When Darcy Kuronen, the musical instrument curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, contacted me in early 1999 about their upcoming exhibition of guitars as art, which eventually became the Dangerous Curves exhibition, I was psyched. Guitars as art is my credo, why I collect. Well, at least one of the reasons. After a lot of sifting and winnowing, we agreed on a list that included a bunch of my guitars and a hyper-suspensioned, climate-controlled art moving van showed up to spirit my pretties up to Beantown. My Aria Pro II Urchin Deluxe became the visual emblem of the show, on the catalog cover, billboards, bus signs, banners. Pretty cool! Tucked away at the bottom of the pile was this 1985 Schecter Genesis G6 Illusion guitar!
Now, here’s a piece of guitar history that proves there’s more than meets the eye, a circa 1967 Cameo 1402T! It wasn’t that long ago that violins were considered the superior cousin to its distant relative, the guitar. You know: violins equal classical music equals high class. Guitars equal popular music equals you dancing fool you!
Whatever you call this instrument, the Gittler certainly pushes the envelope of what is a guitar! Alan Gittler (born in 1928) was originally a jazz guitarist in New York, heavily influenced by Remo Palmieri. He played music, composed, and even wrote and produced a film called Parachute to Paradise. He worked as a film editor for many years, invented a number of photographic-related devices, and even wrote a novel.
Travel with us now Back to the – no, not the Future, but – the 1970s! Back when things were all natural and stuff! Back to nature. Long hair. Deer-hide jackets with fringe. Back when the taste for things au naturale began to show up in guitars. Back when clearcoat finishes began to reveal alternating laminates of light and dark wood, often maple and mahogany or walnut. Back to a time when Martin built this 1979 Martin EM-18. Say what? Martin??
Some guitars combine fascinating stories about both their creation and acquisition, and this 1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model No. 7624 is one of those guitars! It was conceived during what many vintage Gretsch enthusiasts consider to be the low point in Gretsch history. It was purchased during one of the great guitar adventures of my career! But, is it any good?
By the later ‘60s—especially with the advent of transistor circuits—musical instrument designers began to come up with electronic methods for creating distortion and other special effects suitable for the psychedelic frame of mind of the guitar’s audience! Sometimes this was an external device, sometimes it was built into the amplifier, and sometimes, like on this 1967 Hofner 459TZ, it was put right into the guitar itself!
Anyhow, as wars recede their meanings change with each succeeding generation. Ask a young person today about the Viet Nam War and you might be lucky if he’d ever heard of it. For some older folks among us it seems to have happened only yesterday, transforming their lives so much that they live with it every day. For others of us, it has just become a murky bad dream that we’re only reminded of when a guitar like this ca. 1965 “Pinoy Jazzmaster” forgery comes around!
Cue the music. Duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH? Fin cuts water. Girl screams. The big Jaws open. That’s right, folks, we’re talking about sharks. Killer sharks with a taste for teens. Only this monster is a guitar! From Minnesota, no less! Well, I’m sure weirder things have floated down the Mississippi River! Yes, boys and girls, you are looking at a genuine 1981 O’Hagan Shark Custom!