Friday 10 May 2013

My Dad's Old Acoustic Guitar and Me.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the guitar.  Ever since I was a small child, I remember being excited when my dad would bring out his old acoustic guitar and somehow, magically, use it to make a song!  Even the case for the guitar was magical to me...and made a great hill to send hot wheels cars down, too!  

Well, I've owned lots of guitars over the years, and played even more, but if you were to look into my mind and DEFINE the word guitar, the one that I would picture is that old acoustic that my dad played.  A big old "Texas large body" sunburst acoustic guitar...gigantic and older than me, purchased from my uncle for a set of golf clubs sometime in the 70's...

I'll never forget the rainy day at the cottage in the Summer of ' 15th year...I was there with my parents and bored, stuck mom suggested that maybe dad could show me a couple of chords on the guitar since we'd brought it up with us.  I think both dad and I were a little too shy to bring that idea up to each other, but we both said "Sure!" as soon as mom suggested it.  Beats yet another game of Monopoly, right?  Mom must have known how much I wanted to learn guitar, and maybe how much dad wanted to show me, too.  That day marked the first time I ever got to pick up that old guitar and play it for real, in a meaningful way...the first step on the path from being a curious kid to being a real guitar player!  Dad taught me 9 chords that day, A-G and Em and Am...I couldn't really get F or B right away, but I learned the fingering at least! 

Mom helped out too, with an old chord chart she had taped to the back of a notebook of church songs...I practiced those chords all day long and wrote my first 3 or 4 songs right then and there just to help me learn.  Played until my fingers were sore and bleeding and then played some more...I just never looked back.  Withing a year I was 16, had my own guitar, (a Fender Strat with a little practice amp), and big big plans to be a rock and roll star!

Of course, even after I got my Fender I still played dad's old guitar all the time.  Carried it around my high school every day.  Serenaded the smoking spot out back during break, along with all the other would-be rock stars, pretending I was too cool for the little 9th grade girls who watched us play and wrote our names on their 3-ring binders (surrounded by hearts and smiley faces, of course!). 

Then one day, a couple of years later, I was tuning that old acoustic guitar when tragedy struck!!  The bridge of the guitar (where the strings attach at the bottom) finally gave up and came free of the guitar's body!  I was flabbergasted!  I didn't have any money or even know that there were people out there that could repair a guitar, so I tried to fix it some wood glue and some clamps and reattached the bridge...crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!

And you know what?  It worked...sort of.  When I put on new strings after the glue dried, the tension proved too great or I maybe didn't quite attach it right or something...the bridge cracked and broke under the guitar stayed attached and it still worked!  As long as I used light gauge strings and tuned down a half-step, the guitar still played alright.  It was never the same though.  Rattly and just..."off" somehow.  After that, my dad's old guitar started to be more for show than for playing...neglected in favour of newer guitars that played easier...

Well this all happened 15 years or more ago.  When I left my parents house, I left the guitar too...bought my own acoustic and made my own life and moved on...until now!  This year, being debt free for the first time since I was in high school, and actually having a little extra cash,  I decided I needed to finally do something for this old guitar, my true first love.  I got the guitar from my parents place (my dad didn't mind...he plays a new 12-string acoustic these days and sounds mighty good doing it, too!) and took it to The Twelfth Fret, a guitar store at Woodbine and Danforth that had done some wiring and tuning work on my old Stratocaster last year.  I wasn't sure if they could do anything for this guitar but I figured it was worth a shot.  I was super nervous that any attempt at repair would make things worse after my amateur, botched repair job of years ago.  Still, I had to try!

Well, the guy at the Twelfth Fret said they should be able to fix the guitar, but it would cost way more than it was actually worth.  I told him that I didn't care about the money.  I might not get much for this guitar if I ever (God Forbid!) tried to sell,  but this guitar was priceless, nonetheless!  Not just to me but to my whole family.  The repair man understood, as anyone who's ever loved a guitar would...He said he'd do his best and give me a call when it was finished.

Well, just this Wednesday I got that call.  Not only was my dad's old guitar ready, but the man at the Twelfth Fret went above and beyond the call!   He got a chunk of rosewood from the lumber yard special and hand-carved me a brand new bridge!  He even managed to get the pearl inlays from the old bridge to keep the look of the original!  It looks so good I couldn't believe it!  Even more importantly, as I picked up this beautiful old guitar and strummed it the first few times I realized that it sounds better than it has in years and years!  As good or even better than it sounded when I first broke the bridge all those years ago!  I'd forgotten how nice and mellow and deep the tone could be...although I admit, I'm probably pretty biased.  Regardless, I couldn't be happier with the great new bridge and the old-school sound!  That man at the Twelfth Fret is a hero to me and I can't thank him enough!

I brought the guitar back to my parent's place yesterday to show it off to them.  My dad played it for a long time and so did was so happy to hear it sound so nice after all these years.  Then, something I didn't told me I should take it home with me again to keep at my place!  After all this time, after all of the blood and love and money and time that I've poured into it, he says the guitar is as much mine as his...he considers it the "family guitar" now and is content to play it when we get together.  So now here I am with this lovely old guitar, prominently on a stand in my living room, and every time I glance at it I smile.  It's hard for me to explain just how it makes me feel...this story just barely scratches the surface...but it means much and more to me.  Maybe some of you musicians and some of you sons out there will understand.  It's beautiful.  Thanks Twelfth Fret and especially Thanks, Dad.  I love you.


  1. ...... it's Dad ....... Holy Smokes, where do I start? ... I love you too !

    ....... This guitar is in the right hands !

    ....... and I love you too ! ..... Dad

  2. I share you enthusiasm about guitars. It was nice of your dad to introduce you to the the vast world of music. He even thought you a couple of notes when you were at a young age. My uncle played in a local band. When he visits our house, he gives a me a guitar lesson. He even gave me one of his guitars! Up until now, I cherish it and play it with my kids around.

    Cherie Seldon