First Guitar

It’s hard to estimate the value of an investment, isn’t it?

The stock market changes with the times, the value of our currency fluctuates, and commodities like gold and silver vary with regularity. There is no certainty that what you invest in will pay off in the future.

The same is true of other investments we make. Some people invest in their children’s future by giving them piano lessons, or enrolling them in sporting teams, or sending them to art school. No one knows what will come of these investments, but we take the risk because we know for certain that if we do not there will most definitely be no return. As they said in the long ago, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

My parents bought me my first guitar when I was about 10 or 11 years old. A year of trombone playing in the 5th grade had failed to produce an accomplished musician, so I’m surprised they even bothered. Nevertheless, they did. My friend, William, had just purchased a fancy electric guitar, so he was happy to part with the small folk guitar he had purchased when he lived in Louisiana. We bought it for $10.00.

The label on the headstock says it was made by Campus Brothers Music Company, New Orleans. But in spite of all my Google efforts I can find no record of that company ever existing.

My parents gave me guitar lessons. Back in those days they cost $2.00 or $3.00 per lesson, as I recall. But a good teaching salary back then was $6,000 per year, and gas cost us 17 cents per gallon out west, too (just to give you some perspective). We listened to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, and the Byrds. They all inspired us to become rock’n’roll stars. So, I . . . needed a guitar.

I was enrolled in a group guitar class led by an elderly gentleman and his wife; they did a fine job. As I continued to learn I was taught by three different teachers at Music Land (which used to be on Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ). I practiced and practiced.

Then there was our band: Danny (on electric guitar – a beautiful red Fender Mustang), my brother Ron (on drums – a flashy green sparkle Ludwig set), and me (with my little folk guitar – until I upgraded a while later to a May 1962 Fender Stratocaster, sunburst finish). At various times we had a bass player (temporarily), and a lead singer (also, temporary). But we were the core of the group. I wonder how our parents survived the loud practices!

Oh, I could tell you tales . . . our various group names (The Henchmen, The Bad Bunch, etc.), our musical venues (the Big Beat Band Bonanza – where we wore our signature white jeans with bright orange T-shirts), and our fascination with all things Fender. But I digress.

That first guitar – the little folk guitar – still resides with me in our house. Obviously, it is over 50 years old now, and I’m sure it is of little value in and of itself. The wood is not high quality, and the workmanship never made it possible to play the instrument in tune. It failed to fulfill my dreams of fame and fortune, but it did something even better for me. It introduced me to the joy of playing guitar, the thrill of standing before an audience (sometimes so frightened that my hands shook) and singing a song that touches hearts.

There is no comparison between that old folk guitar and the higher quality instruments I have played since that time. It has been demoted to my “story telling” guitar, the one I use when I entertain children with stories at Stone Mountain Park. My supervisor at the park commented one day that my guitar had a lovely patina, referring to the appearance of something grown beautiful with age, use, and established character.

Not much of an investment, was it? That $10.00 guitar my parents purchased may today be worth as much as . . . $12.00? Ha! I have no idea. But, not much more than that!

But do not make the mistake of assaying an investment by its monetary value alone.

That little no-name guitar, poor in quality, tarnished with age, provided me with an opportunity to fall in love with the world of music. And, in a contributing way, helps to support our family and encourage me in my pursuit of the arts to this very day.

My father and mother saw this investment opportunity, took the risk, and said, “Yes.” That $10.00 has earned thousands of dollars more. And more importantly, it has enriched my life and the lives of persons moved by the music I have produced. I will always be grateful that my parents were willing to encourage me on this path. There was no guarantee of success, or return.

You can never tell about an investment.

I think of this, too, as I get older. And I consider my parents and the lives they lived. Each of us is just a small instrument, imperfect, flawed, and aging daily. We long to grow beautiful with age, we hope to possess the aura that comes from established character.

What will our value be?

A great deal has been invested in each of us, hasn’t it?

If the market soars, if the currency rises in value, if the price of gold increases, we expect a good return on investment.

If we put stock in our lives and the lives of those around us, there will be a return as well.

Our own personal patina. Like my first guitar.

Priceless.

About ivanbenson

I am a singer, guitar player, writer, story teller, voice over talent, and heart attack survivor in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
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6 Responses to First Guitar

  1. Sandy says:

    Love this. Priceless is right.

  2. Jo says:

    Reminds me of the Parable of the Talents too. Good..keep writing!

  3. kittyspeak says:

    I’ll sum it up by saying I believe any investment your parents made in you, your guitar and otherwise, has netted a wonderful return in the man that you are. Your musical ability, and your teaching, example, and friendship have been an inspiration to so many, including me. Love you, my friend.

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