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1963 Gibson J-50

I am going to make a bold statement; We have the best luthier east of the Mississippi, period. I don't care who your guy is or how long he's being working on guitars, our guy is better. We reverently call him "Double D", but his name is Donald Dunlavey and he's the baddest and meanest sumbitch on the planet. This dude is so bad, he has a 40-foot dragon chained outside his workshop and he feeds this thing whole pigs. By hand. He has six pit bulls that line up inside the back door every night when he goes to bed and the oldest one, Chainsaw will fetch a beer out of the refrigerator if you say the Malaysian word for "now", which is "sekarang." I've seen it with my very own eyes. One time, Double D was doing a neck-set on a '40 Bone and the owner tried to rush him. Next thing we knew, somebody had to call an ambulance for the guy because he had frets inserted into his forehead that spelled out the word "dummy." In plain language, this cat is bad to the bone and it has to be a dire situation for us to even think about visiting him in his dark lair. Hell, you have to step over a pile of human bones just to get in the door of his place. Such is the dark world of Double D...

As this all relates to this J-50, I'll now relay the story. We initially bought this guitar because of its condition. I thought it was just gorgeous and it was also made in my birth year, so you all know what that means in the world of guitar collecting. So we get this thing home and after cleaning it up and restringing it, the tall one hops up on the workbench to give her a whirl. I was working on our '65 P-bass and not paying much attention when he started to play and after a few minutes, I looked over at Lee and said, "Man, that sounds like crap," and I had a good perspective because the soundhole of the guitar was pointed directly at me. He ignored me and kept playing, but I could see that he was also listening to the sound. As nice as this guitar was, it just wasn't projecting like a 54-year-old vintage Gibson should be doing. All of our other old flattops are cannons, but this girl right here was, well let's just say she wasn't cooperating. He played it for a while longer and when he stopped, he said, "I think we should take it to Double D." At that moment, all activity halted and it was as if time itself had stopped. I got all cold inside and swallowed hard because I knew we would be taking a trip to the lair of the Dark Master...

We pulled up to Double D's place and the feelings of darkness and foreboding immediately came over me. There was that pile of human bones outside the door and pit bulls were running all over the place- one of them had a woman's arm in its mouth. I couldn't imagine where the rest of her was but Lee was insistent- we had to get this guitar fixed, so we slowly got out of the van and walked up to the fence. "Mr. Donald sir your highness," Lee yelled and after a couple of minutes, the door to the workshop opened and out walked the Merchant of Death himself. "Looks like somebody took a couple of craps in my yard," he said. "The hell you want?" Lee walked up slowly. "Double D, this J-50 sounds like a cigar box and we can't figure out what's wrong with it. Would you take a look and see if you can tune her up?" Lee asked him gingerly. Double D took a long draw of the unfiltered Camel cigarette clenched between his teeth and said, "Sakarang!" All of a sudden, a large pit bull ran across the yard and into the back door. A minute later, it returned with a Miller Lite in his jaws and dropped it at Double D's feet. Donald patted the canine killer on the head and picked up his beer. "You two maggots are lucky today. I ain't got nuthin' on the docket, so yeah, I'll take a look at that piece of junk." Neither of us said a word as Lee handed the J-50 to Donald. He glared at us with dead, blue eyes, turned and walked into his shop. I leaned over to Lee and whispered, "Dude I think we're gonna die." Lee said, "Yeah. Me too."

So we waited. And waited. For six hours, we stood outside that chain link fence with me pacing back and forth and those pit bulls looking at us like we were a hamburger and a hot dog (remember those old "stranded on a deserted island cartoons?"). We were just about to perish from hunger when that Dark One walked out of his shop and over to us. "Here," he said as he tossed a plastic bag in our direction. Lee caught it and I saw that it contained a trapezoidal piece of wood and a saddle. "What was wrong?" I asked and he looked at Lee (completely ignoring me) and said, "Back in the day, those knuckleheads at Gibson used a laminated bridgeplate and ebony saddle on these guitars. Trying to save a few bucks, I guess but it made them sound like crap. I put a smaller, solid maple bridgeplate in there and topped it off with a ceramic saddle. Try it now." Lee hiked up his knee and strummed the guitar. It was as if he was playing a completely different instrument. The guitar rang out and it was as it had been given a new life. I was shocked, but Double D just looked at his cell phone as if this was an everyday occurrence. I couldn't help myself because I am the professional worrier around here so I asked, "What about it not being original now? Does that affect the value?" and again, completely ignoring me, Donald said to Lee, "What I did is called "a forgivable sin." It don't matter because now that thing sounds like a hundred dollar bill.

" How much do we owe you?" Lee asked and Double D just shook his head. "Not a thing," he replied. "Just sign this." Without even looking, Lee and I scratched our signatures on the piece of paper and Donald took out his pocketknife. He made a slight cut on his thumb and pressed it on top of our names. "See you boys at the end," he said as he smiled and turned away. Man, I got a cold feeling as we drove home and it then occurred to me that I know where we both will be going when we die. Probably involves a lake of fire and a bunch of dudes with pitchforks...

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