Steve Walwyn's "The Plank"
Our favourite music journalist Lars Mullen has written an amusing piece about guitarists who name their guitars. We'd love to find out what guitars you have that you have named, and why? We're offering a guitar tech kit worth £110 as a prize for the comment we like best. Read Lar's article then in the comment section at the bottom, add the name of your guitar and why you chose it. The prize winner will be announced on 10th January 2020 and the winner contacted by email. More about the prize after Lar's article
Lars Mullen asks:
Why do some guitar players have names for their guitars, why do they love a relic finish and where are all the ladies?
With absolutely no help from the postman!
I’ve personally photographed literally thousands and thousands of guitars for magazine articles over the years, early parlours, classical and blues acoustics dating back for centuries, and iconic models associated with rock and roll over the last 60 plus years.
I’ve often been left alone in a darkened room to photograph these classics, 50’s Danelectros and Supros, 52’ black guard Teles, 63’ Strats for example, 55’ Gibson Goldtops, faded Gibson 59s’, left handers, upside downers along with the weird, the wonderful and the one-offs. Many a time, whilst fiddling with cameras or setting up the next shot with a long row of guitars, one will stand out, perhaps not the colour or the model, but almost saying “Can I be at the front?”
Ok, it’s not quite the rocking horse or the rag dolls in the haunted house thing….but sometimes there’s this vibe where I’m thinking, ‘those pickups are looking at me, following me around the room’! There’s a communication with old wood, well-worn hardware, the history they have witnessed, a bit like standing by a giant tree in a forest. If only they could talk.
Lar's Mullen's "Pyjama Strat"
But that’s just me, we all know how personal we can be with our guitars. I have guitars that I will not gig or play when wearing a belt, these I call my pyjama guitars, whilst others are workhorses that have been played to within an inch of their lives and back again. I’ve a relationship with them all, and often feel as though I have to apologise to the one I haven’t picked to play today.
Non guitar players may not argue the fact that guitarists are indeed a special breed and won’t be surprised why some of us have names for our guitars.
There’s a thing about having an old material friend that’s been with you through the good times and the bad times, not just for guitar players, but in all forms of life. I’ve talked to many guitar players who can’t really explain why they like old worn guitars and have names for them, it’s just a bonding thing.
Steve Walwyn's "The Plank"
One that springs to mind is a ’67 Telecaster I photographed called The Plank, owned by Steve Walwyn, guitarist in Dr Feelgood who is still gigging hundreds of times a year with this guitar. Originally blonde, gallons of sweat have raised the grain on the back over the years, there’s also a blue tinge ingrained from wearing denims.
" Hey stop wait a minute mister postman"
I often invite my postman Sidney in for a coffee and bounce ideas off him when I’m writing up articles. Sid’s ideal, as he doesn’t have a clue about guitars or music related topics. He recently asked what the ‘plastic blocks’ were in the middle of a guitar I was holding, I explained that they were a pair of P.90 pickups, he asked if they were P.45 each, so you know what I mean.
He also commented on a really worn Tele style guitar with hardly any of the original Butterscotch finish left, scratched up black guard and aged hardware, it was a relic model, not the real thing. But that was far too confusing to explain to Sid. I told him I called it ‘Old Paintless’. It took four dunking digestives, looking at me after each dunk, before he finally said,
“Why would anyone want a guitar looking like that, it doesn’t make sense, why don’t you paint it and make it look new? Then you won’t have to call it such a daft name!”
“I could Sid, but it’s not like that. I have clean, shiny guitars as well. Think about a brand new gleaming Ford Mustang, or what about the rough and ready Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT 390 Fastback that Steve McQueen drove in the classic film Bullitt, one bashed Mustang and one clean and shiny.”
“How cool it would be to own the old original with scratched paint”, says Sid, I’d call it ‘Old Green Meany’, gotta run I’m late with the letters.”
So around we go.
Lars Mullen's "Old Paintless"
Dig deeper, and it’s quite apparent that girls names are the most popular for guitars, whilst Fred, Dave or John somehow just does not seem rock and roll. Guitars are often referred to as ‘her’ by both male and female players, and for those of us who think this is totally nuts, we also refer to boats as ‘her’ and give them names. I knew a guitarist who bought a late 60’s hollow bodied Gretsch Streamliner and the original owner said it’s called ‘Streamster’. The new owner couldn’t live with that and being superstitious, did the whole ritual thing like boat owners changing the name of a vessel.
As far as I know, there are very few female guitar players who have names for their guitars. It must be a male thing as all the names that come to mind are Eric Clapton’s Blackie, Steve Ray Vaughan’s Lenny, BB King’s Lucille and Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein.
And they go on, Neil Young’s Old Black, Willie Nelson’s Trigger, George Harrison’s Lucy and Joe Bonamassa’s Spot, Batman and Major Tom. They’re all from an endless list of high profile male players who have names for guitars.
I can’t even count on one hand the number of female guitar players who I know have named their guitars. I’m aware that Mandy Fer in the USA folk band Sway Wild plays an Andrew Lauher acoustic called Mrs Robinson, but are there anymore, I’d love to know?
Why shouldn’t we give these puppies cool names, after all, we are just caretakers for these gorgeous works of art.
Lars Mullen. https://www.facebook.com/lars.mullen.3
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