Chris Turner, GPC Student                                                       

 #211

            You might not know it by looking at me but I possess deep knowledge about the holy relics of Rock and Roll, electric guitars. Gibson, Fender, Vox, Rickenbocker, Kramer, Alembic, and Danelecto were the apostles of Les Paul, Messiah of the solid body electric guitar. These are the Stradvari of modern music. Their varieties and merits were instilled in my hungry young mind by my enthusiastic father. It seems strange that I never really learned how to play, but J.T., my dad that is, did not impose his hope that I might play too earnestly. 

The impetus for this story is a Fender Statocaster # 211. Strats, as they are more generally known, were the first truly divergent electric guitar as far as style is concerned, and, believe me, in the music industry style is concerned. This guitar was easily from the first year of production, therefore highly collectible. Even thirty years ago guitar players began to notice serious differences in the new instruments. Wood quality rapidly declined when stockpiles were depleted by the frenzied production of electric guitars in the late 1950ís, caused by the rampant popularity of Rock and Roll. Serious players began to seek the oldest guitars for their unique sounds. Collectors and connoisseurs sprouted among the players as they sought to fully understand the tools of their craft. J.T. is one of these people.

Dad was still a bachelor and the pursuit of his muse occupied much of his time and paycheck. Somewhat ahead of his time, but behind on rent, J.T. enters into a gentlemanís agreement with his oldest friend and roommate Rene, thatís pronounced ren-nee, syllables accented equally. (I just donít want you read this whole thing and think his name is Reneeí.) Any way, this artifact was not for them. J.T. insists, to this day, that he offered to buy out Reneís share soon after they got it. Like a lover, they are items of great intimacy and not easily shared.

Unfortunately, # 211 completed its circle by being pawned for some ill purpose. Rene had been out of work; employment was hard to find for hippy freaks with long hair like J.T. and Rene. To him it must have seemed obvious: Iím in need, J.T. is generally forgiving, and we can always get it out of hock later. Actually, this poor logic makes sense to a junky during a bad jones. Only the first supposition is true. J.T. held a grudge for more than thirty years exactly because the guitar was so valuable that it was sold to a collector almost immediately. 

J.T. is not religious. He is an escapist. Without a convenient outlet for his guilt he had grown accustomed to hiding from it. As my sister and I grew up, his financial responsibilities faded. He was rapidly losing touch with the world. At his lowest point an opportunity presented itself. He calls it his Shawshank Redemption, because the all consuming project saved his sanity like digging the tunnel did for the hero of the story.

You see J.T. is a master carpenter. When he feels like it, he can do anything with wood.  My Aunt Nancy, his middle sister, wanted to build a new house and she wanted more than she could afford. My grand mother knew that he needed a swift kick in the pants and basically forced him to build Nancyís house. A kind word in appreciation of his skill has always been the reward that my father prizes most, and this is about all he received for the year of labor.

 Since then he has banished his truly dangerous demons to concentrate on the pleasure of playing. He finally bought another Strat. Itís a cheap new one. Its only redeeming quality is that it stays in tune and sounds good through an amp. J.T. insists that the first property is far and away the most important consideration but only because it also has great bearing on the second. 

Rene has even reappeared recently. It seems his father has recently died and left no will. He had been caring for his father and the bulk of his estate fell to him. As is common with families where money is concerned, the Renshaw clan fell to infighting. Reneís peer group had shrunk considerably over the years, and in desperation, he called my dad for help with his fatherís seriously neglected house. J.T. had been in much the same spot and decided that he would have to forgive the slights of long ago. He went over to Reneís house only to discover that Reneís own redemption bore striking resemblance to his own. His living room was filled with guitars. Dad was dumbfounded. They caught up and played music, neither broaching the subject of the original sin. J.T. agreed to help with the house and some other properties. When he decided that it was time to go, Rene stopped him at the door and handed him a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Jr. He said that he knew that it couldnít replace the Strat and that he didnít expect it to effect total forgiveness. It was a peace offering, and you can bet that it was accepted.