Friday, September 14, 2012

The Holy Grail... Sort of...

Epiphone ES-335 Pro
I did a very very silly thing today. In a moment of weakness (or was it strength?) I took the plunge and checked a holy grail item off the list. As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been playing a lot more guitar recently and have made some strides toward actually being able to play some things passably well.

One of my favorite bands growing up was the Moody Blues (still is for that matter), and Justin Hayward has always been one of my favorite singer/songwriter/guitarists. His signature guitar is a Gibson ES-335 semi-hollow body. In cherry red. The guitar of Nights in White Satin, Tuesday Afternoon and most other classic Moodies tunes. The guitar that I have seen live in concert at least a dozen times. The guitar that probably more than any other made me want to learn how to play the guitar, or at the very least make me wish I could.

Since a very early age, that guitar (along with Eric Clapton's black Fender Stratocaster "Blackie") has been on the short list of "someday I need to own a guitar like that, even if it's just decoration". It's a very short list, perhaps including only those two plus a Jimmy Page classic sunburst Les Paul and (much more recently) a Derek Trucks red Gibson SG.

Before kids, I checked the black Strat off the list in 1993. Today, after some eBay watching, I went to the local Guitar Center store and bought a little piece of my adolescence. Specifically, an Epiphone Custom Shop Limited Edition ES-335 Pro. Epiphone is Gibson's second brand, and the usual Epiphone version of the ES-335 is referred to as "the Dot" because of the distinctive dot pattern on the fret board. The ES-335 Pro is a limited edition of the Dot with upgraded volume knobs that allow push-pull switching of the pickups from single coil to double coil mode (and rectangular fret inlays, not dots). This has the effect of making the guitar sound more like a Gibson or more like a Fender depending on the setting. The difference is substantial, and a tribute to modern electronics.

The Whole (electric) Gang
I haven't had much of a chance to play around with it yet, but it has a wonderful warm rich tone that is very different from both the Strat and from the Les Paul copy. It could use a minor 5th and 6th string action adjustment to remove a tiny "fret buzz" on the middle of the fretboard, but that is a simple adjustment that Dave can help me make.

Do I need a third guitar (four if you count the hand-me-down Yamaha acoustic)? Of course not. I barely play well enough to justify one nice one, let alone three. And the Strat from twenty years ago is still qualitatively the best of the three instruments, probably by a fairly wide margin. But that misses the point for the most part. Or misses the point entirely. Life is short. Love of music can manifest itself in many ways, not the least of which I suppose is a middle aged guy with a small guitar collection. So I see nothing wrong with indulging a fan-boy moment. Does owning this make me Justin Hayward? Sadly, no. That takes talent, ability, hard work, dedication, luck, a voice, songwriting ability and a time machine. But it sure does put a smile on my face, and there is something to be said for that.

Given that a real Gibson ES-335 goes for $2,200 rock bottom minimum, this is almost certainly as close as I will ever get to my dream guitar. But it's close enough for me.

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous! I can't wait to get a closer look. :-)