By nature I’m not a materialistic guy. The only two possessions I own that I would bother to chase somebody down the street to take back would be my Bolivian Sombrero and my 1967 Gibson J-45, affectionately known as Buckshot.
I love my Sombrero, partly because it’s a great show hat but even more for knowing that my fearless daugher Rebecca lugged it home from her post-undergrad back-packing hike through South America.
But I love Buckshot even more. We’ve been partners in music ever since I liberated her from a music store in Galax, Va. about 30 years ago.
Now’s the time I should mention that I’m not a patient guy either. But the one instance when I managed to control my impulses came following a heaven-sent financial windfall of around $900. I knew I finally needed a good guitar, and I knew I couldn’t spend the entire largess on one.
So I budgeted half the amount — $450 — and spent the next year looking for the guitar of my dreams. Not being all that confident in my musical abilities, I wanted a name brand, the kind of guitar that people would take note of when I pulled it from the case. So I knew I’d have to go the used route.
On every trip I made while covering football and basketball for the Winston-Salem Journal, I’d scour every music store and pawn shop I came across. I came close to pulling the trigger a couple of times. There was a Guild in Atlanta I almost convinced myself was the right guitar.
But I knew it really wasn’t, so I waited.
Then one day my cousin Rick Morris from Cherokee — an accomplished guitarist in my own writ — called me to say my search was over. He had gotten to know a couple of brothers who vacationed regularly up on the reservation, and they had mentioned how they had a guitar hanging in their store up in Galax with my name on it.
With great alacrity, I sped across Fancy Gap to find Jennings Music. And there, sure enough, was the guitar of dreams, just hanging there waiting on me. I knew she was the one as soon as I strummed the strings. And when I asked the price, I knew the search was successful.
She cost $450, of course, which proved to be the best $450 I ever spent.
All this reminds me a bit of the wonderfully haunting song by Guy Clark called “The Guitar,” but I swear it’s all true. For the past 30 years we’ve been through thick and thin together as I chase my dream of making some kind of mark in music.
Our son Nate grew up to be a professional musician. He’s a classically trained percussionist living in Dallas who teaches on the side when he’s not playing with all kinds of orchestras, symphonies, musicals and ensembles throughout the Lone Star State. And Nate, like so many fine musicians, is particular about his instruments. He’s not big on others playing them, and I respect that.
In that regard — like in so many ways — I’m different. My take is that a guitar was made the be played, and the more people who have played Buckshot over the years the happier both she and I have been.
For 4 1/2 years I coordinated an Open Mic down at the Garage in downtown Winston-Salem. For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve ram-rodded an Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe down in Bethania. I’m partial to Open Mics. To me they’re communion.
Over all those years, whenever somebody showed up with a busted string, a dead battery on their pickup or maybe without the ax they conveniently forgot at home, I’d shove Buckshot in their hands and say “Play her.” She’s never happier than when being played, and she comes through every time.
Buckshot and I will be back at it tonight down in Bethania at our weekly Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe. We have a time every week, and would love for you to come be part of it.
And if you ask just right, I’ll even let you play Buckshot.