Those Hot Summer Nights: A Reminiscence Upon an Instrumental Love Affair

We all have our dream instruments, which often change over the years. Sometimes they link themselves to treasured memories and times that we associate with those memories. When I was in high school my dream guitar was the Gibson Les Paul. Other guitars were cool but the Gibson Les Paul was a thing of beauty that was the pinnacle of the electric guitar and my lust for one was intense, but wholly unattainable due to finances. I was coming of age in a small town in Ohio; it was the late seventies and boutique instruments were far to the future. It was a time filled with rock, Led Zeppelin, Boston, Chicago, Yes, Foghat, Aerosmith and a slew of others. There were essentially two camps of guitarists, those who played Gibsons and those who played Fenders, and for me it was definitely the Gibson camp. I spent hours hanging out at the music store with my teacher, whose bass player, a big friendly guy with a big heart, let me while away the hours playing his stock of Gibsons and in return I kept them all polished and clean. He eventually lost the store due to bad money management and a tendency to snort what did come in.

Since I couldn’t afford a Gibson I played copies that were in my price range. The first was a Crestwood Les Paul that had a bolt on neck and appointments to make it look like an LP Deluxe. It was black with silver hardware and I loved it, spending hours tinkering with it to lower the action and ultralight strings in an attempt to make it play like the real ones so far out of touch. It was a workhorse for me and it was what I used in the first band I ever played out with, The Sons of the Maverick Kings. I hooked up with them the summer following my junior year in high school, which would have been 1980. I was the only one still in high school. The other guys were graduates ranging from 19 to 22 or so. We were three guitarists, a bass player and a drummer and we rehearsed in a tiny town south of my home town of Alliance. I met them through the music store where I polished the Les Pauls.

We started rehearsing and hanging out, and the guys landed a couple of gigs, one of which was the drummer’s family reunion and the other was a gig at a small town celebratory festival in Minerva where we played on a stage built from a semi trailer. About this time they decided that I needed better equipment so they worked a deal for me through a friend who had an Ibanez Les Paul copy that was quite a few steps up from the Crestwood in overall quality. I had a Kustom sparkle tucked and rolled upholstered blue sparkle 100 watt bass amp that had a pair of 15 inch speakers in it that my parents had purchased with a Farfisa keyboard. I, with their blessing, traded the amp for the Ibanez, now know as a lawsuit era guitar, and I was one step closer to the dream. Today, those are sought after by many folks because they really were excellent guitars, and I really dug that guitar. I used both the Crestwood and the Ibanez for the remainder of the time I was with the band.

The following year my priorities shifted and I started getting ready to audition at music schools, focusing on my classical playing and immersing myself in just that. My electrics went into the closet and so did my old rock and roll dreams, where they remained for years. The guitars ended up being sold at a garage sale for about $150 each, and I ended up playing a hand built Masuro Khono K30 classical starting my sophomore year in college. Time has passed by since then and things and guitars have come and gone as have dreams and phases.

At this point in my life, my love affair with the Gibson Les Paul is a fond memory. I’ve had a few and they’ve been sold in favor of other instruments along the way. I’ve even had a dedicated love affair with the venerable Fender Telecaster, which I performed with for a decade or so. Honestly, they’re not as beautiful as the Les Paul, but they have their definite plusses. I’ve even spent quite awhile with a Gretsch, which recently went to a new home. Now I’m finding myself drenched in nylon strung guitars, which will be my next phase for the foreseeable future, with ithat host of dream instruments and those I actually work with. I am very happy with my instruments and the dreams and memories they hold, but I will always associate my dream Les Paul with the days of my youth spent running the back roads of rural Ohio in a late 60s Dodge; heading to rehearsals on those hot summer evenings when the crickets are wailing among the cornstalks.

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