The Search for the Perfect Guitar, Part II
Editor: In last week's music feature, Christian McPhate began his search for a guitar. Not just any guitar, but his Trigger, his missing part. In that story, he went north to our weird music utopia, Denton, and came away with nothing. Here, he tries his hand in Dallas. I'll start you with his opener from last week. If you've read it already, skip below the links -- that's where the story picks up.
Christian McPhate Shake Music Store
People pick up the guitar for different reasons. Johnny Marr, guitarist of Morrissey and The Smiths, wrote an article for The Guardian called "Why Playing the Guitar Means Everything." In it, he says it's always having something "cool to do," whether it's rock-star ambitions or just escaping life. It means "a lifetime of discovery and discipline. Playing guitar means everything." The late great Andres Segovia, a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist, told Music Therapy Today that the guitar is "a small orchestra unto itself." Musical therapists claim that a guitar's tonal quality, its direct nature, its capacity to produce chords and its extensive melodic range greatly enhance the guitar's ability to reach people. God knows playing guitar offered me a much-needed release.
Into the Heart of Dallas
Crossing underneath the train tracks on Royal Lane at Old Denton Road in North Dallas feels like traveling back in time. Despite a few transportational upgrades, the area still looks like it did in the '90s. Hell, I see the corner where the pimp and his car full of hookers nearly ran my car off the road because my asshole friend threw a penny at one of the ladies.
Charley's Guitar Shop is located just off Royal Lane in what appears to be a shopping center but looks eerily like office buildings. An old Observer article claims the guitar shop is "little bigger than a closet" and one of the five best local music shops in the area. It sounds like the perfect place to search for my "Trigger."
For more than 30 years, Charley's has been buying, selling and trading guitars. Founder Charley Wirz opened the shop in 1976, and his website claims he was "instrumental in the establishment of the 'vintage guitar' movement in North America." And maybe he was. There's a picture of Charley and Stevie Ray Vaughn in a buddy embrace. Although Charley died in 1985, his shop workers have kept his memory alive by buying, selling and trading guitars they "wholeheartedly believe in."
No one can deny their belief is powerful. You can see it walking through this shop. Guitar relics decorate the walls like trophies of a bygone age. All the greats are represented, from Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul to Paul Reed Smith and even a Mosrite Ventures. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Gibbons and a host of other musician's photos line the walls, and tube amps needing repair are stacked near a work area where an older guitar tech works his magic on an white Fender Strat. Thankfully, several green street signs hang above the doors and point me in the right direction.
Entering Acoustic Avenue feels like entering a guitar god's trophy room. Dozens of ancient acoustics hover in the air, wood aged to perfection shimmering in the soft light. I take a deep breath and feel as if I'm experiencing a flashback as I tiptoe through the room. My mouth starts to quiver when my eyes look upon a Martin 0018 (1927). "This was once somebody's Trigger," I whisper. I reach to caress its wood, but something stops me. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see it: a Martin D-21. Its aged wood still smells of fire as I move closer.
My grandfather played a Martin D-21. After he shot and killed my grandmother, the old bastard shacked up with another woman. She then wanted my father to buy it from her when my grandfather died. "You've lost your mind," my father said, only with more expletives than I have in my vocabulary. She sold it to a pawnshop in South Texas.
But this couldn't be his guitar. Maybe it's due to the polish they used to make it shine, but even though it's old, it still looks new. I want to hold it, strum it, but the older guitar tech is busy. I walk around the shop for several more minutes, trying to take my mind off my grandfather's Martin.
"Screw it," I whisper, and leave the shop.