A new music store in Southeast Portland, Saint Frank’s Music, held a Guitar Solo Contest yesterday, see the poster below. I entered. Not to try to win, but to expose the audience, judges, other musicians, everyone there, to an alternate style of guitar playing, to show them that there is more to the guitar than electric pyrotechnics, which is what I assumed everyone else would be doing.
And that was a correct assumption. Although they said “all styles welcome” when I asked ahead of time if acoustic solos were OK, still, it was a roomful of rockers. We each had one minute to do our thing. I was the only one playing acoustic guitar, one of only two who sat down. They offered the use of a drummer, and I tested him out briefly but then decided to go without drums.
They miked me and asked everyone to pipe down and listen. I performed a shortened version of a short ragtime piece I learned years ago from The Art of Ragtime Guitar.
The others played various styles of electric rock, most of them extremely loud. (Fortunately the store was selling earplugs for $1.) I was surprised that many of them played bluesy solos. Here I am the dyed-in-the-wool bluesman, and I’m planning to play a ragtime number, while the rockers are playing blues! There was only one woman out of the 12 or 15 contestants, and she was as hard a rocker as any of them. There was one tall, confident 13-year-old boy who blues-rocked it out to start off the show. Most were working musicians playing regularly in bands. There was one older gentleman who played a folky fingerstyle thing that sounded like it should have been on acoustic guitar, but he played electric guitar — in fact he didn’t bring a guitar, just used one they had there, the prize, which now sits in my living room. He also sat down to play. The others all stood and rocked out — blues-rock, Chuck Berryish rock ‘n’ roll, surf rock, and one experimental noise-rock type, which I found quite interesting (although happy I had purchased and installed the earplugs).
Audience members, many of whom were contestants’ friends, milled around drinking beer they had brought with them. A few kids crawled around on the floor or danced. The four judges were musicians and music-industry types. They sat in front and studiously took notes, avoiding talking with one another until their closed-door meeting after all the contestants had finished.
The contestants finished, the judges met, and they came out and — announced me as winner! I won the guitar. At first I expected this to be a Miss-Universe-pageant-style mistake, and someone would come take the guitar out of my hands and give it to the rightful winner. But that hasn’t happened yet, and it’s been 24 hours. Actually I had a choice of three guitars, all made by G&L: a Strat-ish red one, a Tele-ish semihollowbody and a sleek black one. (I thought they were Fender knockoffs but it turns out G&L is a company Leo Fender himself started after he left Fender, so the designs were associated with him all along.) I plugged in two of them (not the Strat, I already have a real one of those that I’ve been trying to sell) and rocked out with the drummer backing me. Sounded good! I chose the semihollow with warmer tones. I asked for a bag to carry it home in and they gave me a soft case. They also found the warranty card. I went out for a beer with some friends who had come to watch.
Not sure if I’ll sell or keep the guitar. I looked it up — the G&L Classic Bluesboy. I was amazed to see it selling for $1,500. But then I noticed other stores selling it for $600, and realized those are two different guitars, and I have the cheaper one. The more expensive one is U.S.-made, and the “tribute” model, which is what mine is, is made overseas and with some corners cut to make it more affordable. I was disappointed to find out it was worth quite a bit less than I thought at first. But as my friend Dave commented, “Still a very cool. very versatile guitar! And, really, the guitar is just a token that proves you out-solo’d 14 others!”