One of my new year’s resolutions was to practice my guitar more, and thanks to our spreadsheet that tracks resolution-keeping performance, I’ve actually managed to stick with it. So my guitar has been getting much more of a workout than usual, and so developed an annoying buzz when playing certain notes. These notes come up a lot, so I eventually I decided that it had to be fixed one way or another. I dread this, because most places charge quite a bit for fixing up your guitar (I paid a place in Palo Alto $80 to fix the action on it after I bought it).
So I did some research, and found places offering to fix the setup for $120, and I’d just need to leave it there for 2-3 weeks, etc. I found one sketchy looking webpage that advertised repairs in the $20 range, and so decided to give them a call. Thinking the place must have gone out of business and the webpage was some 1996 remnant, I tried calling with little hope, but a friendly voice answered and told me to bring my guitar by. I did, and after they checked to make sure I’d parked somewhere that my car would be safe from ticketing, they pulled out my guitar, diagnosed and fixed the buzz, and handed it back to me in the space of about 2 minutes. When I asked how much I owed them, they waved me off.
The place itself was amazing… I little house on the corner in residential Berkeley, filled with hundreds and hundreds of guitars. While I talked with one guy about my guitar’s merits, another played some amazing licks on an electric in the corner while the third (who I presume was fat dawg himself) scheduled a jam session/”chance to smoke some fat dubes” with someone who called. Classic Berkeley.
When I got home I did some digging and found the home page for the place, Subway Guitars. It seems these guys made some huge scores of overstock guitar parts in the 60’s and have been building guitars out of the parts for dirt cheap ever since. They call them “proletarian” guitars, and I love the concept. Here’s an excerpt from Fat Do(aw)g’s philosophy of custom guitar construction:
You must ask yourself honestly: Will you be satisfied with what is adequate and functional? Or do you prefer to spend a lot more for super-polished and shiny appointments? If yes, there are many builders who will charge you thousands of dollars for it.
Madison Avenue and Hollywood have sold some of us a value system where our self-esteem is coupled to a superficial, shiny product. You must be honest and ask yourself: is this me?
I certainly am not in the market for a guitar at the moment, but if I ever am I think I know where I’m going to go for something adequate and functional. Guitars for the people, man!