c. 1972 Gibson ES-335-TDC

At age 17, I was playing in a local Towson, Md., band (I think we did exactly one gig). The bass player had this guitar sitting in its case, hardly played. He put it up for sale for $300 because he decided he needed the money more than he needed the guitar. I decided I was interested. I took over all the cash I had, which amounted to $250. I held out five fifty-dollar bills in my palm and offered it up. He said he really needed $300. A few days later he asked me if I would still buy it for $250, and there you have it.

This guitar is an unusual model in that it has the trapeze tailpiece and no tremolo. I think there was only a year or two that Gibson produced a 335 like this.

Along the way I positively ruined the guitar for any possibly collector value. First I replaced the tuning machines with a set of Grovers. Then I replaced the bridge with a Tune-O-Matic bridge with metal saddles (I can't remember what it had before but it might have had nylon saddles).

Later, I decided it would be really cool to put in a phase switch. I had only the most rudimentary understanding of electronics, but I didn't actually destroy the guitar. I wired in a small double-pole single-throw toggle switch that reversed the polarity of one of the pickups. It actually produces a nice sound, a little twangy reminiscent of the Strat sound, albeit with reduced power. The most nerve-wracking moment was drilling that hole in the face of the guitar—there was no turning back.Around 1986 I decided I didn't like the color. The original color was Chuck Berry Red. I used paint remover and sandpaper to remove the finish (the original finish is still evident at the inside edges of the f-holes). I found out that the binding is somewhat sensitive to paint remover; I melted a little of it in spots. I actually called the Gibson factory and they put a finishing guy on the phone. He told me what equipment I should use to refinish it, including PSI rating of the air compressor, etc. Then I used a can of spray varnish from the hardware store. It actually looks fine from six feet away, but nothing like a factory finish.

But it plays great and sounds great, and I'll never sell it, so who cares.