The store clerk quickly tunes the guitar. "They're legit, you know?" He then plays a blues riff.

When he hands it to me, the guitar's craftsmanship becomes even more apparent. It feels like a Martin D-28 and plays as smooth as one, too. Its spruce body is in magnificent condition, and the action is undeniably quick. Its $699 price tag is not a bad buy for its quality. But it's lacking one important element: character. I want to see the miles on it.

"Thanks." I hand the guitar back to him and leave the store.

McBride and Little D sell guitars with soul.
Christian McPhate
McBride and Little D sell guitars with soul.
McBride and Little D sell guitars with soul.
Photos by Christian McPhate
McBride and Little D sell guitars with soul.

By lunchtime, I'd visited several pawn shops but still couldn't find that perfect guitar. At Glen's Pawn Shop & Music Store, I found a Martin DXN Dreadnaught and a mysterious black Guild, battered and beautiful. "It's like ol' Trigger," says the store clerk, as he played through several Willie Nelson chords. There was no denying its quickly degrading resemblance, but it just didn't feel right.

Entering Cash America Pawn just off Interstate 35 and U.S. 377 was similar to going to Walmart at 2 a.m. Nothing but crazy people buying guns, diamond rings and old VHS tapes. A few guitars were hanging on the walls in the back of the shop. A few foreign imports, a couple of Dean guitars, a BC Rich Warlock and an old Epiphone acoustic guitar. Its age, though, didn't help this broken beauty. Its tuning pegs nearly fell off when I tried to tune it.

There are plenty of great guitars in Denton, but mine isn't one of them. I venture into the heart of Dallas.

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2 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I've been looking for my "Trigger" for 20+ years now, and in the meantime the cheap, old, Korean-built, flat-top Hohner acoustic that was 10+ years old when it was given to me has just been getting better and better sounding - sloppy glue joints and all. I thought it was just me, but nearly everyone that plays it remarks on the rich tone it produces.

It is also worn in just the right way. Prior to living with me, she lead a pretty uneventful life in the back of my cousin's closet in a cardboard case with only a few trips to guitar lessons to speak of. When I received her, there wasn't even a scuff on the fretboard or pickguard. Now, I can look her over and almost every nick or ding has a story attached.

Every fret buzz is a reminder of some drunk banging her against the edge of a table or speaker cab. A hundred hands have played her as she was passed around the campfire or basement jam session. She's even been in the spotlight on stage a time or two helping carry a tune to anyone willing to listen. Nearly every bit of guitar, hell, musical knowledge I possess has come to me interpreted in some fashion through that guitar. 

Anyway, I hadn't really even considered it until I read your piece, here, but maybe it's time to give the old girl a name. 

There's really no better way to spend a rainy afternoon than just sitting around a whole bunch of guitars. So I won't stop spending rainy afternoons looking at guitars, but maybe I just won't be looking for guitars, anymore.

Good luck on your quest. Nice article.

jsullivan2112
jsullivan2112

A great read, sorry to hear about the accident that spelled your guitar playing doom. As an acoustic fingerstyle player I would be absolutely heartbroken and I'm not sure if I'd even have the will to live if it ever happened to me. I do feel compelled to point out the following: there's a distinct difference between a luthier and a guitar repairman. A luthier BUILDS guitars, and can build the entire thing from start to finish which includes selecting, drying and cutting the wood, carving the neck, cutting fret slots, etc. etc. all entirely by hand. Most shop guitar repairmen don't have the knowledge and experience to be able to call themselves luthiers, and technically it does require a certification, usually an apprenticeship.

 
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