Sunday, December 21, 2008
Gibson Firebird III 1965
Story submitted by Dan Brinkmeier
In 1973 I was barely out of high school and I bought a ’65 Gibson Firebird III from an older hippie-type college student who lived in an old farmhouse outside of my hometown of Mount Carroll, Illinois. I had been playing bass a bit and had just started getting into guitar. One time when I was there he offered to sell me one of two guitars he had leaning up against the wall, the Firebird and an old Telecaster; he wanted $125 for each, which was a lot of money for me at the time. I chose the Firebird because it was so odd looking, and it had three pickups, not just one pickup like the Telecaster.
He warned me that it didn’t stand up very well against the wall but fell over a lot.
I learned how to play guitar on that Firebird. It was completely stock when I got it, with a dark-reddish Mahogany finish, and it had a whammy bar. The sliding pickup switch on it eventually stopped working and I put in a toggle switch, and also replaced the original white plastic tuning pegs with nice Schallers because the original pegs wouldn’t work anymore...the guitar had fallen over so much while leaning against the wall. I bought a 50-watt Fender bass amp head with a huge bottom and I played the Firebird through that for many years.
I lived on a small farm and would just leave the amp and the guitar (in it’s beat up old case) sitting on a hay rack out in the machine shed, and walk out and plug in, turn the amp up all the way and just play. The thing really echoed through the shed and out into the countryside. Later, when I would come home from college in the summer, I rented a nearby abandoned farmhouse from a neighbor to use as a painting studio and kept the amp and Firebird there all the time so that I could play when I wanted with friends. I can’t believe I just left the guitar there sitting in its case on the floor. The house wasn’t locked, so anybody could have come along and just taken it when I wasn’t there.
Later on, when I went to grad school at Iowa State University in Ames in 1983, I found that I just didn’t play the Firebird anymore, So, one day I just got up and took it to a tiny guitar shop on Main Street in Ames and sold it to the guy there for $250, which I thought was a lot of money. I went down to a small town south of Ames and used the $250 to buy myself a used acoustic guitar from a guy in a wheelchair—a Guild D35NT. I still have that Guild, and when I play it I often think of that Firebird and wonder where it is and whether it is still out in Central Iowa someplace. I recently bought myself an Epiphone Firebird copy. I really like it and play it all the time.