How I got into this ...

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 7/20/2009 12:39:00 AM -
I first got interested in electric guitars and basses when I was a freshman in high school, in New Jersey. I'd discovered some of the "guitar gods" - mostly from watching TV and because I'd finally started listening to FM radio - as opposed to Top 40 AM. The guitar heroes I first became aware of included Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Ted Nugent and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

I think partially out of being a kind of geeky kid, and partially because I was convinced I'd neevr really be ABLE to play (this was the tail-end of the pretentious prog rock era after all), I got very interested in the actual gear that these guys used - the cool guitars with names like Stratocaster, Les Paul and SG.

I decided to build my own guitar .. which provided a really good excuse to start going into a lot of guitar shops and looking at catalogs. The Jersey Shore at that time had a plethora of guitar shops, including one of the earlier "vintage shops", Guitar Trader, in Red Bank, NJ.

Walking into Guitar Trader in 1979 was pretty amazing .. rows of 50s and 60s Strats, a few 50s goldtop and sunburst Les Pauls, etc etc. And the prices back then would make you cry today ... despite the fact that Guitar Trader was considered one of the more expensive places to buy an instrument. A mint '67 Strat might set you back $800 at Guitar Trader, whereas it might be more like $650 at Red Bank Music or Jack's across the street ...

Anyway .. I was fascinated by the shapes, names, chrome, colors and the stories .. and then two more pivotal events occurred to create a nascent "guitar freak".

One was that I saw the movie, "The Kids Are Alright", with John Entwistle's legendary fantasy sequence that showcased his vast guitar collection. Two - I went to see Cheap Trick at Convention Hall in Asbury Park - and Rick Nielsen trotted out gorgeous, colorful guitar after guitar during their show - sometimes he'd be playing with three guitars stacked on-top of each other - jumping up and down as the Fiesta Red Strat bashed into the Red Firebird which was bashing into a Hamer Standard or an Iceman or something. Craziness!

Another evolution occurred over the following year and that was my discovery of the musical underground - starting with the tail-end of the punk scene, with bands like The Clash. The Jam and Ramones, and leading into the amazing "Post-punk" scene that included Gang of Four, PIL, Killing Joke and so on. Seeing these bands convinced me that though I'd never be the next Jimi, I could probably make some kind of noise that at the very least would agitate someone, somewhere.

Throughout the 80s I ended up playing the stripped-down distillation of musical aggro know as "hardcore" - a music and scene that epitomized the philosophy of DIY - Do It Yourself!! I played on many stages, in many basements, in many garages .. anywhere! In some ways I really felt that hardcore was a sort of folk music of its time .. there was (literally) no barrier between the audience and the band .. and anybody could be in a band if they had some drive/motivation.

During that time - while I was still fascinated with guitars, my focus was more on cheap utility instruments and very loud amps .. if I managed to play a nice guitar it was because some kid in another band on the same bill lent it to me !! The instruments I owned were limited - a 70 Precision Bass (still my #1 bass), a highly modified Kimberly guitar with a Dimarzio Super Distortion, a Squier Bullet, also with a Super Distortion, and later a stock 1974 SG Standard.

It was quite a few years before I had enough semi-disposable income to actually start buying guitars, but from 1992 on, my collection accelerated rapidly. I remember making a list of the one dozen guitars I "really wanted" around 1994 ... by the end of the decade I was up to around 80 and my collection currently tops out around 120. Not sure if I got all the guitars on that "hot dozen" list ...

As I started collecting and becoming more knowledgeable about instruments, I realized that if I was willing to buy "fixer uppers", I could get examples of instruments that otherwise would have been completely out of my range. I had always been good with my hands, having taken 4 semesters each of woodshop and autoshop in high school - and worked on all sorts of old Ford Mustangs, Porsches, Datsuns, etc.

A few individuals were also kind enough to give me advice on how to do repair and refinishing work - namely Vinnie Gulizia (formerly of Vinnie's Vintage Guitars, in Chelsea, MA), Jim Mouradian of Mouradian Guitar Repair, and Clay Herrell, who got me started on the "art" of refinishing with his encyclopedic knowledge (check the link to his website in the sidebar).

Over the course of 12 years, I built my repair and refinishing skills to the point where I decided to start my business during the Fall of 2007. The past year and a half have accelerated my learning at an unbelievable rate - I honestly would have to say that I learn something new every week - whether its some bit of information about a vintage instrument, or a new technique, material or tool to use in repair or refinishing. I think it'd get boring if that wasn't true !!

Anyway - that's my story - subject to update of course !!


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  1. You Rock. Great journey. Surrounding a life surrounded by guitars must be wonder, joy, discovery, and challenge. Enjoy !

  2. Krishna, someone wants to release Blasting out of New Jersey on vinyl! Contact jonathan Levine on facebook asap. - karynw (hollenback)