CITES treaty and taking old guitars to the EU

A friend of mine is in a band and is going to tour Europe soon. But I read an article in the Fall 2008 issue of Fretboard Journal (no link to the article available, sorry) about the CITES treaty and people’s old guitars being seized because of a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. He has two old National guitars, a steel body and a wood body resonator and a reproduction 1929 Gibson. Obviously I can find out the specific models and dates of each guitar.

Any experts here on this topic, or how to get an Export Permit from the US Fish and Wildlife service, if any of his guitars contains forbidden woods and if not, what proof we need to avoid the risk of him losing his guitars?

Moved to Cafe Society from GQ at request of OP.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

I don’t have my references handy, but the impression I get is that things can get hairy at the border, especially returning to the US, even if you have all the export AND import permits and that many guitarists simply decide it’s not worth the risk of confiscation and thus do not take vintage instruments out of the country on tour.

You might have better luck discussing this on the Acoustic Guitar Forum, especially after reading this thread, as they seem to discuss this issue fairly regularly.

Thanks for that link. I found a discussion forum about National guitars and created a thread there, hoping to find if the particular guitars he owns are safe or troublesome. I’ve been writing back and forth with my friend, but it’s difficult as he’s on tour and playing every night. These guitars are players, not museum pieces, but he loves them and gets amazing results from them.

Anyone here from the US Fish and Wildlife Service?

First, the easy question: How do you get a permit? The application for an export permit is here: http://forms.fws.gov/3-200-32.pdf. It even has a section for Brazilian rosewood guitars, believe it or not. Note that you also need an import permit from the country to which you’re taking it. I’m not sure if there is a general EU permit, but I doubt it. That will be a real pain in the ass.

The harder question is what to do about overzealous customs officials who might think the guitar contains prohibited materials if it does not. I’m pretty sure there is no set procedure for proving in advance that your item is not contraband. Neither the FWS nor the USDA issues certificates for plant derivative materials like guitars (like they do for some plants, etc.). What I would do is call FWS and ask them what to do.

If the guitar contains no CITES prohibited woods and was made pre-CITES, the easiest thing to do would be to provide the serial number and date for the guitar. That would prove that even if it had the wood, it would be exempt. That might probably get your friend out of any sticky situations with customs. You might also have your friend get a notarized and sworn affidavit from a guitar expert on the dating and wood.

I am sorry - I don’t have experience with this issue. What a pain - it is so smart to research this thoroughly.

I’d love to hear and see the guitars! They sound cool. What kind of '29 Gibson replica is it? One of those early Robert Johnson guitars?

The band is “The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band”. Here’s a clip of the Rev playing his song “Plainfield Blues” at a school, teaching a group of kids about the blues. In it, he’s playing the reproduction Gibson. He literally bought it off the wall of a restaurant! The headstock says “The Gibson”.

Here’s a clip of the Rev playing his song “My Soul to Keep” on the wooden bodied National resonator at the House of Blues in Chicago. And a clip of "Two Bottles of Wine"a song he co-wrote with Jason Webley played on the rusty National steel resonator.

They’re going to be playing all over the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and other countries. This should be an amazing experience for them, but it could be ruined by one over-zealous Customs official.

Deleted - read the form.

ETA: deleted, read your edit. :slight_smile:

Hmm - I can’t get the links to work. YouTube says the videos are no longer available…

Nope, I double-checked and all are working. YouTube seems to produce false negetives on occasion. It seems to be related to all the nonsense they put into their system to lock out specific producer’s content. But these are clips I shot myself with the permission of the musicians.

The YouTube links worked for me, and like gaffa I’ve found YouTube a bit flaky from time to time, especially of late.

I’d never heard of them. REALLY, REALLY cool. Hope it all works out and they don’t confiscate his guitars.

My wife found them linked on someone’s page on MySpace a few years ago, checked them out and found that they were going to play Chicago’s Empty Bottle the next week. We went, and there were maybe a dozen people in the audience - including the headlining group. Even so, they put on a kick-ass show. Since then, they’ve become friends of ours, played all over the world, toured with groups like Flogging Molly and Clutch and gotten signed. They’ve played in Switzerland and Italy, but this is their first extensive European tour.

Glad you dig them. As soon as possible, I’m going to shoot a more professional video with the Rev teaching these guitar techniques.

**gaffa **- got your PM and tried YouTube again - it worked. Quirky inter-tubes, I guess.

Wow - great player! I am SO jealous - at the beginning of the Plainfield Blues vid he shows his picking style. I am currently focused on that hybrid approach myself, but he can use a thumbpick and his fingers; I can’t use a thumbpick so I have to hold the pick between thumb and index like a normal flatpick. My thumb gets sweaty and the thumbpick twists and I can’t “dig in” - I know…“ew” but such are the practical realities of getting your sound…

His rave up jam around half-way through the Plainfield vid is flat-out smokin!! I love that guitar - I don’t think the pickguard is the style of the original, but that guitar looks like a replica of a 20’s Gibson L-00 or something - just a great guitar (I have played a few and own a later vintage Gibson acoustic - the model that came after the L-00).

I had heard of these guys, but not seen them - just great stuff.

Really cool - thanks for sharing.

Is Brazilian rosewood so distinctive that it can be readily identified by sight? I have never see it in real life but have seen a zillion non-Brazil rosewood fretboards and there is so much variety that I’m wondering how obvious Brazilian would be.

I don’t think I’d risk it. I’d be afraid it would be confiscated pending investigation and then “mysteriously” disappear.

Cool. I don’t know why YouTube is acting so flaky these days, but it has become insanely popular.

See them in concert. They tour constantly. Rev, his wife Breezy and this brother Jayme generally hang out after their shows and are nice, approachable folks. I’ve seen him spend hours talking guitar technique with other players - he’s not one of the types who jealously guards the secrets of his “tone”. It’s ridiculously simple anyway - guitar, 3-way switchbox, amp.

No problem.