Riversong Guitars of Kamloops is a big winner in the 30th annual Musical Merchandise Review’s Dealers’ Choice Awards this past weekend, taking top spot in Best Acoustic Guitar of the Year category with its Riversong P2P River Pacific.
“It’s really exciting being nominated with industry giants like Martin, Taylor, Yamaha,” Riversong Guitars owner Mike Miltimore said. “This is a really prestigious award. It’s something that doesn’t happen all the time.”
Riversong was up against many global heavyweights in the musical instrument business, including Fender and Gibson.
Riversong was a finalist in:
• Product of the Year (Riversong P2P River Pacific);
• Acoustic Guitar of the Year (Riversong P2P River Pacific);
• Ukulele of the Year (Riversong Pacific);
• Electric Guitar of the Year (Riversong T2).
Musical Merchandise Review was established in 1879 and is the world’s oldest and most-read musical industry magazine.
Unlike awards determined by a panel of experts or an editorial the recipients of the Musical Merchandise Review’s Dealers’ Choice Awards were chosen by musical industry dealers who determined what gear has been superior — in terms of sales and profits — this year.
The award will add to Riversong’s growing street cred in the music world.
Riversong guitars have been showing up across the world, in the hands of artists like Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Trace Adkins and Eric Church.
Most recently, Nashville singer-songwriter Priscilla Block has been playing a Riversong guitar.
Having recently been included among artists on the New York Times’ best albums of 2022 list, Block exploded during the pandemic via social media platform TikTok, and is now a touring musician.
“She’s one of my favourites,” Miltimore said. “She’s a real true artist.”
Miltimore grew up in the music business with his father, Lee, listening to, playing and fixing guitars.
As a pre-teen, Miltimore said he would take apart guitars from the store’s growing collection, removing gears and bridge pieces as he fixed customer’s guitars, which they brought in for repair.
“I think that’s were I really got the love or the bite for development of weirdo ideas,” he said.
The insight he gained over the years led Miltimore to question whether there was a way to build a better instrument.
In 2006, the musical fantasy film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny was playing in a local theatre — a flick about comedy rock duo members Jack Black and Kyle Gass.
Miltimore collected his staff, paid for their tickets and together they watched the burgeoning cult classic movie for two consecutive nights.
“We were just absolutely blown away by this movie — Jack Black and Kyle Gass and how inventive it was. It was all about guitars and finding ‘the pick’ that all guitar legends have,” Miltimore recounted.
He recalls a scene in the movie that featured a massive collection of custom guitars. It was a pivotal moment for the soon-to-be entrepreneur from Kamloops
While leaving the theatre, Miltimore declared, “We have to build a guitar.”
And that was what they started to do at Lee’s Music.
“We spent three grand on shop equipment — the cheapest stuff we could find — and that was the start of us building guitars,” Miltimore said.
In 2015, Miltimore had the opportunity to build a guitar for Tenacious D’s Gass, bringing the dream to reality journey full circle.
The result of their hard work was Riversong Guitars, which Miltimore began manufacturing in 2012, featuring the patented neck-thru design, which increases resonance by decreasing bulky bracing.
Almost all the wood used in the guitars is sourced from B.C.
Woods used in the construction of Riversong Guitars include Sitka spruce, big leaf maple, walnut, Chillakwian maple and wild cherry.
While custom models continue to be manufactured locally in the Kamloops’ headquarters, Miltimore said they have learned to increase production of Riversong products.
“We were a bit of a victim of our own success in those early days, trying to ramp up,” he said.
With multiple lines of guitars, Miltimore said Riversong has found ways to “leverage other manufacturers’ excess manufacturing capacity and allow us to really have products that are made for budget-minded folks to ones that are hybrids, using parts from this factory and this factory, to full-on custom shop and one-off instruments, which is what we are doing here.”
Asked how many guitars are being produced lately, Miltimore replied, “Not enough.”
For more information on Riversong Guitars, go online to riversongguitars.com.