Alright… I’ve got a massive hangover and I didn’t even crawl out of bed until about 09:30. I smoked some herbal inspiration and my headache is subsiding.
The short version is that yesterday’s show was a postponed show from the week before. (As those playing the home game know.) Well, we were one of several bands to be postponed – as you may also know.
One of them was unable to make yesterday’s show and a number of other stupid things happened at the venue. Either way, that left a hole in the schedule. We were asked to fill it and they’d give us money. We like money. We did it.
However, they wouldn’t let us actually do two sets back to back and just move everyone up a slot. No, we had to do a partial setup, do a set, tear our stuff out, and then do that same exact thing later in the evening.
The only possible way to cope with this sort of stupidity is to get intoxicated. So, I did… Not very intoxicated, but drunk enough to deal with inept venue management. And, once you start a good buzz-on, it’s just not realistic that you stop.
So, I hung out at the venue long after we could leave and soaked in the atmosphere. Also, I got pretty drunk at that point. I spent zero dollars on booze, strangely enough. Everywhere I went, somebody already had a beer for me.
Gotta tell you, it was pretty much the best day ever. I maybe made three trips during the unloading process – and those were only from the front of the stage to pack my guitars into the cases. Someone carried them out from there.
For those who are performing musicians, that’s important!
This is pretty much as good as it gets, and only a little bad. I’ve played in dive bars and our only pay was what they made at the door. I’ve been playing at places where someone was shot in the parking lot and the vast majority of the bar stayed inside because they didn’t want anything to do with witnessing it.
I’ve paid my dues! I do, I admit, have it pretty easy. So, I’m really bitching about something trivial – but it was a good excuse to get inebriated. Either way, I stayed there really late and the drummer’s wife drove us back to my house. My car is still at the venue. I’m so not going to go pick it up today.
Anyhow… Where was I?
The story! I am telling you the story of a very wonderful guitar. She’s a beauty and I would possibly consider punching a nun if it meant that I could play her.
And, I’ve set the scene for the conditions when she was first brought into this world. For those of you who aren’t caught up, this is the beginning of the story:
Without further ado…
The Tale of Lucy
The Great Guitar Embargo, imposed by the UK, was in full swing. The birth of American Rock n Roll was in full swing. The two nations, such great allies during Europe’s midlife crisis, were not quite so cozy as might be portrayed.
Frankly, if a nation cuts off guitar supplies, I’d consider that an act of war. The very idea of such is just horrible.
Fortunately, they could still be ordered, at great expense, by private parties (or smuggled). Yup… Everyone knows musicians have no money.
What was Lucy? Lucy was originally a Goldtop Les Paul, made by Gibson of course, in 1957. This was one of two years that the original Goldtop was produced with humbucking pickups. (I think they might have made a re-issue/re-creation.
Err… Quick bit of info for you.
Pickups are pretty simple devices that work by your string’s vibration interrupting a magnetic field and the single coil variants hum – this is more notable as you increase the amount of current running through it (turn up the volume). Music was getting louder and the humbucking pickup contains two coils, wrapped in opposite directions, and is designed to “buck the hum.” (They sometimes have covers over them.) But, that’s not important.
So, it’s already a pretty rare guitar.
Her model number is 7-8789 and she shipped (from their Kalamazoo factory) on December 19th of 1957.
Except, for something lawfully imported, something strange happens. It disappears. Nobody knows who owns it at this point. Well, sort of…
See, the next record we can prove was that it was next found in 1965.
Oh, and should I mention that the serial numbers aren’t in the correct typeface or in the correct position? Nah, that’s not important.
Also, you know how I said it’s gold?
It’s red. I said it “was…” You’ll see…
When the guitar shows up in paperwork, as something that can be reasonably authenticated, is in 1965 when it was owned by John Sebastian, from The Loving Spoonful.
We don’t know where it was from 1957 until 1965.
It’s now that I should point out the Great Guitar Embargo had ended in 1959 – not even two years later. Somehow, Gibson has no idea who they sent this to. Customs has no records for it. But, we absolutely have to believe that Gibson wouldn’t be included in any illegal importation. No, it’s not like Gibson has a history of breaking the law. Nope…
Or do they? (I can kiss any hope of a Gibson sponsorship goodbye.)
No, we really do assume Gibson is innocent in all this. There is no evidence of any malfeasance with regards to Gibson. I’m pretty sure my lawyer will want me to say that.
So, poof! It just appears, in 1965! (Don’t blame me, I’m just recounting the story. I didn’t make this up.)
Anyhow, Sebastian would blow an amp and he traded it to Rick Derringer of The McCoys for an amp that was not blown. I’m telling you, I didn’t make this up.
