Local Gift Guide: Anyone Can Play Guitar

With Prices Like This, At Least You Can Dream

August March
7 min read
The Gretsch G6120 Chuck Atkins Hollowbody Electric
(Eric Williams)
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And if the world does turn and if London burns/ I’ll be standing on the beach with my guitar/I want to be in a band when I get to heaven/ Anyone can play guitar and they won’t be a nothing any more—“Anyone Can Play Guitar,” by Radiohead.

With the holidays descending upon us like the heavily-weighted, right-wing agenda that’s following behind as we frantically try to stay one step ahead of the eclipsing arc of the coming year—I hear 2017 is gonna be a doozy with a billionaire president and all—it’s a fine time to stop what you’re doing and learn to play the guitar. If you already play, it may be time to upgrade; why not celebrate something good as a way of welcoming the end times? Just kidding. Everything will be fine; we survived Nixon you know, and he didn’t even play guitar.

Learning to play the guitar involves getting friendly with highly crafted and often expensive equipment. That’s part of the process. But getting a decent guitar in this burg is as simple as checking out some of the many shops in town.

That said, here is a rundown—in the form of a guide-as-wishlist—of a few local shops that cater to instrumentalists in the know as well as potentially being places that novices can find new musical paths through gift-giving. That ritual results in the acquisition of a singing, wooden and stringed treasure box; laid upon a lucky recipient during said holiday season, that can be a boon—if the world ends shortly thereafter, at least you’ll have been pluckily happy in the days before.

Gretsch G6120 Chet Atkins Hollowbody Electric

The Gretsch G6120 Chuck Atkins Hollowbody Electric Eric Williams
Stan Burg—who coincidentally taught at Eldorado High School when I haunted those hallowed halls—opened this Nob Hill shop recently. And I gotta tell you, it’s a damned magical place, filled to the rafters with 50 years of serious collecting, conscription and an insider’s touch. Some of the guitars and amps up for grabs brought tears to my eyes when I first spied them. There’s also a fine selection of new instruments produced by small-output, high-craft luthiers like Bourgeois and Huss & Dalton; a heap of beautiful hand-crafted ukuleles; and an awesome selection of tube amps from vintage Epiphones to high-tech, tube blasters from Analog Outfitters for sale too.

Greenfield Hawaiian Guitar

Greenfield Hawaiian Guitar Eric Williams
Burg’s is a bustling shop too. While I was there, an important regional bluesman, Gary Stamper, came in to chat and jam; a millennial couple stopped by again to buy a second ukulele and case; three folks sauntered by and left with new sets of strings and other essential accessories to the art. The Greenfield guitar, manufactured in Alberta, Canada, is an example of how seriously musicians and craftspeople have taken the phenomenon of traditional folk music applications in North America and beyond. It’s a treasure of dark wood and darker harmonic overtones that would bring joy to any player during this holiday season.

G&L Sb-2 Bass Guitar With Birds-Eye Maple Fret Board

This joint has a rocked out ambiance that adds to its musical allure. Also it has a hugely confident and competent technical team at customers’ disposal, which is hugely helpful for any musician who has to interface with mechanical or electrical devices on a daily basis. On any given day, shopping at Grumpy’s means running into some of the city’s most excellent axe handlers from Gordy Andersen to Michael Anthony. Although the selection of instruments is mainly focused on the new, from giants like Gibson and Fender, there’s enough of the spirit of the old Encore Music floating through the shop’s atmosphere to guarantee a special place for rare and exotic instruments from the likes of G&L as well. G&L featured the design acumen of the legendary Leo Fender. Conseqently, the instruments produced by this big but unique luthier are marked by their precision of construction as well as a playability that is still untouched by other, more well-known, brands.

Kala Tenor Exotic Mahogany Series Ukulele

Grumpy’s features devices made by Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Bad Cat Tube Amplifiers and Kala Brand Ukuleles. The Kala ukes, made in Petaluma, Calif., are some of the finest instruments in the world, made by an eclectic group of artisans who are committed to the art of the stringed instrument. The sound of these devices is kind; they are light to the touch and easy for beginners to pick up and play as they begin the journey to instrumental mastery. And with a completist collection of accessories—from cases to sheet music to cables and effects pedals—here is a store that would probably be any string afficionados dream come true … well except for Jake Shimabukuro; he’d probably want something you could take to the pool and then over the rainbow.

The Grand Concert Jacaranda Indo Dream Catcher Classical Guitar

This company and the family behind it have certainly set the standard for local guitar production. In last year’s slightly saucier version of this guide (hey, Obama still had a year to go and Trump was just a shadowy figure so I was much more jocular back then), I wrote, “Founder Lorenzo and son Agustin left a rich legacy. Each guitar made by brothers Rick, Robert and Victor is handcrafted and designed specifically for an individual player.” Well at least some things haven’t changed. One year after I penned that praise, Pimentel continues its work; the guitars crafted here are each sumptuous and highly detailed works of art that are capable of producing even more beauty. Although I’d have to personally ask our zillionaire president to borrow the money for this gift, it would be totally worth it; my brother could use a break from his Harmony F-hole.
Greenfield Hawaiian Guitar

Eric Williams

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