Few might invest in an old Kay as deeply as our columnist, but, in his case, it paid off.

When I was in my early days of researching guitar history, I embraced all sorts of guitars from all over the place, from kitchen countertop guitars to cheap rusty resonator jobs. I really had no focus whatsoever. Every topic, as it related to guitars, was rather fascinating. Eventually, though, I moved towards crazy electrics and away from folksy acoustics. I wanted loud, interesting, and rare, and in my eyes acoustic guitars were all sort of the same. I know, I know … they aren’t the same at all. But in the 1960s, acoustic guitars were copies of copies, and they just never really held my interest. For this month, when I was tasked to write about an acoustic guitar, the choice was easy since I only own one.

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Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra, a 97-year-old free jazz luminary, conducts the Philadelphia Public Orchestra.

Philadelphia’s Public Orchestra offers an alternative to traditional classical ensembles, with room for all instruments and backgrounds.

The first time I experienced an orchestra I was 7. A year earlier, a roving teacher visited my class carrying a bag filled with plastic recorders. She gave us a simple challenge: “I’ll be back in a week to see how many of you can play this song without squeaking!” As promised, she returned one week later, and miraculously I made the cut. My reward was to be enrolled at the Newham Academy of Music in London. A week later, another teacher handed me a tiny violin and said, “If you can play the song I just taught you by next week without squeaking, you can stay.” I noticed a trend—squeaking on any instrument was bad. A year later, I was on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with about 50 other kids. Our orchestra was called Da Capo, which means “from the beginning.”

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

Marty Stuart

Submit your own artist pick collections to rebecca@premierguitar.com for inclusion in a future gallery.