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Kevin Heffernan plays a 1930 National Dobro in the corner studio inside Center Stage Vintage Guitars, 998 S. 10th St. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Kevin Heffernan plays a 1930 National Dobro in the corner studio inside Center Stage Vintage Guitars, 998 S. 10th St. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Center Stage Vintage Guitars’ Kevin Heffernan repairs, sells and builds unique stringed instruments

 

Like every musician, Kevin Heffernan can still recall that moment when a song changed his life. For him it was Ten Years After’s “I’m Going Home” from Woodstock.

Kevin Heffernan scrapes the binding off a 1927 Martin guitar he is restoring at his shop.

Kevin Heffernan scrapes the binding off a 1927 Martin guitar he is restoring at his shop.

“That’s when I learned to play the guitar. Alvin Lee is unbelievable,” he said, adding he started playing the guitar at age 14. “I loved it and never stopped.”

Heffernan’s love of music started at an earlier age. When he was five years old, he enjoyed visiting his aunt and uncle’s home and playing their piano.

“My eyes were level with the keys,” he said. “I learned to play by ear and thought ‘there’s something to this.’”

Heffernan has played in bands that perform blues, rockabilly, bluegrass and even Texas Swing. He can play the guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass and lap steel.

“I get bored with one particular instrument. I’m not killing it on any of them but I can play them all,” he said.

Heffernan’s love of music led to a successful career of restoring and building custom guitars. Like Noblesville native Steve Wariner, Heffernan has roots that lead to Nashville – his just started with a chance meeting following a vacation in Florida. After touring Gruhns Guitar Store in Nashville, Heffernan asked where the best guitar players perform and then headed to Robert’s where he met Don Kelley, front man of one of the longest running bands in Music City.

“I walked in and was blown away,” he said.

Two months later Heffernan returned to Nashville with three custom built guitars.

Center Stage Vintage Guitars is at 998 S. 10th St. It is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sunday. For more information, visit centerstagevintage. com or klhcustomerelics.com. The store hosts an open jam session for the public and musicians every other Thursday night from 6 to 10 p.m. The next jam session is Sept. 19. “The door’s open to anybody around here,” owner Kevin Heffernan said. “There are so many good musicians around here.” (Submitted photo)

Center Stage Vintage Guitars is at 998 S. 10th St. It is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sunday. For more information, visit centerstagevintage.com or klhcustomerelics.com. The store hosts an open jam session for the public and musicians every other Thursday night from 6 to 10 p.m. The next jam session is Sept. 19. “The door’s open to anybody around here,” owner Kevin Heffernan said. “There are so many good musicians around here.” (Submitted photo)

“I went down and knocked on doors and made some really, really good friends,” he said. “If they like you down there they’ll do anything for you. If they don’t like you, they’ll slam the door in your face. They’re very humble – great, great people.”

Once he got connected to the music scene, his business started to climb. Heffernan has built instruments for guitar players with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band, Earl Scruggs, Steve Wariner, John Michael Montgomery, Carrie Underwood, Brenda Lee, Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Lyle Lovette, Dixie Chicks, Sarah Bareillis, Saturday Night Live band and A Prairie Home Companion.

“I don’t listen to country music at all,” Heffernan said, “which is good because you’re not star struck. If you don’t know who they are, it doesn’t matter who they are.”

When he’s not assisting Heffernan in the store, Seth Catron, 30, of Indianapolis plays with his custom built guitar in The Twin Cats with his twin brother and drummer, Adam.

“It’s always neat to hear the stories that go with the instruments,” Catron, who is engaged to Heffernan’s daughter, Shannon, said. “We’re taking people’s babies. They put a lot of trust into you.”

Catron said he enjoys seeing what comes into the store, what they work on and especially how it was made.

“Building techniques have changed a lot the last 100 years. It’s cool to see how they made an acoustic back then as opposed to how they make it now,” he said. “Every day is a learning experience. That’s what’s cool about guitars, they are all unique.”

Heffernan opened Center Stage Vintage Guitars, 998 S. 10th St., on June 8. He said business has been increasing since then, as he recently got connected with Klipsch Music Center to assist touring musicians when they come to town.

Whether he is working or playing, Kevin Heffernan’s dog, Sophie, is there by his side. Sophie often is the first to greet customers when they walk into Center Stage Vintage Guitars.

Whether is working or playing, Kevin Heffernan’s dog, Sophie, is there by his side. Sophie often is the first to greet customers when they walk into Center Stage Vintage Guitars.

“I wanted to stay in this community. I love Noblesville,” Heffernan, who has lived in Noblesville since 1987, said. “It could use something eclectic and artistic and different. It’s a guy store and there are hardly any guy’s stores anymore. I transferred my man cave here.”

Heffernan once received $1,000 and a 1964 Fender Telecaster for one of his builds.

“People trade me their babies for a custom built guitar,” he said.

Center Stage is a full service repair shop, where Heffernan also builds “new guitars that look old” and sells vintage instruments and amps. Along the store’s walls are guitars ranging in age (1927 Martin to 2008 Martin D28) and price ($100 to $7,000).

“Most are from the ’50s,”he said. “I’ll fix any string instrument except for pianos.”

 

Meet Kevin Heffernan

Age: 57

Birthplace: Indianapolis

Residence: Noblesville

Family: Wife, Kelly; and daughters, Chelsea and Shannon.

Hobbies: Fishing and woodcarving. “I’ve been woodcarving for 30 years. It keeps me out of trouble.”

First guitar: Kalamazoo six-string electric

First song learned: three-chord blues progression and “I drove my parents crazy.”

Favorite genre: Folk rock

Favorite musicians: The Grateful Dead, The Band and John Prine

Personal quote: “You’re only as good as the last job you did.”

Robert Herrington

Managing editor of Current in Noblesville. A 1999 graduate of Noblesville High School, Herrington has been covering Noblesville and Hamilton County as a journalist since 2004. The military brat lived all over the east coast before calling Noblesville home since 1994. He and his wife, Maggie, live in the community with their baby daughter (and youngest Boston Red Sox fan), Caroline. From school board to common council meetings, First Friday events and summer concerts in the city parks, Herrington loves to attend and cover all that Noblesville has to offer.

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1 Response

  1. Lois Taylor says:

    Nice write-up on my nephew. I am really proud of him, but I’m just too far away.. I live in Dade City, Fl. but we still get together for a little pick’in when I come home in the summer.

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