Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buffalo Brothers and James Hood Guitar Repair

If you've read a lot of the stories on this blog, you may have heard me mention Buffalo Brothers Guitars in Carlsbad, California. Conveniently for me, it was located just down the road from my house. But it was an internationally known and respected guitar store. That's right..."was." Unfortunately, Buffalo Brothers just didn't survive through the economic downturn, though a valiant effort was made to keep the store alive by James Hood, who had been running the repair shop at Buffalo Brothers for many years.

James is not only a top notch repair guy, but an awesome person on top of that. Like many of the loyal customers over the years, James loved Buffalo Brothers and the world class level of instruments they stocked and sold over a few decades. I bought my first high-end guitar there, talked into a gorgeous handmade Ehlers guitar by their fine instruments salesperson Kevin Kinnear. Not long after, Kevin introduced me to Mike Franks, who was new to the world of high end guitars at the time, but is now an established and respected luthier, selling amazing guitars all over the world. I've now owned a few M.J. Franks guitars and couldn't possibly speak more highly of them.

James took over Buffalo Brothers for the last year of so and continued developing the loyal clientele that the shop was known for, all the while continuing his repair business in the back. When Buffalo Brothers finally took its last breath, James regrouped to the back once more and continued doing what he does best...repairing and revitalizing electric and acoustic instruments for the region's discriminating guitar owners. I've been to see James many times over the years and, if you are in the Southern California area, I can't recommend him highly enough. Although James still owns the Buffalo Brothers name, he's not quite sure what to do with it at the moment. It's a name that reaches far and wide into the guitar community. I wouldn't think it will go away forever. And as they say, nothing dies completely until the last person who knows about it is gone.

You can talk to James about your guitar via his website, jameshoodguitar.com and be sure to sign up for his newsletter while you are there.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fender Excelsior Amplifier #2

A couple of years ago I got one of these Fender Pawn Shop series amps called the Excelsior and I loved it. In fact, I wrote a whole story about it, which you can read here. Ever since I sold the other one, I have wanted one again. And right after Christmas, I saw one on Craigslist and bought it. It was in perfect condition, never left the house, and it sounded just like I remembered. However, that's not the story here.

I'm posting about this because of the story when I sold it. A classic example of how you never know what you are getting into on Craigslist.

I am usually the first person to say that I have had really great experiences on Craigslist and I've had a small number of weird episodes that seemed like a scene from a movie. If you want to read a good one, click here about the Music Man 112RD I once bought. But on to the new story at hand...

I bought this amp out of weakness. It was a good price at $225, as I've seen these climbing back up to their original retail price of $300 and more lately. But you can still find them for a deal. I bought this one, played it a few times to enjoy that amazing tremolo sound that I love, and then it was just sitting there.

My sister called from Boulder, CO and said that she had just bought VIP tickets to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks Amphitheater and, if I wanted to go, get a plane ticket and get to Boulder. 

I live in San Diego, so round trip tickets on Southwest can be pretty reasonable. As luck would have it, they were right around $225, the same amount I had recently spent on my Excelsior amp. So I bought the plane tickets and promptly put the amp back up for sale on Craigslist, fully confident that I could even make a few bucks profit.

I listed the amp at $260 and didn't get any bites. Turns out, in a stroke of bad luck, there were 2 other Excelsiors on Craigslist at the same time. WTF? So, I dropped my price down to $225 and got an email from a guy named Ace. He "really, really, really wanted the amp" and wanted to meet a couple of days later on a Saturday morning. He was knowledgeable about the amp and you could tell he wasn't a scammer. We set it all up and then, the night before we were to meet, he emailed and claimed he had an emergency and was going to be gone for a few days and would still be happy to buy it when he got back, if it was still available. With no other inquiries, I decided to hang on to it for Ace until he got back. Then nothing. After a few additional emails, it became obvious Ace needed to be discarded (get it?) and I relisted the amp. A two week waste of time.

Got an email from a new guy. Wanted to know how soon we could meet up and he could buy the amp. I write back and give him options and details. No response. Two days later he writes again, I write back to set something up, no response. Get a new email from a guy who gives me his phone number and wants to talk about the amp. I call and he asks some questions, is satisfied that the amp is good, and then says, "So I'm really calling on behalf of my friend John who wants the amp, but he keeps emailing you and you don't answer him back." Actually, I tell him, I have answered John back twice and John doesn't get back to me. "OH!," he says, "John doesn't have email! You have to call or text him." Interesting, since John emailed me about the listing and never game me his number.

Through all of this nonsense, the guy sounds very sincere and John really wants the amp. So, at his insistence, I try to text John. No answer. Wait a day and try again. No response. After another two days, I try one last time: "Hey John, I have emailed you twice, I have texted you twice, and you never respond. Your buddy swears you want this amp, but I'm tired of trying. Last chance...if you want the amp call me." Phone rings immediately. John wants the amp. Can you bring it by my house to try out? Yes, I am headed that way later this evening and I can bring it by. This is a long story, huh?

John tells me his house is very near mine, but it turns out his skills in estimating distance are not good. His house is many miles further than his estimate. I would soon figure why. I get to his neighborhood and it's SKETCHY. One of the worst neighborhoods in the area. I finally find his address and go knock on the door. John opens the door and about 4000 cubic feet of weed smoke comes billowing out of the door. "C'mon in!" As a sufferer of severe asthma, this is the opposite of fun. I walk in and we head to his bedroom where he has maybe seven other guitar amps set up, about 12 guitars hanging on the wall, a huge display of stomp boxes hooked together on the floor and a girl sitting on his bed...or should I say mattress on the floor with a dirty sheet on it...with her boobs literally pouring out of her corset-like shirt. Probably no less than eight bongs sitting around the room in all shapes and sizes. Jars and jars of weed lined up next to the bed...I mean mattress. She looks up at me and says, "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey." Then never spoke again.

John plugs the amp in and gives it a test. He plays extremely well, I might add. I was surprised. He played it with his Ibanez. He played it with his Strat. He plugged this pedal in, then that pedal in. I thought he was going to try out every item he owned through my amp. Finally I couldn't handle the smoke any more. "So...do you want the amp?" "Heck yeah! Here you go!" He hands me $225 in small, unmarked bills. I stuff them into my pocket without even counting them, nod good-bye to stoner renaissance chick, and stumble out the door. I get in my car and head down the road, quickly realizing that I wreak so much, I'm going to have to do laundry when I get home. I hop on the freeway and roll down all the windows to blast some air through the vehicle. I was wondering if any right-minded police officer would buy my true story about why I smelled like a Phish concert in the event I got pulled over.

It took all that to sell an amp that I would have preferred to keep, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks. There aren't many things that take priority over my guitars, but this was one of them and I couldn't miss it.