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My first ES and my last guitar... :-)


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After 45 years touring and recording internationally, I'm going into semi-retirement. And with that comes opportunities to pick up on things I've put aside. After 45 yrs of Alternative Rock selling out venues like Radio City Music Hall in NYC, I'm now selling all of my guitars, just keeping my to go SG Special and my luthier-built french Django-guitar. 

At the age of 14 or 15, I didn't have any 'guitar heroes'. Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, Page didn't impress on me, nor did Mahavishnu John McLaughlin or Carlos Santana. I liked their band and their music, but I didn't idolise the guitarist. I only played guitar 'cause we couldn't afford drums which was my main love. In other words, I didn't grow up idolising singers nor guitarists. What mattered were the songs and arrangements. Instruments were just tools for performing the songs. 

On comes Wes Montgomery and then Joe Pass. I cannot recall how it happened. I reckon I just stumbled on this LP in the radio store, with a cool looking dude playing the guitar.  Curiosity and a chance to discover a rock or blues guitarist none of my friends knew about. Wes Montgomery.

Well, it wasn't rock and it wasn't blues, but it spoke instantly to my young heart and from then on I made the guitar my instrument.

Fast forward. During the Covid-lock down I took the opportunity to listen to a couple of unplayed LP's since my mid-teenage years: Wes M and Joe P. And I decided to buy an ES-175 and learn how to play the guitar. Learn to play Jazz.

Well, I didn't know any music theory, I'd never been to Music school, I play mainly fingerstyle and in Alternate tuning. I've made a living writing 2- and 3-chord rock music. No need to learn to read music, learn the name of chords nor the circle of fifth.

So I trusted my ears, and got going. A few  months later I mastered Chet Atkins version of Mr Sandman. I learnt to play a decent finger style version of Nat King Coles The Christmas Song and a finger style chord melody version of Errols Gardners 'Misty' in the tradition of Joe Pass. Jazz is fun and not that difficult. I grasped the language along time ago growing up with jazz. Alternate tunings makes you grasp the basics of chord melodies (Thank you, Ry Cooder!). And solo's are nothing but little melodies, and as a songwriter I'm used to think up melodies. I didn't realise at first, but I already had the tools. It was just a matter of getting started, picking up a 50 yrs old thread. It'll probably take a couple years to build up speed and consistency, but I'll get there eventually (if not arthritis in my hands, gets me first). and it all happens in time for the Wes Montgomery Centennial - Wes who got me going as a guitarist, 50 yrs ago.

Along side this, I was looking for a decent ES-175, but after two years or so I've now given up and have decided to go for a ES-335. Or...

I don't want a vintage Gibson. I've owned , toured and recorded with 50's and 60's LP's and SG's. Awesome guitars, but this will be the last guitar I'm going to buy. The guitar to rule them all. A guitar to cherish my last living years, writing my last songs on and just enjoy playing at home.

At first, I considered a 345. Always liked the look of it, apart from that stereo-thing.  And without the Varitone switch, it suddenly became a visually attractive instrument. But giving it a second thought, I decided to go all the way: a 59' 335 VOS Ri. When I pass away in like 15 - 20 years, it will have matured as an instrument but will still be pristine hopefully. My kids can keep it or sell it and make a better buck than if I'd buy a less high-end 335. Or?

Compared to the '59 335,am I missing something here? Are there other ES-335-models that are more bang for the buck from a musician point of view? or the ES-345? Or the ES-330 (always loved P90 p-u's)?

I know you guys and gals have lots of ES-experience. And I don't mind saving $ 3,000 on a less fancy ES-3XX-model if it's a really good player (especially for  jazz). What do you say?

I've already reserved an incoming '59 ES-335, but if you think I should look in an other direction, I'm all ears. Who knows, maybe I'm dating the wrong '59 335 and need an alternative...

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Interesting story, and well told.  Unfortunately, I just traded away the perfect guitar for you, and they are not that easy to find.  A 2015 ES-175D '54 Reissue VOS.  A real beauty, and it sings.  It won't be easy to find one because they only made 50 for worldwide distribution.   Ironically, I traded it for a 2015 ES-335 '59 Reissue in Natural.  I'm not really a jazz box guy, so that was a good trade for me.  FWIW,  I still have an EPI ES-175 Premium which is really decent in its own rights.





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