Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three Famous Guitars and their Close Calls with Fire

October is Fire Prevention Month.  Much of music history has been lost to fire, from the historical Alexandria, Egypt library fire to the bombing raids that destroyed documents in World War II Europe, sheet music, documents and instruments have been lost forever.

But for three famous guitarists and their guitars, the stories have a happier ending:

B.B. King named his guitar "Lucille" for the barroom brawl that started a fire in a club where he was playing a gig.  He rushed out of the bar, then realized he'd left the guitar behind.  Two men had been fighting over a woman named "Lucille," so he named the guitar (and subsequent guitars) "Lucille."

Read more in the Rolling Stone (May 15, 2015)
Read more about B.B. King in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me:  ML 410 .K473 A3 1996

Willie Nelson ran into his burning home to rescue "Trigger," a Martin acoustic guitar that has been his constant companion since 1969 much as Roy Rodger's horse, Trigger, was a reliable companion for him.  What higher compliment could a Texan pay to a guitar than to name it for a horse?

He tells the story in Rolling Stone (February 11, 2015)

He tells many more stories in his autobiography, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road.  (Available in the Bestseller Collection)

Peter Frampton played a 1954 Les Paul Gibson guitar on his iconic album, "Frampton Comes Alive" and previously with his band, Humble Pie.  In 1980 a cargo plane carrying Frampton's gear crashed in Venezuela and all the instruments were presumed lost in the subsequent fire.  In reality, the guitar survived the crash, was looted from the debris, and was sold to a musician from the Caribbean Island, Curaçao.  In 2010 the two guitars he'd replaced them with were destroyed by flood, and then in 2012 the original was returned to Frampton after a repairman in Curaçao recognized it.  Listen to NPR's interview with Frampton about the reunion.

He discussed it and showed the damage on CBS News in Februrary 2012.


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