FROM THE ARCHIVE: So set 'em up, Joe, etc.




© 2002 Roy Edroso

I got my Telecaster in 1994, after my earlier one was stolen in a burglary. It took me a while to save up for it, but I knew I wanted another Telecaster, preferably a 70s model, like the lost one. I had gotten used to the sharp bite of the tone--it poked a lot of melody through the heavy distortion I was using back then--and, even though I still sort of thought I liked the necks of SGs better, I had gotten used to the way Teles handle.

After acquiring the funds and studying the Buy 'n' Sell for a few weeks, I went up to Queens and met a guy who was unloading a few instruments before heading out West someplace. He resembled Larry from the second Bob Newhart show and had Tourette's Syndrome, which was mild but still caused him to mumble racial slurs at odd moment. (I could see why he wanted to go West.) He handed me a 1977 Telecaster with a bright blond finish and visible wood grain. My old one had been green, and I wasn't sure about playing something so natural-looking, but there was no uncertainty about the sound and I went with Darryl to an ATM and paid out cash for the right to take it home.

I was playing in a country-punk band and eager to show off my new guitar. It crooned and cut above the rumble of the band like I knew it would, and I liked the way it looked under stage lights. I still had thoughts about my lost guitar. That was to be expected. But I liked the new one just fine. It was nice to come home to. The more I came home to it, the better I felt. And I played it every chance I got.

But over time I played it less. I left the band and started playing on my own, infrequently, while trying to get more now out of the writing muse. I recorded sometimes with the guitar, and was always pleased and sometimes surprised by the versatility it could show: soulful when I wanted it to be, nasty when I wanted that. But after a while I wasn't as eager to grab it whenever I had a free moment, and more often worked the keyboard instead.

After a while I started playing bass in another band. I bought a new bass -- a Fender like the Tele, but of a much more recent vintage. I had a rhythm section to abet, so I had to work the bass hard. I got a feel for it, though it wasn't the same feel as I got from my Tele, which sometimes sat in a place of honor on a display stand in my living room, but mostly sat zipped up in a road case, waiting for the odd recording or jam session or time of night when a Telecaster, even unplugged, can provide a lot of solace.

I established a freelance writing practice and turned my hands even more frequently to the keyboard. Between that and the bass I wasn't playing much guitar. Eventually money got very tight and I worked many, many angles to try and alleviate that situation before I even thought about selling the Tele.

Even when I decided that this was the wisest, indeed the urgently necessary, thing to do, I went about it desultorily. I hoped that things would turn around, so I could keep it. I played it a bit more then, but not as much as you'd think. For one thing, I had a lot to write, like cover letters for resumes. For another, once I had seriously entertained the notion of parting with it, I was less comfortable holding it in my hands.

Finally someone offered me a reasonable price. He was a cab driver who liked to play blues. He had wanted for some time to get a 70s Tele, and now he had enough saved up. He seemed like a good fellow and he played the Telecaster very well. It seemed very natural in his hands. He certainly knew a lot of licks that I don't know.

Last night he came to my apartment with a wad of cash and took the Tele away. I've had a lot of work to do lately. The necessity of the work reminds me of the necessity of selling the Tele. It makes me feel that I've done the right thing. And it distracts me from thinking of what I've lost. Or of how much I'd lost already.