My first (electric) guitar was a Fender Strat. It was a gorgeous, breathtaking “Standard” that I had absolutely no business buying. I had bought a PoS Washburn acoustic for about $125 to learn on, and broke my figers every day trying to play whatever I had in front of me at the time. (Note: “Blackbird” is a terrible, terrible place to try and START from) But i knew…KNEW that the Strat was for me. I knew the electric was for me. SRV played a beat up sunburst Strat…Eric Clapton played a black one (Blackie, which sold for $960K in 2004…for real) …David Gilmour…Lou Reed…Robbie Robertson…George Harrison played them from time to time…
And Jimi…well, Jimi played it like no one else.
It seemed like everytime I looked up, whoever I was listening to and loving was playing a Strat. I just HAD to have one. I ignored the Gibson players, like my friend Sweet Lou, who wanted that thick sound from AC/DC…and I ignored the legions of Ibanez players who wanted to shred like the hair bands. I knew which way I was heading…and it was right at the Fender.
My first one was a Standard. Not the cheap Korean one…or the slightly nicer (and as we know now, actually AMAZING) Japanese one. I dove right in and bought an American Standard. It cost me $600, with a case. A CASE! It was sunburst, with a rosewood neck.
This was a RIDICULOUS approach for a kid (I was, I believe, about 16 when I bought it) You’re supposed to buy something cheap, beat the hell out of it, learn, then buy something a little nicer…work your way up. I said, screw that, I want THAT ONE. And I scripmed and saved by working at Hopkinton Drug stacking boxes and running the cash register until the proud day that I walked in to EU Wurlitzers in Framingham, MA with Sweet Lou (we drove there in his sky blue Ford Escort) and said not too differently than Wayne “I’m feeling saucy today…”
Since then, I think I’ve owned close to a dozen Fender (and a few knock off) Strats. No lie…a dozen. Near as I can tell. There were others mixed in, but they were not my beloved Fenders. I’ve bought them at pawn shops, garage sales, new and used dealers…I’ve had 2 custom made for me by the Fender Custom Shop. I just LOVE Fender guitars. The other ones were all just…wrong. The felt wrong…they sounded wrong…they didn’t do what I wanted. But the Fender? It never failed. It is what I know. Then I went for a long, long time where I didn’t play anymore and got rid of them all. Some were given away as gifts, some were sold…but they all went away until as I’ve mentioned here before, I decided I wanted to play again.
My new guitar is an Epi “Dot” Hollowbody. I have torn it apart and rebuilt it with some new pickups, a new nut…changed the action…and am loving it right now. It feels NOTHING like what I am used to…where a Strat is sleek and has lines that are often compared to a woman’s curves…the Dot is a brick house. It’s big, and it’s imposing. It dares you to try and play fast. It feels like an acoustic on steroids. It’s heavy, clunky. Where the Strat screams, the Dot kinda moans…it’s throatier, less bell like. The neck is wider and it’s harder to bend. It’s making me do things completely differently than I’m used to…and for my efforts I’m getting completely different tones than I’m used to hearing. And I’m actually kind of diggin’ it.
So here’s to getting out of your comfort zones…whether you choose to get out of them or get knocked out of them, it’s only as good or bad as you make it. And making the most of it is what life is all about. Getting knocked out of your comfort zones is what life is all about. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what you have been through, or where you are headed. You’ve got to make the most of what happens to and around you.
And that’s what I’m trying to do now in all kinds of ways…making the most of it. Because really, the alternative is pointless and just makes you bitter.