Recently, as you might recall if you really do follow this blog, I purchased a new acoustic guitar: a Gretsch G5013CE Rancher Jr. in a beautiful piano black gloss.
I absolutely love it and in just a few days its become my favorite. It has a rich, mellow tone and has easy playability, two things my previous acoustic, some 1980s Fender dreadnaught never had. Plus, its not full-sized monster like that Fender was, its easy to hold and play without feeling like you’re reaching around a refrigerator.
And yet, its not as narrow or flimsy feeling as some of the other acoustic-electrics I looked at like the Deans, Ibanezes, and Washburns. Its still good-sized enough to fill a room with its warm, rich bass sounds.
Anyway, now I have guitar fever. Again. I want more. I think it started a few weeks back when a store going out of business had this beautiful purple strat-styled electric in their window for just $200. It was a Carvin, and although it had no model number, I did a little research and figured it might be worth around $900 new. Unfortunately, when I went back the next day it was sold. But that’s how fate works, that door closed which opened the door to my Gretsch.
At the moment, I have three guitars (four if you count the no-name Texarkana acoustic, which is actually my wife’s, purchased because it was signed by the members of her favorite band, Journey). Aside from the Gretsch, I still have my first guitar. Well, actually, no. My first guitar was a horrible 3/4 size nylon string classical that my dad picked up but never learned to play. It sat around at our house until I claimed it. It was so cheap, the strings started pulling the neck away from the body. So I Elmer glued it, but it never recovered. The strings were almost an inch from the fretboard near the bottom. It finally received an ignominious burial in the trash.
So my real first guitar is a 1977 Ibanez Les Paul (lawsuit era for those so inclined). I knew nothing about guitars at the time and at the very first guitar store I entered I bought pretty much the first guitar the salesman pushed on me in m price range, which wasn’t much because it had to be divided between the guitar and the amp. What did I know? It looked just like my favorite body style: Gibson’s Les Paul.
My second guitar was the Fender. Again, I knew little about acoustics and pretty much just bought what I thought was the best in that price range. I mean, c’mon! It was a Fender. How bad could it be? Bad enough that I dumped it just a few years later. I mean, who knew Fender made crap?
My third guitar is what I considered to be a real real guitar. I wanted an electric with a whammy bar, so I started researching those. Since I already owned an Ibanez, I had this strange sense of brand loyalty and started looking at their gear. In their favor, Ibanez did have some really nice looking guitars in 2001, not just their stratocaster-inspired models, but many other single and double cutout styles, and they were pretty well regarded as an electric guitar maker.
As with any research into consumer products, the more you know, the more you want the next step up because each incremental rise in price means an incremental rise in quality and/or features (although its not necessarily a one-to-one ratio of price to quality).
So what started out as a $200 guitar for my birthday, soon grew more expensive. And its easy to justify that. “OK, I’m at $200, but this guitar has a better stay-in-tune tremolo and its only $250. That isn’t that much more.”
Well, soon $200 became $300. $300 became $400. $400 became $500. Each added something more refined: better pickups, a set neck vs. a bolt-on, and so on. (This is exactly how I went from considering a $200 Applause Ovation AB24 to a $384 Gretsch Rancher Jr.) And before I knew it, I was thinking, “This Ibanez is $550. But for just $150 more, I can make the leap to a REAL guitar!” Yes, for $700, I could get a Gibson SG, the very style guitar god Tony Iommi played! And yes, at this point logic was replaced by emotion, research replaced by naked desire.
But what really sealed the deal was the (now-defunct) Mars Music was offering online the Gibson SG Special for $550! The same as the Ibanez I was considering. American made! Heavy metal devil horns! I could already hear the rumbling growl of its crunching humbuckers!
So I pulled the trigger on that deal and soon I had its glossy plum body in my sweaty little hands. Oddly enough, without a tremolo, so I still need a guitar with one.
And my 1977 Ibanez Les Paul copy was relegated to storage in our basement.
Recently, I dug it out, opened the hardshell case and was shocked to find the damage caused by our damp basement. The wood and finish luckily survived unscathed, but the metal hardware wasn’t so fortunate: the tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece had corroded while all the screws and some of the frets had rusted!
So now I have a decision to make. Because I want another new guitar, one of these has to go. Do I keep the Gibson because… Gibson! or do I keep the Ibanez and attempt to refurbish it for the nostalgic reason that it was my first guitar?
That’s in addition to the decision of: Do I want another solid body electric or do I want a semi-hollow body electric? Whichever, it needs a trem.
I’m already set on the brand. Yes, with one guitar purchase, I’ve become a Gretsch devotee, which is funny because they’ve never registered on my conscious prior to my entering “Gretschworld” at Cream City Music this past Sunday.
After all, who played Gretsch in the rock scene? OK, George Harrison did, but most of the hard rock bands I listened to used Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, Kramer, ESP, Schecter, BC Rich, Dean, PRS, and Carvin, to name a few, but not Gretsch. Nobody played Gretsch except Brian Setzer. Now a lot of that might be because some time in 1967 Balwin Pianos bought out Gretsch then proceeded to churn out crap (Chet Atkins severed his longtime association because of the quality issues) and run them into the ground and bankruptcy. It wasn’t until Fred Gretsch, a nephew of the former owners, bought back Gretsch from Balwin in 1989, that Gretsch began making quality instruments again and started to show a resurgence in popularity.
So yes, I want a Gretsch, but which guitar do I sacrifice to get one?
The answer to that question will just have to wait until tomorrow because this post has already run longer than I intended.
So tune in tomorrow to see if Rocky and Bullwinkle survive, same Bat time, same Bat channel.
To be continued….