21st February 2012
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A sweet sister of Notre Dame sold me this guitar on a snowy night in Billings, Montana in 1971. It was an experiment based on her own design. Rumor has it … the small brass dialeetum on the bottom caused instant audio insanity. She said Mother Superior forbade such experimentation because it was uncharitable. It is apparently disconnected now … it might be just a couple of loose wires.
20th December 2011
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Sometimes I see my electric guitars described as SteamPunk. I like the aesthetics of Steampunk. I like to use old brass, copper, worn beautiful wood, and whites aged to shades of old ivory. Much like Steampunk explores the theme of steam, I like things that explore the theme of hyperelectric. Hyperelectric means hot: it has a smell. It can be used for good or it can go horribly wrong in a heartbeat, scarring circuitry and killing the ungrounded. Punk has a nice ring to it too. The Ramones changed my life back in the late 70s. The word punk sounds like a swear oriented one-syllable nod to irreverence, audaciousness, and defiance. I think that might make punk an appropriate description for some of these guitars. So I like Steampunk, but these are not all steam and they’re not all punk. I think Steampunk means cool … I’ll take that! What would you call it? Steampunk? Hyperelectric? Industrial? Other ideas?
15th November 2011
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GUITAR STIMULUS SALES!! UNVEILED TOMORROW!! BIG!!
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9th November 2011
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I’m getting lots of requests from email, twitter, tumblr etc fans for pics of the Abombcaster. Here she is! Rumor Has it…Found buried with an unidentified body in an Alabama cornfield in 1971. Cleaned up pretty well: has new strings.
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8th November 2011
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My search for storied guitars took an odd turn. Sometimes it’s the odd devices that get me jazzed. One guy even had a guitar with human teeth used for the knobs on the tuners. He was a professional boxing referee and collected the teeth for 20 years. Another guy once tried to sell me a hollow body Gibson that had a secret compartment fitted with poison darts and a blow gun. I don’t know why, but I don’t make this stuff up. One of my favorites is the one I have on my work bench right now. It needs a new volume pot. It’s a Strat look alike clad with aluminum from the Porsche James Dean died in. The guy I bought it from said a friend of a friend swiped a door from the car. (The car has never been accounted for, by the way.) He deskinned the door and used the sheet aluminum to shore up some bad cracks in the body of his guitar. He had documents. I believed him. Enough said.
28th October 2011
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Buying guitars must hyperactivate your kidneys. I was making really good time home in the truck, but nature’s call had progressed from a gentle urgency to “if I don’t find a bathroom real soon, I’m going to blow bladder all over the dashboard.” I stopped at a UDF and scurried inside. After I had taken care of the situation, I grabbed 2 jerkies and a Stuarts Cream Soda. The girl behind the counter flashed a smile showing teeth that could only be called teeth in the most polite sense. “I see you buy guitars.” She motioned at my truck. “Yes.” I was trying not to look at her mole. She had a mole on her chin that looked like Abe Vigoda’s nose, only in HO scale. “I don’t have a guitar, but I have a case for one.” She gave me my change. “No market for cases. Sorry.” I smiled and hoped the charm I exuded didn’t pass for flirtation. “It’s monkey skin,” she said. “I keep it here. Mom says it’s creepy and she doesn’t want it in the house. My boss lets me keep it in the back by the dog food. She had me at ‘monkey skin’. “May I see it?” She disappeared through 2 banged up aluminum doors and reappeared before they even stopped swinging. She plopped it on the counter. Yikes! This was the most grotesque guitar case I’d ever seen. “My Uncle Donny skinned a big monkey that he found dead in his swimming pool. He made it into a gig bag for his electric guitar. See?” She pointed to a raised area. “I think that’s his nipple.” No knowing about the legality of owning such a thing, I passed. But I can give you the address if you’re interested.
