We have two local pickers, Tommy and Jack who, after every show we attend will show up in the driveway a few days later to see what we got. In the beginning, they would call before coming over but now they just walk into the Elkcave and start looking at the cases we have lined up, hoping for a new vintage gem to play. After we returned from the Philly show, I was in the workroom, stringing yet another fine piece on the assembly line when I heard, "Ahem. Is this room only for short people or can regular folks come in?" I already knew what was about to go down in the next hour, so I told the boys, "Come on in, fellas. We accept AARP cards and endorsed Social Security checks here, so ya'll might be able to buy something." That got a chuckle out of the guys and the ball busting session was on.
Now Tommy and Jack are both very good guitar players. In fact, when you hear them pick, you can tell both men have been playing for decades and they've forgotten more Bluegrass and Country songs that I've ever heard. Like I said, these old boys have been around for a good minute so as they were glancing over the cases we had lined up, I knew what they were looking for, so I went ahead and shut it down. "We didn't get anything old this time, Boys," I quipped. "Just newer stuff." You would have thought I let the air out of their bicycle tires- these two always wanted to get their hands on the old SJ's, AJ's, J-45's and D-28's and I didn't blame them. Those were the guitars they grew up on, so those old, "good ones" were the ones they really wanted to play and who could blame them? I mean, who doesn't want to sit down with an old "bone" and lay out their best licks? Quickly trying to take the sour pusses off their faces, I said, "Hey guys. We did get a pack of J-200's and I want to try something. You boys in?" Seeing that this was the best that they were going to get on this trip, Tommy shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well bring 'em on out, Shorty".
Let me first say that Jack and Tommy are both die- hard dreadnaught guys, born and raised so when I brought out two J-200 Elites, they looked at me a little funny. "You sure you ain't got an old D-28 or something?" Jack asked but I shook my head as if I were a teacher and both of these scallywags were in detention. "Today is Jumbo day, Boys," I said. "Just play along and everything will be just fine." I saw the stink eyes they gave me, but I handed them the guitars and they got off to tuning and warming them up. After a few minutes of this, Jack started in on something and they were off. Now you have to get the picture: Both of these men were sitting in armless, wooden chairs, facing each other and every time we did this dance, it quickly became a competition between the two of them. Maybe this is a natural occurrence between guitarists, but I would just hop up onto my workbench and let these two go at each other. They played the two Elites for a couple of songs and I actually got looks of approval from them both. "Sounds alright to me," Tommy said. "Man, ain't you got an old AJ or something?" he asked and again, I shook my head. "I told ya'll today is Jumbo day and you two are gonna test drive a few for me," I replied. Again, I got the "picker's stink eye" but undeterred, I then produced a regular SJ-200 and the Pete Townshend that's currently on our website. Tommy and Jack started their tuning thing and then were off again, giving each other nods of approval or a slightly dirty look when one or the other pulled off a particularly nice lead. "Yep, these are both fine guitars," Jack said. "You sure you ain't got a dang dreadnaught around here? I ain't necessarily a Jumbo guy. I don't even know why we come over here and mess with you." I stood my ground with these two grumpy old bears and stared them down. "You "mess" with me because this is the closest place you're going to find a '47 SJ or a wartime D-28 to play, so unless you boys feel like easing on down to Guitar Center, you can just humor me just a little bit here. I could be cleaning guitars, you know." The mention of them having to go to GC got me what I call "the mighty and simultaneous dreadnaught stink eye" and if I weren't so battle-hardened, I might have wilted on the spot and went downstairs to pull out an old, 40's J- 45 that they had not yet seen.
Finally, after putting up with their grumbling and really needing to get back to work, I produced an SJ-200 Pearl Vine and this Super 200. I gave the Super to Jack because he was the least grumpiest of the two and of course, Tommy just say to say something about the cutaway. "Looks like they kinda forgot to finish that one," he said with a grin and I immediately passed him my meanest stink eye, which was well overdue in my opinion. "Come on, Guys," I said. "I got work to do," so off they went with their ritual and before I knew it, they were going at each other again with me sitting back up on the workbench. For some reason, I think Jack really liked this Super because he started layin' out some licks and starin' at Tommy like he wanted to fight him or something and then Tommy gave it right back to him, dirty looks and all. They finished up what I thought was the last song and Jack said, "Hell Tommy, I think this thing's got you beat. Sounds better to me than that fancy dancy thing you're playin'," and that's when I saw my chance. I jumped up- "You damn right, Jack. That Super blew that cigar box Tommy's playin' away. Whoo-whee. Wait 'till I tell everybody about the whippin' that got passed out today. Tommy, they'll be talkin' about you in church on Sunday after I get through." At this point, 'ol Tom's getting red in the face and not taking too kindly to the ganging-up that going on with me and Jack, so he grabs this Super out of Jack's hands and says, "Alright, Jack. That's enough. Now let's really play."
With Jack giving me a wink and a small chuckle, off they went. I simply sat back and enjoyed the playing of two gentlemen whose talent is topped only by their friendship and kindness towards both Lee and I and each other. Lifelong friends- man, ain't that hard to find these days and for a short while, the Elkcave was filled with the playing and sounds of "the old days" from my past and it was a good thing. The fellas finished up and I put the guitars away. Tommy wasn't mad anymore (I don't thnk he was really mad in the first place, just a little "aggravated", as we say in the South). As a consolation prize, I pulled out Lee's '65 D-28 and let them piddle with it for a while before they got ready to go. As they were walking up to Tommy's truck, I just had to get in one last dig. "Hey Guys," I said. "We're going to Orlando in January. I'll see if I can dig up a couple of Garth Brooks Takamine's and ya'll can come play on them when we get back." I don't think I even have to say what that got me...