She was a classical guitarist, songwriter and violinist at the age of nine. Former Fleetwood Mac Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jeremy Spencer recorded a track on his latest album about the remarkable guitar slides she creates. Porcelain ceramic guitar slides were virtually unheard of before she invented them in 1989. Renowned Beatle and six-string virtuoso George Harrison once ordered a half-dozen of her unique Mudslides®. Did we mention that she also creates beautiful jewelry? It can only be the incredibly inventive ceramicist Terrie Lambert.
About Terrie Lambert
A world class artisan, Terrie Lambert has designed guitar slides for Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Grammy Award-winner Keb’ Mo’ and ZZ Top blues slinger Billy Gibbons, among others. Being an expert slide ukulele player, Lambert truly understands the relationship between ceramics and instrument strings. Besides Terrie’s Moonshine Slides®, can you name any other products invented in the last 25 years that have never been improved upon? Now you get the idea. What’s more, Lambert has earned the moniker “ground-breaking” in more ways than one.
Though the business of selling guitars and related gear has always been and continues to be a male dominated industry, it never mattered to Lambert. Plus, a good idea speaks for itself. Lambert’s plan for porcelain ceramic guitar slides was a great one, to say the least…and that was no accident. When you come right down to it, nobody knows ceramics, porcelain or otherwise, like Terrie Lambert.
An Interview with Terrie Lambert
Music Interview Magazine spoke with Terrie Lambert about Moonshine Slides®, porcelain ceramics, Joe Perry, George Harrison, playing slide ukulele and much more.
Yes, I was the first. I was actively looking for a guitar slide to fit on my pinky finger, which is very small. The only thing I could find, or that was available, were small thin-walled glass ones. But I was still searching for a tone that I could be happy with. At the time, I was making custom porcelain jewelry. I’ve actually been a ceramicist since 1975 and then went on to teach it. In 1985-86 I became technically certified through different ceramic companies to represent their products. I had also designed my own black porcelain. Then, one day, a light bulb went off. I thought wait a minute, glass slides? Ceramic porcelain has a glaze. Being that I understand the chemistry of glazes, they are pretty much silica. So is glass. I didn’t really know that much about slide guitar. I then literally rolled out a slab of clay, wrapped it around a dowel-rod, pulled the dowel-rod out, closed the seam up, glazed it and fired it. It was beautiful.
What did the new ceramic porcelain slide sound like?
It reminded me of playing violin. I’ve been a songwriter, played classical guitar and violin starting at the age of nine, so it was as if I had a well rosined bow. To lay that slide on the string, the tone was amazing; the attraction, I could feel the relationship. It really reminded me of playing violin. That’s how it got started.
Is that when you formed the Moonshine Slides® Company? How did you arrive at the name?
Yes, that is when I formed the company. As far as the Moonshine Slides® name, I have to go back to when I was making porcelain jewelry and the business was called Cottage Designs. My logo, which has been my personal logo for the last 19 years – it’s actually tattooed onto my body – is the profile of a lady, a feminine face, in the crescent moon looking toward a six-pointed star. As soon as I rolled out that first guitar slide and realized how well it sounded, I said, “Oh, my gosh, I’m moonlighting on my first business.” Then I thought, wait a minute. We have bottleneck slides; this is like a moonshine jug. I immediately went from relating moonlighting and my Cottage Design logo to associating it with the real nitty-gritty of bottleneck playing. Being porcelain, I related it to a clay moonshine jug bottle. I felt that was very appropriate, calling it Moonshine Slides®. Plus, you know there is a sound difference with the black porcelain. I have to laugh because after a night out of having a few mudslide drinks, I decided on the name Mudslide® for the black porcelain. It was very serendipitous how it all came together.
Why does porcelain ceramic sound better than the typical glass, metal, or bronze guitar slide?
Well, I hesitate to suggest what I make is better because it’s a personal thing. For me, porcelain does sound better. I do love the tones and the resonance. I love the way the porcelain slides warm up to your body temperature. It’s almost as if there is no separation between your body, that is, your finger and the slide. There is less translation and more expression of music. It’s a real personal relationship. Conversely, the Moonshine® glass came about in trying to provide the same thing. Moonshine Slides® are better for people who want that personal relationship with their slide.
Are your slides still hand crafted by artisans? Can you talk a little about the process?
They are definitely still hand crafted. I am the artisan who creates the slides. When people do work with me in the studio, they typically are art students wanting to know more about moving into a production aspect within their own careers. I just had one cycle through who is an amazing person. I had another artisan in the shop for quite a few years, a potter, who carried on with his pottery classes while he learned to work with production. There are technicalities that need to be tended to regarding production. One of the things about making guitar slides by hand is that there still needs to be proper attention given to the end user and trying to maintain what you really need to play slide. It’s a very small business. I don’t have a mass production shop even though I make one product, which is made very well. Making slides does keep me busy.
