I’ve been in love with guitars since I was a small child. I still recall visiting my best friend and fooling around with the stringless guitar–it was a real one–his family kept around the house. I didn’t have any image of myself up on stage using it, but I did pretend to play it. The funny thing is I’m not sure I even knew what a guitar sounded like. I just knew I’d like playing one.
I finally got my first toy guitar. I was heart-broken when I stepped on it. That plastic wasn’t durable enough to survive. My second toy guitar was an inexpensive replacement. Neither of those guitars could have been used to play real music, but they maintained my interest over the years.
When I was a junior in high school–yes, I’d long since given up the toy guitar, but not my dream–I was saving for a class ring. But the $18 Silvertone guitar I found at Sears appealed to me more at the time than the prospect of a class ring. That was during what I refer to as “the folk fad of the 1960s and 1970s.” So it was only natural that I would develop a finger-picking style.
That was tough on a cheap steel-stringed guitar, but I kept at it. Believe it or not, I made my first real progress in finger-picking during the days immediately following President Kennedy’s assassination. There was nothing else to watch on TV, so my guitar stayed on my lap and my fingers finally started to catch on.
I took seven lessons one summer. They taught me a little about reading music, but nothing about the kind of playing I wanted to do. Besides that, I realized I couldn’t afford lessons and dating. As it turned out, I couldn’t afford dating either.
I got together with two friends from church to form a trio–The Flatlanders. Very appropriate name for people living in country as flat as Tidewater Virginia. We had a lot of fun and actually got to perform some for other people.
I wanted–I desperately needed–a better guitar. At first my parents didn’t want me to save for one because they’d seen how many projects I’d started over the years without ever finishing. But I kept saving anyhow, and by the time I had close to enough, they had to admit I was really doing something with my playing. My first good guitar was a $151 Gibson. (I don’t think you can buy a Gibson now for less than $2000.)
When we moved away after high school graduation, I became a soloist. I stuck with folk music for a while, but when the fad died out, I realized I would have to do something else if I wanted people to listen to me. I had written my first song as the Flatlanders’ theme song, and I discovered that I really enjoyed writing songs.
So I ended up doing only my own songs. I’ve written over two hundred during the last fifty years.
Like most guitarists, I was always on the lookout for a better guitar–the perfect one. Probably the best one I ever had was an Ovation Anniversary model. But I sold it for two reasons. The volume control was not well placed. (Its location made me accidentally hit it and change volume when I didn’t want to.) And this guitar was one of the deep bowl models; a very convex guitar body against an equally convex tummy was difficult to hold.
I currently have a Martin acoustic-electric, a Taylor GS-mini, and an Ovation Celebrity. The Martin has the best sound, the Taylor is the most portable, and the Ovation has the fastest neck. I also have a Fender Precision bass.
My interest in guitars has led me to some interesting places. Like Connecticut for a tour of the Ovation factory and Pennsylvania for a Martin factory tour. Both of those were wonderful.
While visiting the in-laws in Memphis, I also toured the electric guitar Gibson factory. The acoustic guitar factory is in another state. But those doggoned people didn’t permit photography. Oh, well.
This October my wife and I are going to vacation in the San Diego area–close enough for a tour of the Taylor factory.
I keep saying I’ll never trade or sell the Martin or the Taylor. But–doggone it!–I don’t have the perfect guitar yet and couldn’t afford it if I found it. But I could find closer-to-perfect if was in the budget. I would probably need to publish a novel with a publisher that paid advances for that to happen, though.
What about you? Do you have a special musical interest? Or maybe another hobby that keeps you looking for better and better tools and accessories? Please drop a comment and share.
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“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.