Guitar aficionados and visitors at Ronnie's Steel Guitar Shop oohed and aahed as owner Ronnie Neighbors unveiled a Liberty Tree T5 guitar designed for the state of Arkansas.

Guitar aficionados and visitors at Ronnie's Steel Guitar Shop oohed and aahed as owner Ronnie Neighbors unveiled a Liberty Tree T5 guitar designed for the state of Arkansas.
With a mahogany body and neck, the Liberty Tree T5 displays rich cream-and-chocolate tulip poplar on its face, from the historic Liberty Tree.
"Taylor Guitars built one guitar for each state and, as the top dealer in Arkansas, I got the guitar," Neighbors said Thursday. "There is one guitar for each state and that is all there will ever be."
He would like to sell the guitar, valued at $10,000, to someone in the area, Neighbors said.
"Unfortunately, all the calls we are getting from collectors are from out of state," he said.
Ronnie and his wife, Faye, discovered they were the chosen dealers when they attended the recent NAMM Show at Nashville, Tenn. — the National Association of Music Merchants event for members of the music trade. The guitar arrived at Neighbors' store on Albert Pike Avenue in its wooden custom case, stamped with 13 stars and the word "Liberty" laser-etched in script on the case.
According to an article in "Wood & Steel" magazine, the fretboard inlay features a series of 11 mother-of-pearl stars, plus two in the banner inlay, for a total of 13. The body's back panel is satin-finish maple with a laser-cut, inlaid shape of the Liberty Tree and the word "Liberty" in script beneath it.
Fifty guitars will be made accompanied by a numeral designating the order in which the state entered the Union.
During the colonial period of the American Revolution, each of the original 13 colonies had adopted Liberty Trees where citizens would congregate for speeches, protests and other assemblies, according to the magazine.
The Liberty Tree was a symbol of freedom over the 400-year span of its life, a silent witness to the American Revolution.
The last surviving Liberty Tree, a majestic tulip poplar, stood on the grounds of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., until September 1999, when it sustained irreparable damage from Hurricane Floyd after four centuries of life.
On Oct. 25, 1999, St. John's hosted a ceremony to honor the tree while it was still standing. After its removal, Bob Taylor heard about the tree but assumed that any salvaged wood from the tree would be spoken for.
St. John's saved parts of the tree for posterity. The trunk and large sections of branches were hauled away to three different destinations including a landfill.
A local landscaper, Mark Mehnert, rescued the wood from the dump and moved it to a climate-controlled warehouse.
A few months later, Taylor heard from Mehnert, asking if he might want to buy the wood, according to the magazine. Taylor, a lover of American history, was interested.
At first, the wood was incorporated on the backs and sides of a single Liberty Tree Guitar, a Grand Concert, released in 2002. Taylor was able to build about 400 of the limited-edition guitars.
The residual wood pieces that were left were too small for a full-size guitar so they were used to make veneer for a limited offering of Baby Taylors, about 400 in all.
Taylor still had some wood, 50-some backs with no sides, but did not think additional guitars could be made. When the T5s were developed, without sides, the last few pieces of the tree went into them.
Neighbors has been in the guitar business 29 years and in the business of playing guitars since he developed a love for the instrument after picking up a Chet Atkins songbook as a boy, at his father's urging.
He often plays music when he's not at his shop. Fans can hear him play guitar with Jerry Keener and the Full Circle band, Friday and Saturday nights at the Austin Hotel and Convention Center or Sunday mornings with the Cowboy Church Band in the Bath House Show.
Information from: The Sentinel-Record,