Echoes and Reverberations: Without You, I'm Nothing

"Well, I was passing by a pawn shop in an older part of town, something caught my eye and stop and turned around / I stepped inside and then I spied in the middle of it all, was a beat up old guitar hanging on the wall / 'What do want for that piece of junk?' I asked the old man / He just smiled and took it down and put it in my hand / He said, 'You tell me what's it worth... you're the one who wants it..."
-- Guy Clark - "The Guitar"
The author with his first guitar crush, a white Gibson SG Jr.
The ongoing relationship between a musician and their favorite instrument usually represents a lifetime commitment.

At first, you pick this thing up and it makes that initial impression. A connection is made. Time stands still. From that point on, you don't ever wanna let go. Life is good. You're in this for the long haul together.

We never forget that first axe crush. Mine was a white Gibson SG Jr. It had no traveling case or gig bag. A previous owner had apparently left it sitting in the sun for years, and the paint job was cracked like an intricate spider web. Once hospital white, it had turned the color of pale urine; a warped black plastic pick guard bulging at the screws, one single coil pickup and two lowly control knobs: volume and tone. Both dials were turned to "10" and never adjusted.

The thing was barely a guitar. I was barely a musician. Perfect fit all the way around.

It was ugly. And badass. Got it for a hundred and fifty bucks at Pete's Pawn and Music in Garland. I traded it a couple of years later for an ounce of bunk weed. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Not sure why. My values were clearly askew.

Like Chris Rock often says in his act, "A man is only as faithful as his options."

Doesn't really matter what kind of instrument it is; real musicians usually love to interface with one specific machine -- and that's what a musical instrument is, a machine -- that facilitates the manifestation of their particular creative expression.

Without a guitar, bass, keyboards, horn or drums, we're left to making noise with electronic gadgets and record players. Are we not human? Let's explore the organic route to making noise.

This week, I've asked an odd batch musicians -- both local players and/or Dallas expats -- to get personal and spill their guts about the stories behind their favorite pieces of gear.

Peter Marince
Vaden Todd Lewis
Vaden Todd Lewis (The Toadies/Burden Brothers)
"I've got a '73 Gibson L6S that I got in Lawrence, Kansas around '94. My manager was hounding me to get a 'real' guitar, as I'd been playing knock-offs my whole life. (Hell, I figured getting an Epiphone was splurging.) Anyway, I've had that Gibson guitar re-fretted at least three times, and the neck now has a 'French' finish, which I guess means... no finish. It's got a cool decal of the Toadies logo, which was given to me a few months after I got it. I've checked out the wiring and there's about a pound of solder in there. I guess that's what makes it sound different from any other L6S I've played: its got extra metal."

John Freeman (Dooms UK)
"The first guitar I owned and played was a 1960-something aqua-blue Tiesco Del Rey. It had a crazy two-tone metallic pick guard, one of those big spring loaded whammy bar and a bunch of metal knobs and switches that didn't seem to affect the sound at all. Plus, the action was like a cello so it was incredibly hard to play. I got some amazing sounds from that thing that I have never been able to duplicate. I miss that hunk of junk."

Danny Balis (The King Bucks)
"A 1971 fender Precision, all original; traded in a '73 P-bass for it at Charlie's Guitars. Got it right out from under Kinley Wolf, and I hear he was pretty ticked about it. Put flat wounds on it, and haven't changed the strings in about four or five years. I won't change them 'til one breaks. Put the original pickup cover and ashtray on it and stuffed foam under the strings near the bridge. Sounds like Jamerson's from all the Motown recordings. Have played it exclusively at about 1,000 shows, and have heard from numerous soundmen and recording engineers that it's the best bass they have ever heard. If I lost it, I would quit music altogether."

Gary Myrick.jpg
Gary Myrick
Gary Myrick (Gary Myrick and the Figures)
"There are three custom instruments that I've owned throughout my career. One looks like a big rockabilly semi-hollow body, yet it has a solid body. It was made of Amazon rain forest light solid wood with 24 frets and an old Strat type knob setup and quite tough sounding EMG pickups. Everyone thought it was some weird vintage instrument. I had them add a Floyd Rose whammy bar that I could beat the shit out of and still stay in tune. It has a sunburst body with white binding and the signs of the playing cards inlaid in the neck fretboard. It is called the TEXAN.

My Lap Steel, the Lonely King, I had built by the talented Bill Asher. It is simple, great sounding and is very versatile. It has beautiful stars on the fret-board plate inlay, much like the Everly Brothers signature acoustics they played in their 50's era. Bill added ruby red Sparkle extra thick as paint, and added 1920's haunted house looking brass doorknob plates to house the two volume tone knobs. Last, but not least, is my old beat up Mexican Triumph Telecaster. I was going to sell it and took it to my friend and pedal board guru Brian Brown (works with Tom Petty and Phish). He got it in shape. Polished the frets and added a new 1950's style bridge and new bridge pickup, and also did some internal work on the electronics.

I added some artwork; an aging leather old cowboy engraved pick guard, a Triumph Motorcycle ancient emblem belt buckle and transformed it into a wild amazing tough Telecaster, which I love for its simplicity. It plays fantastic and sounds classic and tough. I thank the Lord I'm lucky enough to have and play them."

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