The Perfect Lefty Weekend
Saturday night, March 29th 2008, Alicia stayed up way to late playing her '58 Junior, then it was a restless night's sleep. Sunday morning we got up at 4:15am to leave the house at 4:45am, airport at 5:45am, flight at 7:00am. We packed pretty lightly, one small backpack with 1 change of clothes each, my camera bag, and a borrowed Gibson protector case. We took all of our stuff as "carry on", and the flight to NYC was good; no problem getting the empty guitar case on board.
Alex (the guy selling the '54) was kind enough to pick us up at LaGuardia, and took us to his place to get the guitar. He's a good guy, and was a very gracious host while we were with him. Alicia was frothing to see the '54 and check it out, and she was not disappointed as I'm sure you can imagine. Alex was nice enough to bring out his '54 All Gold, '56 Junior & '58 Special for Alicia to try out. Time passed quickly, and before we really wanted to, we had to take our leave of Alex and catch the train to Grand Central to continue our weekend odyssey, now with our backpack, camera bag, Gibson protector case, and the Gibson custom shop case from Alex. We grabbed a quick pastrami sandwich, a knish, some gravlax and chicken noodle soup in Grand Central, trying some of the ethnic stuff we don't get in Chicago.
We jumped onto a shuttle subway train, then the number 1 train to Penn Station in Manhattan, then onto the New Jersey RR to get to the Aberdeen-Matawan station where our friend Rich picked us up at the station. We had a nice homemade dinner thanks to Rich's wife Donna, and Alicia plugged in the Les Paul for the first time. It sounded great, even though Rich is a bit of a high gain guy, and the only amp for us to use was a modded Marshall. As the day wound to a close, it was back on the train to get to Penn Station Manhattan.
We got to the station at around 11:30pm, and walked the 10 blocks to Times Square to finally check into our hotel, and dropped our stuff in our room. We went back out and did a quick walk around, and grabbed a hot dog from a street cart (we don't have them here, and have seen to many episodes of "Law & Order" to resist trying one).
The weather didn't cooperate on Monday, as it was overcast and drizzling, so our plans to see the Statue of Liberty and Empire State building were shelved. Instead we walked around Times Square, had the most expensive breakfast omelets of our lives (I'd drop weight quick if I had to eat in NYC all the time, very pricey compared to here).
We checked out Sam Ash and Manny's; but the best was at Rudy's. We stopped in, and were talking to one of the counter guys, and I noticed they had a righty '54 in the showcase. I asked how much was it going for, and related how Alicia and I had just picked up a '54 lefty. I asked if they had any lefties; to which he replied "we've got a '59 burst, the only one made". I thought he was pulling my leg, so I said something to the effect of not having heard that McEnroe had died. As it turned out, John has it on the block thru Rudy's! I asked if Alicia could see it, and was told that only Rudy could show it, and he would be in around 1:00.Alicia and I walked around a bit more, and went back to the hotel. At 1:15, we walked over to Rudy's with the '54 in the protector case wrapped in a plastic bag and met Rudy. We spoke for a while, showed him the '54, and he was very gracious and let Alicia play the '59 for 5-10 minutes. I asked twice about getting a photo of her with it, but Rudy said John was very clear about not wanting pictures taken of the guitar; and I wasn't going to ask a third time.
We killed off the rest of the day, and wandered over to line up at the Iridium Jazz Club at 8:15, to be 1st in line for the 10pm Les Paul show. We got our pick of tables and enjoyed the show, and got to meet Les and get a few autographs.
The flight home was golden, we carried on cases, our backpack and camera bag; and a limo from O'Hare airport to our place capped off the travel. What a memorable lefty weekender for Alicia!
The routes are really roughly done, and these must really have been one offs at the time. Take a look at the x-ray for the route from the control cavity to the switch! We switched out the '70's bridge and studs that were on the guitar with a correct vintage '54 thin ear bridge and studs, along with a set of correct '54 tuners to replace the later ones that were installed. Many thanks to Kim at Vintage Checkout for all his help in tracking down parts!. Poker chip, switch & switch tip, TRC, knobs & pointers, pickguard & bracket look good, control cavity covers are correct, and appear to be righty covers flipped (countersunk on both sides). We installed a set of "Dr Vintage" pots with 50's style wiring, and a set of Luxe "Grey Tiger" reproduction caps installed with the Duncan pickups that were already in the guitar.
Finally, we strung it up with Alicia's favorite "DR Pure Blues" strings, tweaked the truss rod, set the action height and plugged it in. Alicia is really struck by the feel of the guitar, and the vibration she feels in the neck and body when she plays it. She commented on how "alive" the guitar seems, and that sustain & harmonics are really noticeable.