Murdock Returns

Photo © 2009 Stan Syckes

In case you forgot, reader, we were right in the middle of a deadly Rock Thrillogy! Take a peek back at the previous chapters if you dare, but the rest of us have got to get on to part three!


Rock: A Blog Thrillogy

Part 1: In Which Our Hero Describes The Detection of a Musical Compatriot of Equal Greatness
Part 2: In Which Our Hero Forms the Nucleus of a Musical Juggernaut
you are here » Part 3: In Which Our Hero is Reunited with his Mighty Excalibur
Part 4: In Which The Ship Be Sinking

As I mentioned over a year ago, my 1978 Gibson Les Paul (“Murdock”) fell on some hard times and needed to be fixed. My decision shouldn’t surprise anyone when I decided to, instead, just buy a new guitar – my Fender Stratocaster (“Parker”). I originally began all of my guitar madness by learning on a Stratocaster-wannabe around Christmas 1996 so even though I had been playing Les Pauls for a solid decade, suddenly playing Parker was like getting back on a bicycle.

Fast-forward to today where I’m three rehearsals and one writing session into a new band. I love playing Parker during the jams but I was longing for the return of my one true love, the Les Paul. So, I bit the bullet and started scouring craigslist for guitar repair jobs. One ad I came across talked about a $50 setup job – just tweaking the action of the strings, the bow of the neck, etc. The writer sounded like he knew what he was talking about and even said I could stay and watch him work his magic if I so chose.

I emailed him (a guy named Brandon) and decided to meet him on a Thursday afternoon at a place near Port Authority where he teaches bass lessons. He seemed like a very quiet guy, all dressed in black, but was dead serious about his work and instantly started to gush about my guitar. He said there were several things he’d like to do normally but since Murdock was a “collector’s item now” he wasn’t going to. I just wanted the damn thing to play! So … he started out on his business of tweaking when he suddenly stopped cold and shot me a confused look.

He was near the tuning pegs, and there was no surprise there. Problems in this area led me to directly put the guitar on hiatus and buy Parker. But now I was about to find out just how fucked up it all was. So, on my guitar there are six tuning posts which is what the 6 strings are wrapped around. These posts are connected to the tuning pegs which, when turned, also tun the posts, tightening or loosening the strings around them. Ok?

To make sure all of this tightening and loosening doesn’t damage any of the wood a grommet is placed around the base of each of these tuning posts. Guitar grommets are metal pieces that look like miniature top hats with the top cut out. These are placed upside down over the tuning post so the “brim” of the grommet covers up the hole the tuning post passes through.

Anyway, here’s where it’s all fucked up. I had a total of … 0 grommets. Yep, instead, someone had glued washers onto my guitar to appear like the “brim” of real grommets. So, they were merely decorations, providing no support that a grommet would and now the glue was deteriorating, causing the washers to hit against my strings and tuning pegs. It was an absolute mess, but the guitar did sit untouched in a closet for 13 years before I got my hands on it … and who knows when these washers were attached. This fact and the whole “pickle smell” that permeated the guitar for the first month have really solidified an air of mystery surrounding Murdock!

Anyway, Brandon said he’d have to do any work on these tuning pegs back at his house but that I could bring it over that weekend. Unfortunately for me, Brandon lives in Brighton Beach … about an hour and a half away from my Upper East Side apartment in the lower east hand corner of Brooklyn. Two days, and nearly two hours later, I dropped my baby off, crossed my fingers he could get it fixed, and left (although I did note how nice/unique Brighton Beach was before leaving. It’s right near Coney Island so it kinda smells like a beach town, it’s very sunny, and everyone is a really old Jewish or Russian immigrant).

Two weeks and one misunderstanding later, I got the call from Brandon to come pick up a compltely fixed Murdock. When I got there, I tried it out a little and instantly noticed the difference. The action was super low and even across all six strings, the headstock of my guitar (containing tuning pegs) now looked like a real headstock. He even had painted in a few of the small chips I had broken off through normal wear and tear. Everything looked and played great but tonight will be the big test as I shall plug it into my amp when I get home and do some serious work. Should be hot!

Current Mood: Relieved emoticon Relieved

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