Thursday, January 10, 2008
A Kent and a Kalamazoo
My parents and my grandparents got together for Christmas of 1966 and bought me a Kent two-pickup electric guitar and a Kalamazoo amp. It had become pretty obvious that I was serious about playing guitar, and the grown-ups wouldn't have known a Kent from a Gretsch White Falcon. So this is what I got.
I must say that my anticipation that Christmas got the better of me. In my father's night table, I located the key to his closet where I found the guitar. Despite my best efforts at subterfuge, my parents caught on that I'd sneaked the guitar out for a few hot licks. My mother, in particular, was incensed that I'd lied about sneaking in the closet; she was probably the angriest class mother at my fifth grade Christmas party. I carry this guilt with me today, for some reason.
My across-the-street neighbor, Charles Vance, got the identical guitar in red, and he got a Kay amp (I think). We were playing music together, much of the same repertoire that Dana and the Blue Jays had. Charles' brother Burton played a pancake snare drum with us, and his big sister Lucy deigned to humor the little guys by singing with us sometimes. We were probably not very good, but it was a lot of fun. We were called the PeChes, pronounced "peaches" as a clever combination of our first names (Burton was too young to care, and Lucy was not a real band member).
I grew restless with the Kent. It was sort of difficult to play, since this was before the onset of Ernie Ball Super Slinky Strings. There didn't appear to be much in the way of tone, although who could tell through the tiny Kalamazoo. I did learn about 'turning it up ten' as that was the best I could get out of the amp.
Eventually, I traded up for a 1965 Gibson Melody Maker, then to a Les Paul Special and then the guitars started coming and going. A 335 with a Bigsby. A Dan Armstrong plexiglass. A sweet SG Les Paul Standard with the pull-up vibrato, which I, stupidly, had removed along with the pickup covers.
I've owned a bunch of guitars over the years. I've loved a lot of them, despised a few and destroyed a couple in fits of teenage empowerment. But this is the smokin' little combo that was waiting under the tree for me in 1966 which started the ball rolling.