Saturday, April 12, 2008
The Gibson J-50, Photograph and Story
Click on the image above for a larger view
A life study of a poorly treated guitar
What this guitar was forced to endure, and how it failed to escape me, is quite a story.
That it was trying to escape seems a certainty.
This was the guitar that I got in high school, and brought to college with me. By then I was stringing it with electric guitar gauged strings, and using a sound hole pickup to play it amplified. Both during and after undergraduate school, I played with a band on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Story #1. We played a fairly rough bar on Route 301 near Kent Island. We did almost all original tunes, which is crazy when playing for a group that doesn’t know who you are anyway. These folks wanted something recognizable, played LOUD.
I was playing through an amp head (in fact, an old P.A. amplifier) that wasn’t properly grounded. At the end of a set, I started to put the guitar against the metal amp cabinet, and got a raw 110 volt shock, which immediately dislocated my shoulder. I had a bad shoulder until it was eventually surgically fixed.
The guitar skittered across the stage, still at full volume. My right arm always dislocated radically so I was screaming in pain. Suddenly the audience was standing, and applauding, the first and last time they did that evening.
I went out to the car to wait to be driven to the hospital, and the shoulder popped back into joint. I finished the night playing my Fender Mustang, which was thin enough to fit under the shoulder without causing much pain.
Old Guitar Stories 2
I had the J-50, in the original low quality case, on an added luggage rack on the top of my VW. At that point I was leaving the Eastern Shore for a stint doing mostly digging on a farm in West Virginia.
When I got to a stopping point, I noticed that the guitar case had pulled out from the ropes and was nowhere to be seen. Backtracking all way back to Chestertown did not reveal where it had blown off.
The VW was a very noisy vehicle. That’s the only thing I can say in my defense.
After ending up in West Virginia, I arranged to have a note in the classifieds of the weekly paper that came out on the Eastern Shore. About three months later a letter arrived from a farmer who had found it, still in its case, by the side of the road. I retrieved it on a trip back to the Shore. The case had taken the bulk of the road rash, and I just bought another case.
After returning to live on the Eastern Shore after my stint in West Virginia, I had parked the VW in the parking lot of “Newts,” a local bar whilst I was in playing pool and drinking some beer. I had forgotten to lock the car, and the guitar was in it. I returned to the car and found it missing.
I was heart broken. I was down to the Fender Mustang for some time. About a year passed, and I had stopped thinking about the missing guitar. Upon coming back to the house I shared one day, the guitar was sitting in a chair in the living room of the house. I thought I had slipped a cog.
It turned out that one of my roommates was working as a teacher’s aide in the local high school, and had seen a group of students with the guitar in the parking lot. It was easy to identify as it was uniquely trashed by yours truly. He confronted the parties and offered not to turn them in if they turned it over.
So, that’s why I sometimes think the guitar was actively trying to escape my clutches. And it couldn’t escape.
Here's a very short sample of the sort of thing I play these days . . .(although I tripped over my fingers toward the end ;)