Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nash Guitars '52 Relic Telecaster

This just might be the one I wish I had back the most. If you are reading this you may well be aware of who Bill Nash is and what he does. If not, there is a fantastic story about him in The Fretboard Journal this past year and you can catch up with those of us “in the know.” I really have no idea how I first heard about him and his relic guitars, but I did know right away that I wanted one. The ’52 Telecaster copies really caught my eye and when this one came up for sale on eBay I just had to have it. It turned out to be the exact guitar featured on the website and I was able to get it for a steal.

A guy had bought it and basically hung it on the wall and never played it. Of course, you’d never know anyway because Nash guitars are relic’d to the point of looking like they’ve been played in a roadhouse eight nights a week for the last 50 years. In fact, some of Bill’s guitars go a little too far for my my taste...some just look dirty and banged up with a screwdriver...especially the more recent guitars he's been putting out. But most of them look darn cool and authentic. More importantly, they play like a guitar that has been broken in and set up perfectly and not like something that just came off the assembly line in Ensenada, Mexico. Not that those are bad guitars...I have a sweet MIM Tele Custom that I like a lot. But, the Nash felt like 50 years of soul.

The guy that had it on eBay listed it for $1200. I broke eBay rules and sent him a message saying I’d give him $1000 right away and, since it was just before Christmas, he’d have some extra cash for the holidays. He took the deal and boy was I happy. I have to admit that a couple of years later when I sold it, it went almost immediately for the $1800 Buy It Now price I put on it. Rarely does a Nash not sell for it’s Buy It Now price, but not usually that high. This was a great looking guitar. Since I wasn’t in a band for the entire time I owned the guitar it was mostly relegated to recording and living room jam sessions. I did get to play it out live twice and both times it got a ton of attention. If you CLICK HERE and head over to my MySpace page you’ll hear me playing it and my good friend Dave taking some leads on it too.

As you’ll read time and time again on this site, the reason I sold it (and it was a hard decision to sell) was to finance the purchase of something this case a black lacquer Ehlers jumbo acoustic that just plain has the best bass of any acoustic I’ve played...ever. The Nash was without a doubt the coolest, best sounding, most comfortable Telecaster I’ve ever played.

Man, I wish I had
that one back.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taka J-200 Copy

This is the amazing tale of how a J-200 copy got back in the hands of it’s original owner from the’s how it happened.

One day I walked into King’s Pawn in Escondido, CA. I’ve been in this pawn shop many times and they always have a decent selection of instruments. In fact, they’ve got a nice Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve amp in there right now that I’d love to have. This shop has the name of the store painted on the window rather largely and, right under that, “The friendliest place in town!” or something to that effect. Interestingly, I’d been in that store I’d say at least 15-20 times previously and not once had anyone in the store so much as spoken to me or given me a friendly nod. I shudder to think how un-friendly the rest of the stores in town are. Anyway, on this particular visit, one guitar jumped out at me. I’ve always been a big fan of Gibson J-200’s and at first glance I thought I spied one hanging on the rack. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a very decent quality Japanese “lawsuit” model made by Taka, a company I’d never heard of before. It played really well, but I knew I didn’t have enough to buy it that day. The whopping price tag? $150.

All week that guitar was stuck in my head. I went back the following weekend and sure enough it was still there. I asked the manager of the friendliest place in town if he could possibly hold the guitar for me until Wednesday when I got paid. NOPE. How about if I put $20 just to hold it? NOPE. Wow, how friendly! So, I waited until Wednesday and, on my lunch hour, I sped to Escondido (about 20 minutes away) and was lucky enough to find the guitar still hanging on the wall. I took it to the counter and pulled out my one-fifty to pay. I asked if they had a case for it and the friendly manager said, “yes, it has a case, but that will cost you extra.”

“Really? It has a case, that you took in with the guitar, but you’re going to charge me MORE for it?” I asked in disbelief. “How much?”

“Seven dollars,” he replied.

Holy shit. They’re going to charge me seven f#@%ing dollars for a cheap chipboard guitar case that came with the guitar! Now THAT’S friendly! I pulled out a five and a couple of ones and he wrote me up a separate receipt. THANKS! That will come in handy at tax time.

I got the guitar home and it became my backup for gigs. For an inexpensive knockoff, it sounded really decent. It’s the guitar I should have hung onto for campfires and campouts. Not too much invested, not a great collector value, no one would even know if it went missing. Then one day, as it always happens, I needed something else badly. So badly that I had to sell things I shouldn’t this Taka J-200. I took photos, listed it on eBay and it sold for somewhere around $350 I think. Nice...a little profit makes losing the guitar a little sweeter.

Then I got an email that made it all worthwhile.

The guy who bought the guitar on eBay sent me a nice note. He told me the story of how he had bought this guitar back in the 1979 as a graduation present to himself. It was brand new at the time and he really loved the guitar. He played it constantly and took it with him on trips and to the beach and on and on. He had lived in Huntington Beach, which is just around an hour north of where I live. One day he came back from a weekend trip and discovered that his druggy roommate had taken the guitar and pawned it for some drug money. He was devastated and drove as fast as he could to the pawnshop to get the guitar back. It was already too was gone and the pawnshop owner had no idea who he’d sold it to.