By 1966, this guitar had had the shit beat out of it. But, it’s a Gibson Les Paul – it can take a fucking beating. Trust me – buying one is absolutely something every human should do. (About that Gibson sponsorship…)
No, really… I’m an unabashed fan of the GLP. I have admitted my bias since day one.
Anyhow… It just so happens that Derringer lives near Kalamazoo and he sent the guitar in to be refinished by Gibson – in 1966. He didn’t like the gold color, so he had it painted red.
So, Lucy is a mysterious embargo guitar that showed up, was traded in a transaction we have no record for, went back to the factory, and showed up bright fucking red, with the numbers in the wrong spot, and using the wrong typeface.
And we take it on faith that this is lawful and there was nothing untoward going on in all of this.
Oh, it gets better….
Well, for some strange reason, he chose this color and then didn’t like it after it was refinished in red.
So, he sold it Dan Armstrong’s guitar shop in New York. Dan was, himself, a player and a luthier. Oh, and it was red now and the numbers were in the wrong spot and using the wrong typeface. I take it you get the hint about the whole numbers thing.
No mystery here. That happens all the time!
A few days later, Eric Clapton bought it.
Except, he bought the guitar and he didn’t like it. At the very least, he didn’t play it very much.
So, in August of 1968, Clapton gave the guitar, as a birthday present, to one George Harrison. And, George Harrison named her Lucy – after Lucille Ball – from I Love Lucy fame.
So, the Beatles are working on an album you wouldn’t care about. It wasn’t an important album… Oh, wait… It was the White Album.
Harrison was having a hard time laying down the track he’d wanted for a little unassuming number called “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” So, he called up his buddy Eric Clapton and asked him to come record that part for him.
Eric agreed, and Harrison already had a good Les Paul that Eric could play, Clapton went and recorded the track on Lucy. He did it in one track, too. I told you Eric was a guitar god. I’m baffled by the inclusion of Harrison in top ten guitarist lists! (Beatles fans would prefer if I told the long version of this event – a story in its own right. This is about the guitar, not the Beatles.)
Harrison would continue to play Lucy for the remainder of his time with The Beatles.
Shit happens, whatever…
This is just normal guitar stuff, right?
Well, it got stolen from Harrison’s house break-in, in 1973!
Hmm… Okay, that did happen. His house was broken into.
Okay… Sure, my credulity is already stretched – but it can’t get much more bizarre than this. Or can it?
Well, someone – we don’t now who, then sold it to Whalin’s Sound City, in LA. They’re supposed to wait 30 days before reselling it. They did not.
They sold it to one Mr. Miguel Ohchoa, a musician from Mexico.
Nope, I’m not seeing any red flags with this story.
This happens to every guitar, right?
So, the dude at Whalin’s Sound City eventually saw the numbers in the police log as stolen items. He then calls the contact number and they worked out a deal where they’d trade for a Sunburst GLP and a Fender P Bass and he’d get the guitar back.
Also, the Whalin’s Sound City owner kept it until his death… Strangely, it never went back to the police or the estate, or anything…
Yeah, he just kept that guitar in secret until he died in 2001…
There’s even some photographic evidence to back up parts of this tale.
So, where’s Lucy today?
Fucked if I know. I don’t think anyone knows. Lucy has not come on the market. Lucy probably has a whole lot of explaining to do and I’m gonna guess there’s a whole string of legal concerns when Lucy next shows her head.
Someone’s in fucking trouble. They’d better be.
If Lucy comes available, we should pool our money and buy her, so that she can be put into a museum. However, I have no idea who the lawful owner would be. I suspect that, should it pop up into the market today, someone would be slapping down a lawsuit – probably many people would be trying to make a claim of ownership.
So, it probably won’t make it to market – ever. If it does, it will probably be long after I’m dead. I’d expect that thing to remain tied up in court for a full generation. Ol’ Lucy has been on a grand adventure and we’d like to know the rest of the story.
And that, folks, is the story of Lucy. I told you it was long.
Err… If you happen across a Red Les Paul, born in 1957, bearing the serial number 7-8789, do not call the press or the police. No, you call TheBuddha and I’ll see you right. We’re just gonna have to keep it on the down low, if you know what I mean!
Really, no… I’d love to own Lucy but I’m not worthy and it belongs in a museum. Still, if you happen to find it – call me first. I’ll help ensure you get it into the correct hands. I will help you ensure that you’re doing the right thing. (Which is distinctly not selling it on the black market, not even to me.)
Every word of this is supposedly the truth. Granted, most folks tell this story a whole other way. They appear to be pretty confident of all those details and the only real mystery is where is Lucy today.The whole damned story sets of giant red flags.
I suspect there’s more than a few details that have been skipped. Call it a hunch. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!