Guitar ‘fix-it man’ helps Cleveland musicians
by CAROLINE EATON of Lee Clarion
Feb 19, 2012 | 2106 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NELSON RABURN posed in his workstation where guitars are repaired. He said his jovial nature comes from helping the people of the Cleveland community. Photos by Lauren Carroll.
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Nelson W. Raburn has made a name for himself in the Cleveland community as the guitar man.

Known as “Dub” to his family and friends, Raburn offers his expertise on all things guitar at a bargain price to anyone who needs help.

“I have been at it off and on for about 50 years,” Raburn said. “I enjoy taking something that someone is having trouble with and fixing it. I don’t charge much; I just enjoy working on them.”

Raburn got his start with guitars at age 15, when he began teaching himself how to play. Along with playing the guitar, he also began working on them.

“I watched other people [play]; I taught myself and copied people. I didn’t take just one artist and imitate them, I watched everybody,” Raburn said

Raburn’s guitar services range from changing strings to doing more complicated bodywork. He is often referred by the Cleveland Music Center on Old Mouse Creek Road and has served a number of Lee students out of the workshop in his quaint Cleveland home.

Due to his connections at music stores, he has had the privilege of meeting fellow musicians Chet Atkins, Billy Grammer and Johnny Mathis. He has also recorded for various artists, including Johnny Mathis, in North Carolina and Tennessee.

“I’ve recorded but I’ve never considered myself a professional,” Raburn said.

While he does not consider himself a professional musician, Raburn has certainty mastered the instrument, as well as multiple other professions, such as being a Church of God pastor.

“In my pastoring I’ve had to take on several different positions. I’ve worked as a carpenter, I’ve been in construction, and I’ve operated bulldozers working in log woods, pulling what we call ‘snakes and logs.’ I’ve done just about everything,” Raburn said.

He also managed to find time to procure an aviation license, as well as work at a youth camp and becoming an accomplished mechanic.

His position as a pastor kept him and his wife, Betty Jean, moving around throughout their married life.

“The churches were usually not self-supporting. They paid some but I usually had to get a job on the side, so I would go to the local music store and I would teach and repair guitars,” Raburn said. “Everywhere we went I was connected to a music store.”

Originally from Alabama, Raburn and Betty Jean have resided in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The Raburns settled in Tennessee in 1984.

In 1999, Raburn suffered a stroke, which left his right hand paralyzed.

“For close to a year I didn’t do anything, and I found working on guitars was good therapy,” Raburn said. “It was good for me to use that hand.”

Betty Jean Raburn said she is proud of all of her husband’s accomplishments.

“I’m blown away at the things that he can do,” she said. “He improvises and he will keep trying until he finds the way the do it. Even after his stroke, when a lot of people would have given up, he kept going. I am very proud of him.”

Raburn currently stays active by keeping up with his young great-grandchild, working odd jobs around the house, and working on guitars for the community. He also enjoys maintaining relationships with associates at the Cleveland Music Center, Clark Music, and various other music stores he has worked in throughout his lifetime.

“I’ve just enjoyed helping people,” Raburn said. “I guess you might say I enjoy a challenge; something you have to put some time in.”