Fast forward 25 years and halfway across the country to Kansas. This same guy decided that, whenever he thought about it, he would look on eBay and other places to see if this guitar ever came up for sale. What are the chances? For three years he checked eBay day in and day out and finally got tired of looking. Just about that time, I listed this guitar for sale. Amazingly, his father saw it for sale and called him immediately. He won the guitar and now it was on it’s way back to the guy who owned it originally 25 years previously. Sold to a pawnshop, found in a pawnshop, and back home Kansas. I told the guy that he should have contacted me before the auction ended and I would have just stopped the auction and sold it to him. He said the thought hadn’t crossed his mind and he was really sweating whether he’d win it or not...he had bid as high as he could afford. So, although I wish I had that one back, I’m as happy as I can be that someone in Kansas actually does have that one back!

UPDATE: Not too terribly long after I wrote and posted this story I got another interesting email. This time from the owner of King's Pawn, the friendliest store in town. She had come across my story and was horrified that my experience in her store was less than fantastic. She apologized and, to make it up to me, let me know that, if I was still interested in that Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve amp (and if she still had it), she would give me a ridiculous deal on it. Today, months later, I walked into King's Pawn and, even though it was super pre-Christmas busy, got a nice "hello" and another employee offered her help if needed. I asked for the owner and introduced myself as the jerk who complained about her store online. The Rivera was still there and, true to her word, the owner hooked me up with the most smokin' deal in history. I just got finished plugging it in and jamming on it and it's an amazing amp. So, thanks to Heidi and everyone at King's Pawn...I truly do appreciate that she took the time to correct a situation in this world where customer service is dwindling and stores put customers last instead of first. You can bet I'll be poking around King's Pawn again regularly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Epiphone Crestwood (early 70s)

I decided to write about this guitar tonight because my catch phrase, “man, I wish I had that one back,” especially applies to this guitar. So much so that I recently went looking for another one just like it and bought one for only $200 off Craig’s List. I have no idea whatsoever how I came to even know about Epiphone Crestwoods. They are not by any means a popular model, and besides, I have always been a Telecaster guy since day one. I’ve tried Strats, Rickenbackers, Les Paul Jrs., and even a silver sparkle Gretsch Duo Jet. But I have always come back to Teles. So, when I came across this guitar, it was that same old feeling of “maybe this one will be different.” And this one was.

I’m trying to remember why I ended up selling it. I’m sure it was probably to finance the purchase of something else that I just HAD to have at that exact moment. I think I got this one for a bargain on eBay because it had a little monkey business going on with some of the parts. The stop tailpiece was not original and it had a couple of extra screw holes here and there. But it looked to be set up reasonably well and, on this particular guitar, I could care less about the originality factor. I just wanted to give something else a try.

Oh, and something else caught my attention. Someone had scratched the name “Johnny Ruddy” into the back of the headstock...I’m assuming someone named Johnny Ruddy. Hey Johnny!

This guitar, made in the early 70s, played like a dream and sounded fantastic. I always say it’s somewhere between a Les Paul and a Telecaster, but I think that’s more visual than anything else. The body style reminds me of a Tele if Gibson were trying to make one, but it has two humbuckers and the stop tailpiece and bridge of a Gibson guitar. The neck was all Gibson. I guess they also made Crestwoods back in the 60s in the USA, and those are selling for a small fortune these days. Those have a more Fender-esque, six-on-a-side headstock, while the Japanese-made 70s models sport a much more recognizable 3-on-a-side headstock of a Les Paul or Epiphone acoustic. There are quite a few other Epiphones of this body style with different pick-ups and appointments and, because of a lack of common knowledge of these guitars, people have a hard time differentiating between the models. They show up on eBay as a Crestwood or a Wilshire or an Olympic or an ET-290 or ET-275. The Wilshire and Olympic and Coronet are all different guitars, though pretty similar visually. The guitar I just recently acquired to fix my Crestwood jones is actually an ET-275. It’s got a tremelo and roller bridge thing going on with the cover missing and the trem arm lost in space. For some reason they almost always do.

Anyway, this guitar sounded fantastic and, just like me, I bet somewhere Johnny Ruddy is saying, “Man, I wish I had that one back.”

UPDATE NOVEMBER 3, 2008: As you can see below in the comments, a reader reports that he just bought this exact guitar off eBay recently for $450! How cool that through this website a guitar has actually been tracked through to a new owner. Thanks for leaving the comment!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gibson Dove Acoustic (1978)

Back in about 1990 (I think...correct me if I’m wrong), I was working at a shoe company called Airwalk. I met and became friends with one of the guys working in the warehouse, a guy named Rob Quillen. At the time I was playing coffeehouse gigs and even hosting San Diego’s biggest open mic night back when coffeehouses were few and far between (remember when there was no such thing as Starbucks?). I found out that Rob and his brother and other good friends were from Northern California and had a band called Bridge. Their “manager” was a guy named Jeff Cort and he had started working at Airwalk and had convinced them to uproot their lives and move to San Diego to become rock stars. Luckily for me, Jeff got Rob a job at Airwalk and little did I know at the time that Rob would become one of my best friends and musical compadres in my life.

