I know I’ve touched on this subject before, but I sometimes feel I need to re-visit a topic that is so broad, as this is. Of course, we’ve all had good and bad experiences while guitar shopping, and I’m sure anyone could give you some advice in the subject, but I have some unique perspectives on it.
I certainly also have had some exciting times when looking for guitars, such as the first time I bought an electric guitar! I went down to the fabled “Beatle boulevard”, otherwise known as west 48th St. in Manhattan, and stopped into a little shop called “Ben’s Music” with my Dad. Not sure why I chose this store, but it was way less intimidating than Manny’s and the other more “professional” type of shops on that street at the time. It had a kind of “local” charm to it, and although it was small, it was just packed with cool guitars! I can recall that the window always had some of the coolest-looking instruments in it, to help attract you and to draw you into the store.
This time, when I went in, I was checking out a 4-pickup mostly-chrome Japanese solidbody guitar. It was something that only attracted me for its coolness factor, as I barely knew what made a guitar tick in those days! Well, sure enough, in the store, there stood Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, and he was buying some sticks, and I was the only kid in the store who recognized him. That night, the Stones were making their New York debut at the Academy of Music on 14th St., and seeing as I already had their latest album, I recognized him right away! I asked him for his autograph, and he politely obliged, writing on it, “Charlie Watts, of The Rolling Stones!” He seemed so nice and was totally happy to be recognized!
Fast forward over 20 years later, and I was on a radio show in London, on the BBC called “Echoes” with Stuart Colman, and was telling this story over the airwaves. Well, sure enough, the phone at the radio station rang, and it was the guy who was with Charlie Watts that day in the music store, and they actually remembered me! He said, “we thought you were the most charming boy, and Charlie was so flattered that you recognized him!” Wow, that blew me away, especially that after all this time and fame and travel and life in general, that particular moment stayed with Charlie as much as it did with me! He was out of town at the time, but that fellow who was with Charlie came down to my gig that night in London, and we had a blast!
Well, I know I didn’t help you that much with buying your first guitar, but I can sure tell you that it was a great experience buying mine, thanks to meeting Charlie Watts! And oh yes, after visiting England, and seeing the music stores there, I could understand why Charlie chose Ben’s Music like me; it definitely had the “charm” of those quaint little English shops! More on this topic later!