2 posts in a short space of time? It must be… CHRISTMAS! (it was, is…)
This story begins in a Galaxy Far Far Away… To be precise, the Great Sankey area of Warrington back in August of this year. To me, that seems several life times ago already!
If you’re a guitarist, musician or anyone in the fortunate / unfortunate position of having and acquiring music gear, you’ll know this familiar situation very well…
There I am… freshly returned from a 2 week Summer re-charge. All in the world is balanced, I have no desire for any worldly possessions apart from this 1 litre bottle of water and bag of Walnuts. If I keep this up, I’ll be back home on Venus before the years out… BUT WAIT! what’s this visual image emerging into my consciousness? It’s a memory of some sort.
Earlier in the year one of my guitar students Dad’s was looking at Guitars on Gumtree and showing me the results, then the inevitable happened. Like a moth to the flame a Les Paul shaped Guitar caught my eye… Here’s the picture below. (interesting isn’t it…)
It’s been a considerable amount of time since I’ve owned a Les Paul. It was a Gibson that I received for my 21st birthday and it was glorious. I had to reluctantly sell it some years later during a financial battle with a large company (back when I was trapped inside a office-based cube) The fallout of that experience would cause me to lose quite a large amount of studio and recording gear. (Don’t cry, I gained the ultimate freedom)
It’s fair to say, although (as always) I put my head down and continued the march forwards, there may have been a Les Paul shaped hole in my arsenal. As you may now, I’m a real Fender man. Not through any false loyalty, you just find your bag along the way. But as a guitarist with many flavours, it’s important to have the right ingredients in the store cupboard!
Throughout the months that followed, this guitar kept on making memory appearances, whispering to me. As with most things I thought ‘what will be, will be, surely that’s gone now..’ the advert mentioned something about a loose connection that would need to be fixed, maybe this had put people off?
In a spontaneous action as I was driving to teach a student, I checked the net on my phone.
To my delight, terror, I discovered the guitar was still available albeit advertised on a different site! That’s destiny enough… I quickly called the number and the Scouse bloke on the end of the phone said it was still available, so I said ‘I’ll be there in 35 minutes!’.
For £60 was it worth the punt? I thought it was. I exchanged Reptile bank notes and the exchange was complete. Now the ‘squeaky bum’ moment. Could this actually be turned into something decent or was I busy carving clouds in La-La-Land again?
Despite playing the things for nearly 20 years, my knowledge of actually building, maintaining and understanding guitars is surprisingly limited. I think of it more as an Arm and I’ve never needed to understand the inner mechanics of how that works to use it properly!
Thanks to Alan at A to G Music in Warrington, (Warrington’s number 1 Guitar MOT centre!) i’d already identified it as a KAYS catalogue guitar. There is ALWAYS a risk in buying guitars, new, old and unique like this. Especially a Kays! This guitar was either going to be a winner, or useless firewood, possibly even worse.
It was beyond my comprehension… so off I travelled to Warrington Market, like a Paddington Bear with a defective (but very nice looking) Sandwich. This is where things got quite interesting!
The Moments of Truth…
After initially thinking it was a chambered body, it turned out to be something more resembling a working Hollow Earth construction! The wood was actually attached onto the guitar like a Domed Firmament, leaving enough room inside the guitar for all the (imaginary) miniature people to go about with their daily lives; non-the-wiser!
As amusing and as deeply profound as this was, talk quickly turned to filling it full of a silicone substance and killing all the little people inside, like an updated Flood story. I would leave Alan to make this important decision of life of death by himself. A lot of responsibility for someone who probably only expected to be fixing guitars today! Maybe this is how the whole world got out-of-hand, forced delegation!
There was also the small matter that the original pick-ups were completely and utterly goosed, attracting alien signals, interference, morse code and seriously manipulating the magnetic field around it… This would have almost killed the whole re-build idea, but I then remembered…
“I’ve got some Seymour Duncan pick-ups from a battered Hondo II I found near a skip!”.
There was still the, quite major, problem that the action was far too high with no obvious way of lowering for my playing. A few ideas were thrown around, I once again delegated any potential to solution over to Alan. Because, “IF ANYONE CAN, ALAN CAN!”
The day after I brought the internal organs of the Hondo into the shop so he could begin the build…
Sometime went by, seasons changed, the clocks went forward… in reality, this was less than a week but what can I say, I was elsewhere conjuring up other stuff when the first transmission came through… ‘there may be life on this planet! (GUITAR!)
Alan began sending through, extremely promising videos of the fixing, adjusting and resurrection of the KAYS LES PAUL…
Everything he was attempting to do to fix it, seemed to be working!! (A rarity in many, many cases)
Some days later I visited the shop to witness the full Kays Resurrection and to pick her up. A few bystanders caught my, quite simply, overwhelmed reaction… the seemingly impossible had been done.
So the lesson to be learnt… You don’t always have to spend mega-bucks to get yourself a truly unique, special guitar! IT won’t always work out, but every now and again the stars will align and present you with a magical moment.
This guitars destiny wasn’t a skip, it was to be played and brought back into the world for everyone’s enjoyment!
A massive thanks (again) to Alan at A to G Music, for all his excellent work in re-building this guitar. IT’s kind of obvious, but if you have a project or just a guitar that needs a bit of love and care, give him a call.
REMEMBER… IF ANYONE CAN… ALAN CAN! 😉