This one particular experience was quite something, and had a profound effect on the rest of my life, for sure! In 1967, I had become obsessed with buying a new Gibson Byrdland guitar, and had to “special order” it at Manny’s Music on 48th Street in NYC. I still have that luscious green-covered catalog in my possession to this day, and kept longingly staring at it, anticipating that day when I would finally get my guitar. I had ordered it in natural blond, and left a $200 deposit for it with my dad. They said it would take about six months for it to come, and if I recall, the price in those days at Manny’s was about $750 altogether.
Well, sure enough, the big day finally came, and we were told that the guitar was in, and ready for me to pick up. I went down with my dad, who was ready to pay the remainder of the balance for me, and I was so excited I could barely contain myself! In those days, as often was the case, Manny’s was a bustling, crowded, and often very intimidating place to be in. This was especially true for a young 15 year-old player with his father, waiting for them to bring out my new guitar! They were busy berating the lead guitarist from The Blues Magoos for buying too many old Les Pauls, yelling at him to save his money, and to stop blowing it all! If I recall, he was trying to buy a sunburst ’59 that day for like $400 or close to it!
In any event, my guitar finally came out, and with the salesman STILL complaining about me handing a “thousand dollar axe”, even though it was technically mine, they finally opened the case. My heart sank, as it was in that very stark “black to yellow” sunburst, not at all the blond I had ordered! Now, Gibson has of course always been a fine brand, but this was at the time when a lot of folks were starting to feel that the “new” guitars were not made nearly as well as the older ones, and the vintage guitar “boom” was starting to really take hold. In any event, I picked it up, bent the G string to start a lick, and the nut of the guitar promptly broke right off the neck!! We were all shock, and of course, I was deeply disappointed. I guess if it had actually been a blond one, I would’ve forgiven this little problem, let them fix it, and still would’ve bought the guitar, but I was tired of waiting, for sure! So, they refunded our $200, and discouraged, me and my dad walked out. We looked all over 48th Street for another comparable instrument to no avail, and then turned the corner to go onto 49th Street, where there was an upstairs guitar shop called “Eddie Bell.” I had never really been there before, so I took a quick look around, and saw nothing. But just as we were ready to head down the stairs, the salesman said, “have you seen out 1952 Les Paul yet?” Well, not only had I not seen their Les Paul, but I’d never even held one up to that point. So he opened the glass case where it was hanging, handed it to me, plugged me in, and proceeded to change my world! What an incredible instrument. I now knew what it was like to play a truly great guitar, and I understood what all the fuss had been about when everyone was talking about “old Les Pauls” to me!!! Oh yes, it was only $500, a good $250 less than the poor broken new Byrdland I had so lusted after!
So, anyway, there’s my story of how I got that first great Les Paul! Would buy another 100 of them right now if I could!