The Death of a Father and Screwheads.
It was unseasonably hot on Saturday at the Orlando guitar show. As the room filled with bodies, it got warm so quickly, many of the people were coming our of their long-sleeved shirts and coats and going down to just t-shirts. Lots of sweating going on as well, so on that fateful afternoon, I was standing in our booth, watching the passer- bys and keeping my eyes peeled for something cool to pop up. An older couple walked by with the man carrying two bass cases and the woman carrying one. He was sweating profusely and neither seemed to be in a particularly good mood. I stopped them, invited them into our booth and asked what was in the cases. "My Father's basses," the man replied. He seemed agitated and in a hurry, so I immediately tried to just slow things down a little and find out the history of the three basses, which were a Bullet bass, a Musicmaster bass and this '66 P-bass.
As I looked over the three instruments, I asked the man why he was selling them. He began to explain to me that the basses had belonged to his father, who had just recently passed away. Now I knew why he was upset; for reasons unknown to me, he had to sell the very things that reminded him of his dad and this wasn't the first time I have been presented with this situation. He also made it very clear that he wanted to sell all three together and not just this P-bass, which was obviously the most valuable of the three. I now need to be clear about something; the person with this man was not being helpful at that delicate time. In fact, she was making things really hard, so the situation was literally escalating with tension as each moment passed. Being as gentle as I could, I asked a few questions about this bass and about any offers they had received from other dealers in the room. It was then revealed that the other offers were either low or primarily for the P-bass alone, which did not meet the expectations or needs of this man at all. I knew that this was a gut-wrenching thing for him to go through and in my heart, I felt for him. Again, as he and I were talking, the other person just was not making things any better. It was hot, it was tense and it was tough.
I tried to buy this bass alone because we were specifically looking for a 60's Fender, but now seeing that I had become just another person that would not meet this gentleman's needs, he closed the cases and they walked out. I think I was stunned a bit because it happened so quickly, I didn't have time to process what went wrong. I watched the couple walk out of our booth and over to another dealer and as I observed their conversation, I noticed the shaking of the man's head and the again, agitation of the woman. They quickly picked up the cases and headed back towards me. Maybe something struck me or leaked into this thick skull of mine because I stopped the man again and asked him if he would come sit down with me for a minute. As he did, I finally got the time to ask him what he wanted for all three basses. He told me the price and I took a minute to think about it and then agreed. A sense of relief seemed to come over him and as I paid him and got some information, the man visibly relaxed, as if a great weight was now off his shoulders.
The reason I tell this story is because it taught me a lesson. Sometimes, we are put in a person's path to serve a purpose, not merely to pass over money or trade something with them. I hope that as I get older, the desire to be a "guitar dealer" will be replaced with the need to be of service, or to serve others. After that Saturday was over and I had time to reflect on the day, I thought to myself that those basses were meant to come to us and nobody else. That couple walked around the room for a good while, carrying those three basses and nobody could take possession of them but us. I really believe that and sometimes these life lessons come to us at the strangest times. Maybe that was why I was put in that room on that day at that time.
As to the second part of this story's title, it's well known that we look at everything we purchase inside and out. The reason being is, so you don't have to. If it comes from us, it's straight so on a bass like this, I normally would have taken it down to the last tiny part to make sure it was original. As I was talking to the man and looking at this bass, he told me that it was completely original as his father had bought it in 1966 and had been sitting in its case for many years. As I looked at the screwheads, it was instantly obvious that no screw had ever been turned and the blue/green ended flatwounds were possibly the original strings that came on the instrument. I simply put the bass back into the case, believing what he said was true.
This entire experience is about more than just buying and selling something. To me, it's about being chosen to take possession of something that means a lot to one person and reverently passing it on to another. While I don't know who will eventually purchase this bass, I have every belief that they will enjoy and give it the respect it deserves. After all, it's not just a bass guitar, it's a bass guitar with a history and a life lesson. At least it is to me...