I was reminiscing about my old days playing guitar.
My first guitar was an acoustic Aria that I took lessons on. Then I somehow got my hands on a silver tone plywood electric guitar.
I remember going to Greens Music and looking at all of the cool electric guitars. That lovin’ feelin’ had started by then.
Though the picture above was in no way indicative in any sense what Green’s music had on their rack, in my time the image was just as staggering as this image is to now a day youth.
My first proper electric guitar was an early 70’s Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Falcon amp. My dad bought it for me because I guess he saw the love I had for music. At the time I didn’t know what I had, but I liked it.
It was at a local music store and I can still remember the owner/salesman’s boney nicotine stained hand handing me this Strat. I got that lovein’ feelin’.
It came with a hard shell case and when you opened that case there was a smell to that guitar. Every guitar player knows what I am talking about.
My dad said to me, after that purchase on the way home, well I got you going. From here on in it’s up to you.
A great guitar in a case arouses many senses. The beauty of the finish on the guitar and the mystery as you study the electronics, the look of the padded velour lining in the case many times in exciting colors like orange, red, yellow or purple.
The smell of wood and finish when you open the case.
The feel of the guitar as you run your hands over it while studying every minute detail. The glassy finish. Hitting a chord and feeling the vibration.
And the sound, the sound of plugging in your guitar to an amp that is all ready turned on. That universally recognizable buzz and click. And hitting those first chords. The world could have stopped right there and I would have been okay with it.
Yes, it was that good of a feeling. It stirs emotions that could be equated with your first kiss.
Part of being a musician is trying to maintain that elusive high and keep the momentum going. It is a feeling that is hard to put into words but reaches deep down inside to a very intimate and dare I say cellular level.
Once you get that lovin’ feelin’, really get it, you are changed forever.
Different bands, different guitars, different amps, all choices made in search for that magical moment when all the stars align and you reach euphoria.
But most of us (me at least) failed at the time to realize it was the journey, the searching and wishing and dreaming that WAS rhapsody.
Scouring magazines and catalogs. Endless reading of articles about and interviews with guitarists hoping to find that next piece of that great puzzle, achieving your sound and liking it, even though you had no idea what is was.
As I look back, some of my most clunky, cringe worthy, dare I say embarrassing moments were some of my fondest memories.
My first gig with a band for instance, I had a maestro microphone and a chord for it, and my band had a gig at a Halloween party in a shed. My dad helped me rig up some colored flood lights that sat on the floor. Everything was going great. We got to the gig and realized that we never did think about a mic stand.
Necessity is the mother of invention. We found a broom handle, stuck it into a pumpkin (Halloween party) found some electrical tape and wallah a new trend in microphone holders.
I’m not sure to this day if we knew more that 8 or 10 songs for that gig.
If you keep pursuing that elusive dream (what ever that may be) those kinds of situations and eventual solutions are a large part of the driving force that makes musicians overcome incredible odds to keep doing the thing they love to do.
Over time guitar players fall into one of three categories.
One, they get overtaken by life or just plain loose interest (I don’t mean that in a bad way) and at some point the ‘70’ Les Paul got stowed under the bed or in the closet. It was fun while it lasted.
Two, the itch to play never leaves the guitarist but for what ever reason music took a second tier behind other things in life. Career, family, lack of opportunities all push the guitarist to focus his or her guitar playing into a hobby or side hustle status. Many of these warriors make up the rich textured local music scenes in virtually every city you go to. These are some of the most talented musicians you will find.
Many acoustic musicians fall into this category. They live for the Friday night get together/jam session.
And thirdly, the guitarist who somehow figures out how to eek a living out of playing the guitar.
Obviously, those who are lucky and tenacious enough to get into a situation where they tour and make records full time are the top of the guitarist dream heap.
But there are plenty who besides trying to make a name for themselves, keep their finger in the cookie jar by giving lessons, working at a music store, buying and selling guitars etc. Anything music related.
In my case my wife and I used out musical talents in other ways while pursuing our first passion of recording and playing our own music.
As time marched on, my musical equipment purchases became almost solely utilitarian.
If I needed a certain guitar for a certain sound I would buy a used one and fix it up or build my own to my liking (which is pleasurable in and of itself). Same goes for my other equipment purchases.
They all became tools.
And it is good because I have acquired many tools. Basses, guitars, drums, computers and DAW software, nice microphones, studio monitors, good headphones, good recording spaces to use all the stuff in.
Life is good.
About the only thing I really ‘want’ and don’t have is a baritone guitar. And I’m on the hunt.
But most of these things are like the tools in my shop. I buy a new saw, or I buy a Ludwig drum set. I don’t get that lovin’ feelin’ from them. I’m glad I have them when I need them, but I don’t spend time just looking and caressing them.
But something happened a short time ago that brought me back in time… Years in time.
My old friend Lou came to do another recording. 13 songs. (I’ll post a blog about it soon).
We’ve created 24 mostly full length recordings in the last 30 years together. I think there was one single (which turned out to be three songs) but for the most part each project was 10 or more songs.
On this occasion, Lou gifted me a special guitar. His wife and girls had bought him a Telecaster years ago. Lou being an acoustic guitar type of guy tried it on a few recordings over the years and at a few shows but it just didn’t work out for him.
A beautiful Telecaster in a case with black furry lining. On the night he got into town, he stopped over to visit for a bit as we were scheduled to start recording the next day.
He handed me the guitar and said this is for you, I don’t use it much and I’d like you to have it. I took the guitar out and looked it over, I thanked him humbly and we talked for a while and he went to his hotel. I had seen this guitar before. I had not actually seen one before Lou showed it to me years ago.
Later, I got the guitar back out of the case, and did something I had not done for a while. I looked at this guitar, I smelled this guitar, I played it for probably 20 minutes without an amp. I rubbed the finish and looked at it some more. I caressed the guitar.
The neck is great. I’ll say it again, the neck is great.
Two Seymour Duncan humbuckers with a coil tap switch. Flamed Maple Top. It played great, the action was set up just fine. I put a new set of strings on the guitar and looked at it for a while longer.
I had not had that kind of rush for a while. The stars were aligned. His gesture was in the category of ‘this doesn’t happen very often’.
I played it on many of the songs we recorded in the next four days. It’s a guitar I really like but never would have probably bought for myself. Sounded fantastic through the Mesa.
This guitar is not just a tool, but something special. A gift. A treasure. A surprise. I didn’t buy it or build it.
Just like my first Stratocaster, this guitar triggered something. I hung it on the wall so I can look at it and grab it any time I get the inkling.
I’m glad I have once again found that lovin’ feelin’ all these years later.
If you read this Lou, thanks again my friend.