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, for an AAI company picnic). 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.