Saturday, March 7, 2009
Home Boy: The Best Guitar Ever Made
Story submitted by Kotornut from Jemsite (an Ibanez fansite)
There's this story my friends and I used to tell people. We'd tell them the story of "the best guitar ever made." I made it, and that's the funny part. But since almost no one has ever seen the guitar or played it, no one can effectively argue that the guitar wasn't the best guitar ever made. It was one of a kind and only a few of my friends and myself ever played it, so it can't really be compared to another guitar by any one else.
When I was fifteen years old I played high school basketball. During a game late in the season I went for a lay-up and when I came down I felt the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my knee. I had blown my ACL out. At first the doctor thought it was just a sprain but after twisting my knee a few more times and being off my feet again for another couple months the eventual MRI showed that I had no ACL. How does this relate to guitars? Easy. What did I do with myself when I suddenly had all that free time sitting around my house? I played guitar. But even better, my father and I built a guitar.
I had this strange guitar. It was an Epiphone Strat copy form the Eighties. It was white on white and it was a hunk of guitar junk. I had put two humbuckers in it but it still wasn't good. I liked the neck however (probably not these days but then, I was fifteen). It looked like a Jackson neck and felt pretty good. So I decided I wanted to make this guitar better, or make a better guitar completely. My dad ordered a mahogany body blank, a new hardtail bridge, some cream knobs and pickup rings and a graphite nut. He also got some tools for guitar woodworking. He let me decide what shape to make. I went through all the guitars I liked every day thinking what to make. I settled in on a Strat or soloist styled guitar. I had a great time helping my dad cut out the body and doing all the body contours. In the end I had this mahogany soloist shaped guitar with two Gibson humbuckers, a set neck, a Schaller 475 flat hardtail bridge, one volume and one tone and a three way switch. We glued the neck because we thought that was better than bolting it on it was due to my old guitar construction beliefs.
To be honest, it must have looked like a mutt, but to me at that time it was amazing. The guitar did have better tones than the Epiphone Strat copy and miles of sustain. It was oiled orange and smoothed with steel wool so left it natural looking. It was unlike what any of my friends had. I loved it.
We all called it "Home Boy." A Satch related joke if you get it.
I played that guitar every day for three or four years. It was the guitar I used in the turning point of my playing. I went from a beginner to an intermediate with it and I really did play so much my fingers bled. Eventually, I got some cash and I bought a G&L Legacy (another guitar that got away) and played it more than Home Boy but I never felt like Home Boy was a bad guitar. In fact, I let the singer in my band borrow it because he didn't have a good guitar. It helped our sound quite a bit, but that was also how the guitar got away.
The singer took the guitar to his church and used it to play with the church band too. I didn't mind, I told him he could use it. I thought, as anyone would, that he would keep it with him and take care of it. You shouldn't trust other people with things like this. He left it at the church and he never took it home. I never knew. He just left it in the case in the youth group room. Well, the church was a place that was always bustling, with in and out all day and one day the guitar was gone when he went to practice with the church band. He called me and with a terrified voice told me about the guitar. He was worried I would be really angry and so on. I told him it was "just a guitar," but inside I was pretty disappointed. I had built most of that guitar and designed it too. I didn't want to lose it. I couldn't have sold it for anything anyways. But most of all I trusted him with it and it turned out to be a mistake. I learned my lesson and I think he learned his, because he never had the same problem again. I think I did the right thing by letting him off the hook and maintaining our friendship, because as much I liked the guitar the loss of a friend, but I did think it was a pretty huge mistake.
I eventually got some money given to me by the church's insurance company. It was more than I had spent on the guitar, but I didn't really care because I had lost the "best guitar ever made." For me it was the memory of making the guitar and knowing it was all mine that was the important part. I even laugh when I think about someone trying to sell it, pawn it or whatever, because they won't get anything for it. There was no serial number, there were no maker logos. All of that I had sanded off. There's something to be said about a guitar that signals a time in your life and that is by your side when you go through some of life's experiences, and this guitar was the symbol of my youthful guitar days. The summer I was laid up with a bum knee was the summer I tripled my guitar skills through six hour-a-day practice sessions. I had nothing else to do but play Home Boy all day and night. That's what makes a guitar memorable and something you want to hold on. Not a price tag or a maker's emblem. It's the memories.
Currently, I have a guitar that, to me, is perfect; A 1991 Ibanez RG560 (It won't get away). But the allure of Home Boy is so strong I'm currently calculating the cost of buying Warmoth parts to make a Home Boy tribute.