On his way to becoming Premier Collector #5, Alan Keith learned a Premier Guitar secret -- call late enough at night, and you might encounter our hard-working CEO. Of course, a nod from the top isn't all the caught our attention about Alan's collection. We were first taken by his 1958 Les Paul Special (which, in our opinion, looks just as beautiful au natural as it would've with the original finish), and then he started telling us about his guitar room. A guy who built his own well-monitored, freestanding storage/jam room/shrine of rock in his backyard is a guy we had to get to know better.
Alan grew up in a guitar family. With five uncles who all played guitar, he grew up watching and listening to them play at family get-togethers in Texas. Now age 50, he has been playing since he was 10 years old when one of his uncles gave him a 3/4-size acoustic guitar. "I still wonder where it is today," says Alan. Though his love of rock and roll differed from the blues and Texas Swing played by his uncles, they encouraged his interest in the instrument. "I appreciate, especially looking back, the effort and time he took to help get me started," says Alan of one of his uncles. It was through his uncles that he got a number of the guitars he has now.
"Starting out, I had
the usual lower grade, almost unplayable guitars as that was all I
could afford. In 1979 another uncle gave me my first real playable
guitar. He got it in the late fifties. One of the other brothers got one
of these guitars so he could “sound like Les Paul.” It was a 1958 Les
Paul Special. The body finish had been removed. Back then few people
thought much about changing colors if the notion struck them. All the
original parts were there, and I rubbed the body with Tung oil and put
it back together. I did have the original alligator case that was
falling apart, so I went to Rock World of
Oklahoma City (no longer there) to get a used case. I think it is so
funny looking back at that, because the store had a big banner inside
that said "Disco Sucks.” That certainly dates the time period! I love
that guitar and over all the years that is still the one I play most."
"The Les Paul and an old Ventura acoustic were my guitars for many
years. The Ventura was a very good playing and sounding guitar and I
was basically satisfied. I was satisfied until sometime about ten years
ago, the collecting bug began to nibble at me. I have bought and sold
antiques for many years and have had several specific things I would
collect, therefore I am no stranger to the research and joy of the hunt
that is part of the thrill of collecting.
"One of the first
guitars I looked for was to replace the Ventura with a classic. So,
after checking out the options for classic acoustics, I decided to find
a Gibson J-45. I found one, a 1957 model. The Ventura has now been
passed to my brother.
"My original idea was to get the styles and
types I saw the players use from my favorite bands -- the Beatles, Eric
Clapton, Joe Walsh, Boston, Doobie Brothers, Heart, Steely Dan and many
others from my definition of the Golden Era of rock.
"I decided to play the songs I loved and try to get them note for note correct
and feel from the playing point of view. I watch videos of the performances
when I can find them, and try to see the positions they are playing in. I also
try to get the tones that I hear coming from the recordings.
"To achieve this
I have a few pedals from the analog time all these were recorded in. A couple of
books have helped a lot. The Beatles Gear by Andy Babiuk, and Here,
There and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick."
1979 Fender Strat, 1958 Gibson Les Paul Special, 1970s Yamaha FG-260