I bought this guitar around my freshmen year of high school with money I had saved up from working a paper route. Last month I got it back from my father who had been keeping it in hopes of learning himself. He returned it after maybe 10 years suggesting that he’ll likely never do anything with it.
When I opened up the case and examined the contents I stepped back in time. Some of the items have been in my possession since I first began playing and I’m fortunate that my dad decided to keep all of it together. Let me show you.
Item 1: The Beginning Guitar Book by Rondel Ramsey
This book didn’t exist when I first started playing guitar, because Rondel hadn’t written it yet. Though it wasn’t added to my collection until much later, and probably by my dad when he was trying to learn, its Copyright date is 1997. That would’ve been a few years after I had started learning guitar. The book belongs in this collection because Rondel was the person who “taught” me guitar. The quotes are on “taught” because in reality I taught myself through every day practicing hours on end. But Rondel inspired me to play. He was my youth pastor and at some point in time (probably when I was in middle school) he starts showing up to youth group playing guitar (God’s not dead, he is alive!) and getting me and my brothers scheming to start our own band. After things started to click for me musically, he showed me all the basics I needed to play on my own. I remember he was doing some group guitar classes early on and I attended. I was already ahead of the class before the first session and I passed Rondel in playing ability before long, but I credit him with being the one who got me started and encouraged me to keep going. That’s a good teacher! His book, full of old-school clipart and songs that you probably only hear around church camp fires, reminds me of the early days of trying to get that smooth transition between a C and G chord.
Item 2: Capo
Here is what a capo does. This was my first capo. I can’t remember where I got it other than someone gave it to me. I didn’t purchase it myself. Just so you know, they don’t make capos like this anymore. Nowadays they are spring-loaded clamps. The one in the picture uses an elastic band. And like the elastic on your old, favorite pair of whitey tighties, it wears out and no longer holds things snug. But I’ll never get rid of this capo because it’s a relic of my first days learning guitar.
Item 3: Pick Holder
Picks have two purposes in life. One is to help you strum or pick a guitar or other stringed instrument. The second is to mysteriously get lost. Losing picks is a part of playing guitar. It happens. So an old friend, Tom Hallam, made some plastic pick holders to stick on the side of a guitar. They were most helpful when you’d lose a pick at the inopportune time – in the middle of performing. When the pick goes tumbling down, the homemade pick holder has one in the chamber ready for that Am7 you are about to rock out. Tom was a kind and generous man in my church who played in the church band and taught middle school Sunday school. He was a plastics/molding teacher in my high school and because he had infinite access and problem solving skills, he custom made a bunch of us these pick holders – free of charge – long before we knew we could overpay some company for the same thing. I think Tom was also the one who gave me my very first guitar tuner.
Item 4: Guitar Tuner
As with the capo, they don’t make them this way any more. This old tuner was pretty important for a beginner. Today’s tuners are all digital. You play the string and the tuner tells you if you are sharp or flat based on the closest relative note. That’s a problem for beginners because often they have no idea if their current string/note are even in the relative ballpark of where it needs to be. With this old tuner, you selected the note you were trying to get to. You forced the device, “no matter what note I’m actually playing, I need this string to be a D.” It’s easier to get lost with digital tuners but this old-timer was perfect, and it was free. AND it still works!
UPDATE: I was trying to determine the production date of my tuner and after opening the battery compartment and removing the battery, I found a sticker identifying Tom Hallam as the original owner. So yes, he was the one to gift me the tuner.
(Missing) Item 5: Darth Maul Sticker
I’ve always admired players who littered their guitar cases with stickers, wondering how they knew which ones to pick? Where did they get those obscure band stickers? How did they begin their eclectic collection? So the first sticker I slapped on my case was a promotional sticker for Star Wars Episode 1 that was given out at participating Pizza Hut locations back in 1999. The sticker was a headshot of Darth Maul. It was dumb. I was embarrassed about it almost immediately, so I scribbled over the whole sticker with a Sharpie marker. It probably would’ve been fine, but I wasn’t fully committed to the cost or process of collecting a myriad of stickers. Eventually the Sharpie rubbed off and there was Darth Maul’s unending, brooding stare ready to humiliate me for eternity. Fast forward 17 years and I’m delighted that it’s still on there reminding me of my early days as an aspiring musician. EXCEPT IT FELL OFF SOMETIME LAST WEEK AND I CANT FIND IT!
I can’t believe it. It’s gone. And just after I got it back. Just a few days before I got to at least snap a photo. Here’s what the original sticker would’ve looked like. I’m devastated.