Random Mind Dump About Vintage Gear and How I Got It
9:11 p.m. + 2023-06-11

Mood: Reserved
Music: "Cruel Summer"-Taylor Swift

I don't remember why I wanted to do this but here is a short synopsis about the history of me collecting vintage gear. This is not comprehensive, just some of the more important pieces. It's all gone now, little by little over the years. I may never have as big a collection in the future, but in restarting my life I want to get some of it back--some pieces I had before, some I never did. I'll just take what comes, that's how it got built in the first place honestly.

The first piece of vintage gear I ever owned was a Fender Bassman Ten. I was green to the intricacies and specs of gear, blah blah. In my mind I thought it would break up and crunch like a Tweed Bassman but obviously that's not what this 70s Bassman does lol. I had it for maybe a few months, got rid of it fairly quickly after realizing it didn't do what I wanted it to do.

The first vintage guitar I ever got was a 66 Fender Mustang. Dakota Red, all original, of course a little worn but a pretty damn great specimen. I was dating Barbara at the time. I happened to be driving her car one day when someone rear ended me and then took off. That was petrifying. This was near San Pedro and Lomas. When I went and met the lady who was selling it, we met near the same intersection. I remember thinking that I was owed some good karma and that this was the balancing event in the same place. $400, an absolute steal at the time nevermind prices now.

My favorite stack that I had for a long time was as 69 Fender Bandmaster Reverb. I didn't have a car. I was dating Leah at the time. Some of the gear I got up to this point was from random adventures, driving hours at random times to find a little piece of sonic heaven. When I told her about it and how badly I wanted it, she said we should go and get it and make a trip out of it. It was either December or January, the night we before we stayed at her place. It was snowing, and it snowed more that night. More importantly, it was snowing quite a bit in the mountains on I-40W. Like, a lot. We were destined for some random small town in Oklahoma. About an hour and a half into our trip, we got stuck for a while on the road. There was of course some wreck on the interstate due to the weather and so we were stopped until...we didn't know. We were arguing or fighting about something that I honestly don't even remember now, I don't think it was important (is it ever really THAT important?). We eventually talked it out before moving again, slowly but surely we got to a hotel, the next morning we'd meet the guy with the amp. I remember thinking a hot shower never felt so good after being stuck in the cold and the snow for most of the afternoon. We laid in bed together the rest of the evening, we had amazing sex, we watched random TV shows. The guy was really nice, said the amp had belonged to his brother and he got it when he died. It was pristine, clean, completely unmolested, both the head and the cabinet for $800. That was one of my favorite amps and favorite gear adventures.

The summer I went to Clemson for that NSF internship right before grad school, I bought a 68 Fender Princeton Reverb. Drip edge, black lines, blackface circuit. Also $800. I had been in SC for maybe 2-3 weeks at that point? I want to say it was longer, but I was only there for like 2 months in total, I dunno. Anyway, I found this posted in North Carolina, only like 3ish hours away. The girl I was hanging out with, both as part of our mutual friend group and yes me being interested in her, Marlena, she had a car. This maroon Honda Civic with a Wisconsin plate, her and her dad drove together to Clemson I think and then he flew home. At this point, I was starting to think that maybe the whole premise of what I did maybe sounded a little weird to the uninitiated, something like, "So, there is a piece of old gear from the 60s that some random person on Craigslist has--they are several miles away and I'm terrified someone else will buy it so we need to leave immediately and meet them." But in whatever way, I explained this to her and she agreed to drive us (me). The trip itself was unremarkable. That amp was one of the best, if not the best that I ever owned. I didn't bring an amp with me to Clemson BUT I did happen to bring my recently purchased Jaguar. So now I could fucking rock out in my room. It was awesome. Fuck I loved that amp, that is definitely one I would try to get again.

Speaking of, I remember it being a big deal for me to take my guitar on the plane when I flew there to SC. My 1962 Fender Jaguar, all original of course, OHSC, absolutely pristine condition, a true closet classic. Same sort of story, someone's family member died and they were selling their stuff. I paid $2000 for it at the time but I had the money because of all my graduation presents. It was my graduation gift to myself. Alan and I went up to Santa Fe to get it together. The case had that super deep smell of nitro from the finish, fuck just holding the guitar out in the open you could smell it. I loved that guitar, it was the cleanest vintage guitar I ever owned.

The last piece of gear that was near and dear to my heart I got I think my first year in grad school? I came home once like I used to do regularly. Alan and I were friends with Bill who owned a guitar repair shop in Nob Hill. Guitar tech to famous, stories about everyone and everything, luthier extraordinaire. Bill and I became friends sometime in my junior year at UNM. At least once at week I'd take the bus, was very close to campus, and just sit. See who comes in, see what he was working on. Bill is responsible for a lot of my knowledge and love of tons of instrumental bands, old and new. Surfy, classic, anything drenched in fucking reverb or tremelo that was catchy. Of course I loved Pink Floyd, but I'd never thought of where David Gilmour got his inspiration from. Bill taught me about The Shadows (The Shads). Hand Marvin, his big dark glasses and he just never stopped smiling. His 1959 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster is fucking iconic to me. I learned a lot of their catalogue, it was very formative for me in terms of conceptualizing and writing surf/instrumental music. Bill was one of the first people to wonder who were the musical heroes of my musical heros. I can see and hear Hank Marvin in Gilmour now that I know what I'm looking for. One of my favorite new(er) bands he turned me onto was a group called The Aqua Velvets. Fucking killer band. He would send me away with CDs to listen to, I would jam them, put them on my iPod, come back next week for more. Anyway, it was this relationship with Bill that led to me getting a 1956 Les Paul Special. He had that and a Les Paul Junior, don't remember the year but similar, mid-late 50s, that TV yellow color of course. Neither were for sale, they just sat in his case. He let me play it sometimes. It was incredible, felt like I could understand how thing thing made rock and roll. It was just so amazing to play, the P90s were super fucking hot, can't rave enough about it. Anyway, after a very long time, Bill eventually decided he would sell it to me. Our agreed upon price will remain undisclosed, but it was an original piece of music history and I got a deal, that's all I'll say. That was the last guitar I let go and it hurt deeply when I did.

I don't know if this is the clarity or insight or whatever, but I feel like something needed to come out that wasn't just simply documenting gear I owned. I think what I just realized is that a lot of gear, particularly the ones mentioned here, a couple not, were like these little encapsulated relationships or events or trips, a little history of me and where I was at and who I was with or what I was doing. Of course I love playing any vintage gear, but I think all the stuff I just typed is what made them truly special, a piece of my history, something that transcends them being just musical instruments. I guess what I really miss is having that history of myself, that ability to admire or remember, even if just briefly. I will eventually find some other pieces. I would love to own a vintage Magnatone of some kind, never had one before. I'll put a collection together again. But I won't have these personal pieces of history. I need to do that more. Document, record, not at the expensive of the moment, but so that I can remember when I might not otherwise.

before & after

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Random Mind Dump About Vintage Gear and How I Got It - 2023-06-11
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