TWO DECADES AGO, a man in his mid-30s went into a music store with a friend. They each bought a new Guild D4 dreadnought guitar. The dreadnought, so named by guitar manufacturer C. F. Martin & Co. in 1916, is a full-bodied guitar with a standard length neck. Perhaps the most commonly purchased model, these days.
Guild made their guitars in Westerly, Rhode Island at that time. The ’96 Guilds had magic in them. Something about the wood and craftsmanship produced instruments of unusual resonance and tone. Crisp and full of body with excellent projection. A clarity which rivals many $2,000 guitars of today.
The young man and his friend each practiced songs with which they grew up. The friend persevered while the young man set his guitar in a closet after a year. And it sat. And sat. Eventually the young man found himself in a large house with his pets but no furniture, no children, no wife. A middle 50’s man in divorce. Scraping for money, an ad was placed, the guitar listed for his buying price, and I showed up on his doorstep.
Even coated with grime, strings with little life, a neck out of adjustment, I heard promise in the guitar. There was something. Considering the cost of repairs and the risk I might be wrong, half his asking price was offered, and the guitar found a new home.
Several deep cleanings later with warm water, mild soap, and a damp, well-wrung cloth, with new strings and a straightened truss rod (to correct the neck), true tone burst forth. As it once did in 1996, in a music store in Northern Delaware, for an optimistic young man, this American Gem will inspire a new generation of musicians. And with care and luck, another beyond my years.