What’s in a Les Paul?

06 Sep

For a guitar player, the instrument isn’t just a tool, it’s a part of you.

Some players call on their guitar like an old lover, whispering gently with their fingers into the fretboard, and to that I can certainly relate. Still, it’s more than that. The guitar is my right hand and my left, I would be lost without it.

I think that getting a new guitar is like going to the gym. All of a sudden, there’s this new muscle that you’ve never quite used before, and even if you don’t know what you’re going to use it for, you feel limitless in your new possibilities.

For those very reasons, I dreamed of owning a Les Paul. My Dad has a 1982 Standard, though there’s nothing standard about it. The pickups are customized, knobs originals. Even the bone nut was changed out for brass, which in Spinal Tap language, made it famous for it’s sustain. There was a music store in Maine, “Marty’s Music,” that my school bus would pass by everyday. I would sit, nosed pressed against the bus glass, just drooling over the Paul in the display window, knowing that someday, “It will be mine!”

Two years. Two years of saving every penny I found, every lawn I mowed, every Christmas card and birthday card. I wish I was that good with money now, where did I lose focus? At any rate, the day came. It was around my 15th birthday, and Dad took me out to every music store in town, looking for the perfect one. “I want a Black Custom, but I don’t want gold hardware. Do they make the customs with Chrome?” Dad said they were rare, but not impossible to find. He then convinced me that the color wasn’t nearly as important as the guitar, but I was DETERMINED that I could have my cake and eat it too.

We played one guitar after another, and were so disappointed! None of them matched up to Dad’s, which besides being a great guitar, was Excalibur in my young mind. Towards the end of the day, we strolled into Rock Block in Nashville. Two steps in the door and I saw it. Black Les Paul Custom. Chrome Hardware. I literally gasped, something people rarely do in the real world, and Dad made a cue for me to keep my cool.

It was like butter in my hands, smooth and wonderful. I couldn’t believe it, after playing every guitar in town, I had found it. I had found it, and I couldn’t afford it.

Being a consignment instrument, the store couldn’t budge on the price without the approval of the instrument’s owner. He wanted fifteen hundred, and I only had twelve. Now, here’s the part that nearly killed me: Dad said we were leaving without it. We did.

I was terrified. What if someone buys it before we go back? What if I never find another guitar in the world that I like this much? 

We went back the next weekend, and still no budge on the price. We left the store empty-handed again. Devastation doubled? You better believe.

Week three comes around, and we make one more effort to get the guitar. My Dad tells the clerk Chris (who was really fighting for me to get this guitar, actually), “We’ve been coming back once a week to check on this guitar, and I got a feeling we’re the only bite. Call the owner and tell him we have $1200. We’re either leaving with the money or the guitar, but we won’t be coming back.”

That phone call lasted minutes. Hours. Years as far as I was concerned, and finally Chris came around the corner with a grim look on his face. My heart stopped. I waited.

Finally, he said, “Well…. I’ve talked him down to twelve-fifty, but he says that’s the lowest he can go.”

My Dad looked at me and said, “We’ll take it.” WOO HOO!!! I felt like doing five hundred cartwheels. It’s happening… it’s for real…

I propped the case up on my bookshelf that night, and every few minutes I would wake up and see that Gibson logo staring back at me. It’s amazing, for a guitar that was made in 1980, it didn’t have a scratch on it. Now, there are wear marks all along the back of the neck, especially around the fifth fret (We did a lot of tunes in A…). I love the wear marks. I sat in on a session in Nashville a few years back, and when the musicians took their lunch break, the guitar player let me play through his gear. He had a cherry sunburst Paul, and the finish was gone entirely from the back of the neck. I remember smiling, thinking that someday my guitar will look just like this. Progress, that’s what that is.


Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Music


Tags: ,

8 responses to “What’s in a Les Paul?

  1. Rich

    September 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    So I think I just took your blog’s comment wall virginity. Great post! Very insightful since the music world is basically foreign to me. I don’t know if I’ve really felt that kind of connection with an instrument or object — maybe my pistol, but still not like you and your guitar. Your writing made me wish I had that kind of love for an activity or hobby.

  2. ryancrowleymusic

    September 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Thanks Rich! Music is definitely a different world, and an intense level of obsession when you live in it. The reason I know that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life is because I’m not the same when I’m not playing. It brings out the best in me, and that was kind of the point I was making in the first paragraph of this blog. With some musicians, music replaces their relationships. With me, it’s a part of who I am. It’s more like medicine. Some people take drugs everyday to balance themselves psychologically. With me, I pick up that guitar, and it keeps away all the demons!

  3. Nana

    September 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I love the way you ignore Mike’s crazy comments on your facebook page. Hey, you asked for a comment.

  4. ryancrowleymusic

    September 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Nana, what you don’t realize is that I reply to Mike’s crazy comments, but usually in a text message or other non-public format. This helps me maintain my cool guy image : )

  5. Jonathan Ray Trentham

    September 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Hey man! I enjoyed the read. I had quite a few laughs and shed a few tears…..well…not so much the tears. Anyways…I’m going to keep following this blog. The layout looks great, and the writing is even better.

    Thanks for putting this out there!

  6. ryancrowleymusic

    September 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks Jonathan! Send me a link to your blog, I’ll put in on my blog roll here.

  7. Banks Nelson

    September 7, 2011 at 9:02 am

    What a well-written account, my guitar-slinging friend! It’s hard to imagine you without that Les Paul. I don’t want to try!

  8. Larry Crowley

    July 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Well said Ryan….I felt like you were speaking for me too!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: