How Many Guitars?

How many guitars is enough? You can only play one guitar at a time. I’m grateful that when doing gigs, one guitar is easy to carry whereas two or more become a logistical nightmare involving additional transport and unnecessary swearing.

When I wrote about my first guitar alongside the Billy Bell Guitar tutorial, I was content. This could last me a lifetime. That was until I decided on a casual walk down Charring Cross Road several years later, where at the time there were the ultimate temptations hanging seductively in every other shop window. I walked out of one with a Fender acoustic which sadly took all of my savings and didn’t last long. From there I found an original Kimbara acoustic in a shop in West Croydon which became my companion through thick and thin, gigs and clubs until it was stolen outside a dive in Edinburgh.

I moved on to a custom hand built, guided by my lovely friend Gordon Giltrap, and had a fine six string made for me by Roger Bucknall and Fylde guitars.

Up to this point I had managed with one guitar, an achievement amongst the collectors I know but it seemed to be enough. It soon became apparent that one more wouldn’t hurt and I could always switch from one to another both in the studio and live especially if I could find someone to carry them for me!

We lived very close to a fine music store in Kew. I would usually go there when I needed strings, plectrums or other ephemeral accessories ignoring the ‘mistresses’ that were flaunting themselves in the display stands. I managed successfully until I didn’t. Walking out with two sets of strings, three plectrums and a Godin nylon string guitar. Oh dear!

I then convinced myself further that a new Tailor guitar would be nice as I’d never had one and yet again, what harm would it do to have a third?

I called the shop this time and asked them specifically about one guitar they were advertising. “Could I try it out?” I asked. “Sure, when can you come in?”

“Well, that’s the problem. Could you stick it in a taxi so I can play it at home in my studio?”. I hated playing any guitar in a shop. Usually you’d get the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ riffs blasting out or the easily playable Deep Purple repertoire being murdered by enthusiastic teenagers ready to impress at every bend and squeal. “Shut Up!” I would quietly whisper while trying out a few nice acoustic noodles between the amps being cranked up and spotty youths.

So, forty minutes later the taxi arrived with this new mistress sitting in the backseat. I’d agreed that if I didn’t like it the taxi could wait and return it immediately. Needless to say, opening the case it was perfectly in tune, played like a dream and seduced me on the spot.  The taxi left.

Ok, so that would be it. Alongside a fairly generic Ibanez electric guitar that could do most things, a ukulele, mandolin, banjo (didn’t I mention the banjo?) I really did have enough.

Until of course I went to America.  Jem was booked to play at The Viper Rooms in Los Angeles. It was part of a series of gigs and showcases that we’d planned and it looked like it was going to be a busy couple of weeks out there. The band was effectively Jem’s two producers and me; All acoustic.

I left home without guitar knowing that I was stopping off in Nashville. I left Nashville with a very fine mistress made by a boutique company called Langejans. I tried several, most very expensive but as I was explaining to the lady who owned this particular guitar emporium, several miles outside Nashville in her home garage, she pulled this one off the wall and I took two hours trying not to like it. So that was definitely enough.

Until of course I went to Slovenia. We were gigging out there and Christopher Cross was also on the same bill. He’d brought all of his gear with him from California in huge flight cases with even huger roadies. Again, travelling light, I gently asked if I could ‘borrow’ one of his for the rehearsals and gigs Jem and I were doing. Lovely and generous he offered anything I wanted. I was in love again! Not with him although I did like Arthur’s Theme and Sailing. More with his new custom concert Tailor guitars. “Got them straight from the factory” he said over a casual glass of wine. “I can get you one too if you’d like?” Here we go again!

Three weeks later the new mistress arrived direct from San Diego, in a beautiful case, in tune and ready to party. OK, that really should do it for now. I even bought a guitar rack so I could see them, count them, play them and remind myself that I really did have enough. But that valentine card I saw recently keeps coming to mind;

Roses are Red, Violets are……… Oh look, a Guitar!”