             G            F      A
and his heart and his mind and his loving eyes
      F   G   A
it's made by hand

Such an instrument you never did see
scripture verse John 3:16
burned in the top with a steady hand
promise of the promised land

They say old Ed went around the bend
his poor mind won't be back again
says Ed with a smile cool as the breeze
"Could a crazy man build one of these?"

About a hundred guitars, he's given them all
one at a time to the children's hall
where they find their way into lonely hands
ed builds another one quick as he can

Bryan Masters Music/ASCAP