Guitars That Got Away #2: ’99 Gibson Les Paul Standard

That’s Beverly. *sniffle*

Recently, I was faced with a dilemma: either start playing my cherished first ‘real’ guitar or pass it onto its next owner. For reasons I’ll explain in a moment, the guitar spent the majority of its last two years in my stead tucked away in my closet, languishing in its case. It was a hard decision to make.

Beverly, as I’d come to call her, was the most constant companion I’ve ever had, remaining a part of my life through the ebb and flow of many relationships, changing locations and life events. I had the guitar since my graduating year of high school, took it with me on various tours and to college, and it even ended up following me across the globe during my time living in Prague, CZ as a missionary. When I moved to WA to get married, the guitar came with me.

While I’m usually the first to come up with reasons against selling one’s first guitar, in this case that sentiment was difficult to justify. Ultimately, I decided to sell. What led me there?

First, the guitar was 10.6 lbs. When I was younger, I loved the feeling of a boat anchor around my neck, daring me to defy the laws of gravity. As I’ve aged (30, my God!) I’ve noticed those same laws having their way with my back, and I’m not a fan of back pain. I wouldn’t say I’m of weak constitution, but after wearing that guitar for half an hour I was feeling it. My other electric guitars–a ’77 ES 355, a Thin Skin Fender Jazzmaster, and a ’73 Fender Precision–don’t even come close to that kind of weight. In the case of my back, I’ve found that even one pound less can make a huge difference in how I feel. As a result, this guitar didn’t see much stage time.

Second, as I’ve grown older (30!) my tastes in music have, of course, changed. When I acquired this guitar I was looking for hot pickups and a loud, brash Punk Rock tone; I wanted huge mids, easy distortion and kick-in-the-pants output. This guitar definitely got me there. While I wouldn’t say this guitar is limited to that genre, I would admit that the pickups no longer suit my tastes. These days, it’s medium-output pickups that really get to me, offering more in the way of dynamic range.

Also, I have a fetish for vibrato-equipped guitars. When I play a hard tail, I love the sound but miss the familiar warble of my Jazzmaster or 355. I realize I could have added a Bigsby to my Les Paul but that comes at the price of weight. No thanks.

What kept holding me back in the months that preceded the sale was history. I had some great reasons for letting go, but even though I put it up on Craigslist a few times, I never had the heart to give her up. All because I was attached.

We humans have an amazing capacity for bonding with inanimate objects. You’ll often hear folks talk about their first car, referring to it in anthropomorphic terminology, lending to it not only a name but personality traits as well. Hand made or mass produced, it doesn’t matter either way. Even if there are a thousand identical copies, invariably we will find one and fall in love with it. We even become possessive: it’s never ‘the’ car or ‘a’ car. Always my car. This is how it is for me and guitars.

In the end, it was a really hard decision to part with this old friend, but I’d rather have it out there being played rather than gathering dust in my closet. “Beverly” now lives in Alaska with her new owner, and I hope she couldn’t be happier.

When it comes to passing a guitar along to its next owner, what reasons come to mind for or against the action?

I miss this guitar.

-Michael James Adams

This is the last photo I have of me playing that guitar. Note: I look super burly in this one. The Three Men and a Baby shirt helps.

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2 thoughts on “Guitars That Got Away #2: ’99 Gibson Les Paul Standard

  1. the t shirt definitely puts you over the top…
    http://www.musiciansbuy.com

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