Here is a picture of my Jackson guitar’s headstock, that’s the place guitarists twiddle those round thingies to tune our instruments. Those round thingies point to the sky, to me they represent what’s possible where as the bridge (the other end of the strings) gives us the foundation, the root of the power we send across the fret board. What we call the neck, the place where we wriggle our fingers about in some strange set of patterns that vacillates between slow and a blur. All to create the music that has captured our fancies for hundreds of years. Well, not that actual guitar, mind you, that’s a metaphorical image, silly. Onward we go.
I am starting a new thing, something more in line with who I am, in keeping with my creativity and soul. No more diatribes on the human existence (unless related to guitar) or lamenting any aspect of politics publicly unless, God forbid, legislation is introduced that limits my ability to rock. Then I’ll be throwing hands, figuratively, in this space. I am shutting down Kristiaan the cynic and replacing him with Kristiaan the guitarist and teller of stories of headstocks and the guitarists they’re attached to. I will be the music factoid spewing extraordinaire (like, did you know that early guitar players poked holes in their speakers to make it distort? That “sound” became the basis for Fuzz pedals in the 60s that Jimi Hendrix and others popularized) and will talk about how Angus Young decided rock with a Gibson SG, among other things.
You see, I let myself drift from my purpose and I allowed the responsibility of my life to dictate the means with which I settled my accounts, handled my business, paid my bills (or didn’t) and lived my life. You’re thinking, ‘yeah, dumb ass, just like the rest of us’. Not disagreeing, but along the path I’ve walked I didn’t know that’s what was happening. I lost my way as all(most) of us do. I am a musician, inside, sometimes outside and for nearly 34 years, I’ve had a guitar at my side while I’ve done it. Like many things in my life,time is the ultimate teacher and I see that I lost that connection with the guitar. Don’t get me wrong, I play all the time, but I lost the identification of it as a major portion of my being. There’s no way to take that away, I cannot indoctrinate the guitarist out of me and why would I, he is the strongest being in my collection of characters that live in my head, stick to what you know, right?
So, here’s the plan, I am going to tell you stories about iconic (and not so) headstocks, the music they created, stories of their existence and if possible, tell the story of how the player got the guitar. Just telling my wife about this idea caused tears to well up in my eyes, like my heart sang out and said, ‘YES! This is the right thing’ and again, as I type it, they are rolling down my face. Did I just, through various steps, bumble upon my life’s endeavor? I hope so, that would be epic. I’ve purchased headstockexchange.com and headstockexchange.us in advance and whereas there’s nothing there yet, there will be along with podcasts at some point.
So, let me start with the story of the headstock up top. I got that Jackson Dinky in January of 2016, ordered sight unseen which is not the best way to get a guitar, you really should play it. I spent $900 for the guitar and bought the flight case for another $125. I picked it because I like the color, this wonderful green blue tint over a 4A, book matched quilt-maple cap called Chlorine Burst. The body is alder, the neck maple with a maple board and extra jumbo frets. It has Seymour Duncan pickups, a JB (stands for Jeff Beck) in the bridge and a ’59 in the neck (that points to an era for Gibson style humbucker). When I got the guitar I found that whomever built her cared about what they created. I haven’t (yet) recorded any music (well, couple cell phone vids with a crappy mic) with this guitar but it stays in tune, has a wonderful voice and plays with little effort, it might be my favorite guitar ever and I’ve had more than I can accurately count (a conservative estimate would be about 35 guitars, 1 per year of playing, but I think it’s closer to 45).
She was made in Mexico, between 2014 and 2015. When I pulled the guitar apart, the neck pocket was stamped ‘May 18, 2015’ which happens to be a day before my birthday. The neck itself is stamped from May of 2014 which means, to my way of thinking, this guitar was made for me. The body and the neck have a year between them in production dates yet they came together just in time for my happy day, that’s super cool. I put the number “68” on the top of the headstock to represent my birth year. Stickers and guitars have a storied history and this wasn’t the first time I added a little extra to an instrument. That’s all I have, short and sweet but the history yet to be written for that guitar, I expect there will be more to it.
I will be chasing the stories behind the headstock that was at Woodstock with Hendrix for the National Anthem, of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar and delving into the realms of Jeff Beck, George Lynch, Steve Vai, Eric Clapton, Yngwie, Chet Atkins, George Benson, Willie Nelson as well as contemporary players like Ed Shieran, Andy James, and ultimately, submissions from readers from the guitars in their lives.
Welcome aboard with me, this is going to be fun. If you have a story, please contact me, I always want to hear from you!
KSK December 2016