My Guitar: Fergus O'Byrne and his resilient 8-string

Fergus O'Byrne may be better known for playing a banjo, but he's no slouch on a guitar, either. He speaks with Leigh Anne Power about an instrument he has relied on for decades.
Fergus O'Byrne plays an eight-string Martin D-35 guitar that had a wooden block added to it to strengthen the neck. (Kathryn King/CBC)

A musician's love and attachment to an instrument can last for decades.

In the second part of our summer series about musicians and their guitars, Central Morning's Leigh Anne Power spoke with Fergus O'Byrne about turning his long-used, damaged guitar into a strong, unique instrument.

O'Byrne's modified 12-string Martin D-35 guitar became famous when he played it with the band Ryan's Fancy in the 1970s. The Dublin native is also known for playing banjo. 

Fergus O'Byrne, right, is seen with Dennis Ryan in a photo from the heyday of Ryan's Fancy in the 1970s. (CBC)
O'Byrne converted it from a 12-string guitar into an eight-string by removing the E,A, D and G strings.

This conversion allowed the guitar to be played finger-pick style like a conventional six-string while still retaining the orchestral sound of a 12-string when strummed.

But his guitar had its problems.

"In the early Eighties, I had some problems with it," says O'Byrne. "It broke several times when I was flying. I didn't loosen the strings and the neck broke off."

Ian Stewart fixed the guitar for O'Byrne, adding a wooden block to it in the process.

"What he did with the solid block of wood was scroll it and what it does is strengthen the neck of the guitar," said O'Byrne. "I've got a unique-looking guitar. It doesn't have the Martin logo on it, but it does have this wonderful scrollwork on the back."

Click on the audio file to the left to hear Leigh Anne Power's conversation with Fergus O'Byrne.