By Rick Denton
Some folks say Honest Abe’s product line is a kit, a trailer load of milled and dressed logs, timbers and other materials needed to build the log or timber home. Some say our product is considerably more – that it is the beautiful and unique finished log home.
Although we are not usually involved in the total turn-key project of the log home, we certainly are a big part of our client’s creation.
Through the years, we worked with many delightful clients, many which became close friends. We saw our product line turn into reality in their dream homes. We came to feel their creations were our product, much more than a trailer load of manufactured logs and timbers.
Our clients all had their own unique stories. We became part of their story. Our product went far beyond the manufactured and bundled together parts shipped to the jobsite. We became part of the emotion and passion the clients had about their home.
Clients from lots of different backgrounds bought our product line to build their log homes. Marketing people tried to study and identify common characteristics they had. Some were old. Some were educated. Some were women. Some were professional.
A few were celebrities.
We designed and dried in a log home for Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer, who was a singer, songwriter and manufacturer of the Grammer guitar. He recorded two Top 20 hits: “Gotta Travel On,” a million-selling single, and “I Wanna Go Home.” He was well-known in the 1960s and was a member of the Opry for more than 50-years. His log home was not large and elaborate, but we were happy to be working with him. Jim Smith (former sales manager at the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, model) led this effort through his connections on “The Ralph Emery Show” in our early years.
Country singer-songwriter Alan Jackson built a small cabin. The Georgia native was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by old timers Roy Acuff and Randy Travis and is well-known by country music fans of all ages having sold more than 80 million records worldwide. Honest Abe manufactured the cabin, and the construction was handled mostly by Jackson’s contractors. We were grateful and appreciative they chose our product line.
Fiddle player and guitarist Jeff Cook, a founding member of the legendary country group, Alabama, built one of our log homes and in the process became our official spokesperson for a short time. Jeff was a childhood friend of Robert Callahan, our dealer in Fort Payne, Alabama, the hometown of the cousins making up the band Alabama. We got to know him very well at Honest Abe. He often visited with us and appeared at several of our functions.
Doug Stone, another country music artist, built one of our homes near Portland, Tennessee. Again, he worked with Jim Smith, who had such a large network within the country music industry through his “Ralph Emery Show” affiliation. Stone became a customer following the early 1990s success of his song platinum certified song “I’d Be Better Off (In a Pine Box)” from his first album and his next two gold certified albums.
Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee Lonnie Mack, another Honest Abe customer, was an American rock, blues and country singer-guitarist. He was active from the mid-1950s into the early 2000s. Mack emerged in 1963, with his proto-blues-rock debut LP, “The Wham of that Memphis Man.” Mack is remembered as an influential American pioneer of blues-rock music and rock guitar soloing.
Honest Abe worked on a project with the Judds, a country music duo composed of Naomi Judd and her daughter, Wynonna. The Judds were one of the most successful acts in country music history, winning five Grammy Awards for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and eight Country Music Association awards. Although their home project was handled primarily by their contractor, we felt honored to be working with them on their remote and private get-away retreat.
The State of Tennessee worked with legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus to design and build five golf courses across Tennessee. Honest Abe Log Homes was selected to manufacture the clubhouses for these Jack Nicklaus Bear Trace (Cumberland Mountain is pictured above) projects over several years. We were invited to each of their grand openings, getting to play a round of golf on the new courses. This was a very exciting project for us. Former sales representative Richard Wilkinson met with Jack Nicklaus during this project.
Our people became thrilled and excited when working with celebrities. They enjoyed meeting them personally and helping them create their special project.
As Honest Abe’s president, I represented the company whenever I visited any of our client’s homes. Well-known celebrities had their fame and reputation, but all of our clients had something as well – a passion and desire to create something special. They wanted me to see their finished homes and listen to their stories. Each room they showed me had stories they eagerly shared with me. They often pointed out specific boards and shared funny and memorable stories about them.
Some clients opened their homes for our annual log home tours. They beamed as tour prospects looked on their creations and listened to them vividly describe special features. For more than two decades I toured these attractive and sometimes stunning, homes and listened to their stories.
Story after story. So many.
From founder Doug Smith’s dad Lemuel Smith, who built the first prototype that fashioned the Honest Abe dream in Doug’s mind to over 6000+ other log homes, each owner had a story.
To us, all our customers are stars.
This article is from a new book being published in autumn 2019 by Rick Denton, Honest Abe’s first president. The book is called Honest Abe Log Homes Memories and Stories.