In 1976, at the ripe young age of 14, I had already developed into a consummate rock ’n’ roll connoisseur, thanks in large part to having a brother three years older than me who had a bunch of friends with insatiable appetites for music and the extensive record collections to prove it. Through them, I discovered the shock and awe of bands like Yes, Jethro Tull, Queen, and Blue Öyster Cult, as well as more “obscure” (for 1976, that is) groups like Kansas, Rush, and REO Speedwagon. I was also fortunate to live in an FM radio “hot spot” between San Diego and Los Angeles, where I could enjoy broadcasts from legendary Los Angeles AOR stations KMET and KLOS, as well as the more adventurous offerings from San Diego station KGB, where I first heard bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, who I’d only previously knew about from reading articles in rock magazines like Creem, Trouser Press, and the UK’s Melody Maker.

At that time, my parents forbade me from tagging along with my brother and his friends as they went to concerts, but as soon as I turned 15 they finally relented to my pleas and gave me permission to go to my first show. My brother’s friends were raving about a new band called Boston, who had just released their first album and were coming to San Diego’s Golden Hall. I was familiar with the single, “More Than a Feeling,” which was just starting to create a buzz on FM radio, so I asked if they could get me a ticket. I had no idea what the rest of the band’s music was like, but it was just cool to be able to finally go to a concert.

Part of the reason why I felt such a strong urge to go to shows was because I was on a reconnaissance mission. Although I had learned to strum a few chords on a nylon-string acoustic guitar a few years earlier, I was stuck taking banjo lessons-my parents harbored a bizarre fantasy of me becoming the next Roy Clark or something. But I, of course, wanted to rock and impress girls. And frankly, the guy playing bluegrass standards at the local Shakey’s wasn’t exactly attracting hordes of groupies. I was hell-bent on buying a bitchin’ electric guitar and forming the ultimate band. Still, there was no way for me to know what gear to buy unless I could see it and hear it in the flesh, and I knew that going to concerts was my best bet.

From looking at photos on album covers and in magazines and my brother’s concert programs, I had my heart set on getting a Gibson. Everyone I liked back then played a Gibson guitar. The store where I took banjo lessons had a decent revolving supply of used instruments, but they rarely got in any Gibsons, and when they did they sold them about as quickly as they came in. I lusted for a new Les Paul about as much as I did for Lesley Anne-Down, but the cost was too much for me at the wages I was pulling in as an illegally hired underage busboy, even though I did my best to save every paycheck. Fortunately, the cost of my concert ticket was only $5.50, which I could easily hustle in tips in a few hours by smiling shyly at the golfer’s wives in the country club restaurant where I worked, so it didn’t cut too deeply into my guitar savings fund.
Nerdily, I brought along a set of binoculars to the concert so I could “trainspot” gear. As it turned out, I didn’t need them because our seats were in the 10th row! 

That night’s opening act, Spirit, bailed at the last minute to be replaced by the Runaways. I was initially bummed to see five chicks take the stage, but then I spied Lita Ford’s amazing white Explorer and Joan Jett’s ultra-slick Les Paul Goldtop. By the time Cherie Curie strutted the stage in a white corset and black panties singing “Cherry Bomb” I was thoroughly convinced that girls could rock as well as guys. It was an appropriate anthem for my personal concert de-virginizing, and I thank the ladies for playing rough with me.

The Runaways may have officially popped my concert cherry, but Boston positively blew my mind. There was Tom Scholz onstage only a few feet in front of me, banging out the opening riff to “Rock and Roll Band” on a Les Paul Goldtop that seemed even cooler than Joan Jett’s. And the sound they achieved-it bounced around the auditorium just like stereo panning, but to me it sounded like a spaceship taking off. I hadn’t heard the band’s debut album yet, but I was already hooked.

As impressive as Scholz’s playing was, I really took notice of this mustachioed dude playing an SG—Barry Goudreau. His guitar solos knocked me out with a melodicism, precision, and speed I’d never heard before. My ultimate moment of revelation came near the end of the set, when Boston performed the song “Long Time.” I remained focused on Goudreau as he kicked the song off in a spectacular fashion with a tasteful intro (after Scholz’s adept display of organ playing skills on “Foreplay”). As Goudreau blazed into the second solo at the song’s climax, the spotlight shined down on him and a reflection from the chrome-covered Maestro Vibrola tailpiece plate on his SG blindingly beamed like a laser directly into my face for about 10 seconds. As Goudreau executed those mind-numbing pull-offs, I swear that I momentarily heard singing angels and the voice of God filling my head. When I regained my vision and consciousness, there was no two ways about it: I had to get an SG.

I don’t think it was a coincidence when I showed up for my next banjo lesson and spotted a 1963 SG hanging on the wall of the music store. I couldn’t concentrate on my lesson as I eavesdropped on what seemed like a never-ending flow of customers who came in and ogled that axe. One guy asked if he could take the guitar home and try it with his band. Unable to wait any longer, I rudely interrupted my teacher, Woody, and told him that I was buying the SG-right now. Poor Woody looked a little dejected as he took that beautiful Gibson down from the wall, knowing that he was losing perhaps another Tony Trischka protégé to the allure of rock ’n’ roll.

At concerts I attended over the next few years, I noticed similar SGs in the hands of Angus Young, Kerry Livgren of Kansas, Brian James of the Damned, and Frank Zappa, among others. I knew I made the right choice. I still own that guitar to this day, and even though I’ve had ever-increasing offers to take it off my hands, I’ll never part with it. What else am I going to use to play my note-perfect rendition of the immortal “Long Time” solo?