News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

Seasons' Greetings and Happy Holidays, everyone. My, how time flies. It's coming on Christmas again, and being one who loves the holiday season, I always try to do some sort of holiday story. We have done ghosts of old guitars past, ghosts of old guitars present, and, for this issue, it is going to be a sort of ghosts of old guitars to come. Kind of a two-act play, in which Act One is finished, and Act Two has yet to be done. By the time this article is published, Act Two should have taken place, and I will finish the story in next month's issue.

So let's begin. Last week I received a phone call from a woman we will call Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson is 77 years old and lives in a small West Texas town. She tells me she has an old guitar that belonged to her late husband. She says that she remembers he bought it brand new in 1950. It is a Fender Esquire. We guitar buffs know that this would be a pretty cool guitar. But what is truly significant here is the year: 1950. Leo Fender started his company in the late 1940s but he didn't really begin producing his famous guitars until 1951. Anything prior to that is truly a prototype. Each one could be unique. They definitely do exist, these 1950 models of Esquire and Broadcaster guitars, but you won't find many.

So, here I am, trying to have several phone conversations with Mrs. Johnson, and the best I can surmise is that she does have a Fender Esquire, and it shows normal playing wear, and the serial number does place it to around 1950-1952. The fact that the guitar shows wear is a good sign, for after 40 or 50 years, don't all of us show some wear and tear? If she would have said it was minty clean, I would become very suspect. But the info is sketchy. After all, she is 77, with a limited knowledge of guitars and a fading memory. Trying to get too much info over the phone can be very confusing. And with some people, modern technology has just passed them by. So, armed with good enough information, I conclude that it would be best if I just pay her a visit.

Oh, by the way, she called us because she is getting up in years, and she feels it is time to sell this guitar. So, given my sense of adventure, and knowing it would be difficult to get her guitar to come to us, we agree that I will go to the guitar. I love a good adventure, anyway. So, next week, it is off to the land of longhorns and sagebrush, Buddy Holly and vintage Fenders.

More times than not, these wild goose chases, if you will, do not pan out like I hope they will, but if a baseball player who bats .333 and a basketball player who shoots 50 percent are considered great successes, then maybe my luck isn't so bad. And besides, something as significant as this particular guitar has to be taken seriously. Can we make a ton of money off of it? Probably not. For one, she has done a little research to help determine roughly what her Esquire might be worth. And secondly, we try to let people know - to the best of our knowledge and experience - what something might sell for.

You may be wondering why a little old lady from the middle of practically nowhere West Texas would be contacting someone in Louisville, Ky. about her old guitar. I was wondering the same thing myself. It was her initial effort to figure out what it was worth that led her to us. Seems she went down the path of antiques, not vintage guitars, in her quest. This led her to a good friend of mine outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. He has what is considered to be the world's foremost collection of cowboy guitars, the Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Buckaroo guitars of the '30s, '40s, and '50s, that had a western motif stenciled on them. They were cheap mail order guitars, and all the kids got them.

He has been written up in many publications, and that is how Mrs. Johnson got in touch with him. In turn, he put her in touch with us. I know she has strong feelings and great memories of this guitar. She and her husband played music for years, and they used this guitar all the time. So, as it often is with family heirlooms, their value is sentimental, not monetary. But Mrs. Johnson knows that it is time for this guitar to go to another home, and that is where we come in.

That pretty much gets us up to date. Next week, I will fly to west Texas, meet up with Mrs. Johnson and her Esquire, and we will see what happens. You'll never know if you don't try.

So this story is to be continued next month. Kind of reminds me of the old Lost In Space series.

I guess that's all for now. I hope everyone has a happy holiday, and until next time,

Keep Rockin'