What affects the tone of a porcelain ceramic guitar slide?
I want to mention that I was surprised recently about some conflicting information out there regarding process and what really affects the tone in a porcelain guitar slide. What affects the sound of a slide is not whether it is a slip cast process and not whether it is an extruded process; it comes in the composition of the porcelain of the clay. That will command how much glass will be in that body and that will give you the density of that clay. Density can be achieved in either slip cast or extrusion. The methodology for achieving the form does not affect the tone. The methodology to achieve the form affects your final product as far as being able to maintain a proper shape. But what affects tone is the amount of silica which equates to the density of the body. Also, the thickness of the wall width will affect tone, obviously.
Known for an ability to absorb finger moisture, Moonshine Slides® offers Moonshine®, Mudslide® and Moonshine® glass model guitar slides. What are the differences?
The difference I notice is that Moonshine Slides® are warmer in tone. They are more resonant than straight glass slides. They seem to have a larger presence. The Moonshine® slide has a more open round tone. The cobalt blue is very fluid and has sustain, but can have a different attack on staccato. It has a different approach to choppier playing. It has grit and remains fluid. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but you have to play it, to hear it, to know it. That’s really what it is.
Going back to the Mudslide®, the envelope for sound really is between glass and metal in tonal quality, yet still has the warmth of the porcelain. It has a much more fluid presence. I should add that a lot of phenomenal people have helped make Moonshine Slides® what it is, from conception, to be present in the world. Sonny Landreth is one of those people. In the mid-90s, he played the Moonshine slide® quite a bit. But he loved his glass. He would ask off and on about getting porcelain inside a glass slide. He mentioned that his finger would often get sweaty. But porcelain and glass are at the opposite ends of the spectrum regarding what’s called the “coefficient of expansion rate.” I also design custom tiles and was working with glass tile when I created something for a particular job. It worked well, so, over the next three or four years I took that same formulation and technically tweaked it and tweaked it to come up with literally a porcelain filled process with the moisture absorbent properties, inside a glass slide. It does warm up the glass slide and has a different tonal quality than just a straight glass slide.
Are Moonshine Slides® used on both acoustic and electric guitars?
Yes, all of the Moonshine Slides® can be used on anything with a string. They’ve even been used on violins.
Jim Dunlop Manufacturing, a renowned name in the music industry for many years, distributes your products internationally. How has that worked out for Moonshine Slides®?
It’s worked out great. It was a wonderful thing for me. The slide player Roy Rogers introduced me to Jim Dunlop. They are a wonderful family. They are true, they are loyal and they literally built my shop. They upgraded me to a larger facility. They also hand built all of the tables and the equipment, helped with the kiln, everything I needed to make slides. Their production manager at the time taught me everything I needed to know. I have not seen the same integrity in other companies. I have nothing but gratitude for the Dunlops and it starts at the top.
You also have an artist signature series of guitar slides which includes Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and bluesman Keb’ Mo’. Have you created slides for other musicians?
Oh yeah. Keb’ Mo’ is a personal friend that I met through the slides. I’ll never forget how I got this call, that Keb’ Mo’ was playing my slides. I got in touch with his manager and then called him. Kevin’s is a signature slide that we designed because he loved the Mudslides®. My mother was raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society so we designed the slide for him. The proceeds go to the foundation. Joe Perry also wanted a Mudslide® with his name. I‘ve never met Joe Perry, but I make so many of his slides, he really keeps me going. I created a bone colored porcelain slide for him. I went to see Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top years ago. It was pouring rain. I brought a bunch of slides and had them delivered to him. I didn’t get to meet him, but the day after, he formalized the Rev. Willy slide. One of the most interesting custom slides I’ve ever made were little ring finger slides for Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
An interesting moment came in 1992 before I was working with the Dunlops. I got this call out of the blue from a fella in Los Angeles with this music store. His name was John. He told me George Harrison just flew in on a private jet from Hawaii and ordered half a dozen Mudslides®. Those are the kind of moments that you offer up to the kiln god. Those moments are rare, but they do happen.
After seeing photographs of you with a ukulele at one of the recent North American Music Merchandise Shows, we have to ask, can a slide be used on a ukulele?
Yes, a slide can be used on a ukulele. It has a beautiful tone. I inherited my grandfather’s ukulele and it has an amazing tone all by itself. But with a slide, it becomes a stunningly beautiful tone.
Check out Jeremy Spencer’s 2014 release Coventry Blue, featuring the song “Moonshine Slide.” For more about Moonshine Slides® including the signature series ceramic guitar slides, as well as Rev. Willie’s® porcelain slide, visit moonshineslides.com. Moonshine Slides® are also distributed by Jim Dunlop Manufacturing at jimdunlop.com.