Every community has a cherished locally-made product, right? Detroit has guitar maker Gabriel Currie, founder of EchoPark Guitars. Gabriel listens to the news and music public radio station WDET all day in his Detroit studio while he creates custom guitars for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Joe Perry and Jackson Browne. During COVID, Gabriel asked local WDET music host Ann Delisi if he could donate a handmade guitar to help raise money for the station. Ann accepted the gift and asked local artist Sabrina Nelson to share her talents. Together, they came up with the idea of featuring sketches of famous guitarists like Bob Seger, Jack White, Don Was, Jimi Hendrix and John Lee Hooker on the guitar.
To engage listeners in the creative process of the one-of-a-kind instrument, film crews followed Sabrina and Gabriel as they produced the “The Salt of Detroit” guitar. When complete, the guitar was shared with a dozen local musicians who played it for a videotape performance. The performers also posted on social media about the prize and their experience playing the special EchoPark guitar. The Detroit Historical Museum had the guitar on display during the 10 weeks of the promotion.
Station music programming included lots of shows asking listeners to request their favorite guitar solos and songs so on-air personalities could talk about the raffle.
In addition to on-air promotion on WDET, artists Gabriel Currie and Sabrina Nelson made television appearances talking about the creative process and the guitar raffle on local FOX and NBC affiliates. But it was a front-page story in the Detroit Free Press that captured the story of guitar maker Gabriel Currie and the century-old pine logs he begins with that really made new donors step up in the final days.
In the end, 678 tickets were sold and nearly $70,000 was raised for the station. One lucky winner from Port Huron, Mich. now has the special edition guitar in his collection.
To capture the same spirit of kindness and love of WDET-FM that Gabriel Currie and Echopark Guitars began, Sabrina Nelson, Studios on the Pond, Robert Bruce Photography, Brian Lucas, Shiraz Ahmed and Robar PR all donated their services to the project.