This month, is for... wait, I have it... ah, yes

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

A few years ago I found my­self in­volved in pro­duc­ing an al­bum for the girl­friend (now wife) of a pop­u­lar en­ter­tainer, known to and loved by mil­lions. I will re­frain from nam­ing him for tax rea­sons but hav­ing played on his TV se­ries, records and live shows for some years, he had de­cided with some­what im­mac­u­late per­cep­tion that I was the right man for this par­tic­u­lar as­sign­ment.

So it came to pass that we be­gan to meet regularly to rou­tine songs, record demos and plan our as­sault on the na­tion’s air­waves. And one par­tic­u­larly fine evening I was in­vited to stay on for an ex­cel­lent light en­ter­tain­ment repast af­ter our work had ended for the day. At the con­clu­sion of the meal my host ex­cused him­self mo­men­tar­ily and dis­ap­peared into the bow­els of his mod­est eight bed­room showbiz man­sion. There then fol­lowed dis­tant noises, which bore the dis­tinc­tive hall­mark of a man on a mis­sion. Boxes dragged across floors. Wardrobes in­ves­ti­gated. Cup­boards opened and slammed shut. Rum­mag­ing might best de­scribe the over­all ef­fect. Af­ter suf­fi­cient time had elapsed for me to di­gest the es­tab­lish­ment’s sig­na­ture char­grilled minced beef sand­wich and large fries, he reap­peared, an ex­pres­sion of tri­umph clearly vis­i­ble on his finely chis­elled fea­tures.

“Ah! Found it! I’ve been mean­ing to show this to you for ages.” His hands held aloft an oddly mis­shapen wooden ob­ject,

It’s a Hofner. The type they turned out when Amer­i­can in­stru­ments were unattain­able in the UK for most of us.

his body lan­guage rem­i­nis­cent of the way the FA Cup might be dis­played by the elated win­ning cap­tain. It was only af­ter a de­tailed ap­praisal that I was per­suaded that the arte­fact in ques­tion was, in fact, a guitar.

It had but three strings still at­tached to the re­mains of what had once been the bridge. Two of the ma­chine­heads and tun­ing pegs had long since de­parted, leav­ing be­hind four griev­ing cousins. There was a sub­stan­tial hole in the side of the body that even the most brazen sales­man would never have dared to de­scribe as ‘cus­tomised’. The rest of the in­stru­ment ap­peared to have been em­ployed as an ad­ven­ture play­ground by an in­de­ter­mi­nate num­ber of chil­dren and ex-wives for sev­eral decades. But it was, just, a guitar. By the skin of its faded and dis­coloured fin­ish.

“So. Wad­dya think?” I com­posed my re­sponse. “Well. It’s a Hofner. An f-hole acous­tic jazz guitar. Prob­a­bly a Sen­a­tor. Man­u­fac­tured in Ger­many. The type they turned out in the 50s and 60s when Amer­i­can in­stru­ments like Gib­son and Fen­der were unattain­able in the UK for most peo­ple. The lux­ury tax on im­ported goods had seen to that. A ser­vice­able in­stru­ment if prop­erly main­tained and set up. Which er, how do I put this diplo­mat­i­cally? It could ben­e­fit from a smidgen of ten­der lov­ing care. Or a com­plete restora­tion. By a ge­nius.” How­ever, my host was not minded to be dis­cour­aged. “Do you know any­one who could do the work?” “As it hap­pens, I do. Bill Pu­plett is your man. In fact, he is your only man. He can turn Per­rier into Premier Cru. I would trust no other hu­man with a pro­ject such as this.”

And with that he re­turned the in­stru­ment to its deluxe plas­tic bag, thrust it in my gen­eral di­rec­tion and in­structed me to li­aise with The great Mr P as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Nat­u­rally, I was not in­cu­ri­ous as to how and why a co­me­dian, singer and ac­com­plished non-gui­tarist should trou­ble him­self with a car boot sale re­ject such as this. So I en­quired fur­ther.

“In that case, I will ex­plain. Years ago and back in the day, I was the co­me­dian on many of the early rock and roll tours. But I grew dis­en­chanted quickly. They didn’t want me. And they were throw­ing real rocks. They wanted their idols. So I in­formed my agent that I in­tended to stop tour­ing. At which point he told me that he had just ac­cepted one last tour on my be­half. Thirty five one-nighters in 38 days. I could buy my­self a new car. I en­quired as to the iden­tity of the star who was to top the bill. A Texan gent that I’d never heard of. And his band. Con­se­quently, on the first day off on tour he ap­proached me and asked me to rec­om­mend a guitar shop where he could pur­chase an in­stru­ment for his per­sonal use on the coach, in the dress­ing room and back at the ho­tel. He wanted to write songs, in par­tic­u­lar. So the two of us took a taxi to Mau­rice Pla­quet in Den­mark Street and my new pal picked out a guitar that suited. A month later he pre­sented it to me as a gift af­ter the last show. It was clearly more trou­ble than it was worth to ex­port it back to the States. So. There you have it.”

“I see. But... who was this Texan chap­pie, then?” “Oh. Didn’t

I en­quired as to the iden­tity of the star who was top of the bill. A Texan gent that I’d never heard of...

I say? Buddy Holly. Do you think the guitar is worth any­thing?” G is for Guitar and Good Grief. Post­script. I took the Hofner to Bill. He sourced orig­i­nal re­place­ment parts some­how. He worked his cus­tom­ary mir­a­cles on the re­mains of the Sen­a­tor. He re­stored it to per­fec­tion. Our TV rhythm sec­tion paid for the work and re­turned it to our friend as a wed­ding present. Mitch Dal­ton is one of Lon­don’s busiest and most sought-af­ter ses­sion mu­si­cians. His latest al­bum, Mitch Dal­ton & The Stu­dio Kings is out now. For more info go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

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