Saturday, January 28, 2006

I should've learned . . .

Fender Broadcaster Body play the guitar, and when I did, I should have kept the one I had!

I read an article today about how much people are paying for so-called "vintage" guitars - you know, the so-called Pre-CBS Fenders and the 1950s vintage Les Pauls?

Some people are dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars for these things. This particular ax, a Fender Broadcaster, number 37 of 50, was for sale in Germany for $20,570. Got any spare change?

I learned to play guitar on an old Yamaha that my dad bought. He loved music, but he had one problem - he was tone deaf. He could not make the instrument make the proper sound if you held a gun to his skull. My brother, the pianist, had no interest in stringed instruments, so I inherited the guitar. And it was a love affair that has not ended.

Some people would say that this is a hobby, but I beg to differ. This is a sickness. At one time in my life I owned six - six - guitars. I had a Yamaha steel string, another steel string knock off that someone gave me, a classical, a 12-string, a Gibson Les Paul electric, and a bass. I traded some of these around - including gasp! the Les Paul. That one I should have kept!

It was sweet - wine colored with gold hardware. A Les Paul Custom, no less, and I remember I dug ditches - literally worked for a construction company all summer - to get it. I choked for breath when I found it at home one day when I got back from work. My dad had secretly gone to the music store to get it. It was beautiful.

Les Paul Custom Guitar image hosting by PhotobucketAnd I remember playing, and playing and playing that thing until my fingers went numb. "Sweet Home Alabama," "Purple Haze," "Spooky," "Brown Sugar," "Renegade," "Sultans of Swing," and any other guitar anthem I could learn, I learned. I also learned some Wes Montgomery-type jazz tunes to impress the fellas at the music store. (This photo is not of mine; I only had two pickups on mine, but the color scheme is the same, just to give you a taste. I saw one for sale on e-bay for $2,500! But that's the sickness talking)

A sidebar: - I actually got to meet a couple of the guitar gods of my wasted youth at the Super Bowl three years ago. I met - actually was in a press conference with and asked a question of - Carlos Santana. I also had a lengthy conversation with James Young of Styx, and of course we talked about guitars! And about nine years ago, an old girlfriend of mine and I interviewed Les Paul himself as part of an exhibit at the National Museum of American History here in Washington. My question for him? Why are the things so $&!@## heavy ? His answer - for the sustain son; you don't get the sustain in the high notes without the dense wood, and dense wood is heavy.)

But the thing about a Les Paul is it's a MEAT eater. It's not the kind of ax you can play in church (at least not in a stone Episcopal church like I went to in college).

So it sat in the case for years. Then when I moved out of the house after college - and got involved with my now ex-wife, I traded the Les Paul for - choke! - an Ibanez jazz guitar. It was a kinder, gentler instrument, but it was not the same.

So when I saw this article I remembered my wine colored mistress, with her golden hardware shimmering in the spotlights and her shiny black headstock inlaid with mother-of-pearl. I remembered how my classmates cheered - cheered! - when I started playing "Sweet Home Alabama" for the senior talent show in school. And I wondered where that guitar ever went. I hope it has a good home.


Cheryl said...

I'm gonna miss your fretless. :( (There.....I left a comment!) Thanks for keeping up your blog and brightening my days!

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