Before any of us knew you don’t buy new musical instruments, there was a guitar shop on the border of Overland and University City named Silver Strings.
We heard the owner drove through the south buying up guitars from out of the way little pawn shops. He’d bring them back to St. Louis, fix ‘em up and sell them for almost nothing.
I saw my first National Steel there for $150.00. I thought it was a novelty item. I also saw my first Gibson Firebird and Melody Maker. The Melody Maker was $125.00. It was a late 50s model and we called it a baby Les Paul.
I had my eyes on a beautiful, red, ’62 Les Paul that looked like an SG. There was a white ’63 that had 3 gold pickups. The one I liked had 2 silver pickups. I thought the white one was a bit ostentatious. Of course, that one is highly prized by collectors today.
The owner told me Martin Barr, the guitarist for Jethro Tull was looking at it. I never knew if he was just trying to get me to grab it, but when I saw Jethro Tull’s Passion Play tour at Kiel Auditorium, Martin Barr was playing the exact model.
I can’t remember what I paid for it, but it couldn’t have been much considering my salary as a dishwasher at Duff’s Restaurant.
That guitar will always be my favorite. I can’t even remember who I sold it to, although it was probably stolen.
Not too long after I got it, my girlfriend Lora bought an Alvarez acoustic at Music Folk in Webster Groves. I couldn’t believe how great it sounded. I had to get one, too. I spent $100.00 more than she did, but mine never sounded as good.
I used Lora’s on all our records. Mine was stolen.
Years later, when I was working at Wuxtry Records in the West End, as pay I took an Alvarez Yari 12 string acoustic, a flute and an alto sax. I’m pretty sure I got my first black Les Paul Black Beauty that way too. I told everyone it was from 1958, but I never really knew. I had to be from at least the early 60s. It was beautiful but someone ruined it with white Dimarzio pickups.
One night, while Lora and I were sleeping in my first floor West End apartment, someone broke in and stole my 12 string, my flute and sax. We were in the next room.
During this same time, the band was rehearsing in the basement of a Fraternal Order of Eagle’ hall on the south side. Someone broke in and stole my guitar and our P.A. mixer.
Local detectives got right on it. One of them told me his buddy said they shouldn’t waste their time on us hippies. He told him my guitar was probably worth more than he made in a year. I doubt that was true, but I loved the story.
They found the equipment on a roof less than a block away. They were able to identify the guitar by a leather strap that had Earwacks stamped on it. Lora’s dad made it for me.
I never thought I’d get it back so I bought a ’66 Black Beauty. When the old one was recovered, I sold it to my boss at Wuxtry. He sent me an email recently that it was in Hawaii.
I never was happy with the sound I got from the Black Beauties. By the time the band broke up, I realized it was my amp. I had a vintage Ampeg VT-22 with really expensive Altec speakers. It was so heavy, it took two of us to carry it. To get a good sound out of it, you had to turn it up so loud your ears bled.
I rented it to Keith Richards or Chuck Berry for the Hail, Hail Rock and Roll movie they made for Chuck’s 65th birthday. They used it during rehearsals at Chuck’s farm, but no one plugged into it on stage. They hated it too!
Pics are: My first black Beauty on the promo shot that would become the cover of my band Delay Tactics' album Any Questions? - it's the one on the left, My second Black Beauty at some VFW post in the late 70s, Dominic playing that same guitar at a Euclid Jubilee, my Alvarez acoustic, and 3 pics of my SG-looking Les Paul—The most recent in our LaSalle Park attic, a fund raiser for Eugene McCarthy mid 70s (my first Presidential vote), and the oldest one is our band playing at Kirkwood Park which feature my red Les Paul and the acoustic.