18 YEARS, 8 GUITARS: A short history of my guitar-buying obsession

By: William R. Toler - Daily Journal Editor
Blue was the first acoustic purchased and is tuned in open D for slide playing.
The girls: Blue, Scarlett, Sandy, Crimson, Rose and Goldie.
Photo by Lorie Brackahn Playing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on Goldie with Hardwired at Hudson Brothers in 2017.

I’ve heard that buying guitars becomes an addiction — much like opening a can of Pringles, you can’t have just one.

I have found that to be true.

Over the past 18 years, I’ve acquired several of the instruments: four acoustics, four electrics, two banjos and a bass. Out of all those, only one is back home and I’ve bought four (two electrics, one acoustic and the bass) during my almost-four years in Richmond County.

And with April being International Guitar Month, I figured this a fitting time to write about them.

I got my first real guitar for Christmas in the late ’80s or early ’90s (can’t remember exactly when) but it had a short life. Having no clue what I was doing, I broke the neck while tightening the strings.

A few years later, also as a Christmas gift, I received my second guitar: a nylon-string Goya acoustic. It survived a bit longer, though for many years it was missing a string. It finally succumbed to death when my then-toddler brother drug it out into the living room and my visually impaired mother tripped over it.

Although at that point I was just learning how to play, I was sad to lose it. So, I decided to give it a fitting funeral by dousing it in lighter fluid and setting it on fire — inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. (A little dramatic, I know.)

I took a guitar course my first year at college, learning the basic chords. It was later that year I decided to buy my first guitar. Actually, I bought two.

At the time, there were two music stores in downtown New Bern, right across the street from each other. When we (my mother and brother were with me) walked into Fuller’s Music, there was a display with four Fender Squier (lower quality, lower price) Stratocasters — three were black, the other was a burgundy or wine color.

Although I had always wanted a bright red electric, what I considered the iconic look, my favorite color at the time was black. But when I asked my baby brother which one I should get, he reached out from the stroller for the burgundy one. So Scarlett was my first purchase.

We went across the street to Jones-Potts Music (which has since closed) to see what they had to offer. Aside from black, my other favorite color was blue, and I spied a dark blue Johnson acoustic — and it was pretty cheap, so I bought it.

The strings on Blue sit pretty high off the neck, so she is currently set up for slide playing — when I actually make the time to sit down and practice.

A year or so later, we took a family vacation to eastern Kentucky. I didn’t take either of my guitars with me because we really didn’t have room to pack them. After visiting Loretta Lynn’s home place, we stopped at a small music store nearby where I found a black Spencer acoustic. Ebony sounded great for a cheap guitar and she was added to the family.

She became my pride and joy over the next few years. However, being a cheaper model, a chunk of the binding on the neck chipped off and my hand was getting cut by the frets.

I went to Fuller’s to find out how much it would cost to get it fixed and the guy behind the counter said it would be quite pricey (don’t remember the quote) so I decided it was cheaper to just replace her. After a few weeks of going in and looking at the selection, I settled on Sandy, a natural wood-colored Fender electric-acoustic with no pickguard. At $300, it was the most I had spent on a guitar. And the only one I had a hard case for.

Around the same time, my cousin, who also plays guitar, told be about a dark red knockoff SG — a devilish looking guitar made famous by AC/DC’s Angus Young — at a local glorified pawn shop. He had checked it out and encouraged me to get it … so I did. Crimson’s brand is Spirit, which was a partnership between Gibson and Baldwin to promote music in schools.

When I moved to Rockingham in 2014, I brought Sandy with me, leaving Crimson, Blue, Scarlett and Ebony back home. (I later brought the first three back with me — Ebony is still 200 miles away.)

In December 2015, I saw Amy Berry, of Berry Patch fame, post a red acoustic-electric on Facebook for sale. It was a Spencer, like Ebony, so I decided I’d take Rose off her hands as a Christmas present to myself.

In 2016, the guitar-buying bug bit me again. I was browsing online and found what is probably the most affordable signature edition on the market: the gold-topped Epiphone Les Paul Special II Slash Edition. (For those who don’t know, Slash is the lead guitarist from Guns ‘n’ Roses. However, he is known for playing a Gibson Les Paul … which is more expensive.) I drove up to the Guitar Center in Fayetteville to pick up Goldie as my self-present for my 35th birthday.

I’ve had the chance to play Goldie several times onstage at Hudson Brothers and the Southern Roadhouse with Hardwired, joining the band for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

As my birthday rolled around again last year, I thought, “Why not get another guitar?”

Having an affinity for paisley print, I had originally considered buying the Brad Paisley signature Fender Telecaster, which is sparkly silver with a paisley pickguard and very lightweight. However, after trying it and a few others out at Casino Guitars in Southern Pines, I went with a honeyburst Tele.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I named all my guitars after their colors, so the Tele was appropriately named Honey. Two of my guitar-playing friends each have an identical model — which reminds me, Honey and Rose are still at Eric Whitfield’s house from the last basement jam session.

With all that being said, and this being International Guitar Month, I wonder: Should I get another?

William R. Toler is editor of the Richmond County Daily Journal. Reach him at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_Tolerr-1.jpg

Blue was the first acoustic purchased and is tuned in open D for slide playing.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_blue-1.jpgBlue was the first acoustic purchased and is tuned in open D for slide playing.

The girls: Blue, Scarlett, Sandy, Crimson, Rose and Goldie.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_all-1.jpgThe girls: Blue, Scarlett, Sandy, Crimson, Rose and Goldie.

Photo by Lorie Brackahn Playing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on Goldie with Hardwired at Hudson Brothers in 2017.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_goldie_hardwired-1.jpgPhoto by Lorie Brackahn Playing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on Goldie with Hardwired at Hudson Brothers in 2017.

Most recent purchase: Honey, a Fender Telecaster.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_honey-1.jpgMost recent purchase: Honey, a Fender Telecaster.

Late-night slide practice with Sandy in 2012.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_sandy-1.jpgLate-night slide practice with Sandy in 2012.

Scarlett, a Fender Squier Stratocaster. The first guitar purchased.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_scarlett-1.jpgScarlett, a Fender Squier Stratocaster. The first guitar purchased.

Using a lighter as a slide while playing Ebony in 2010.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_guitars_ebony-1.jpgUsing a lighter as a slide while playing Ebony in 2010.

William R. Toler

Daily Journal Editor