25th October 2011
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I had never seen a guitar with one of these. Not in real life, anyway, only in old pictures … very old pictures. I wondered if it worked. “Peter Frampton owned it. He sold it to Jimmy Page,” the owner pleaded. “Jimmy Page sold it to Jimi Hendrix in 1986.” “I bet he hardly used it,” I said. “Only once and that was at that there big We Are The World concert,” he offered. This was fun. “Remember that?” “Oh, yes,” I said. “I couldn’t keep my foot from tapping.” I flipped the heavy beast over. ” I’ll give you 20 bucks,” I said. He looked shocked. “For a guitar that Slash himself owned? Are you nuts?” I knew who was nuts, but I wanted the pickups. I WANTED the Chambered Star and Dot lever. “Oh, did Slash buy it from Jimi?” I asked. “No, I think he bought it from Prince,” he said. “Fifty bucks,” I countered. “Last offer and I get to use your bathroom before I go. Take it or leave it.” I slung the guitar over my shoulder like a fat rifle. I gave him my best dare you to say no look. He stuck out his hand. We had a deal.
21st October 2011
The Russian guitar under the house trailer wasn’t Russian at all. It had a hammer and sickle stenciled on it and the guy claimed that a communist named Keith Richards had owned it back in the late 60s before he was a Rolling Stone. I told him, as far as I knew, Keith Richards was an avowed capitalist. “He is now,” he answered, “but this was his back when he was poor and stuff and a member of The People’s Army.” That’s when I knew the guy was delusional. He could see that I was leaving. “Then he sold it to a guy in the Yardbirds,” he tried next. “Eric Clapton!” He looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “No,” I said. “Jeff Beck?” He was pleading now. The thing was, I liked the pickups on it. I had never seen anything like them. Dark, narrow rectangles that looked like the tops of tiny ancient car batteries … and triangular magnets! Who ever saw triangular magnets? But the neck was warped like a rotini noodle and the body appeared to be a fine combo of linoleum over plywood. Junk. I flipped it over in my hands. My heart almost thudded to an elated halt.
18th October 2011
He offered the guitar to me like it was a giant fudgesicle. “I got it in a deal with Satan,” he said. He was short, fat and all his visible skin was covered with badly drawn tattoos: flames, skulls, devils, you know, generic wicked. I laughed. “I don’t know what you gave him for it, but apparently Satan only had to cough up a $50 piece of crap from Kmart.” How is it these idiots make so many deals with Satan? Why don’t they hit up St. Joseph or Raphael or somebody like that? Casper the Friendly Ghost would come up with a better guitar than this. It was pink, I swear. Barbie pink. Mary Kay pink. Hannah Montana pink. The kind of pink you’d see on the diseased toenails of a cheap cheap hooker. “It’s pink,” I said and my lip curled in perfect disdain. I walked away. It you go guitar hunting, beware the old pat “Got it from Satan,” story. Satan doesn’t make guitars and if you believe he does you’re probably already signed up in his minion book. Pink? Give me a break.
14th October 2011
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The highway through Pennsylvania is boring and I felt my mind wandering. When buying guitars, you have to know where to draw the line. One time a guy tried to sell me three fourths of a guitar. He heard I traded in the bizarre and the macabre … Mr. Guitar Noir, so to speak. The bottom 1/4 had been cut cleanly. So cleanly it looked like it was done with a chainsaw. The bridge was gone, so the strings were splayed willy-nilly like a spastic granddaddy long leg. “This looks like it was hacked off with a chainsaw,” I said. I pricked my finger on an errant G string. “That’s because it was hacked off with a chainsaw,” he replied. “Bobby was playin’ Freebird on it when Mayella kilt him with a wild swing of a two stroke Craftsman and Bobby had just put on a fresh chain too. He was gonna cut far wood after the game.” He pointed to what looked like a dried up Earth worm on the volume knob. “Skin, swear to God. And if you look at the back, the blood stains make the face of Castro!” My friend, there is a fine line between a storied guitar and just court evidence for a troubled marriage. I walked away. I told him the guitar was just far wood.
