Everybody told me you can't get far
On thirty-seven dollars and a Jap guitar
Now I'm smokin' into Texas with the hammer down
And a rockin' little combo from the Guitar Town
Let me tell you a little story about the Jap guitar from Steve Earle's "Guitar Town''. Did you know that somebody must have found the word "Jap'' offensive, because the vinyl 45 RPM cut for jukebox play substitutes "Jap'' for "cheap''. Hmmm.
I mention this today because my very first guitar was a "Jap'' model Dorado made by Gretsch. It was purchased around 1971 off the wall of a music store in La Crosse, Wis, where I was attending college. My girlfriend at the time was very fond of me and bought it as a Christmas present that year. If she had really loved me, she would have upgraded to a Martin D-28 and we'd be having a different discussion right now. But we do not tempt the fates here in the Sanctuary.
The Dorado was just fine for me. Perfect, really, since I couldn't play a lick at the time. And it was a well-appointed guitar for an entry level instrument that cost about $115, with case. The spruce top came in red sunburst, the decorative pickguard featured red roses and the fret markers were (probably imitation) pearl inlay.
"The Western Rose'' would be my only guitar for many years. And it was more my fault than the Dorado's that I didn't step forward and become a picker of some renown. Every day I didn't play it -- and there were droughts of months or more when it sat in a closet -- I would think, well, today another 1,000 ambitious kids just eclipsed my playing skills.
But this is no tale of regrets. So many things get away from us in our lifetimes that we don't truly value until long after they have slipped through our hands. The Western Rose, though, never got away. I loaned it to my niece a few years ago when she was moving to Nashville, and it's still there, on a display stand in her living room. In Guitar Town.
Every time I visit she asks if I'm ready to take it home, and one of these days I will.
One of these days.