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