Guitars Galore

J.B. Kline & Son Extended Holiday Hours: Dec. 20-23, 10AM to 7PM, and Dec. 24, 10AM to 5PM

And I see faces and traces of people who knew this town.
~ From “A Summer Night (In Old Lambertville)” by J.B. Kline

Proud Historic Roots

J.B. Kline & Son has been a family affair since 1875, when the storefront sold tobacco and handmade cigars. Over the years, office items, art supplies, tools and paper goods were added to its inventory. When musician J.B. Kline (Jacob Barndt “J.B.” stage name but given name is Geoff) returned to his native Lambertville in the 1990s to raise his daughters and help his father run the family business, he sensed the industry was going south with the advent of the superstores. So, he pivoted the business to its present musical pursuits:  instruments, repairs, lessons and more.

J.B. Knows Guitars

He’s played with the likes of blues' legends B.B. King and Bo Diddley, among others. The store carries legacy brands such as Fender and Gibson, ranging from starter-level Stratocasters ($150-$300) to a collector’s choice, original 1960 Stratocaster, priced around $25,000. Acoustic Seagull, Godin and Guild guitars are favored, and he had three Republic steel guitars in store in October. They also sell violins, mandolins, Gold Tone banjos and niche instruments, such as accordions and a didgeridoo.

Finest Repairs, Recordings

Instruments are repaired on location by Joe Hosey and Elaine Kline, J.B.’s daughter. Elaine displays a blue Stratocaster that she had buffed clean of smoke damage. It had been all black with soot, and still smelled like a campfire. The smoke had changed the color slightly, too. “How do you get that effect?” a customer asked. “You don’t wanna' know…” J.B. gave guitar lessons for years, but has cut back. There’s also a recording studio in the basement, Riverdog Recording, where J.B. produced his last three albums.

Some Musicians Are On A Mission From Higher Powers

J.B.'s mission was delivered by a King. In his twenties, J.B. was in Atlanta, playing with a “hair” band. He was more earth-oriented: blues, rock, soul. So he ditched the group and sought advice from B.B. King, sneaking backstage to meet the blues legend who he’d last seen at Lambertville’s fabled mid-century Music Circus.

B.B. made two decrees: “Play music like you’re singing, and they’ll come out more natural. And when you get back to the New York area, move right into the city. You'll get a lot of gigs and a lot of experience.”

J.B. did, and went on to tour America and England with his own bands, and with many heroes, including B.B. Observing their twilight years was illuminating, he says. “The music business, it’s not out to give you anything."

Returning home to help with the family business, he had another realization: He didn’t need any place apart from Lambertville to receive musical communion. “Now I’ve got the best of everything; the business is music, I got it going on all the time. And, I’m always playing,” with weekly and monthly gigs here and in New Hope. 

More than that, he has one gig that brings it all home. “I come here at seven o'clock in the morning, I go out on the front step with a cup of tea. And I sit there, and I practice for a couple hours.”

Those who pause to listen may yet receive the good word themselves. 


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