I have a guitar, a 1959 Kay-made (for Sears) Silvertone Twin-Tone Jimmy Reed model electric. It's a red sunburst wood body with an ivory-colored pick guard sporting a beauty of a Silvertone emblem, 2 tuning knobs, 2 volume knobs, a tone switch, Hum backer pick ups, and the neck sitting solid off the nut, elegantly dressed in a black fretboard with inlaid mother of pearl fret stops, with the original tuning pegs, up to the top of the neck and the Silvertone signature. When I bought the guitar, I had tried to play a guitar once in my life and without a fleck of satisfaction, though that fleck was more satisfaction than I got when I tried to play a clarinet one time. I got absolutely no sound out of that clarinet. At least out of the guitar I got something when I just ran my hand over the open strings.
I accidentally found this guitar on eBay a couple of years ago. I was looking for a Korg keyboard I liked seeing if I could find a super-high, screwball, hayseed, college kid out there trying to get some Ecstasy money offering one of these keyboards at a goof-ball low starting price. None found! And pissed off, I let the mouse go wide open and I scrolled those listings at a good 100 mph down the flat-dab middle of that eBay highway when, BAM, SQUEEEEEEEL, I hit the brakes and skidded to a sloppy stop. I had seen the name Jimmy Reed. It was there, but it wasn't on the page I had stopped at, so I scrolled back, creepy, slowly. No. No. No. Another page, and then, yeee...there, I was right, it was Jimmy Reed's name. I read the listing. "Vintage Silvertone Twin-tone Jimmy Reed model electric guitar..." I stared at it. Was that right? Silvertone had a Jimmy Reed model guitar! I called the man who knows everything there is to know about guitars, a man of precise guitar knowledge and a man who loves the blues who can play a deer gut bass or a low-numbered Fender Jazz bass, a guitar shaped like the USA, and a mandolin worth $15,000.
I asked my pal, Bob, if he had heard of a Silvertone Jimmy Reed model. "A Silvertone Jimmy Reed model? I know Kay had a Jimmy Reed model and Kay made Silvertones for Sears in Chicago, so I guess it's possible. I'd say circa '60 to '64." "This ad says its from 1959." "Well, it could be; I mean that would be fantastic if it were a 1959. How much does he want for it?" "I think I can get it for under six." "Ah, hell, Mister Mu Sic, get that. Those Jimmy Reed models are worth a thousand at least." "Was it really the model Jimmy really played." "Well, now there's the problem. You see, what they call the Jimmy Reed model wasn't really the model Jimmy played. He is holding one in a photograph but the one he played on stage was a different model than that one." "So this is the Jimmy Reed model he's holding in the Magic Carpet agency photo--I've got one of those." "Yes, the guitar in that photo where he's sitting on that piece of shit ottoman, is the guitar on eBay." That was good enough for me. I got out my Magic Carpet agency photo and spotted especially on the guitar. Damn it was a beauty. There's no color on the photo and the guitar is blond on the photo but it's the same model to the tee.
I bid on it; and I won it at $575 bucks. It cost me $600 all together after I added in the guy's $25 shipping fee. The guy, he lived in L.A., later emailed me that the shipping had cost him nearly $50, but by then I had sent him $600, case closed. Bob said to have it sent to him and he'd check it out for me and that's what I did.
One night about two weeks later, Bob calls and I can tell he's on fire with enthusiasm. "Your guitar came today; in fact, I'm playing it right now. Mister Mu Sic, let me tell you, this guitar is in perfect shape; the neck is original, not warped, the body looks brand new, some dings, but it's a beautiful instrument. You made a great buy. I'll give you $900 for right now."
I went and picked it up. Bob had put new strings on it and had put an extra set in the case and he gave me three or four charts with several finger positions for the easy keys, E, G, and C. While I was there, we had a couple'a shots'a Jack Daniels and smoked a couple of cigars, another one of Bob's passions, he gave me a little guitar lesson, showing me an easy E shuffle, which I picked up fairly quick. "There, now get you a harmonica rack and you're Jimmy Reed III." [Jimmy's son was Jimmy Reed, Jr.]
I got it home and started playing it acoustic. I had a Peavey 50-watt amp but I hadn't used it in 15 years so I just kept tooling around on my new baby acoustically. A year and a half later, I swear, I found myself one day having to move this Peavey amp. I thought about sitting it out by the garbage because I hadn't used it much at all over the 17 years I owned it and it had sat their on the floor of my little recording studio dirty as a Dickens urchin and surely not useable. But then I saw the guitar sitting there where I keep it out of the case, Bob telling me it would stay in tune that way for almost ever. I decided to see if the little amp still worked. I plugged it in and fired it up. It came on briskly, the red light full and deep redly lit, making the right humming sound, so I plugged the guitar cable into its "Normal" plug hole on the front. Nothing. I played the guitar, but it was still only playing acoustically. I couldn't get any sound out of the amp. I changed cables. I plug the new one in. Still nothing. I jiggled the plug-in with an angry vengeance. A big snapping sound SNAPPED, growling like a wolf as it staticked into a swooshing sound. Then, what came out of that amp was the sweetest most silken, so real sound, coming out of my guitar, coming off the strings I knew how to play, and the sound was THE SOUND, the same sound I first heard in 1952 coming from a 78 rpm Chess record, "I found true love, one worth me waiting for," the first time I ever heard Jimmy Reed. And now I was playing that sound, that sound that had hooked me way back then. Except I was playing it NOW.
Jimmy's music was simple, easy riding, with a pushing little shuffle beat mostly in E, rocking along in long-measured lopes, with a dozen little hits and jives keeping it rocking and rolling, the guitars kicking around the top E string and the bottom E string. And I started playing my guitar just like Jimmy, man, playing in E, jamming all I knew now about playing the guitar into those E changes, and Jimmy Reed's feeling just flowed out of me, the sound blooming like rare flowers out of that old Peavey 50-watt amp. All I was doing was letting my fingers fall naturally over that little shuffle beat that was tipping off my thumb strumming that top E string, using it for my bass line, then playing a melody or blues comp off the lower E string, doing my changes, even some modulations, easy and smooth using the E, A, and B fingerings and right hand strums Bob had taught me over a year and a half ago. I was playing the damn guitar, baby. And though it was elemental playing with no virtuosic technique at all, I still was playing the guitar. I tried another figure, a different strum. Shit, it worked. I was singing "Down in Mississippi where the cotton grows so tall, the boweevil's wearin' overalls...." Then I was singing Hudie's "Midnight Special," then "the Rock Island Line it's a very good road, if you want to ride it, gotta ride it like you find it, get your ticket at the station on the Rock Island Line." Son of a bitch, I was playing the guitar. And what a sound; all because of seeing Jimmy Reed's name during a speedball eBay listing scroll. It's a beautiful first guitar; I did something right in my life when I bought it. Sadly, though, my keyboard sits crying in a corner. I have neglected it for a couple of weeks now; and that keyboard has been really good to me for 5 years now and I can really really play the keyboard a hell of a lot better than I'm playing my guitar, but--I know how to play the piano and now, I'm determined to play my guitar with the same confidence, surety, and attack that I use when playing the piano. I'm rockin' on, Jimmy; I'm rockin' on.
The Daily Growler Quote of the Day
"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." Tom Paine, from The Age of Reason from http://libertyonline.hypermail.com/Paine/Age-of-Reason-Part-1.html