Fishing for a Guitar
I’ve bought, sold, and traded many guitars in my life. I’ve had old guitars, new guitars, and even a couple of guitars that would now be considered “vintage”. Looking back at my younger days I have to ask myself why I spent so much time, energy, and money buying, selling, and trading guitars.
I remember walking into a local music store in 1982 and plunking down $300.00 for a what I thought was a great sounding guitar. It was used guitar, a ’78 or ’79 Washburn Falcon, in a natural dark maple finish. I didn’t know it at the time but it was one of the more expensive guitars Washburn offered. I think it retailed for around $550.00 brand new in the late 70’s.
When I decided to spend my cash on this used Washburn it was because it played and sounded fantastic. Unfortunately the feel and sound of the guitar simply wasn’t enough for an immature teenage wannabe rock star. As I looked around at what my musician friends were playing, and lusting after, this excellent guitar didn’t measure up to the “look” most kids my age aspired to emulate.
The era of big hair, spandex, and parachute pants was just too colorful and flashy for this “old” wood looking slab of a guitar. Besides that none of the musicians my friends and I idolized at the time used a guitar like that. So … I traded “up” to my first brand new guitar only a month or so after I bought the Falcon.
(authors note: As I was writing this blog post I got interested in looking up the specs for this guitar. It was marketed by Washburn which was based out of Chicago. The guitar was manufactured for Washburn in Japan by the factory that made Aria Pro II guitars. It was a neck-thru guitar and was available in two versions. The first version, “A”, had a slightly different headstock shape than the later “B” version. Other than what I found on the internet I don’t recall specific details about the instrument. The photo was borrowed from Google images.)
Getting a Nibble
The new guitar was another Washburn. A Sunburst A-20 (as shown in the stock photo below).
Not as high quality as the Falcon, but it kind of resembled a funky shaped “Explorer” made famous by Gibson Guitar and it was new. I kept that guitar for almost six months. For me, at that stage in my young life, six months was a long, long time. As my friends and I started working jobs after school and in the summers we acquired a little more money to go blow. We didn’t have to rely so much on what mom and dad gave us. This opened up new possibilities for guitars, girls, beer, and of course … guitars. By this time I was working after school, and during summer break, delivering pianos for the same local music store. I got the joy of seeing new instruments come in and trying them out when we weren’t busy.
My friends and I were always chasing after Strats, Explorers, V’s, and the expensive Les Pauls because that was what the Schenker brothers, Tipton, Mick Jones, Gary Richrath, Van Halen, Hagar, and Rhodes were playing. I was particularly smitten by the Les Pauls. I remember the first one I played in the store. It retailed for $900.00 new, but it played like butter, sounded perfect, and had the look everybody thought was cool. I knew that the Les Paul was “The One”. My problem was $900.00 to a teenager back then would be like $5000.00 to a teenager today. I couldn’t afford a guitar that cost that much. I couldn’t even get close.
The One That Got Away
As time went on I would trade in my guitar for a different one, or sell one for money to plunk down on another. Always paying too much to buy and losing too much when I traded. I was never satisfied for very long with a guitar I settled on buying.
The only exception was a used 1978 Gibson RD Artist sporting a natural finish with gold hardware, moog electronics, and an ebony fingerboard. I traded a cheap Japanese made Fender Strat plus $200.00 for it at Goldman’s Pawn Shop in Evansville, IN.
I loved that guitar. It looked cool and it was a Gibson. Unfortunately a few months down the road I had to sell it because of a financial crunch. I regretted doing it at the time but more pressing matters required the cash. I got $400.00 for it in a private sale to a local area musician who answered and ad for it in the local newspaper.
I got over the regret because I thought I could just go out and buy another one after I saved up some money. It never happened because, unknown to me, Gibson had stopped production of them two years earlier in 1982. The supply of RD’s was not exactly plentiful either.
(authors note: Gibson has re-released a modern version of the RD without the moog electronics on two different occasions. Neither have been particularly popular which is unfortunate because I think this guitar style is classier than the similarly looking Firebird and Explorer. I really wish I could locate, and buy, one of the original ’78 RD Artist models in the natural or tobacco burst finishes now.)
Nothing Is Biting
As life continued to evolve and move forward God brought marriage, children, and a career into the equation. Suddenly I found myself all grown up with bills, responsibility, and little time for the pursuit of my instrumental mistress. I did manage to get a couple of cheap acoustic guitars. They were never played much and I didn’t get much joy from them. Anyway, my now ex-wife sold them.
In the back of my mind I knew I would one day catch the big fish that taunt so many like me. Only now the enthusiasm that had once bitten me was a fleeting memory.
Reeling In the Trophy Fish
Fast forward 30 years. I went fishing for ‘The Guitar’ again. I took my time, baited the hook, cast the line, and waited patiently. My patience was rewarded with a trophy fish. A brand new 2012 Les Paul Traditional in Ice Tea Burst. It isn’t one of the top of the line custom shop guitars but it is a highly regarded model equivalent to the Les Paul Standard. More importantly it is mine.
Since I got my Les Paul I’ve managed to acquire a used 2010 Fender American Standard Stratocaster and a new 2011 Fender American Standard Telecaster. I call the three of them the ‘Holy Trinity of Guitars’.
Unless something affects me on a spiritual level these three guitars will never be thrown back. Catch and release isn’t in me like it once was.
Amplifiers … now that’s another story!