How Much Did This Guitar Story Cost Me? $2,376.99
Washington Post

I haven’t read your other stuff — this came across my feed this morning — but I date the “death” of the electric to the rise of synthesizers and New Wave in the ’80s. Keyboards became king (as did keyboard players) and that was when electrics started to slow down.

I started to play on my mom’s cheap classical guitar sometime in the mid-’70s when I was 18 or so. The strings were high, and I used an old sunglass lens for a pick. A friend with a 12-string taught me some things, and I paid $10 for a 15-minute lesson that taught me how to finger-pick “Dust in the Wind.”

My first electric was a used Gibson Marauder, an ugly beast if ever there was one, with a lousy bridge pickup but a sweet neck humbucker. I hacked into it to install a phase switch. I later traded it (and a good deal of money) for a neck-through Ibanez Musician, because I loved the look (I had seen a photo of an Alembic guitar with its hippie-sandwich construction and wanted it). That was a fantastic guitar, even better once I added a pot and built a pre-amp into the cavity. Sold it when I left for graduate school in 1980, along with a nylon-string Ovation Country Artist that I still miss.

But I kept a little Martin, a 1974 OO-18 that I bought in the late ’70s for cheap because everyone else was buying dreadnoughts. And I played it. And played it. I learned to play songs by ear. And that Martin, which has had a couple of acoustic and electric pickups installed and removed over its life so far, is still my go-to guitar.

Now I am 59 and I own four guitars. The little Martin; a Giannini Craviola, set up with silk & steel; an Ibanez long-neck semi-classical (a local student sold it to me cheap because he was moving to New York — it’s a replacement for the Country Artist); and an Ibanez AS73 (an ES-335 clone) set up with flatwounds.

All of these are good guitars. The Martin is a great guitar. The AS73 isn’t an Alembic (I finally got to play one of those at a shop in Connecticut a couple of years ago, and they are everything they’re cracked up to be) but it’s more than good enough.

Forty-some years of playing guitar have taught me things. Guitars are like fountain pens: they take time to learn and the cheap ones make using them so unpleasant that you don’t learn. Fingers are more useful than picks (though the latter have their place). Forget about perfect tuning; it doesn’t happen unless you go with wavy frets. And Ry Cooder, Richard Thompson, Jerry Garcia, and Leo Kottke are worth worshipping.

Hey hey, my my, rock’n’roll will never die. Nor will the electric guitar.

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