I can’t pick a favorite guitar. If the building was burning, I would stay in the building

September 23, 2016
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I can’t pick a favorite guitar. If the building was burning, I would stay in the building

I can’t pick a favorite guitar. If the building was burning, I would stay in the building

“The guitar is the most popular instrument in America. Each year there are more than 3 million guitars sold, which is more than all other instruments combined. The old ones don’t go away. For years I worked for Guitar Magazine and someone told me my house looked like a guitar museum. I didn’t think that was a bad thing, but I researched and found out there was not a national guitar museum. There is a barbed wire museum, a tea cup museum and a ventriloquist dummy museum. You would think given the diversity of museums, there would be a guitar museum. No guitar museum. There are some small collections, but no one has a museum dedicated to the guitar. I decided if anyone is going to build one, it needs to be soon because we aren’t getting any younger and younger generations aren’t as bombarded by images of guitars and rock gods the way we were. I started playing guitar because there were several songs on the radio I wanted to play like ‘The Immigrant Song’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ It was about making those sounds. Playing guitar imparts a cool factor, but it hasn’t made me cool. The initial plan in 2009, was to put the museum outside of New York City, but that was the very depths of the recession. We decided to put it on the road and see if another city would be a better fit for a permanent home. The Gulf Coast Exploreum will be our home through January. I have been playing in bands since I was 15. Over my lifetime I have played in 12-15 bands and I am playing in a band now. There is only one other thing that comes close to the feeling of playing a guitar and I will leave it at that. When you are playing live, there is no other sensation like it, to be in the moment and having connections with the audience and other musicians. It is insanely intense and you can’t construct that in the studio or at home. It is an emotional and physical jolt when people sing along It is worth doing even if you don’t get paid. I can fake my way around all of the guitars and each one has a story. We show the evolution of stringed instruments over the last 5,000 years up to one that was made by a 3-D printer a few years ago. I can’t pick a favorite. If the building was burning, I would stay in the building. For sheer beauty, the harp guitar is an amazing instrument. It is more of a piece of fine furniture and art than a guitar. There is clunky Russian guitar that no one loves but the Soviets in the 70s. It is blunt and ugly. The handmade craftsmanship of some of the acoustic guitars is beautiful. The Stratocaster, the Parker Fly and the Boostercaster. Some of them are from my collection and my partner’s collection and they all have stories. We got the Russian guitar in a burlap bag with no padding and a little cardboard tag tied to the bag with our address and it made it to us with from the Ukraine. We have Lucille that BB King signed and gave to us. Tony Iommie’s last guitar from the New York concert. We are excited about people seeing this exhibit from Honolulu to Mobile. It is cool to see people my age come back to the Exploreum who haven’t been since they brought their kids here. They walk around and see science is cool. I am a huge fan of science and there is a lot of science in this. Learn one thing here and one thing in the rest of the building and we have done our job. I love to see kids look at the guitar and ask the why questions. There are 70-80 instruments in this room, including the Flying V, the world’s largest playable guitar and people can learn about the instrument that drove the music we all listen to. In between setting up these shows, I write gory science books. Right now I am writing a book about the history of chocolate and will also be writing a book for the Smithsonian about transportation and how people move and travel. I have really enjoyed being in Mobile this week. People were warning us that there wasn’t much to do and they were wrong. We spent the whole day at the Battleship and then went out on the pier in Fairhope. We had dinner at Kitchen on George and walked downtown. There is more here than people have admitted to. It just feels like a matter of time for Mobile. All of the basics are here and I am glad we are here.”

 

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