So Eve has this ukulele named Billie (just so you know, Eve’s also a pretty dandy little guitar player). First time I ever saw Eve, she and Billie were navigating a cover of Wicked Game. Early in our partnership, Eve gave me some eardrum about how an instrument deserves a name. On a whim, shortly thereafter, I picked up a second guitar one Saturday without thinking through what I was doing. We christened the guitars Thelma and Louise.
The recent holidays clocked 40 years since I learned how to form basic chords – G, C, D, E, sitting by the washing machine at Tim Yoho’s sister’s mobile home and fretting that Teisco Tulip, which is now home with me forever after I sold it in 1979, lost track of it for 29 years, discovered it captive in a friend’s grubby attic in 2008, with Van Halen-like tape stripes all over it, and restored its simplicity. Fumbled my first chords on that fretboard.
I’ve owned a few since. Some you’d almost swear had a soul. They vibrate, or they soothe a nerve, or they bark and bite from some little spot on the neck the way your chocolate lab might if she were nursing a tender spot and your palm found it while consoling her. A Stratocaster that was thin and aloof with a 24 G howled and fussed in scalding, ratty tones with a 26 G, even though she made me work for every extra twinge of muscle it made to push a note. One entire summer, I got up at 3:30 A.M. to play because it was the only time I had. I loved that effing guitar. Don’t know who pushed whom.
Later, in a tight spot, I let it go. Pretty sure there are songs about the one that got away.
I only ever had one guitar worthy of a name. Sunburst D-28, scalloped bracing, forward-shifted high X, butterbeans, tortoise guard, Adirondack top with cross-grain ripple almost ⅛ of an inch wide on the top side, and slicker than a soap maker’s ass. Tune new strings to 440, thump it, and you could see the curtains move at 40 paces.
“Whitworth” was her name. Like the cannon. First one on the left.
Thelma wasn’t worthy of a name. Gorgeous abalone. Forgettable pickup. Wonky action with a wobbly low E. She’s back on the market (E Harmony?). And Louise, Beautiful as she is – capital B intended – she’s just a girl. But she’s not the one.
Right now isn’t an opportune moment to make a change. Sigh. And not anytime soon.
Someday the right one will come along.