Irony Defined

Here's the man with his ES-345. The girls went nuts for him. After all he was the guitar player and he looked like Bobby Darin (according to his daughter). I wonder where Phil Anthony is these days?

I drove to beautiful Staten Island, New York on Friday to pick up a 64 ES-345 from Danny S., the original owner. Danny was a professional musician for most of his life and tells me he was Frank Sinatra’s guitar player for some of his later shows. He told me this story. They were playing at the London Palladium with the Queen (yes, that queen) in attendance. There was a woman of indeterminate age who somehow had finagled a front row seat and she was taunting Mr Sinatra throughout the

Yikes. Good intentions. Bad idea.

show by shaking her considerable chest in his general direction. As Danny tells it, Ol’ Blue Eyes stops the song in mid sentence and addresses the woman-on mike – over the sound system. “Lady, what are you doing?  I’m 79 years old fer Chrissakes. I’ve got a two inch fuse and no explosives.” End of story. He laughs. Yep, Danny is a bit of a character. He probably didn’t trust the guy (me) coming to his house to buy his old Gibson, so his son-in-law and daughter show up to make sure everything is, as Frank would say, copacetic.  Well, it was kind of copacetic and kind of not. This guitar had seen an awful lot of use over the past 46 years and it showed. There were some oddities that made me kind of shake my head in disbelief. The guitar had a Bigsby B7 from the factory and it was strung over the tension bar, not under it as its supposed to be. I asked Danny about it and he said “I bought it from Sam Ash in Brooklyn and that’s how it was strung when I got it.” So, I guess it worked just fine that way. But that wasn’t the thing that struck me as most peculiar. Danny was proud of this guitar “Cost me $600 back when $600 was real money,” he said. he saw that his belt buckle was causing some scratches as we’ve all seen many times. The classic buckle rash. Well, Danny wasn’t having any of that. He saw what Gretsch had done on its Country Gentleman and Nashville guitars, so he added a back pad, complete with 8 snaps which screwed into the back of the guitar. The eight little holes would have been bad enough but, in hindsight, who knew it was going to be worth thousands of dollars some day? When he gave up performing, the guitar, in its case, with it’s vinyl back pad went into the closet for 15 years or so. We all know how certain plastics and nitrocellulose lacquer don’t get along too well. The finish under the pad-put there to protect his beloved guitar-actually wound up nearly destroying it. His attempt to preserve his instrument wound up cutting its value considerably. If anyone ever asks you to define the term irony, tell them this story. Not the one about the lady with the big chest, although there’s a good bit of irony there as well, considering the life Frank led. Even with all of its “issues”, it’s still a great example of what a 345 can sound like. For those who scoff at the Varitone as a “tone sucking gimmick”, you ought to hear this one. It’s loaded with character-lots of double tones and harmonics, especially in stereo as it was meant to be. Remember this-back in 1964, the only pedal you could buy was a fuzztone. So, if you wanted some real versatility, this was the way to go.

Look what happens when you leave vinyl next to nitrocellulose lacquer for a couple of decades.

2 Responses to “Irony Defined”

  1. aceinoc says:

    in the never ending qwest for tone…and early 60’s ES is hard to beat…

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Hey Ace. You bet. Nothing better. Your 345 looks killer.

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