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Very Old J50 (? I think)


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An 83 year old legendary Texas musician named Leon Short invited me to his weekly jam session I've been attending every Friday for over a year. Leon plays the only electric there, an old Telecaster he takes all the solos on. When somebody plays a blues jam he takes off his cowboy hat and puts the Tele up behind his head (ala Jimi Handrix) to rip through a flawless solo. After he learned I had been a signpainter for over 40 years he told me about his old Gibson he'd toured with all over the country years ago. He said in the early 70's another signpainter lettered his name on it but didn't outline the lettering. He said several years ago he tried to find the guy to have his name outlined but learned he had since died. He asked me if I could do it for him. It just so happened that every sign company I had ever worked for I was the one called on to do intricate outlining. He dropped his most prized guitar (out of a collection of about 100) at my house and left it with me for 3 days. I decided to match the patina of the original lettering rather than repaint over it. This thing was in a case covered over every square inch with bumper stickers of venues he'd played in from New Orleans to Alaska. I actually only needed the second day for it to be thoroughly dry but told him 3 days so I could have a day to play it! Anyway, here it is...

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Edited by DaveKell
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Fine story - you should feel proud to be part of the history of that venerable, well-played J-50. Makes me lonesome for Texas.

Interesting way to look at it. Suddenly I DO feel proud to have become a part of the life of this fine old guitar. This is the one Leon took to the Gibson factory where he said the line shut down and everybody came over to hear him play it. It's the guitar he had with him when he became friends with Ren Ferguson who is flying here for a few days visit with Leon very soon. Leon doesn't take this guitar out in public anymore as far as I know. After more than a year I might be the only person at his weekly jam who has even seen it. I enjoyed looking through the set lists and lyric sheets that were in the case, as well as several flyers about his performances at various venues around the country. I could almost feel the history of a long career of a guy who has only ever made his living as a musician. Leon has so thoroughly internalized every sound a guitar can make. His spontaneous solos on songs he's never heard before continually amaze me. I took one of my newly written songs to his house awhile back to play for him and after he did his solo I stopped the song and asked if he could show me what he had just done. His reply was "no, because I don't know what I just did". From then on I've tried to have someone use my phone to video his solos on my songs as a reference to try and come close to what he did. I feel very fortunate for the day he stopped by my booth at a craft fair to browse some of the guitar related interior decor signs I had made and then invited me to his jam every week. He occasionally pulls into my drive in his big blue Caddy to deliver me a dozen fresh eggs from his daughter's chickens. His huge, beaming smile and wide Stetson hat never fail to brighten my day. I consider him to be a celebrity who treats me like a son.

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