The tale of a very famous guitar. Part one.

Well, it’s after noon and I am sitting here with my keyboard and unable to think of what to write. I’ve got lots of things to write about, but none of them really seem like they’d be all that fun to write.

I told you… My creativity bone is broken! It kind of sucks, as it’s making these articles often seem like a chore, instead of the joy that they can be.

But, I try to get something out to you every day. Today is no different, but I need to tell you one story so that I can tell you the second story. It’ll be too long for one article, so I’ve decided to smash it into two pieces and write it that way.

I also don’t have much time. I have a show this afternoon/early-evening. I probably will leave here in just about 3.5 hours! Fortunately, it’s pretty close and we’re doing just a single set. I won’t be gone very long and I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed tonight.

There’s something to be said for being a regional band and not actually trying to achieve fame and make it big. Nope… Those following the story know that it’s all about getting paid and making it a reliable career. That’s what I’m teaching the younger generation and, so far, it’s been pretty good.

Maybe tonight will see me writing about today’s show? I am not sure, as that after-show time is still a fuzzy schedule. We shall see!

Anyhow, I am gonna tell you a story – so that I can tell you a story!

The Great Divide!

This is the story of a very wonderful guitar, but we don’t actually get to the guitar part until much later in the story. To truly understand the story, it’s important that one also understands the history.

A long time ago, the people in Europe said some things, did some things, and got pretty mad with each other. Then, for a bunch of reasons, they proceeded to bomb the shit out of each other and shoot each other with new and improved firearms.

This escalated and pretty soon Japan had allied with some of the Europeans and things were a bit more exciting than just a heated conversation. It involved things like Italy trying to have a chunk of Africa, the UK saying no, and Germany stepping in to help their Italian allies.

It also involved bombs. Seriously, they tossed bombs around so much that the children, to this very day, think airplanes are pinatas. Hmm… That might have lost something in translation. Never mind…

Anyhow, things were pretty tough and some folks bombed other folks and eventually they got sick of it and said they’d had enough and everyone decided to cut it out for a little while, even though they appeared to have been getting quite adept at bombing stuff.

Unfortunately, this left some of the countries in pretty bad shape. They had to do stuff like fill bomb craters and their war-time economy dictated that they build bombs and not bomb-crater-filling-machines. Thus, they had to fix things up and that was pretty expensive.

One of those nations was the United Kingdom. They were pretty fucking poor ’cause they’d spent all their money on bombs and buying bombs from other countries – namely the US.

They kicked Churchill to the curb and decided to try to fix their economy. They elected a Conservative Government (they have weird politics, which would be a book by itself) and they all sat down and tried to figure out the problem.

Somehow, they deduced that the problem was their citizens spending money on products built overseas. I mean, to be fair, they didn’t have much choice in the matter – as most of the UK was still winding down from building bombs. The citizens didn’t have much use for bombs and the products they wanted were made in other nations.

The UK pretty much said that’s a bad idea and they should buy things from countries other than America.

Everyone chuckled at the idea but in 1951 the UK government made some regulations that did just that. They established a number of import controls and didn’t let folks import things like musical records, harmonica parts (I’m not making that up), or stringed instruments. 

They also banned the importation of wind instruments – but not the organ. Curiously, you could import an organ – but some organ parts weren’t allowed to be imported. The government had done something and clapped each other on the back in congratulations.

Except…

This was 1950s America that we’re talking about. You know, Rock n Roll?

Yup…

There was a black market in American records and instruments. How are you going to play American rock music if you don’t have an American guitar?!?

Now, they did have guitars and they could import them privately – but that was obscenely expensive. What they’d often do is get a US sailor to bring one over, or ask someone on a cruise ship to bring one over. They, of course, were also smuggling records and other assorted American things.

But, the story I want to tell you is about a guitar that was actually lawfully imported. I’ll get to it – but that’s another article. It’s simply too long to fit into one article.

So, the scene is set…

You have a massive market for American guitars, they’re rare, they’re valuable, they’re possibly imported illegally. It’s also why you’d see the guitar not move to the front of the band until much later than when it happened in the US – well, partially the reason. It’s a bit more complicated than that, as history often is.

Either way, it is into that environment that the guitar that is the center of this story was born. If you’re curious, the UK ended their restrictions in 1959 and everyone was happy again, ’cause they could play bitchin’ solos on American guitars and play American-style music.

If you look at early pictures of bands like The Beatles or early pictures of Jimmy Page, you’ll see that they’re not playing American guitars. You’ll see that they’re mostly European brands and sometimes a Japanese-made guitar. They’re playing things like Hofner, Aristone, Hoyer, or even Antoria guitars. Well, now you know why!

Anyhow, that’s the setting for the story that I’ll finish telling you – probably tomorrow. It’s a pretty interesting story and it reminds me that guitars often have a great history of their own. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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