Toronto's Maple Leaf Forever tree on tour with Blue Rodeo, Tragically Hip

A pair of guitars has been crafted from the 170-year-old silver maple that stood on Laing St. in Toronto for 170 years, before it fell during a wind storm in 2013.
The acoustic guitar built from the Maple Leaf Forever tree is on tour with Colin Cripps, above, and Blue Rodeo while the electric guitar has hit the road with The Tragically Hip. (Jen Squires)

Part of the tree that is said to have inspired the song The Maple Leaf Forever, unofficially considered Canada's first national anthem, is now on a pair of rock and roll tours.

Two guitars have been crafted from the looming silver maple that stood on Laing St. in Toronto  for 170 years, before it fell during a wind storm in 2013.

The tree is said to have have inspired Alexander Muir to write The Maple Leaf Forever.

Dave Fox has now built an acoustic guitar from the wood of that tree. It's modeled after a classic 1944 Gibson J-45.

Tom Bartlett built an electric guitar from the wood.

The idea now is to pass the guitars on to different musicians each year, building their own story, and forever remaining in the public trust.

The acoustic guitar is on tour with Blue Rodeo while the electric guitar has hit the road with The Tragically Hip.

The tree had been cut into pieces and put in a kiln, drying for almost a year before they were carved into guitars.

The wood was being tendered for projects that would reflect the cultural history of the tree and its relation to Canada.
Canadian guitarist Colin Cripps is of Blue Rodeo is the man behind the idea of making two guitars from the wood and passing them on.

The self described "crazy guitar nut" came up with the idea in May, 2014, when seated with NDP MP Craig Scott during a  luncheon in Ottawa.

Scott is MP for Toronto-Danforth, where the tree stood.

"I wondered what they were going to do with this wood, Cripps said. "Somehow, I came to the point where I asked about Maple Leaf Forever Tree."

Scott said some of the wood would be used for a Supreme Court of Canada gavel and for cabinets on Parliament Hill.

"I said I'd love to build a guitar from it," Cripps said. "We could make it a custodial instrument."

The acoustic guitar was built in Peterborough. The electric guitar was crafted in Guelph.

Cripps saw and played the acoustic guitar first.

"I was extremely satisfied with the way it looked. I was confident it was going to sound good, at the very least. It exceeded my expectations," Cripps said of the acoustic guitar.

Most maple acoustic guitars are made with hard maple.  Silver maple is softer and not as attractive, Cripps said.

"It makes for a much better sounding maple guitar," Cripps said.

He said it has "a tasteful, Canadian sensibility about it."

Cripps calls it a rebirth of the tree.

"I just felt it was something that had to be done. It seemed so obvious to me that something had to be done," Cripps said. "In Canada's history, this is an important thing.

"These guitars will create stories of their own," Cripps said.

Cripps said the reaction to the acoustic guitar he's touring with is "patriotic."

"It makes people proud to be Canadian," Cripps said.

The acoustic guitar will make its Canadian debut June 5 at a show at the Sunderland Memorial Arena in Sunderland, Ont. A day later, Blue Rodeo plays a sold out show at The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor in Windsor, Ont.

The electric guitar is currently on tour with the Tragically Hip.

A committee will decide the next two guitarists to take the guitars on tour.


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