From a small recording studio built above a garage at Roger and Tracy Calhoun’s residence in Maiden to the upper floor of 128 East Main Street in Lincolnton in December 2017, Sound Factory Studios and Guitar Wishes have grown by leaps and bounds. The business now occupies two floors of the building on East Main Street with Guitar Wishes, a retail store selling guitars, amps, strings and other accessories, and with the recording studio on the upper floor. In addition, four radio stations, 107.5, 102.5, 99.3 and 92.3, broadcast out of studios housed on the upper floor.
Almost 600 guitars line the walls of the retail space, with the intention to eventually get to 800. To date, almost 4,000 guitars have been sold. Recording artists, both local and nationally known, have recorded in the upstairs studios or just stopped by for a visit.
Guitar Wishes is currently up for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Innovation Award, an award that highlights a retail member’s commitment to re-imagine the retail experience and focus on the consumer.
“They look at stores that are doing business in a way no one has done it before,” Roger Calhoun said. “What we’ve done is to start our own YouTube channel, ‘Guitar Wish of the Day.’ We’ve got over 100 shows on it now and it has about 25,000 views. Our goal is to have over 250,000 views by the end of the year. The channel has brought in a lot of customers from all over the world.”
These videos include demonstrations, reviews and interviews with popular music artists. The guitar shop’s location in downtown Lincolnton is always mentioned and several of the videos are filmed in settings in Lincolnton and some interview local business owners.
“It’s like watching Sesame Street, it’s really simple and basic,” Calhoun said. “You’ll learn something and not realize you’ve learned it. We’re the Captain Kangaroo of guitar shows.”
Then along came Uncle Steve, who livened the videos up. Steve Bailey, also known as Uncle Steve, is a bit like the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street.
Bailey worked with Calhoun at Auto Body Solutions for more than 20 years.
“He was spending more and more time over here and stepping away from the auto side a little bit and I wanted to come over with him,” he said. “I’m getting a little bit older and didn’t really like being outside anymore.”
Bailey wasn’t much of a guitar player when he first came over to Guitar Wishes.
“I wasn’t as experienced as everyone else but I wanted to be involved with the YouTube channel,” he said. “Uncle Steve is getting a little better. He’s learning more chords, rhythms and having a lot of fun with it.”
Admitting to always having been a goof ball and class clown, Bailey has fit right in as Uncle Steve, calling it a natural outlet. A lot of people that he went to school with or knew from his past have reconnected with him via the YouTube shows he’s taken part in. He’s even had people he doesn’t know come up to him and ask for Uncle Steve’s autograph.
Guitar Wishes is hosted by Lee Burnette, who does most of the interviews, and Hayden Casson who does demonstrations. Both are experienced musicians.
“The whole reason behind the YouTube channel, it was just dumb luck that it helped us sell so many guitars, was to build credibility,” Calhoun said. “I can tell people such and such has been here but when you’ve got them sitting in your store doing an interview with your host, Lee doing the interview with them, it’s kind of hard to doubt they’ve been here.”
The YouTube channel has done more than help sell guitars. Well-known producers John Landolfi and George Peroulas reached out to the Calhouns a week ago about the potential of doing a reality television along the lines of American Pickers meets Pawn Stars at Daryl's House. Negotiations are currently in process for this show, which will be shot in the retail shop and in downtown Lincolnton.