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Why I Need Guitars

Why I Need So Many Guitars

I have a lot of guitars—some might say too many. Well, let's examine that for a minute: I don't think I have enough guitars. Before you pass judgment on me, let me explain.

There is no perfect, all-around guitar that's good for playing everything. I play a lot of different kinds of music, and if you're going to get whatever music you’re playing even close to right, you need the guitar that will give you the right kind of sound.

Let me give you an example: back in the 1960s, when he was playing with Cream, Eric Clapton switched from Gibson Les Paul guitars—which he had used almost exclusively until that band—to a Gibson SG that he played through a 100-watt Marshall head with two four-speaker Marshall cabinets and a Vox Wah-Wah pedal. If you want to sound like Eric Clapton in Cream, that's what you need. Need I say more?

Okay, I play some Cream, so I need a 1967 Gibson SG. That's one.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. When they're playing electric music, both Stephen Stills and Neil Young use Gretsch White Falcon stereo models from the 1960s. Yup, gotta have one of those too. Can you see how easily this can get out of hand?

A Fender Stratocaster will cover most music, but if you really want to play some country chicken-picking licks, there's nothing to use but a Fender Telecaster. For Santana’s sound, you need a Paul Reed Smith. For Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, only a Rickenbacker 360 12-string will do.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. You’re wondering why you can't get close to those sounds with just one guitar? Well, you can … sort of. But only by investing your money in effects pedals and other electronic cheats. I'm a purist. Besides, I really like guitars.

When I put the electric down and grab one of my acoustics, it gets really complicated because you can't really modify the sound electrically. An acoustic guitar just sounds the way it sounds and that's it. If I'm playing some funky blues by Robert Johnson, give me a 1930s Gibson L3. For picking the blues while sitting on your porch swing sipping a little moonshine, you absolutely have to have a Martin D-18 or a 00-18

My main acoustic guitars are a 1972 Martin D-18, a 2003 Gibson Advanced Jumbo, and a 2007 Martin D28HDV. I can play most everything on one of those. In the past, I've owned some very, very special guitars. A few years back, I was offered a ridiculous amount of money for two guitars that I loved: a 1953 Martin D28 and a 1954 Gibson Southern Jumbo. The guy who bought the Gibson owns a recording studio, and he used to send me recordings that were made with my guitar. I keep offering to buy it back and he keeps laughing at me, telling me it's the best sounding guitar he's ever heard. I would pay almost anything to get either one of them back, but I fear it's not to be. Yes, I succumbed to the evils of a very large stack of $100 bills. I know, I'm weak.

I know the Lovely Louise doesn't understand this obsession, but she's remarkably good about it. She tolerates me and never puts any pressure on me to get rid of any of my babies. I have a 1989 Commemorative Reissue of the 1969 Gibson Les Paul. I replaced the original mini-humbuckers with P-90s and a stop tailpiece instead of the tremolo bar. I love that guitar even though I think I've played it four times in the past twelve years. For the past two years, I've been promising myself that I will sell it to give it a good home to someone who will play it. I put it on Craigslist … and then took it down after the first call I got. I'm just not ready.

Notice the guitar in the picture at the top of this blog? In the 1970s, Rex Bogue, a famous guitar maker, built this double-neck for John McLaughlin of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame. McLaughlin dropped the guitar at a concert and it cracked. Believing that the crack released the guitar gods that lived inside and that the mojo of the guitar was completely gone, he burned it up. A few years later Bob Dullam, a former guitar maker at Gibson’s custom shop, created an exact replica of that double-neck. But instead of Bogue's name inlaid at the top, he put his own name, Dullam. I bought that guitar from Bob in 2003, and in 2004 it was stolen along with about 30 other guitars I owned. It's a one of a kind. There is no other one like it and it's never been recovered. If you see it anywhere, let me know because I want it back. No questions asked.

In spite of all my guitars, I still have a wish list, so if you have one of these for sale, please let me know. I'm a buyer:

  • 1960s Martin D-35

  • 1970s Mossman Great Plains

  • 1960s Grammer G-10 (I've had three, but people keep offering me a lot of money for them!)

  • 1960s Fender Jaguar (Yes, I know they're junk, but I still want one!)

  • 1965 Gibson 335 in Cherry finish

There are many more, but I have to leave now—I'm off to see my therapist about my guitar addiction.


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