One of the guys from his band Bridge was a guitar player and singer named Greg Noll (not the big wave surfer). Greg and I started playing together as a duo called The Primates, gigging at Hennessey’s Tavern in Carlsbad, CA twice a week for about a year, appearing on some public access TV show, and even opening up for rock and roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell in concert.

After a year or so of this, we decided we could make more money and have more fun if we were a whole band. We enlisted Rob on drums and found a local kid named Steven Blake to play bass. Here’s where the story actually gets to today’s guitar in question. While playing all of these acoustic gigs, I had been using a sweet early 70’s Martin D-41 with amazing inlay on the neck (man, I wish I had that one back). I’m sure it’s worth a FORTUNE today. But, I was going to be in my first band and needed an amp powerful enough to gig with. My silverface Princeton Reverb (man, I wish I had that one back) just wasn’t cutting it. So I walked into Dusty’s Guitar Kingdom on Coast Highway in Oceanside, CA and said I needed to make a trade.

I’m sure Dusty started salivating over my Martin. He had a used cherry sunburst Gibson Dove hanging on the wall that he suggested, and I immediately took a liking to it. It actually sounded better than my Martin to be honest. So that part was done. Now for the amp. Dusty said I could have my choice of two amps in the price range we agreed on. I could pick from the Roland Jazz Chorus 120 or the early 60’s blonde Fender Tremolux sitting in the corner. The Tremolux looked cool but kind of beat up and the separate head and cab seemed like a pain to carry around to gigs. So, I picked the Roland. Oh my god, yes, I picked the Roland. Speaking of things you’d like to have back...I wish I could make that choice again. Ironically, many years later I did end up with a blonde Tremolux just like the one at Dusty’s.

However, the best part of the whole thing was that I ended up with the 1978 Gibson Dove that I played day in and day out until late in 2006. After all those years, I came across an expensive Ehlers handmade jumbo acoustic that I just HAD to have. My good friend Greg Gallardo just happened to be looking for a nice acoustic at the time and we struck a deal. So, my beloved Gibson now resides with Greg...and it couldn’t be in a better home. I know I can go visit it whenever I want to and maybe, just maybe, some day Greg and I will work something out. It will have to be quite the deal in favor of Greg’s a pretty special guitar.

Oh, and I almost time Chris Isaak played this guitar at a Surfer Magazine event, so I had Chris autograph the back. It was also signed by Mike Ness of Social Distortion.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sho-Bud Club Model Acoustic

One day I was surfing through eBay and I came across this Sho-Bud Club model. I knew about Sho-Bud pedal steel guitars, but I had no idea they made acoustics too. The thing that really got me was the Club, Heart, Diamond and Spade inlays down the neck of the guitar. This is the trademark of their pedal steels, but those are just silk screened on. The acoustics had actual inlays of the symbols on the fret markers. What happened next was hard to explain...I got obsessed with these guitars. There was very little about these acoustics on the internet. In fact, almost NOTHING. I ended up winning this guitar for $550, and it turned out to be a sweet guitar. All of the Sho-Bud acoustics are based on a Martin Dreadnought and were made in Japan in the 70’s. There was a Club Model, a Diamond Model, a Heart Model, a Spade Model and a Grand Slam Model...the Grand Slam being the fanciest of all. The Club is the basic model and each one gets fancier up the line. I got so obsessed, in fact, that I started a website about these guitars. Of course I wanted to gather info about these guitars, but I also wanted to appear to be the authority on them so that people who had them and wanted to sell them would come to me first. It worked for the most part. I ended up with a Diamond Model as well (see a future post about that one) which my good friend Dave now owns and loves. A Heart Model came up on eBay at one point as well, but I was outbid on that one at the last second and it kind of cured me of trying to collect all of the models. Anyway, these are GREAT guitars and extremely rare and hard to find. If you can get your hands on one I highly recommend it. I really liked this Club Model...I think it actually sounded better than the Diamond I owned even though it was a “lesser” model.

Old Kraftsman Bass

This is an early 60s (I think) Old Kraftsman Bass. Old Kraftsman is a spin-off of Kay and Kay made identical basses to this one as well as others just like it using brand names like TrueTone and others. It just depended on which store you bought it in...Montgomery Wards, Sears, etc. I bought it off eBay in 2004 and really liked the way it looked. However, not the best sounding bass in the world. Having said that, it did have a sound of it’s own and I probably would have kept it, but I really wanted to buy something else and this was the logical choice at the time to go on the chopping block. This particular bass had been found by it’s previous owner at a garage sale in Phoenix and the owner had spray painted the entire bass flat black. The guy who found it tried to remove all the black paint, but it was a painstaking process and he got tired. When I got it, most of the black had been removed from the front, and the cool checkerboard binding was visible, but the back was still pretty much covered. The neck was big and fat like the proverbial baseball bat and the action was actually pretty good. I added the pin-up girl myself. The only real use it got was at a jam session with my good friend Mike playing it. It worked.