Looking Back On...My Guitars

A while ago I said I was going to start a series of articles that would go back in my deep, dark past and find all sorts of meaningless crap. The first one dealt with the evolution of my hair styles, one of which was eventually used against me. Anyway, here's a look back on the guitars I've owned in my life (and, in some cases, still own).

The first one was a really, really cheap acoustic that my parents got me for my 5th or 6th grade Christmas (I think it was 6th grade). I think they got it from a Sears catalog:

The guitar was so cheap, the stop piece cracked in two pieces after a year or so - it couldn't take the string tension. My parents got it fixed at a local music store in Sheboygan (anybody remember Goodell?) - they basically stuck a metal stop piece on the back:

It was a great way for my parents to figure out if I really liked playing the guitar. It was so cheap that if I ended up hating it, it wasn't much out of their pocket books. But I loved it as soon as I opened it up. I stayed up for hours learning the notes, and by Christmas morning I knew basic chords and all of the notes on the first five frets. So it wasn't long before I wanted to become "cool" and get an electric guitar. In the 7th grade, my parents upgraded me to an electric:

It was a cheap knock-off of a Les Paul, but it did the job. With my Peavey amp and my distortion pedal, I was cranking out cheesy rock songs left and right. But this didn't satisfy the rock star within me. I realized that I needed a tremelo bar on my guitar. Retrofitting a Kahler or Floyd Rose on this guitar didn't make sense money-wise, so I traded it in for a Washburn, which has a new tremelo bar they called the "Wonderbar":

Eventually I traded that guitar in (more on that in a moment). Looking back, I wish I would've kept both of them, if only for nostalgia purposes. That Washburn - the sound wasn't the best, but that Wonderbar stayed in tune really well. It also didn't require springs so there was no body routing to house any springs for the Wonderbar (here's a great link on the history of the tremelo bar). But, such as it is, they're gone. For all I know, they were issued to the scrap heap a long time ago.

But, times change. The band I was in needed a bassist badly, so I finally relented and became the bassist. I traded in all of my guitar equipment and got a Peavey bass (ignore my Miami Vice styling in the next picture):

I never liked Peavey guitar equipment. Their guitars and their guitar amps, quite frankly, sucked. But I liked that bass. It was reliable and it had a good sound, even after I threw it to the ground during one of our practice sessions (we were really getting into a song called "Crazy Motorcycle" so in my excitement I tossed the bass down on the ground and cracked a piece off the nut. A little glue fixed that!). I played bass for a couple of years, but once again band situations required me to switch back to guitar. This time, I got a Charvel with a bitchin' Floyd Rose:

I added the stickers and other crap throughout its lifetime. I still have this guitar (along with most of the ones you'll see from now on). It was a great metal guitar, and if I spent the time to resurrect it, it would be good again. But it's been borrowed by a couple of nephews so let's just say it's sort of beat up. It was worth it, though, as one nephew is now in his own band and starting to play some shows. It feels good that I inspired him in a way to play guitar.

When I got to college, I wanted to add an acoustic guitar to my collection. I finally decided on a 12-string Ovation:

This has held up very well over time. Its' tone is a bit bright and not as warm as I'd like, but it still sounds great. It was hard getting used to 12 strings, but it's such a full effect.

I also found another Charvel during my college years that had an awesome paint job and seemed to play better than my first Charvel:

I loved this guitar, and still do. It has a great metal guitar sound and it especially rips during lead sections. To get this guitar, I had to trade in a Gibson Explorer I had picked up sometime in my college days:

I remember always wanting a Gibson, and when I played the Explorer at the store it sounded good. But after playing with it for a while, I realized it was prone to feedback and it didn't balance well on a strap. So it wasn't a hard decision to trade it in for the Charvel.

Later on in college I wanted to get my own bass again. A quick search through Uncle Bob's in Milwaukee one day turned up an ugly-looking Ibanez that played pretty good, and it was only $200:

Again, not the prettiest paint job I've ever seen, but it was worth the price.

Once I finally got a steady job out of college, I decided to upgrade my guitar setup once and for all. I liked the Charvel, but I was getting sick of the tremelo bar. It was just too easy to throw things out of tune when I used it. Plus, I was getting sick of lugging my Laney stack around when I'd play out somewhere. So, I did some shopping and decided to trade in the stack for a Mesa-Boogie amp and a PRS:

I tell you, this guitar is just sweet. It has a wide range of tones - it's great for clean parts as well as full-out metal crunch tones. It plays extremely easy, and it's just beautiful. PRS guitars are simply the best in my book. If I ever got another guitar, it would be a PRS, hands down.

Later on I got the itch to have a nylon string guitar. I ended up getting a Takamine:

This is a lovely instrument. It sounds so good - very warm and expressive. I don't play it a lot, but I'll never give it up - it's just a great instrument.

I haven't made any guitar purchases in a while, but recently I got the urge to get a 6-string bass. I found a great used 5-string Warwick bass guitar - it played so well I decided to grab it:

It's one of the few basses I've ever played that sounds good when it's not plugged in. It has so much depth and tone, something that seems rare to find in basses.

So, there you have it. I'm not big on collecting guitars; it's more important to me to have something that sounds right when I play it. That's why I always have to play it myself; I can't order a guitar online. I've found a number of used guitars in my life that sounded great. I've also played new guitars that sound like crap. Getting music software or effects processors seems like an easier purchase to make without testing them out, but guitars...that's always been a feel thing to me.

* Posted at 07.30.2005 08:23:38 PM CST | Link *

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