A reader asked me to share myworst vintage guitar story. My first reaction was: "Which worst story?! That's not a story, that's a book. "
But seriously, folks, part of the fun of vintage guitars has always been the chase. The excitement and anticipation of discovering a treasure is something that's in all of us, and to those who have happened upon that great deal somewhere, it's part of what keeps you going. But if it was always fun, with a pot of gold at each rainbow's end, then wouldn't everyone be doing it? Which brings us to the rest of the story: not every adventure turns out like we hoped.
Perseverance is a virtue, and in the old guitar world, amust for any longevity. Since I love travels and adventure, it's a natural for me, and along the way, I've collected a few stories. In the next few issues, I'll pass along some more, but now the one that came to mindimmediately.
Set the wayback machine to 1982. TheLouisville Tonight television show is going to feature our shop, The Guitar Emporium, and they want to make it a real human interest story. Since I'd already planned a trip to Lexington to buy a 1930s Gibson L-5 from a woman who called me, I suggested to the TV crew that we should make it a field trip.
"Great," they said, "just the type of story we've been looking for." So with lights-camera-action in mind, we took off for that great old Gibson at the end of our rainbow.
A great little treasure hunter story, right? Wrong.
My dog Barney, who just doesn't take "no" for an answer, decided he was going with us. So the game writers forLouisville Tonight scripted my dog into the segment, and then we were off for Lexington.
An authority on vintage guitars I might be, but my expertise in dog training was exposed for what it really was and is — embarrassing. But when handed a lemon, sometimes you fall down and get lemonade: my dog Barney was the hit of the show.
Upon our arrival in Lexington, the camera crew set up and we taped the big moment - uncovering that prized vintage beauty, that pot of gold we had spent all day chasing.
And right there on camera, appeared athoroughly ragged, bottom-of-the-line Gibson arch top, refinished poorly and completely unplayable. As embarrassment and humiliation began to set in, my thoughts ranged from "Can we start over"? to "There goes my 15 minutes of fame."
The TV crew wanted to run the story anyway. Just the way it was. It was "real life adventure."
I, on the other hand, would have preferred an altogether different ending to this story, one that would have, perhaps, put me in a better light. The expert sleuth on the right trail.
However, sinceLouisville Tonight loved it the way it was and it was their program, I got to eat humble pie on TV. Angie Humphrey did say she thought I was just wonderful.
Personally, my feeling was a bit different, and I've never to this day been able to watch the videotape of that segment. Here I was, played up to be Kentuckiana's roving expert and master sleuth, and ended up demonstrating that chasing vintage guitars can be nothing but a can of worms.
Like fishing, however, it's not always what you catch, it's the sport of it that matters, anyway.
So keep those cards and letters coming. Until then, keep rockin!
Jimmy Brown is the owner of The Guitar Emporium, a noted vintage instrument shop in Louisville.