Gary Clardy, RCS assistant superintendent for Engineering and Construction, spends his free time making custom guitars. TMP/Submitted
For the past nine years, Gary Clardy has been involved with every school building project or renovation in Rutherford County. As the assistant superintendent for Engineering and Construction, he's overseen projects ranging for energy-efficient lighting upgrades in every school to the construction of Stewarts Creek High.
But most people would be surprised to know that at night, he trades in his hard hat for a guitar pick, and he's been making custom guitars for the past few years from his home in Burns, Tenn., where he also has a recording studio.
"I've got a varied background but with the professional position I have now, people are kind of shocked that I'm a songwriter and a luthier," Clardy said.
Clardy is now donating his talents to help raise money for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. He's donated one of his handmade guitars — valued at $2,800 — to be given as a door prize during the Teddy Bear Music Festival that will be held April 27-28 at the James E. Ward AG Center in Lebanon. The music festival is being presented by The CMG Radio Club International.
"The owner of the CMG Radio Club experienced a lost of a grandchild and wanted to find a way to help children," Clardy said.
The festival will run from 8 a.m.-midnight on both Saturday and Sunday, and it will feature two stages of music — one for gospel and one for singer / songwriter acts. Clardy will be performing on the singer / songwriter stage and will be emceeing another segment.
Clardy has had a love of music for most of his life.
"As a kid, we didn't have a TV, we had a radio. We always listened to the Grand Ole Opry," Clardy said. "The radio put me to bed a lot of different nights where I'd listen the Chicago radio station which played a lot more rock."
Clardy has spent his professional career in construction and project management and worked for J.M. Williams Contractors for 15 years before joining Rutherford County Schools as the assistant superintendent of Engineering and Construction in 2004. He started Clardy Guitars from his home a few years ago after he learned how to fix one his guitars to save some money.
"I've always worked on guitars from the time I was in grade school until now but about five years ago I decided I wanted to do my own guitars. I had a Martin guitar — 12 string — that I broke a truss rod in. I called Martin and they wanted 800 bucks to fix it. I said, 'How much is a truss rod?' and they said '12 bucks,' and so I said 'Send me one.' I fixed it in a couple of hours. When I set it back up, it played perfectly. So I said, 'Well I can do this.'"
He outfitted his shop with the appropriate gear, and Clardy Guitars was born.
"Every time I'd build one, I'd play it out somewhere or one of my buddies would see it and want to buy it," Clardy said. He's since built 54 guitars and his client list includes some big names, although he doesn't disclose them out of a sense of privacy.
He got involved in the Teddy Bear music festival through his association with the radio club, where Clardy had a No. 1 single for several weeks, received an award for CMG promoter of the year and will be inducted in the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame in April. He values the club because it gives exposure to artists who don't always fit the Nashville mold.
"It's a club where independent artists can have their music heard, worldwide actually," he said.
Tickets for the music festival are on sale now for half-price online. Those advance tickets are $20, which includes 10 free guitar door prize entry tickets. Concert-goers also are asked to bring a teddy bear to donate to the cause. For additional information or to purchase tickets, go to www.childrensteddybearfoundation.com