My story begins in November 2011. On November. 19th, 1968, nearly 43 years ago to the day, I received my first electric guitar. In some way this little known fact will make this story intriguing, as you'll soon discover. Being 14 at the time, the discussion between my mother and me was what I'd want for Christmas. I'm sure my mother thought this to be a loaded question but had to ask. To those who knew me really well, it appeared that my entire existence depended on nothing more than the guitar and the music it made. So when the question was put before me, what would I like, my life was on the line.
It was my mother who first mentioned Manny's Music, after hearing about it on a talk radio program. Manny's was a not just a music store, but a "mega" music store. Located in NYC on West 48th Street, better known as music row, it was a super market for musicians. Well informed on this new discovery, my mother, father and I set forth on our musical pilgrimage. To this day, my sister claims that she went along, a fact that we still dispute. Finally, entering that block, I became fully aware that my holy grail was soon to be found.
While breaking through the doors, I was overtaken by hundreds of autographed portraits of almost every entertainer I could think of. As I walked around the store, these pictures covered the walls from top to bottom. I also spotted drums and amplifiers in lots of shapes and sizes, and many effects for the guitar too. Seconds after regaining focus, I glanced over to the right, finding every guitar that I've dreamt of. Suddenly, I am brought out of my spell by the words - can I help you. A salesman, who's name is Billy, introduces himself to us. Billy is dressed very smartly from head to toe and sporting a pair of dark Ray - Ban sunglasses. He and my dad toss names back and forth like Fender, Gretsch, Gibson, solid body and hollow body. My ears perked right up, similar to a dog who hears a familiar sound. Then, the moment of truth draws closer when the decision we make is a Gibson Melody Maker. Billy pulls this red beauty from the wall, plugs it into an amplifier for him to play, then off he soars. The notes fly like bullets of sound, repeating one right behind the next. We are now totally sold on this guitar, especially me, after five minutes of witnessing Billy's brief demonstration and "lightening licks." We then thank Billy for his expertise and begin finding our way to the cashier. I am holding on to this surreal experience in disbelief, with a brand new electric guitar at my side. When we leave Manny's, I can almost levitate outside from this feeling of being on top of the world.
Original Manny's Receipt
( Nov.19th,1968 )
Unable to restrain myself, I sneak a peek at the guitar during this anxiety - ridden ride home. Racing to get inside the house, I begin to examine this new prospect closely, taking it from it's case, playing it and getting this emotional charge. Then, my mother pulls the plug on this moment and she says, "This guitar IS GOING to be your Christmas present." What she was really saying was,"Do not open 'til Christmas!" With Christmas being about a month away, those words took "the wind right out of my sail." My father suggested we keep the guitar in my parents' bedroom, under their bed. This way, I wouldn't become distracted with it. Unfortunately, "out of sight, out of mind" meant nothing to this fourteen - year -old, music maniac. I'd get home in the afternoon, pull the case from under their bed, take out the guitar and play it knowing they wouldn't return for hours. After school meant watching t.v. to some kids, but to me it was guitar and more guitar. When friends would come over, I'd show them the guitar and quickly put it back under the bed before my parents got home. This routine of mine continued right up until Christmas.
Years have passed since that first guitar and since then, I've owned many fine, instruments. I've bought, sold and traded guitars. Some were given to me and at times I gave some away. There's that feeling you get when adding another guitar to your collection. I'm not referring to factory-new but acquiring a certain guitar whether old or new is like taking on a different persona. After so many years, I've developed a minor passion for collecting guitars as well.
As an artist I'm often searching for something new, whether a different sound, or a creative shift in direction, and it's during this time that I find myself in the market for another guitar. Now there's nothing outside of the ordinary in wanting another guitar, except for the occurrences that follow. I'll always do a little research before buying a guitar, one way of doing this is to look through old, back issues of magazines. While ruffling through the pages of a particular magazine, I stumbled upon the actual receipt for my first guitar, that very same guitar that my father bought when my parents took me to Manny's Music. Discovering this receipt after so many years felt a bit strange but then noticing the date on the receipt said November 19th, 1968 and then realizing the present date was November 14th, my father's birth date added to this little bizarre happenstance. After dismissing this little "Twilight Zone" episode I call a local music store to inquire about a specific guitar. The guitar that I'm looking to buy is known as a resonator by a company called National. It's not your typical guitar that's readily available here in the north east. The owner of the store, who is a friend of mine said he can probably get this instrument within 5 days but he'll have to check. Again, oddly enough, in 5 days it will be November 19th, the very same date as on the receipt found earlier that day. My story takes yet another twist. While waiting to hear back from my friend at the music store, I received a phone call from my brother - in - law explaining that his uncle who had played guitar recently past away. He went on to say, that being how his aunt knew that I played, she decided to give those guitars to me. By the way, just as a side note, my brother -in -law called me from New Orleans, which was the birthplace of my father.
5 days have gone by and my friend from the music store is unable to get the first guitar that I was originally looking to buy (The National) so eventually I ordered it from somewhere else. In the meantime, on my brother -in- laws advice, I contacted his aunt to learn more about her late husbands guitar, the one that she wanted me to have. Now when someone is offering me a guitar, you can bet it's an offer that I won't refuse. In getting her name and number to schedule a day to look at the guitars, my phone call to her provided another oddity when I found her name to be Gloria, my mothers name as well. We both set a day to meet at which time Gloria gave me her address. After sharing this story with a good friend, I am surprised yet again when he says the location of Gloria's house is down the street from where he lived as a child.Later upon entering Gloria's home she told me about her husband, his guitars and how much he loved playing them.
Now there are many things that thrill my imagination and when things appear to be coincidental, I'll question whether there is any such thing at all. How uncanny is it for it to be November when I'm looking to buy a guitar and by chance it happens to be my fathers birthday, then locating an original receipt for my first guitar, which he bought and noticing it's also dated for November? And what are the probabilities that a woman who shares the same name as my mother, gives me a guitar made by the company that made my very first guitar?
Finally out of curiosity I asked Gloria where her husband kept his guitar. Where do you think she said they were? Just don't look under the bed!