Are you a big fan of the Eagles? I can take them or leave them. I mean, I like their music and all– I was the first to sing (over and over!) Taking It Easy when Tori, Lisa and I stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona… they have written some of the great tunes of our lives. But as a band, as an event, The Eagles leave me flat and uninterested; they are not a group I have a strong interest in seeing perform.
When they came to Rio Tinto stadium, they were the first band to play in the newly finished venue. I thought about going, but the ticket prices were outrageous. I saw they were coming back to town, to play in a smaller club. That could be interesting– even fun– but the show sold out so fast I had no chance for getting seats.
As chance would have it, I was near the club the Friday night they played Salt Lake. I was on the back side of the building, and I could see the people pouring out the front after the show ended. As I continued on my way, and Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh came flying out the stage door next to me. We all go tumbling down in a mess of tangled limbs and twisted laughs. Brushing ourselves off, we stood up and looked at each other.
I do not know Glenn at all, but Joe and I have met a few times, most recently about a year ago. I could see the recognition in Joes’ eyes as he gave me a knuckle bump and asked me how I was doing. We started walking down the street, to the hotel they were staying at, like a couple of old friends that hadn’t seen each other in a while.
The hotel they were staying at was rustic, with raw wooden walls and Indian rugs on the walls. We were in a long, large room with windows along one wall, and a balcony overlooking it on one end. Large low sofas lined the wall opposite the windows, and gave us a chance to relax while Joe and I caught up. We talked about life, guitars, playing guitar and a lot of other topics that really did not matter much to either of us.
After an hour, I was thirsty, and I went over to a wet bar underneath the balcony over to one side. I grabbed myself a beer, and offered one to Joe. He declined, and I remembered his “problems.” I tried to change the subject as quick as I could, and suggested that we jam. Joe wanted to play, but he has plans for the foreseeable future. We decided on meeting again on Monday, and play together then. I took my leave for the night and went home.
For the next two days, I kept an internal argument going as to which guitar I would take over to play with Joe. My initial choice was my white Stratocaster; it was a workingman’s guitar, no frills but fit well and played easily. As I thought more, I started thinking the Les Paul would be a better choice. I know Joe loves Les Pauls. Mine is very glossy and pretty, with saturated reds that drip off the wood. My Paul also has some great pickups, and they make the greatest tone– the sound they create would surely make Joe notice.
By Monday, I still could not decide. I played both guitars. The Paul sounded better– much better– but the strat felt so good in my hands. I looked back and forth between them, and neither had the edge. Then, from across the room, another guitar beckoned to me; sitting up on the chair was my Martin. Now this guitar, I thought, would surprise Joe: we always played electrics. I would be very unexpected to bring an acoustic… and that would make it all the more fun.
I sat down, picked up my D-28, and I knew my search was over. I plucked one note– a single string– without pressing my fingers on the fret board. As the string vibrated, the most heavenly note swirled up out of the sound hole. It held and expanded and filled the whole room. Overtones emerged, enhancing and expanding in the air like a good wine on the palette. I looked at the bronze string vibrating, and I played another. It rose in harmony to the first, then took over, bursting pure and free and full of joy.
I was stunned. And awed. I had always liked my Martin, always known it was special, but it had never sang like this. Something had pushed my D-28 into another dimension. Now it was alive in my hands, more vital than any instrument I had ever heard. I did not even bother to grab the case; I just put it in the car next to me and raced downtown to see Joe. He looked at the guitar in my hand, and shook his head in disbelief.
“Wait, Joe”, I said. “You have to hear it first.”
Giving me the benefit of his doubt, he sat down to listen. I played a note, and then a chord… and he heard. Joe experienced the note. It was all around us. Joe was aware there was something more than a guitar playing for him, but he was befuddled as to what it meant. Above us on the balcony overlooking the long room, Glenn stood equally overcome.
“What was that?” he asked us once he caught his breath.
I showed him my Martin.
“I have to have that for the tour. Can I borrow it for the next couple weeks?”
I was dismayed. I had not even brought the case. Joe assured me they would take good care of the guitar. It was their job, their business. Even without a case there would be no problem keeping the Martin safe and secure Joe pronounced. I believed him.
That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And yet, I had to do it. And so I gave Glenn, a man I hardly knew, one of my most precious possessions. One that I had just come to begin to understand and appreciate. But I did know Glenn loves that guitar as much as I do.
I woke up.