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I took this arty photo of EMP/MoPop. Note the Space Needle’s reflection on the Frank Gehry-designed building’s west-facing exterior.

[It looks like a bunch of the photos from this story have disappeared — I will fix that ASAP] I’ve written quite a few stories about the great fun I had working at Seattle, WA’s Experience Music Project – now known as the Museum Of Pop Culture, or “MoPop” (yep, it’s been rebranded. It hasn’t focused strictly on music for years, and now it has been given a new name, to reflect that). Here’s a short, quirky tale to add to my stack of stories.

In 2004, I was stationed in EMP’s Sound Lab, where our guests could play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards…. Folks could even record their own CD, in a small studio, for ten bucks. We “EMPeeps” were tasked with coaxing people into doing just that.

One day, a young woman walked up to me and announced that she’d like to make a CD. My co-workers and I showed her into our sound-proofed recording booth, and showed her the guitar she could use. It was a jet black, carbon fiber acoustic, made to withstand the pounding of thousands of guitarists and wanna-be-guitarists. (How it sounded was secondary.)

Two of my capos. On the left is my Johnny Cash model; on the right, the trad Dunlop.

She said the guitar would be fine; but she would need a capo. (A capo allows a player to change the key of a song, in order to suit their voice range.) Well, we had no capos. I don’t recall anyone had ever asked for one. But, she said she couldn’t make the CD without a capo.

For the next few minutes, my co-workers went into a tizzy over this. I calmly stepped into the fray, and commanded, “Get me a pencil and two rubber bands!” – People looked at me like I was nuts; but I knew what I was doing. You see, twenty-five years earlier, I read a story in a Vancouver, B.C. underground newspaper, the Georgia Straight, relating how the great blues guitarist, Albert Collins, AKA the “Master of the Telecaster”, broke his capo at his gig (he had to be one of the very few bluesmen using one), and he was forced to resort to fashioning one — from a pencil and two rubber bands. I thought that was so cool, and I remembered that story. When I needed that little factoid, it bubbled up in my ole’ brain.

My co-workers went on an impromptu scavenger hunt, and soon brought me a pencil and two rubber bands.


I made a capo; everyone was amazed; the young woman recorded her CD; and EMP got its ten bucks!


No, this is not a capo. It’s a kazoo they gave me at EMP seventeen years ago, as some kind of prize for good behavior….