By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Brett Stewart has played guitar for 30 years. He hadn’t considered exploring the way they work until the pandemic hit and his events company was put on hold.
The Anthem resident who runs Adventure Fitness has since built guitars for charities and celebrities.
“I stumbled upon a guitar that was really, really cheap,” he says. “It needed a lot of work and I only had $50 invested in it, so why not rip it apart. I started cutting it up and replacing ‘this’ and swapping ‘that.’ The funny part was I knew enough about guitars to make them look good, sound good and play good.”
Recently, he created a Michigan-themed guitar for police officer Sean Reavie, who lives in 85085.
“I try to give a little piece of that person and their background,” he says, “I put a lot of Michigan into it. Ironically, my first three guitars were all about Michigan.”
Reavie’s guitar boasts a 1967 Michigan license plate, representing the year he was born. Stewart bought a seat from the now-partially demolished Pontiac Silverdome and used the No. 12 tab from it to celebrate the day Reavie was born.
A Detroit Red Wings promotional puck is under the pickups and inserted in the body of the guitar.
“When you flip the guitar over, you can see the bottom of it,” Reavie says. “It rests perfectly in the center of the Old English D, which is the most prominent part of the guitar. Then there’s a 50-year-old Detroit Pistons magnet. The personalization is one of a kind. There’s not a guitar like this anywhere in the world and it’s mine.”
Reavie calls Stewart a “master craftsman.”
“He adapts and overcomes,” he adds. “We collaborate on my 5Ks. He’s the organizer. He created the mud runs. I’ve learned earlier this year that with COVID, he had to cancel everything. He does these races around the country and lost all of his events.
“Being the forward-thinking creative man he is, he started building guitars. He’s a true talent. I love his attention to detail.”
The partnership between Reavie and Stewart is perfect. Reavie heads up Put on the Cape: A Foundation for Hope, which helps abused children.
Every other week, Stewart creates a guitar to auction for charity, including Put on the Cape. He’s also worked with Don’t Be a Chump! Check for a Lump! and Boulder Creek High School. The school’s guitar raised $750 for its graduation/prom that was scheduled for June 27.
“Every build that I’m doing is crazier than the one before it,” Stewart says with a laugh. “Right now, I’m chopping up Stratocasters in red, white and blue and putting them together. They start at $500.”
Comedian John Heffron is a good friend of Stewart. The one-time radio host doesn’t play guitar but was impressed by his friend’s handiwork.
“I have a 1970 motorcycle license plate on it for the year he was born,” Stewart says. “I did some other interesting things. He went to Eastern Michigan University, and I sprayed a really subtle logo on to it that says ‘E93,’ the year he graduated from EMU.
“I try to throw in little pieces of the person we’re building it for. Sean saw what I did with it and really wanted the Pure Michigan guitar. It’s all Detroit all the time.”
Unlike Heffron, Reavie plays the guitar, specifically in the blues genre. In the 1970s, his mom brought home an album that featured this “insane, layered sound with booming guitars.”
“It lifted me out of my seat,” he says. “It was ‘Born to Run’ (by Bruce Springsteen). We were used to disco, ABBA and the Carpenters. Then you hear ‘Born to Run.’
“My neighbor played guitar, and I wanted to learn how to play guitar and the three basic chords. Then the first undeniable truth about music hit me—this is really hard. I tossed the guitar in my closet until the ’80s came and I heard ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC. Angus Young had that sinister, snarling guitar.”
His father insisted Reavie turn off AC/DC. The youngster’s response?
“I imagine grandpa said to turn off Elvis,” he recalls. “My dad said, ‘You just validated you’re my kid,’ and turned it back on. He’s my role model and hero. He couldn’t argue with that.”
In college, he learned he couldn’t read music and couldn’t concentrate. In 2006, his life changed dramatically. The bottom fell out of the Michigan economy. Reavie lost his business, he moved back in with his parents and decided to later move to Phoenix.
“Thirteen years later, I still have that Les Paul,” he says. “This year, I was seriously injured in the line of duty. I was off work for three months. I took lessons from a YouTube instructor. It’s so nice to play, especially now with COVID and everything that’s happening. With my profession, there’s a lot of angst and stress. That goes away with the guitar when I plug it in.”
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