Monday, March 24, 2008

Ehlers Jumbo Model 17

This is the guitar that I most recently sold and the guitar that made me think in different ways about how much is too much to spend on a guitar. I had owned some nice guitars in the past...a '71 Telecaster Thinline in custom color black, a Martin D-41, a Gibson Dove from the late 70's that I've written about. But when I bought those the price tag was still maybe only a little over $1000. And that was a NICE guitar. The first time I walked in Buffalo Brothers in Carlsbad, CA I didn't know what I was in for. As I've mentioned before, they have a way of convincing you that $3000 or much more is not all that much when it comes to an instrument that you are going to be intimate with.

They have a downstairs, which is filled with their more reasonably priced guitars, all of their cool electric guitars and a few other odds and ends. Resonators, 12-strings, and other stuff. But, upstairs is where it's at. Upstairs contains enough fine wood to get any true guitaraholic very excited. As it turns out, an old friend of mine runs the fine guitar department there and he was gracious enough to give me a tour of the place and trust me to pick up and play whatever I wanted. He pointed me in the direction of some nice Goodalls and some gorgeous Collings and some of the higher end Martins. There are also the Froggy Bottoms and Huss & Daltons. But the guitar that got my attention was a black jumbo hand crafted by a guy named Robert Ehlers. Most of the nice guitars they have would never be stained with black lacquer as that would cover up the beautiful wood. However, Rob is not afraid to make some interesting wood and detail choices.

I picked up this guitar and strummed it once and knew I would eventually be leaving with it.

It has the best bass of any acoustic I've ever played. I sat and played and played this guitar until my friend eventually came walking back around the corner and took one look and said, "Ah, you found an Ehlers."

I left the store that day figuring out how I was going to get $3000 together to buy that guitar. The thought had never struck me before that I would or could be willing to pay that much for one guitar. That guitar is responsible for many of the stories on this blog. The ones that say, "I sold it to pay for another guitar." It was probably this one. I sold a lot of guitars to finance this one.

As I was trying to figure out how to get it my dad happened to be in town. I needed to go by Buffalo Brothers to pick up some strings, so he came in with me and I gave him the tour. He's quite a music fan and is certainly interested enough in guitars at least as much as he can appreciate them and their stories and loves the fact that I'm into them. We walked through the store and I pointed out the various brazilian rosewoods and the spruce and the cedar and he finally said, "You know, the one I like the best is that black one hanging over there."

It was the Ehlers. It was a sign. We all need a sign sometimes. This was mine. It was meant to be. All the other guitars in my closet became unimportant right then and the mission was on. On the day that I actually went and paid the last of my three payments that I had arranged I walked out the door with the nicest guitar I had ever laid my eyes on. It was mine. I played that guitar for a couple of years and enjoyed it heck out of it. Got a lot of compliments on it. But then something happened. I got the opportunity to buy an even more special guitar. Something hand made especially for me to my very specs. But it was going to cost me. And you know what happened next. As tough as it was, the Ehlers Jumbo went on the chopping block.

When you try to sell something as specialized as an Ehlers...a guitar built by a guy who only makes about 36 guitars a year at should be prepared to hang in there for awhile. It's kind of like the housing market these days. Someone is eventually going to come along that is going to love this guitar and want it as bad as you do. I listed it locally to begin with and actually had some serious interest. But nothing worked out. Finally I put it on eBay and sure enough someone back east fell just as in love with it as I did. I felt good that it was going to a good home and actually felt bad as I packed it up. It had been a new era of guitar buying for me.

So now it's gone and in a perfect world I wish I had that one back. But it was too much money to just sit on and not play. It had it's purpose and fate and I've moved on. Sniff. Sniff.

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