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208 Redial: Boise guitar maker works with some legends of rock 'n roll

In January of 1984, legendary rock 'n roll band ZZ Top made a stop at the BSU Pavilion, and John Bolin's custom guitar struck a cord with the band's lead guitarist.

BOISE, Idaho — On Wednesday, 72-year-old Dusty Hill, the bassist for ZZ Top, passed away in his home in Houston.

In January of 1984, the legendary rock 'n roll band made a stop at the BSU Pavilion, now known as ExtraMile Arena, in Boise during their Eliminator Tour. As the story goes, Boise guitar maker John Bolin snuck backstage and introduced himself to Billy Gibbons, the band's lead guitarist. Bolin said he was told by Gibbons that he had ten minutes to show him what he had, which he presented a candy apple-red guitar and matching bass that he made in his shop.

The try-out turned into a 20-minute jam session for Gibbons, which then turned into a business deal with Bolin within the following 24 hours. That business deal, Bolin said, was more like family than a business.

The 208 reached out to Bolin on Wednesday, but he said he was too broken up to appear on camera. However, The 208 dug into the KTVB archives and found a story on Bolin that was first reported by Alyson Outen in 2003.

"I just have a real love for guitars and started thinking well, somebody has to make these things," Bolin said at the time.

Nearly 20 years ago, Bolin said he had spent the previous 25 years designing and building guitars in his Boise studio. His career took off in the 1980s when he first met Gibbons.

Soon, word spread fast through the music industry and Bolin was soon making guitars for Aerosmith, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Dixie Chicks and Steve Miller. Some of his custom guitars sold for more than $10,000.

Bolins reached for the stars when he made a guitar for Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones.

"I've had this idea to build Keith Richards a guitar for about 5 years now, I've had some parts kind of stashed away and finally I got in the mood to do it," he said.

During the worldwide Live Licks Tour, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood switched to Bolin guitars during the group's signature song.

"It just worked. The colors and the inlay, we did a lot of gold and silver, we did this wild violet pink color for it," said Bolin. "The Rolling Stones really gave me my satisfaction and I know that sounds kind of cliché, but it did."

Editor's Note: Watch the video above for the full report from 2003.

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