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Prostate Exam Anyone?

One of the more amusing and interesting aspects of the guitar collector’s profile is his age. Since becoming a dealer, I’ve been in contact with perhaps 200 people I didn’t know before. I’ve also started going to guitar shows which I rarely did before. I’ve noticed a few things. The average aficionado of electric guitars from the “Golden Era” is between the ages of 52 and 62 and is male. I’ve had exactly one female customer who needed help getting an anniversary gift for her husband (she got him a ’58 ES-350. Nice wife. It isn’t terribly surprising that the age range is so narrow. The first “guitar boom” occurred between 1964 and 1968 and dated from February 9, 1964 when John, Paul George and Ringo came into our homes in glorious black and white through a 6 inch speaker. It set off a love affair with the instrument unlike any the industry had ever seen. It showed a bunch of boys, aged between 6 and 16 that all it took to be cool was a lot of hair and a guitar. For most of us, the hair is gone but the guitars live on in our collective consciousness as a symbol of what might have been and of what we’ve lost over all those years. Yes, including the hair. These guitars allow us to hold onto a piece of our lost youth and perhaps find some past glory that somehow seemed to elude most of us at every turn. It’s interesting that we didn’t gravitate to Rickenbackers and Gretsch’s. But when you look at the other popular bands of the era, it was clear that there were a lot of choices and perhaps it was the aesthetics that attracted us first. Most of us wouldn’t have come near a Telecaster but many, if not most of us, really wanted a Stratocaster. We had two music stores-Hermies, who sold Fender and Martin and George’s who sold Gibson and a terrible Japanese import called St. George. In a blue collar town like Schenectady, a few hundred dollars for a Stratocaster, was a few weeks wages and the $50 and $60 imports saw a lot of popularity-especially the 4 pickup model that sold for around $100. If you couldn’t have a 3 pickup Strat, an extra pickup was some consolation. ┬áMost of my crowd couldn’t afford a Gibson, so Fenders ruled in Schenectady, NY in 1966. A lot of us would make pilgrimages to Manny’s on 48th Street, 3 hours away to buy Strats and Deluxe Reverbs. A Strat at Manny’s in 1966 was $200. A Strat at Hermies was retail and then some, or around $350. I bought my used ’63 ES-330 in 67 but didn’t buy it for its looks, I bought it because nobody else had one and, I have to admit, it looked pretty cool. The Rolling Stones fans went for the teardrop Vox (there was a dealer in Albany) and the Beach Boys fans went for Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters. We didn’t see a Les Paul until John Sebastian showed up on TV (probably on Shindig but maybe it was Hullabaloo) with The Lovin’ Spoonful playing an odd small bodied guitar that most of us thought was kind of odd. When we all went nuts for Cream, the 335 found its way onto the map but they were just so expensive that most of us never made the move. By then it was a $400 guitar and there was almost no secondary market in upstate NY. I switched to an SG in 1968, once again making the trip to Manny’s but I had miscalculated the price and had to leave the store with the guitar in a cardboard box. I carried that guitar in its shipping box for close to a year before I got around to buying a case. There was always a new pedal (Mosrite Fuzz-rite) or a new amp (Fender single Showman) or a PA system (Kustom in gold) for the band to buy. I think every reader, at least every American reader has a similar story, perhaps only differing by the location and maybe what the local music store sold. But we all wanted the same thing. We wanted to be cool. We wanted some glory. We wanted to matter. We wanted people to scream and applaud and dance to our music. And, sometimes to our great surprise, they did. Is it any wonder we gravitate toward the guitars of our youth? Is it any wonder that we all share the same story and the same guitars? It’s what makes us the same. That and the occasional prostate exam.

4 Responses to “Prostate Exam Anyone?”

  1. Martin Halstead says:

    Oww…way to skewer me, the 52 year old lawyer who just bought a new 335 flametop because……….well, because I coulden’t afford one when I was 17. In the UK at that time, the financial situation was even more desperate than the one you describe. A 335 was about 450 pounds in my local music store, and an appprentice wage was 25 pounds a week, less stoppages and bus pass.

  2. EC says:

    what’s next? Alzheimer??

  3. OK Guitars says:

    New one, old one…it doesn’t matter. You always wanted one and now you have it. The prostate exam is more embarrassing than painful anyway.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Is that you, Clapton? And yes that’s…what was I saying?

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