I want to start out by saying, “Thank you”. For everyone who takes time out of their week to read my blog. I know it isn’t much, but I’m thankful for everyone, or anyone, who finds my blog useful and informational.
My last blog, I must have been grumpy. If you missed it, I shared a customer’s story of purchasing a used guitar online through Guitar Center. After receiving the guitar in the mail the customer brought the guitar in for me to service. It came in with an extremely bowed neck, and was really dirty with old strings. Even though GC could have done a better job supporting their customer it all worked out. Guitar Center in Ohio sold a guitar, I fixed the problems with the guitar, and at the end of the day the customer got a pretty good deal on a guitar. I did slam Guitar Center pretty hard for their customer service and poorly managed Used website. Yes, they deserve some shame. Today, I’m going to turn it around and give them some love. I mean, I wouldn’t have a strong passion for guitars today if it wasn’t for the big retail giants like Guitar Center. So today, we go back in time as I share my first memories of what some refer to as G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome.)
Growing up as a kid and teenager I lived in a pretty conservative home, at least when it came to music. We were a Christian family so faith and church had strong roots in our lives. In my earliest memories I remember country music playing on the car radio. Also, as a family we all agreed that the food at Lamberts tastes just a bit better when Alabama played over the house speakers. For the most part, 90’s contemporary Christian music and Church music is what we listen to. I’m proud to say those choruses are still on my playlist today. That being said, there wasn’t a strong guitar hero figure that came out of that genre. There were some Christian bands that had endorsement deals with brands like Epiphone, and there were some local friends and musicians that influenced me. But, I missed the Van Halen, Metallica, GNR, and other guitar giants that heavily influenced other kids my age. So what was my main influence? What began to stoke the fire of my passion and desire to play guitar? I have to give a lot of credit to Musicians Friends catalog.
Remember the 90’s? The internet was still fresh, not every home had a computer and definitely not every home had the internet. The Musician’s Friend catalog was the first resource that came to my home where I was exposed to all kinds of different guitars, amps, pedals, and more. It’s where I realized that an Gibson guitar cost thousands!!! It’s where I saw my first PRS guitar. It’s where I found my first crush, an Epiphone Casino, in Turquoise. Not only did I instantly want a guitar, but that’s when I started making a list of guitars that were essential for my future collection. That’s where it all started and that’s why I do what I do today.
Catalogs are one thing, but a man, or kid, really has to see it in person.
Often, we would take a family trip up to St. Louis to shop for many reasons and it was always a pretty fun trip. Whether my parents were looking for a car, electronics, or other toys, St. Louis was a great shopping trip because it would almost always include an excellent dining experience followed by a pit stop on the way home for milkshakes. I can remember that we visited a number of music stores when I was kid. I remember often how my dad would take us to the smaller stores and it would be unbearable for me. All I wanted to do was leave, Toy R Us was calling for my attention. But, eventually as I grew older and my interests shifted I started to appreciate those visits to those St. Louis shops. But there was one trip in particular that out did them all. Dad drove us all the way to the west side of St. Louis on St. Charles Rock Rd. Located in that region was a Mars Music Superstore and Guitar Center Bridgeton, both within a mile of each other. It was my first trip to either one and it was a total epic experience.
If you have never heard of Mars Music Superstore I encourage you to read it’s Wikipedia. In short, it was a regional chain that opened through the late 90’s thru early 2000’s. Turns out it was birthed because the founder had a terrible experience at a local music store; seems like a familiar story to me. It was my first exposure to a music store giant. If you think Guitar Center’s are impressive, Mars Music was a step up from that. An amazing wall of electric guitars, an impressive drum room, an acoustic guitar room. I was hooked. We followed up that visit two blocks down to the Guitar Center. It was my first time at a Guitar Center too. That was an incredible visit, and even though I didn’t walk out with a guitar that day, it planted a seed.
After many months of hinting, asking, begging, and circle pictures in the Musician’s Friend catalog it happened. I came home one day and my parents surprised me with my first guitar, an Epiphone Les Paul standard in Transparent Black. I can still smell it today when I opened that hard case. It came from Mars Music Center. I really wanted a blue model, even made mom drive me back up there to find they didn’t have one. But I still have that guitar today, slightly, mmhmm, heavily modified. I would find myself back at Mars Music many times again where I would buy my first real guitar pedal, a Line 6 DL4. My soul was crushed when I found out they went out of business. (Super sad. They put a Dollar Tree in its place. Terrible.) But a couple years later I would trek back up to that nearby Guitar Center where my newly wedded wife bought me an American Telecaster, which I still have today, not heavily modified.
Why do I share all that nostalgia with you? Because every music store and every experience creates those memories we cherish. Those larger chains sometimes get a bad wrap, sometimes deservedly. Not all my early trips to Guitar Center were positive. But I’m sure that everyone can think back to their first time at a Guitar Center and recall that sense of wonder, gazing at that vast wall of amazing instruments. Perhaps you remember a smaller store where there was a salesman whose charm, talent, and wit made up for the lack of wall candy. Maybe it was a customer cranking an amp way too loud, or a drummer going to town on a $5000 kit at your local shop. Whatever, whenever and where, something sparked a desire to be a musician or a gear collector.
That’s one of our major callings at JAMS. This small business wants to provide that first spark, that amazing experience for man, woman, and child. Because we know that experience is the beginning of an amazing journey; Whether you use music to lead a church chorus, ignite a bar fight, entertain, create a legacy to pass on to your kids, or whatever it leads to..."music". Enough said. So for every music store that has paved the way, props and nods to you. Good or bad, you’ve led us here thus far. JAMS is here to help carry that torch the next generation of musicians and serve the ones that are here now. Encore!