Monday, October 28, 2013


I have a friend who was a big customer for me 7-8 years ago when I was out of work. He would buy a lot of guitars on eBay and bring me 2-3 a month to repair and setup. I made a lot of cash from his collecting. He's about 59. He was a contractor. About 3 years ago he injured his shoulder and lost the use of his left hand almost completely. He couldn't work. He got behind and eventually lost his house. He and his wife split up. He has since sold all his guitars except one acoustic. I bought a couple from him and resold them. The last time he was at my house buying a case from me so he could sell one of the last guitars he had, he gave me a pocket knife. An Uncle Henry old timer’s antler handled jackknife. Nothing special. I kept it on the shelf over my workbench and used it for opening boxes of guitar parts for UPS.

I have recently been drawn to collecting a few knives and while on the phone with a customer in the shop I was messing with the knife and noticed it was actually a nice piece. I call my friend to see how he was doing. He was still kinda down about the turn his life had taken but stated that he had regained about 60% use of his hand. He mentioned that he would like me to keep an eye out for a nice low end guitar for him. He thought he might be able to swing about $200 by the end of the year and he really missed playing. Next call I had with him he said that he was jumping the gun and things were just too tight for him to spend any money soon.

I had a beautiful but cheap Fender Squier strat hanging in the shop that I got very cheap but couldn't seem to get $100 for it right now, there are so many of them on the market. I took it apart and put on better tuners, very good pickups and re-wired pickguard from my salvage box, stripped the finish and logo off the neck and refinished it with a relic/worn/dirty broken-in feeling. It came out great. I hung it in the living room and just couldn't take my eyes off it. I really liked it. A cheap guitar upgraded with parts that would otherwise spend a few more years collecting dust in my shop, and it sounded great.

Now I really felt like I’d keep it. Why? How many of these do I need? Am I thinking that if it hadn’t come out so nice I’d have no problem giving it to my friend? No. One of the reasons it came out so nice was because I was doing all the work and picked out the good parts with him in mind the entire time. I wanted it to be something that he’d enjoy looking at and playing and showing to his friends. I wanted it to no longer be that cheap guitar, but something special and cool. This one now looked and sounded like a $400+ instrument.

I talked him into stopping by to look at “something cool” yesterday afternoon. He was a little confused as to why I had him over, after all he no longer has stuff for me to work on for him, nothing for sale that I could buy. We never had really hung out unless he needed work done. He played it and liked the sound. He really enjoyed playing an electric guitar for the first time in years. Awhile back he had given me a somewhat collectible Fender amplifier in a trade for work I’d done. It needs a new speaker but still sounds pretty good. He left with the guitar in a new gigbag, a cord, and that old amp, not sure how to take what had just transpired. I told him that “it’s all on a big wheel” and to pay it forward down the road when he gets back on his feet. I told him I knew all too well the healing power of the instrument, both for the body and the mind.

I’m sure he happily irritated his roommate and the neighbors yesterday, although he is a very good player. It was a good day for me as well.


Misha Guiffre said...


fanoboss said...

You're a good dude. Guitar has saved me many times.