Georgia Case proves as tough as its products by Jim Hodgson
Like any animal of the jungle, musicians come in all shapes and sizes. They have their own language, their own brand of humor. They even have their own system of ranking themselves against one another, which, more often than not, hinges on factors other than playing ability.
For instance, if a guy has clean gear he's probably not gigging much. Clean gear is level one.
Cables and effects pedals develop a patina made from cheap beer, Jägermeister, and cigarette ash in no time. Nicks in an amplifier's Tolex covering seem to appear of their own accord. It's OK, though; these little wear marks are a badge of pride. In fact, some guitar manufacturers will pre-age your instrument for you before you even play a note, and why not? A little wear on your your giggin' rig looks good. That's level two.
It can go too far, though. If you're playing neighborhood bars with your friends and the plastic knobs keep getting cracked off your amplifier, you've reached the upper stratum of level two: you're playing enough to have properly aged gear, but not enough yet to afford level three.
Level three, the final level, is when you get your gear into a real road case, and if you're from around here, that road case is probably going to be from the Georgia Case Company, founded in 1988.
A million dollar order
Brian White, the 55-year-old founder, still operates Georgia Case from behind a massive granite desk surrounded by aquariums full of colorful exotic fish. "Funny story about this desk," he says. He's a storyteller, easy to listen to and easy to like.
"I went to an estate auction. I was the only one who followed the auctioneer into the room with this desk. They'd been using it as a conference table. He asked me what I thought it was worth. I said I'd give him 20 bucks for it, and he let me have it!"
Like his desk, White is formidable. He's six foot three, give or take, and sturdy. He shows me around his warehouse in a new white shirt, charcoal slacks, and cowboy boots. The boots must have been on his feet a long time. They're quiet.
"I was working for another case company, and I quit," he says. "One of my clients from that company liked me, though, and they came with me. They gave me a shot. I started this business with a million-dollar order! Hah! How many people can say that?"
Along the way, White says two of his competitors came to him and pointed out that he could use lower quality materials in his cases. They noted that they made their cases with 1/4" plywood unless their customers specifically asked for 3/8" or 1/2" ply. "I'd never thought of it like that," White admits. "But then I figured, naw. I've only got one client. You think I want to make them mad at me?"
White makes cases for pianos, for guitars, for amplifiers. There is a case that fits ten guitars and has four big drawers underneath. If a roadie designed furniture, his version of an armoire might look something like this six-wheeled behemoth. There's also a custom case made for an undercover police officer. It's intended to sit behind the cop's seat as secure storage for weapons and ammo. You can still get your custom case made out of wood, but they're also now often made out of composite materials, in nearly any color of the rainbow. "If you push that one out of an airplane, it'd bounce," White claims as I'm eyeing a composite case for a traveling espresso machine.
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