Guitarists - okay, I'm on the road - this means geekery must occur

Okay - been at an all-week meeting helping a bunch of MD’s understand how they can increase their clinical quality and overall profitability by focusing on standardization. Overall - gone well.

But that is not why I am here.

When I am on the road, I get flat out exhausted being Business Guy - I prefer to be Guitar Guy. Hence this post.

So, here I am in Dallas - the freakin’ Dallas Vintage Guitar Show - the biggest in the country - happened last week! I just missed it. Grr.

So, instead, I grab an afternoon and head to Charley’s Guitar Shop. About 15 minutes from where I am staying, Charley’s is where Stevie Ray Vaughn did a lot of his hanging out. He didn’t buy #1 / First Wife there, but he got a bunch of work on it and a few other guitars done at Charley’s. It’s a church of a guitar store, if you follow.

So I grabbed a cab and Abdul the driver got me there and agreed to come back at a reasonable time to pick me up. Sure enough, you walk in and there are posters up of SRV playing #1 and other guitars, all with him wearing a Charley’s t-shirt (oh, hell yes, I bought one).

I go in, and there are no big racks of guitars - they deal in a few small brands like Tom Anderson and John Suhr (both builders who started off working for big brands and then branching off on their own - I know Suhr was one of the first Master Builders at Fender’s Custom Shop). I tried a few electrics and some were fun, but nothing was jumping out at me.

I went to the acoustic room - nice stuff. Again, they deal in Martins - but only the standard lines, so good but nothing really standout - but they also feature a couple of small makers like Dana Bourgeois and Bill Collings. Both are highly-regarded makers in the Country/Bluegrass community that build guitars that are meant to be in the old Martin and old Gibson tradition. Both make fewer than 1,000 guitars a year vs. Martin which currently makes that many guitars in a few weeks, let alone Gibson.

They only had a couple of Bourgeois - the one I really liked was a Gibson J-45 type - a “slope shouldered dreadnaught” - it was a great player but I didn’t see how it was hugely different vs. a straight-up Gibson J-45. I own a 2007 J-45. Bourgeois is out of Maine and is known for his “Banjo Killer” model - banjos are known for being super-loud in a bluegrass setting and any guitar that can get out in front of one is nicknamed a Banjo Killer and Bourgeois adopted that as a nickname for a model of his guitar after a top bluegrass player started using one of his guitars in bluegrass sessions. Overall, I found this particular example good, but not standout.

I tried a bunch of Collings - Bill Collings operates out of Austin, TX and is also known for great guitars - built the way Martin did back when Martin was making a few hundred guitars a year. I tried a D2H - a dreadnaught with Rosewood back and sides and a Sitka spruce top, retailing for ~$3,000 and a couple of D2HA with rosewood back and sides and an Adirondack Spruce top that retail for ~$4,000. Adi tops (yes - flattop geeks have a nickname for Adirondack spruce tops) are what Martin used up until the mid-1940s or 50’s and are considered more desirable. And you know what? I heard the difference. Who knew? The Adi topped guitars had more string separation and less ring - meaning you could hear each string better individually and you got less strident harmonics over the top of the main note - you heard more of the good stuff.

There were two D2Ha’s - one had a gorgeous-looking top and the other had more streaks in it. I much preferred the streaky one - for some reason the low end was tighter and a bit bigger.

The main guy working talked with me a bit - perhaps because I look like a guy who can actually afford one of these beasts since I look like a cliche business/lawyer/executve type with too much time and money on my hands. He discussed how Collings are super respected in the acoustic community - this I knew. We also talked about how guitars like this “open up” after years of steady playing. I could hear the potential in this guitar, but didn’t trust myself to be sure that I knew if this one would open up in a great way. But heck, I was just on a break from a business meeting, so it was not like I was looking to drop major $$ on a guitar at random in Dallas.

That’s about it - I bought a new pickguard for my homebrew Tele (this one was more authentic-looking vs. the one I have on now) as well as some cool Tele Volume and Tone knobs for my Tele Special back home. It is always fun to try out guitars and hear what folks have to say…

Time for bed!

If I remember correctly this Dallas trip is an annual event for you? Austin is, at least by Texas standards, not all that far from Dallas. 3 or 4 hours south on I-35 and you’re at Bill Collings’ shop. I want to be the fly on that wall when the two of you get together and start getting all “geeky-like.” Book an extra day onto the back end of your trip next year, fill with Bill and then some of us Texas dopers can take you out and get BBQ sauce on your pickin’ fingers.

Sorry you missed the Vintage Show.

Yeah - I would love to get to Austin; tough to tack on to this trip simply because I am already away from my family for a week and I would need to stay for at least a couple of days to make it worthwhile. I did a similar tour at Santa Cruz Guitar Company with my mom (ukulele nut) about a year ago - very cool to see how these small-batch, top-shelf luthiers get it done…

Is this for the Tele-that-thinks-it’s-a-Gibson? Did you get a five-layer gib-style pickguard for it? That would look sweet.

No - this is for my first homebrew, which is meant to look like a '50’s first generation Tele, geeks refer to as a “blackguard” since they came with black pickguards. The originals are a specific kinda 50’s bakelite-y type stuff; the one I have on my guitar now looks more modern and has a beveled edge. The one I found at Charley’s looks more correct.

I did, however, score some new knobs for the Tele Special - the ones I have on it have a fine knurling on the metal; the ones I bought have bigger knurls (if that is the right way to describe it - here’s a pic- I am discussing the texture). I like the way they feel and I tweak 'em a lot while I play - and they look cooler :wink:

Had a band practice last night - nice to play with the gang after a long day at work.