the gift of love
i was stumped when a friend asked me to recommend a versatile electric guitar for a beginner. around the holidays, one can find brand name guitar/amp packages for around $200, but the guitars are pretty much unplayable. if it won't stay in tune (or it will stay in tune just fine until one touches the strings), it isn't much fun to play. especially for beginners.
i hate to recommend expensive gifts, but i wanted to suggest something that would actually be a joy to play: a plain mexican-made fender stratocaster, which can be had for a li'l under $400. i've loved the surftastic pink 60s strat i found for $350 on the used rack a few years ago, but i'm sure that other players can recommend some other fine options.
the idea of a used $350 gift strat brought to mind the gift of the magi-like story of lenny and stevie ray vaughan. via fender.com:
The “Lenny” story is a love story. Love for a woman and love for a guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan was not yet a star on his 26th birthday, Oct. 3, 1980, when his wife, Lenora “Lenny” Vaughan, gave him a used Stratocaster guitar that had recently caught his eye in an Austin, Texas, pawnshop.
...About a year after they were married, Lenora remembers, “The guys went to a pawnshop and saw this guitar. One guy wanted it, and Stevie said, ‘I want it more.’” It was a 1965 maple-neck Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fingerboard and the original pickups that, from the look of it, had seen better days. Although it began life as a three-color sunburst model, it had obviously been refinished none too expertly at some point, and now it had a dark natural finish bearing an elaborately arty inlay behind the bridge. Nonetheless, there was something about it that clearly and immediately resonated deeply with Vaughan. That guitar really grabbed him.
Unfortunately it cost $350. Money was tight in those pre-stardom days, and neither Stevie nor Lenora had enough. His birthday was coming up, though, and she devised a way of getting the guitar for him.
“I went out and found seven people with $50, and they all put their money in and we got the guitar, and we gave it to him for his birthday at (Austin nightclub) Steamboat Springs on 6th St.,” she said.
Vaughan was thrilled. They took the guitar home and sometime that night, as Lenora slept, her husband wrote a new song on it. In the morning, Lenora remembers, “He was sitting on the edge of the bed with the guitar and said, ‘Listen to this.’” He played her the song he had written that night, “Lenny,” and she cried.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “How can you stop loving anything like that? I’ve never once in my life listened to that song without crying.”
sound unbelievably hoky?
maybe, but listen to this performance of lenny on that same ol' '65 strat -- and just try to tell me you're not feeling the love...