A few interesting and unusual vintage guitars

I went to my favorite guitar store today, Guitar Showcase, ostensibly because they were advertizing a “March Madness” sale but actually because they are a wonderful independent guitar store trying to survive the “Amazoning” of the guitar business by nasty ole Guitar Center and other internet enabled guitar distributors, and so I take any excuse to visit there. Part of their plan for surviving is to spend a very large amount of floorspace on acoustic guitars, which most people want to play and to hear before they buy.  This is unlike the electric crowd, many of whom are happy to buy directly from the net. Indeed, this store is where I bought my Taylor acoustic guitar.

But what I like about the store is that they have a special room in the back in which they have a lot of vintage guitars, most (but not all) for sale, some on consignment, some not. Today I took a few snapshots of some of the more interesting vintage guitars I saw. All the guitars are behind glass, which makes photographing them much more challenging so sorry about that.

Let’s start with a 1961 Fender Precision Base for only $18,000.


Here’s a 1962 Fender Stratocaster which is not for sale at any price. The guitar to the right is also a 1962 Strat and though you can’t see it, the asking price is $27,000.


Here is a 1956 Fender Esquier, which is like a Telecaster but comes with a single pickup, however the body was obstructed in the display so I opted for a close up of the neck and headstock.


This Playboy guitar is actually a Fender Custom Shop build from another era. Notice the cloth tastefully draped over the body 😉 I liked this guitar because you’d never see one like this today and also because the inlay on the fretboard is unusual and whimsical.


In the back, kinda hard to see, is one of the original Fender Custom Shop “Blackie” reproductions. There were 275 of these built by Fender in 2006 and they were asserted to be *exact* reproductions of Eric Clapton’s stage guitar, which he called “Blackie”. And by exact, I mean down to the wear and tear on the guitar.



A little levity and whimsy…


Finally, some of Steve Miller’s older amp and stage gear on consignment.


Norton Buffalo performed in the Steve Miller Band for 32 years before succumbing to cancer in 2009. In fact if you ever wondered how Steve Miller got that fabulous sound when he sang, it was most likely because you heard him sing his songs as duets with Norton Buffalo, and they were so synchronized that it was often hard to tell there were two people singing, except of course for the interesting vocal tones which resulted.


Here is a great live video of Steve Miller and Norton Buffalo doing one of their classics. I used to play this for my kids when they complained about their piano lessons, telling them “See? Piano is used in rock bands!”

In fact because I  am a huge fan of Steve Miller, here’s another classic from the same concert. Interestingly, at 4:16 of this second video, you can actually see the very Rivera amp listed for sale in the last photo above!


That concludes the tour of my favorite guitar store and an intro to Steve Miller and Norton Buffalo. I will leave you with one Steve Miller anecdote. In talking about how many people have played in his band over the years, he said “Right before I moved out to San Francisco, I played in Buddy Guy’s band. One night, he said to me, ‘Listen, man, when you get out there, call it the Steve Miller Band. You’re going to go through lots and lots of musicians, and you don’t want everyone to get all upset when you fire your bass player.’ It turned out to be really good advice.”


Update: a faithful reader tells me Les Paul is Steve Miller’s godfather and that turns out to be true! Thanks Giovanni.

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