A Short Guitar History

When I was young – 8 or 9, I think* – I wanted to play guitar. My brother was starting piano lessons, but I wanted to play guitar.

We weren’t made of money, so I was delighted when my grandad gave me an old second hand guitar he had picked up somewhere. It was a Gallotone 3/4 size, and well played when I got it – this was evidenced by the back of the neck being worn through the varnish. It was well beaten up, with marks all over it, so my dad took it and sanded down the front and back, giving it a good coat of varnish.

It now looked quite a bit better, and didn’t sound bad. However, every effort I made to play it cut my fingers to ribbons. In the end , I gave up, and started piano, like my brother.

I continued with the piano, until I left for university, where I fell in with bad people – folkies. My friend Colin, who lived opposite me in the accomodation, taught me some chords; and I picked up a second-hand Yamaha classical, which was much kinder to my fingers. Eventually, I was able to handle steel strings; On my 21st, my parents bought me the Eko 12-string I have to this day.

Over the years, the old Gallotone was seen in the back of various wardrobes, and then disappeared. I assumed it had been thrown or given away.

Fast forward to 2010, and my brother is clearing out the loft of mum’s house. Guess what he found? So I was reunited with my old friend, and showed it to , who persuaded me to try replacing the rusty old strings.

This I did, and to my amazement, it plays fairly easily, and has a really nice tone. A good few months went by before I showed it to Mike again, and he agreed. However, it has its faults – the top string rattles when you play the upper frets, the top nut is broken with an obvious repair (by dad, I think), and the fretboard has shrunk, exposing the frets either side.

But it is my first guitar, and it does sound nice. So, at Mike’s suggestion, I took it in today to Jon Haire, for him to work his magic on it. I think Jon thought I was mad, but is happy to look at it.

While I was there, I took in my Ozark Guitar Banjo, which I picked up in a junk shop when I lived in Brighton. I remember that it cost me just 20 quid, a fraction of what a new one cost, even then. It was covered in stickers and gunk, but my dad took it (once again) and did a really sympathetic clean-up job – unlike the old Gallotone, this looked almost new.

Since then, I have played it a bit, and it was lent to for a while, but I have never quite got the sound I wanted out of it. After a bit of experimentation, I have become convinced it is the bridge, so Jon is going to look at that, and either adapt the existing bridge or make a new one, as well as do a neck set-up.

*Up until now I have been telling people I thought I was about 13, but I have just done the math – this was before I started playing piano.

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