With Semie Moseley’s Family in North Carolina

Mar 19, 2024

I just came down from the mountain… Spent the day up in Jonas Ridge, North Carolina, with Semie Moseley’s widow, Loretta, and her daughter Merinda. I really wanted to interview Loretta for the Mosrite book, and, of course see where Semie had his guitar factory through most of the 1980s. Merinda also worked for the Mosrite operation during that time, so she had lots of memories and anecdotes to throw in as well.

On my way into town, I stopped at the little cemetery where Semie Moseley is buried. I was sad to see that his tombstone had been covered by moss and lichen. You could barely read the inscription on the headstone.

Over at Loretta’s, I scanned some good photos for the book and took photographs of two very cool artifacts: the hand-carved walking stick that Semie made for himself after a near-fatal car accident in the early 1980s—beautifully carved from a block of wood, with Semie’s intense and beautiful knowledge of curves from the top to the bottom. Loretta told me that Semie made it because “if he had to use a cane, he was going to do it in style.” Semie was a guy who liked flashy guitars, Cadillacs, and custom-tailored suits. I have always been able to relate to Semie. I get the fancy, hand-carved cane.

The second really amazing artifact I got to photograph today is one of the earliest (perhaps the earliest?) guitar creations that Semie ever built (Semie died in 1992, and I guess we’ll never really know). This guitar neck dates from the early 1950s, when Semie was a young teenager, and although it is very crude (all done with hand tools), it shows the sense of flashy accoutrements (I love the use of real mother of pearl for his name, inlaid on the neck, and the cross inlaid on the headstock) and generous use of French curves, even on his earliest work. I was really excited to see it in person.

Semie had a lot of tragedies befall his life during the 1980s—the aforementioned automobile accident that nearly claimed his life, followed by a devastating shop fire at the newly built factory they had just put together in Jonas Ridge, followed by a series of health problems that would eventually claim his life in 1992. Most of the time that Semie lived here in North Carolina, he built guitars in a small shop in back of the house that Loretta still lives in. The shop was still back there, dismantled long ago and now abandoned and used for storage. Before I left, we poked our head in there, and I could feel Semie’s presence. His guitar-making soul was still in that place.

As I left Jonas Ridge, I stopped again at the cemetery where Semie is laid to rest. I pulled a credit card out of my wallet, and I started working on scraping away all that Moss. I got it off as best I could, then spayed it all down with some fizzy water. At least you could read his name and epitaph once again, as well as the all-important Mosrite logo. I figured since I’m the guy who’s going to tell Semie’s story and write the definitive Mosrite book, the least I could do was to keep his headstone clean.

It was a good day.

See the original Facebook post for more photos!