Arlen Roth on Why Every Guitar Tells a Story
As players, appreciators and as collectors, we all must admit that in many ways, every single guitar has a story to tell. In fact, the ones that don’t somehow seem far less interesting, and as we all know, the guitars that seem to acquire the most “mojo” are really the best ones anyway, and they seem to have more “soul”, in a guitar kind of way!
The “stories” that many instruments tell for me, are the ones that have a lot to do with the finding of them, or the occurrences that happened while owning them. There are some extreme stories like the time I fell 15 feet off a ramp that was attached to the stage with Huey Lewis, thanks to it being the last night of the tour “jam”, and all the darn roadies were not there with their pen-lights to show us the way once we came out of the bright stage lights! The guitar I was using actually held me on the edge of that ramp with one tuning peg for a millisecond before I finally took the big fall, and I had always kept that tuning peg bent, and as a reminder of what that instrument had “been through” with me! Unfortunately, some un-thinking luthier decided to straighten it for me without asking, when the neck was in for a truss rod adjustment!!
Other instruments have great stories (and follow-up stories) that have to do with their acquisition. For example, an old 1930’s Gibson L-32 archtop I have that I found in what was truly a junk shop in PA. It was in the window, getting scorched by the noonday sun, when my girlfriend at the time suddenly yelled “GUITAR!” She spotted it, and I went right into the shop and then played it for like an hour, totally putting on a show for all who were there. The guitar was that good, that it made me not want to put it down, and the price was certainly right! It felt like I had really rescued it, as it was just there among a lot of junk, as was being subjected to far too much solar intensity day after day!
Fast forward about 5 years after that, and I happened to be talking on the phone to a vintage guitar dealer from that area about something un-related, and then he suddenly said to me, “oh yeah, there’s a funny legend around here that you once went into a junk shop out here on Route so and so, and you found an old L-32, and put on a whole show!! All I could say was LEGEND?! Wow, it’s amazing that the simple thing of an unsuspecting “me” wandering into a thrift shop and finding a guitar would suddenly turn into local folklore, but it did!
I’m sure many of you have some great guitar stories to share too, and I’d love to hear them! Remember, they’re all still “out there”, and many of them are just waiting to meet up with you and have more stories to tell!!!