Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Any problem you can't solve with a good guitar, is either, unsolvable or isn't a problem.

For the hell of it the other day I started recounting the guitars I have owned and or possessed long enough to claim ownership and came to an amount just over 30. I know...sick! Mind you they all weren't Porsche quality but they were all mine. Anyone who has owned and sold, or traded up to a new guitar, or even passed one down to a younger cousin/future Hendrix will attest to the fact that it may not be yours any longer but you still miss a guitar after it's gone. Perhaps it just played better, or you saw the exact guitar you had when you were 14 blow up on Ebay for $1300, or just call it nostalgia if you will but I bet you too remember your first...or second if it "put out" better.

Anyway, I am going to make a post for all I can recount and share a little tale about each one for nostalgia's sake. I am going to try and keep them in order chronologically so you can get a feel for how important the few that remain really are. Feel free to share a story of your own guitars in the comments. It's okay, the guitar you aren't playing is residing in the closet or under the bed and it will understand.

Number 1
1965-66 Teisco Del Rey E-120

I received my first guitar before I knew I wanted to play. It was a butchered up Teisco Del Rey E-120 that was given to me by my friend Mike in the 7th or 8th grade. I don't recall if it was a sunburst like the picture below or if it was red. I would lean towards red but only because of how I saw it last. I know it was pretty jacked up and am a bit hazy as to the story of why it was a wreck when it was passed on to me. The fret board was removed by what I would speculate was a serrated butter knife and then re-glued with Elmers glue or it's equivalent. The striped anodized aluminum pick guard had also been attacked by someone with I would guess the same butter knife. Not pretty to say the least. I think the story behind it's condition had to do with a scorned wife/ex-wife but like I said I am not very clear on why it was a mess. Perhaps Michael would enlighten us if he stumbles across this posting.

I did the best a 13-14 year old boy with limited luthier's skills could do to breathe new life into the old girl. I could get it to play though I recall using a gauge of strings closer to chicken wire so naturally they tore apart my supple little fingers. Surprising to say I still play after starting on something that resembled torture. I also had nothing to plug it into so I didn't know the pick-ups worked until I moved on to my first real guitar that came with an amp.

The action was high and intonation...what's intonation? I had a copy of Hal Leonard's Incredible Chord Finder (A Complete Guide to 1116 Guitar Chords) so I could strum a few and played an even more primitive barre chord than Johnny Ramone played. Imagine The Jesus and Mary Chain playing "Smoke on the Water" and you will have an idea of how prodigious my playing was.

I believe it was fortitude in playing this cheese grater of a guitar that convinced Mom and Dad I would continue to play guitar if they got me one that led to a better guitar.

I have no photos of this first guitar but here is a picture of some other Teisco fan's Del Rey E-120.

photo from justguitars.com.au E-120 page
The E-120 in all it's Japanese glory.

When I got an amp with the new guitar that didn't feel like I was holding my fingers to a sanding belt I plugged the tattered Teisco into it. The Peavey Audition 30 crackled and I heard this horrendous buzz as the fret's sizzled. I threw the Trash-co Del Rat into the back of the closet, under the bed, into the basement or something and tried my hardest to forget about it.

Three or four years later an artist in residence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center taught a basic guitar building class to the art students at Sheboygan North High School so I dug out that Teisco from wherever and passed it to my friend Timon.

Didn't shed a tear!

Timon turned it into a playable piece of art. He owned the crustaceous creation for several years before selling it to a girl in a band from Madison called Pentapus. Whether it is still around (interview mentioning guitar from '94) is a mystery but if the 40+ year old guitar is still swimming around out there I am sure someone is clawing to tell a fishy tale about it.

photo from Timon's flicker pool
One of a kind 1965-66 Teisco Lobster Guitar hanging on the wall at the aforementioned JMKAC in 1987.


My old friend Mike got back to me and told me this:

I had a guitar that I cannot recollect what happened to. I read your post and it reminded me of a maroon electric guitar I bought from a neighbor (a man in his 50's I believe) for $100 (amp included). It doesn't sound like it's the guitar you owned because I would have gotten rid of mine in High School. Anyway, I did take it apart because I wanted to redesign and build my own guitar. The funny thing is, I would have used things such as butter knives to pry things open, but I'm guessing it's not the same guitar. I think I still have those guitar plans (on graph paper) somewhere...

I have to admit that the picture does blur after 25 or so years so Mike may be right in speculating that this particular guitar may not be his.

Things I can attest to be undeniably true are the guitar I had was either tobacco burst or red, it was given to me before I hit high school and it was destroyed in so many aspects. Mike's comments don't solve it's origins but does confirm part of my memory of the guitar. I just might have blended his story with mine a little bit. The human mind tends to do that.

As a side note I recall being envious of my friend Lee's Gibson Explorer copy guitar because it had buttons on it that caused it to space out, echo and buzz naturally. It also looked cooler than the thrashed Teisco I was strumming upon.


Casey said...

Wow, I don't even remember that. I love what Timon did to it though. This will be a fun post to follow, my memory is horrible, was Odie next? I'll stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

How about all the parts left in the basement of at least 3 guitars that ended in the dump when we moved?

Oregarus said...

Odie is #3 and has a story that is good but not quite as fantastical as the Teisco E-120.

The parts in the basement may have belonged to the 80's Lotus Les Paul copy that eventually became "The Seat" which is roughly guitar #4. That story is soon to come.

The parts in the basement may have also belonged to the "Fred" which was an 80's Korean or Mexican made Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Casey.

Guitar #2 will be about my first "I regret letting that one go" story and will likely be posted Wednesday evening.

The fun in this series is the fact that even as I wrote the post about "The Lobster" I recalled yet another guitar, surprisingly enough, an important guitar both developmentally and to use an analogy, reaching second base compared to a first kiss as guitars go. It will fall around guitar #5 or #6. I only penciled it in and will have to think about it fully.

Anyway the number of guitars has reached 35 that I can confirm. Who knows maybe another will pop into my mind...hang on, I will have to check my list but I may have remembered another. Thirty-six?