Falling in Love

I can't do a post about falling in love without including a photo of my beautiful wife who tolerates calls from buyers during dinner and loud screeching noises coming from the "guitar room".

I can’t do a post about falling in love without including a photo of my beautiful wife who tolerates calls from buyers during dinner and loud screeching noises coming from the “guitar room”.

I haven’t been a guitar dealer for all that long. Up until 2010, I was just kind of a guitar player with a particular affinity for certain old Gibsons. But up to 2010, when I kind of zeroed in on the very narrow range of  58-65 ES models, I played all kinds of guitars and owned a fair number of them. There were certain guitars that I’ve always (since I was 12 anyway) had a deep and abiding longing for and others I could simply take or leave. Obviously 335’s have always been on my radar although I couldn’t afford one when I was gigging in the 60’s and 70’s. But I also liked Epiphone solid bodies, SGs and Stratocasters. I was never a Telecaster guy, although I like them now. Until recently, I had never owned a Gretsch or a Rickenbacker even with my great love for the Beatles and their music. My acoustic for more than 30 years was a 69 Martin D-28 but I never really liked it all that much. I kind of stopped playing from the late 70’s until my son was born in 87. Playing for him on the old Martin (to keep him quiet or just to entertain) really got me back into it. I dabbled in guitars through the 90’s and into the early 2000’s. I bought an Epiphone Crestwood, an Epiphone Wilshire, a reissue ’60 Stratocaster, a Taylor 12 string, a 70’s Les Paul Custom, a Rickenbacker 350, Baker B1 and a 64 ES-335. I didn’t fall in love with any of these guitars (OK, maybe the 335) although I enjoyed them while I had them. I still have the Taylor but the rest are long gone, although I owned the 64 335 for many years until somebody talked me out of it. But I also found that I loved the journey perhaps more than the destination and then found it easier to not keep every guitar I bought that I really connected with.

A well known vintage dealer once told me what he thought it took to be a successful vintage dealer. He said: “DON’T FALL IN LOVE”. Well, I don’t fall in love that often (after all, I’m still with my first wife after almost 30 years) but I’ve had a small number of guitars over the past few years that have really been hard to let go. And recently, I’ve had two that are real heartbreakers. Over the past few years the ones that come to mind are the red ’59 ES-345 and the red 59 ES-335. Their rarity and the great playability of both of them keep them fondly in my memory. I knew they would go when I bought them; simply because I couldn’t afford to keep them, but I wasn’t happy about it. I don’t really like the term “holy grail” but since everybody else seems to use it, I will too. The usage of it in the guitar world is pretty well understood so calling the most sought after guitars something else will just confuse you (golden fleece guitars?). My holy grail (no caps) is probably a stop tail mono big neck red 59 ES-355 with a pair of double white PAFs. Never seen one. I’ve been close with the stop tail stereo version I just sold (and it was hard to let that one go). Blonde 335’s and 345’s are certainly in that category and I’ve let a few of them go but with fewer regrets than those red 59’s. Finally, the last guitar I fell for was one that didn’t even make the “for sale” page on my site. I just didn’t want to let it go. Finally a good friend wanted it even more badly than I did and I made him promise to never sell it unless he sold it back to me. And it wasn’t even a Gibson. well, yes it was but it didn’t say Gibson on it anywhere. It was the guitar you see below. Best playing guitar I’ve ever played. Probably the prettiest too. Best tone? Probably not with those single coils but it sounded great to my old ears. So, the old girl is gone and I miss her already. But, I’ve got a closet full of cool guitars here (and a great old 58 coming tomorrow), so, in the immortal words of Steven Stills…”if you can’t be with the one you love…you know the rest.

Goodbye old girl. I miss you already. It's not like I'm going to find another blonde 59 Sheraton. They only made three of them.

Goodbye old girl. I miss you already. It’s not like I’m going to find another blonde 59 Sheraton. They only made three of them.



6 Responses to “Falling in Love”

  1. Frank says:

    Sometimes I play guitars that once were in my possession and I ask myself how I could let them go. The answer is i felt in love with another guitar (that often now is gone as well).
    My biggest mistake was selling a ’59 355 mono with double whites and a Bigsby (which I like). It looked and sounded just like the Rick Derringer Guitar on E. Winter’s “Roadwork” Album. Earning money means to let the desirable pieces go, but sometimes the money does not satisfy as much as the guitar did.
    I think that’s part of the game. So “love the on your’ re with” sometimes is the right and better decision. To grow and develop can be a great experience, even with guitars 🙂
    All the best Frank

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, all too true! We all miss some of the vintage git-tars that pass thru our hands. And it rings true too that we are just caretakers (and hopefully responsible ones) of these axes that should be singing the Blues long after we are pushing up the daisies! Fortunately for me after regretting selling my ’62 Riviera I found an even nicer and earlier example years later. I didn’t hesitate and pounced on it! It will have to be pried from these cold dead hands…! The only Les Pauls I regret selling were a crazy rare original 2 PAF ’59 Custom and a mint ’57 dark back PAF Goldtop that sounded way better than any of the 5 Bursts I owned…my ’56 conversion sounds almost as good at considerably less coin!

  3. RAB says:

    Interesting to think that after having owned dozens if not a hundred guitars or more over the decades there are only a handful I really miss…in addition to the above 2 fiddles there was an original Desert Sand 1954 Fender Strat (purported to be one of the first 20 production Strats)…There was also a 1950 Fender Broadcaster #0022…I had an original 1958 Explorer (’58 body issued in 1963 with all nickel hardware) but don’t miss it…too awkward to play! While I wouldn’t mind having another one I don’t seriously miss any of the original 1959-60 Sunburst Les Pauls I owned…I really do miss that darkback ’57 GT though!

  4. cgelber says:

    I can’t count that many either-considering I’ve had perhaps 400 guitars since becoming a dealer and another 50 since I started playing in 1964. Certainly the ones I mentioned but that’s about it. Yeah, maybe my first electric (64 Duo Sonic) but not really. I actually kept that one from 1964 through around 2004 and I didn’t play it more than a couple of hours after I replaced it with a Fender Jaguar in 1965. It just sat under a bed or in a closet all those years. So much for sentimentality.

  5. RAB says:

    Charlie, glad you brought up the languishing Duo Sonic. I had about 21 guitars in my collection at its high point. Most never got played. I changed my philosophy to where I only want to have guitars that get played regularly. I also want to have guitars that are sonically distinct (E.G., with ES models, one with full sized and one with mini-humbuckers). I also don’t care for guitars that are too pristine since they are so clean I don’t want to gig them. I had a ’54 LP Goldtop that was so terrifyingly mint I was afraid to open the case for fear of inducing the first weather-check. I sold the guitar because it was of no musical value to me. I have never been into buying/holding guitars merely as an investment…RAB

  6. Graham says:

    Charlie – you’re the man as far as I’m concerned. I just hope that your “grail” Red mono stop eventually turns up – there would be a good degree of karma involved!! Reading this I will have to find one of those old TV tens for you now – or you and V can always come over and just pick one to take home on long term loan – G

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