ALL musical instruments are special. The truth, however, is what is truly special about them is the thing that happens when a human being uses that instrument to express themselves, to share something from within themselves, something that excites a strong emotion – joy, anger, sorrow.
To me, there is no instrument quite so special as a guitar…the sense of connection you feel when you cradle it, put your hand around the neck, pick the strings, feel the vibrations and hear its sound. Often this will instantly create a very special, intensely personal bond between flesh and blood, heart and mind and wood and metal.
It’s something I have experienced so many times. You may have already read about this in my account of the 50-plus guitars I’ve owned down the years. Equally, you may have come across stories of mine where I really liked the look – sometimes even just the idea of a particular instrument – only to be disappointed when I found I experienced no such connection with it in my hands. More than once I remember writing something along the lines of: “…but it never really spoke to me”. Those are the guitars I didn’t keep!
This special bond between player and instrument is the thing that led me down the “Fantasy Fretboards” route…the notion that the mere act of putting your hands on an object once touched by greatness might grant you some insight – that by osmosis, it might even transfer a tiny portion of a famous person’s unique mojo.
These days, the word “relic” has a very specific meaning in the context of guitars – brand new instruments deliberately “distressed” to make them look old and well-used. It’s been “a thing” for about 20 years or so and remains controversial in some quarters. Well, each of the guitars I’m looking at here could be regarded as a “relic” in its genuine, religious sense – an item rendered impossibly special by association with a person who themselves is an object of reverence.
Most guitars in this list will, indeed, be old and very valuable. At least one is lost and probably no longer exists.
The truth is, if I did ever get my hands on any of these instruments – I’ve been close to a couple, but not actually touched them – there’s a good chance in some cases, I’d probably hate the way they felt or played. All the same, I’d dearly love to take that chance. 🙂
And so to the list… I’ve said ten guitars, but it could end up as more than ten, it could be fewer. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the hope of whetting your appetite, here are the first five I’m planning to look at:
1. Robert Johnson’s guitar (whatever it really was!)
2. Muddy Waters’ red 1958 Telecaster
3. Howlin Wolf’s Firebird V
4. Eric Clapton’s “Beano Album” Les Paul
5. Gypie Mayo’s Fiesta Red ’62 Strat
Footnote: Writing these particular blogs is proving rather more time-consuming than the original “43 Guitars…” series, so I’m afraid but I’m no longer promising daily entries – I’m aiming for about three a week.