Monday, February 20, 2012

Get That Gear - Part Six: Trust Your Senses

Ok. This is a sad post. If you are prone to cry at failed relationships of the gear variety read no further... or at your own risk.

There have been a few times when I didn't listen to my heart, or my intuition, and passed on something that I would never forgive myself for. Ergo, this post. Let it be a warning to you all!

Now while my last post dealt with hasty, ill-conceived purchases, the bad twin, I'm going to deal with the good twin here - purchases of the heart.

It's a fine line. We've all confused the two, bought a guitar and later thought "what was I thinking?" and other times we didn't buy a guitar and thought "what was I thinking?". It's a tough distinction and one that will have you second guessing every purchase. But let me tell you of a couple of missed opportunities and see if through thorough analysis we can avoid the mistake of the missed opportunity in the future.

Dateline 1981 - I taught guitar lessons at a store in Indiana. A lot of lessons. I was there Monday-Thursday and Saturday morning every week. I made about $300 a week, which for a 20 year old kid was pretty good coin, but my focus was moving to Los Angeles so I was power saving big time. Most of my days were four to six hours of half hour students, with the occasional no-show or cancelation. There was a two month period where when I had the involuntary half-hour break I would faithfully gravitate to the blonde Gibson 175 hanging on the wall. OK, sit down. It was a 1959 and was only $300! Hindsight and all that so hold your trap. This is when old guitars were called used and not vintage. The thing played like butter. I was really in to Wes Montgomery and George Benson at the time, but I already had a 175. Well, not really. I had an Ibanez 175, bought at the very store for my 13th birthday. For $300 I believe. Well one day it dawned on me that I needed that guitar. That day? My day off...  Friday. Did I wait until Saturday to drive the fifteen or twenty minutes to the store? Nope. Apparently I sensed the need to move on the guitar that had been hanging in the window innocently for the last couple months. Of course you know the outcome. When I got there it was gone. Sold that morning to a guitarist in town who played with a fairly well-known local band. I was literally in shock. I had played it the night before. "I should've..." "If only I had..." still echo in my head thirty-plus years later. Stayed tuned for analysis.

Next story - Dateline - mid 90's - There was a store in Pasadena that I frequented, and by frequented I mean bought gear at, and even occasionally worked at. One time there was this weird instrument I'd never seen before. It was an acoustic instrument. Made of Koa. It appeared to require a slide to play it. And it seemed to need to lay on one's lap. What kind of crazy guitar was this? Even the neck was hollow. OK, most of you know what this is. And it was an actual 1930's Weissenborn. The price? I'm embarrassed to answer that question. $300. What is it with me and things priced $300? I thought about buying it right then and there but hesitated. I went home. This was before the internet revolution so I didn't really know what it was. But I went back the next day and it was gone. That was the going price at the time. But that would would quickly change. "I should've, I should've, I should've..."

OK, example one. My saving-at-all-cost nature cost me the 175. If I'd added up the facts, done the math as it were, I would have realized...

  1. I had a COPY 175, here was the real thing. For the same price.
  2. I was into jazz. It was the perfect guitar for that. Though my teacher said, any guitar is a jazz guitar if you play jazz on it.
  3. I loved it. It played itself. At the risk of being over dramatic, my hands felt like they were home when I played it.

Example two. My hesitation cost me a Weissenborn that would soon be worth ten times what I would've paid for it. Did I know that then? No. No one did. That's why it was going for three bills. This is not where I made my mistake. Here's where I blew it...

  1. It was an instrument I didn't own. I have a policy to get one instrument a year that I don't know how to play. This would've fulfilled my quota for that year.
  2. It was well within my "cash on the side" budget.
  3. It was at a friend's store.
  4. My wife told me to get it.

Even my lovely bride saw that it was a good deal. If I could kick myself in the pants right now I would.

So had I been following many of my own rules of engagement I would own both of these lovely instruments. There have been others, but I'm too sad to talk about them now. Share your's in the comments.

Gibson 175
Goldtone Weissenborn Hawaiian Style Steel Guitar

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