11th October 2011
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We haggled a price for the guitar. I stowed it carefully in the truck and said a cordial good-bye. I had just pulled out of the driveway. I didn’t hit a bump. I didn’t make a sudden steering move. The radio wasn’t on. But, from behind the seat, chimed a single, slinky, skanky sounding G minor … strummed just once. Then there was silence. It didn’t do it again; not on the way home and not in my workshop later. It didn’t even do it for the lead guitarist of a very famous band (that I’m not at liberty to name here) who bought it without even trying to beat me down on price. I wouldn’t have come down on price anyway. It’s crazy, but sometimes I still hear that chord in my head. Witch wood indeed.
Why do you suppose it was G Minor?
7th October 2011
"Waiting for wired money." That’s what the text from Vickie said. I turned to the guy selling the witch wood guitar. "Excuse me for a minute?" I asked. "Sure," he shrugged. I left Vickie in charge of the shop while I was on the road. Actually she was in charge of the shop even when I wasn’t on the road. She would not have bothered to text me if she wasn’t pretty sure it was going to happen. "Cool beans," I texted her. "You sound like such a gomer when you say that," came back. "Can you handle shipping or do you want me to take care of it?" I tapped out, "I’ll be home in a couple of days." She came back with "I’ll take care of it." "Cool beans," I texted. I’m sure if it was possible to text an eye roll, she would have, but the exchange ended. "Good!" I thought. "I have gas money to get home now." I turned to dirty ball cap guy and his haunted guitar.
The Pepperjackcaster will soon be on its way to France. Which guitar do you think will sell next?
20th September 2011
He said “I got a guitar that’s made of witch wood and galvanized bucket metal.”
"It’s not acoustic is it? I don’t buy acoustic guitars." A gentle belch punctuated the end of my sentence. He spit on the ground. It might have been tobacco juice or maybe just spit. "Oh, it’s electric all right," he said. "You can see char marks where it shorted out or something one time. I never played it. I swapped a guy for a log splitter I could never get running right, but turns out it just needed a plug and a little starting fluid. I was really ripped off, turns out. It’s real witch wood though. You familiar with witch wood?" I said that I wasn’t. He smiled. "Witch wood is wood that is from a tree that a witch was hung from until dead." He smiled again. "Rather than just until she was gasping mightily?" I asked. I’m a total riot sometimes, I swear. "Huh?" he said. "Never mind," I said. He spit again. "Anyhoo, it’s at home in my gun safe. Wanna see it? It’s pretty cool." I have an inner instinct that tells me when to roll the dice and when to pass. It fails me a lot. But it’s the only inner thing that still talks to me. "Let’s go," I said. "I’ll follow you." The Russian guitar in Pennsylvania could wait a bit longer.
15th September 2011
Guitar hunting makes me hungry, so I made a pit stop at Jim’s Fatboy in Marietta. I ordered a carotid clotting, double mayo, double onion. I would pay for that later. Some lanky guy, wearing the world’s dirtiest ball cap, walked up to me and said “Thatcher Truck?” I said that it was. “You buy guitars?” he asked. I paused before replying. I was in a hurry and did not want to look at one more banged up, neck warped, knob missinged, Stratocaster inspired First Act guitar that some bozo bought back when he thought he would be the next Randy Rhoads. I couldn’t say that I didn’t buy guitars because the door on my truck announced that I did, indeed, buy guitars and announced it in 10 inch letters, no less. At the end of my mental debate I decided it best to not anger one of the locals, and a mean looking one at that, and said “What do you have?” I regretted it immediately.
10th September 2011
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I better go gas up the truck. I’m heading over to East Pennsylvania today. Someone phoned me about a guitar he found in the crawl space under his godmother’s house trailer. I asked him if it was preserved from the elements in any way and he said “Yes” but would not elaborate any further no matter how I hinted around. I don’t think the crawl space under a house trailer is ideal for the preservation of an electric guitar no matter how well it’s wrapped up. I’m not expecting much. But he did say, the trailer is a rare 1949 Noonan Land Baron Deluxe and there are not many of those left, my friend, especially with the copper plated side trim intact! So I’m going to look at the trailer mostly and hopefully the guitar will be a bonus. He told me it’s Russian. And Russian electric guitars … well, when’s the last time you saw one? He said the pickups are wood and pitch with little triangle shaped magnets. Woo Hoo! I’m outta here.