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Call it Mojo. Call it Crud, Call it Dirt

These two guitars probably left the factory the same day and led very different lives.. I love the guitar on the left which belongs to LPF member WillieJoe Bob and it's a crowd favorite. I would never touch a thing on this guitar unles the fingerboard was drying out but clean it? Not a chance. The other one is Gary Dick's and it's still for sale for $85K.

Here’s my dilemma. when I get a guitar for myself -one that I like so much I have to keep it (a rare occurrence by the way), I like to clean it up. That means a bit of either naptha or Virtuoso Cleaner, some lemon oil on the rosewood (NEVER on the Body). The idea is to get the organic crud off the guitar. Really, do I want to go eat my dinner after playing a guitar that was sweated on on 5 or 10 or 20 different players, some of whom washed their hands once a month whether they needed it or not? OK, I wash my hands after I play (usually) but I think that cleaning up a vintage guitar is not an unreasonable thing to do. Then there are the purists who want every speck of dirt and “mojo” left alone. No cleaner, no polish. no oil on the board-just the pure filth of a 50 year old guitar. I hear things about “if this guitar could talk-oh, the stories it would tell.” Well, guess what. Unless you’re Peter Frampton, your guitar can’t talk. And it won’t tell stories even if you are Peter Frampton. So, I like to clean ’em up (for myself). I like my guitars to look good. Don’t get me wrong, a guitar that’s been played to death can be a very cool thing but that doesn’t have to include dirt and organic slime. Here’s the thing-I can make a guitar look really good with a bit of  Virtuoso  Cleaner and sometimes Polish and most people don’t mind this. But, long ago, I decided not to do this to most guitars I get. Not because I don’t like a clean guitar but because, unless you tell me otherwise, I want you to get the guitar in the same condition as I got it. Yes, I’ll do a setup and replace the wrong parts with the right ones-I’ll make sure it plays right but it’s up to you to clean off the crap. If you ask me to do it, I will- but if you don’t ask, you don’t get me applying the elbow grease. It’s just that some folks get upset if it’s done. I don’t think that cleaning a finish diminishes the vintage value one iota and I think it can improve it in certain cases. This policy seemed to be working just fine until last week when I sold a consigned 63 ES-345. The buyer was very particular about fingerboard wear and fret wear and I assured him that both were exemplary-which they were. But he was most upset because of all the crud on the guitar and fingerboard. He really couldn’t believe I would send out a guitar in that state. I explained that I used to do some cleaning but decided to stop doing so because some folks complained about “destroying the mojo”. It’s mostly a Fender guy thing but not exclusively. It’s funny that some collectors are absolute fetishists about the originality of their guitar. “Are the solder joints original?” “Have any screws been turned?” “Are the stickers intact?” (answer: how would I know if I didn’t turn any screws) it goes on and on and I accept it because these folks are spending a lot of money on an old instrument and  deserve to be happy. But if they ask me “is the dirt original?” I’ll  get a little  annoyed. What could the answer to the question actually be “No, I buried it in the garden for a month?” “No, I did a lube job on the old Mustang before I went in to play the guitar for a while and forgot to wash my hands”. Silly, right? You would think. But it’s happened. I’ve been asked if the guitar has had years of crud removed when  a guitar looks too clean and shows wear. On the other side, the buyer of the 63 345 nearly decided to return the guitar because of the dirt. He didn’t and I hope he loves the guitar. The trend toward distressed finishes -mark my words-will soon include authentic dirt, sweat and fromunda. At an additional cost, of course. I can actually see the Gibson ad…The New Eric Clapton 335 with authentic EC sweat and fingernail grime. They would probably call it “mojo.”

OK, not a 335 but this Goldtop that belongs to Tom Wittrock is another iconic "mojo monster". The fact this this can't be duplicated and is honest wear (and crud) leads me to conclude that if you want a clean guitar buy one that's clean. If you want an authentic piece of music history, maybe buy one like this.

One Response to “Call it Mojo. Call it Crud, Call it Dirt”

  1. […] your Gibson Les Paul and make threads about it? The guitar belongs to Mr. Tom Whitrock: Call it Mojo. Call it Crud, Call it Dirt | The Gibson ES-335 More info on it here: Les Paul Forum Vintage Guitar Registry […]

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