By Lou Washington

It hit me yesterday morning; out of the blue, no warning. If you play guitar, you know what I’m talking about. I had this need, this urge, to buy a new guitar. The only thing for this is a trip to the old guitar shop. I spent my lunch hour at Sam Ash and then, Guitar Center.

Where I live, these two competitors actually share a common wall. When I get the new guitar bug, I have to go to these stores and play a bunch of guitars that I can’t afford. This is supposed to make me believe that buying a guitar that I can afford will not make me feel better. It really doesn’t work. Much like giving salt water to a thirsty man, it just makes things worse.

Guitar people are like little old ladies and cats. One is too many, ten is not enough. You start off with something that was kind of practical, not expensive; maybe a nice acoustic model. Perhaps you take home a Yamaha or low-end Martin.

After a few days of practice, you think you sound pretty good. Things are coming along and if you could just get that one chord down, you’d have “Louie, Louie” nailed.

For some strange reason, your family tends to avoid you now. They seem to spend a lot more time away from home or, oddly enough they have started hanging out in the more remote areas of your house like the laundry room or the garage. One thing is certain; if they spend much time that far away they are going to miss out on a lot of great tunes.

That’s when you realize that maybe you should have bought an electric guitar with a nice big amplifier. After all, your art should be shared. You have a gift! It’s only right that everyone near you should experience your development into Guitar Man.

The more you think about it the more you realize that you need an electric model and about 100 watts worth of amplification. No reason to deny the neighbors the pleasure of hearing you wail.

So there you go, right back to the old big box guitar super store. Twenty minutes later, you are the proud owner of a new Stratocaster and an amp with enough wattage to light a used car lot in Las Vegas.

You see how the mind works with this little obsession? Everything makes perfect sense at the time. And, if you stopped at two guitars, it probably does make sense. But, that’s not how it works. Guitar fever is much more subtle than that.

Let’s say it’s early June and time for the family to pile into the Scenic Cruiser and head out across America for a little vacation. You’re excited, nothing beats a glorious vacation with the family. At some point you remember your guitar. You remember last year’s trek and the roof top cargo carrier that was required for all the stuff that goes with you and your family. Where will you put the guitar?

That’s when you find out about travel guitars. Back to the big box, back to the store where all the toys are. Soon your walking out with your brand new Martin Back Packer.

As time goes by more and more cues are established that unleash the urge to acquire more hardware.

I remember reading an article about Keith Richards and his love for his Fender Telecaster. Keith and I go way back. He was there for me in junior high, high school, college and beyond. Keith and Mick were part of my formative years. At least the stereophonic manifestations of  Keith and Mick were there for me.

Scary huh? A world view formed by Keith Richards.

It was certainly understandable that my next acquisition at that time was a beautiful sunburst Tele. It still is truly my favorite. There is just something kind of raw and basic about it. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like Keith.

A new guitar is like a little personal adventure to a place you’ve never been before. Playing an old favorite song on a new instrument is like hearing the song for the first time. All sorts of things you’ve never noticed or heard before are exposed.

Similarly, playing an old guitar that you’ve not picked up in a while is like hooking up with an old friend after a long absence.

So my latest round of guitar fever is pulling me in a direction that is kind of surprising. Even though I’ve always been a Fender guy (BTW, they announced an IPO today), I kind of feel some curiosity about Les Paul. I would probably go with one of the lower priced Epiphone models rather than paying for the Gibson name. I’m thinking the Standard model perhaps?

The nice thing about not being a great guitar player is the fact that you don’t have to pay for top end instruments. Although, somewhere out there in the future is a Martin D28 with my name on it. There is nothing like a Martin.

About two years into my guitar obsession, I heard someone comment that a Martin will make you sound about twice as good as you really are. I believe that.

When Barb heard me play my Martin DX-1 for the first time, she told me I didn’t sound half bad.

So, if you are new to the obsession or an old hand or even an accomplished professional, I wish you well and I hope that you have many happy trips to the music store.