Alan Keith loves his ''58 Les Paul so much, he built it a room of its own
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."
"I got the ES-320 one from yet another uncle. These weren''t too popular and only ran 1970 to 1975."
"My amps are simpler -- not enough room to collect too many. My signal first goes into a Peavey Rockmaster. The Rockmaster is a seventies, 12ax7 tube driven preamp. It has a three channel capability controlled with a footswitch. This really helps me play the different parts of a song from clean to driven with just a footswitch as I am playing with the recording. From the Peavey the signal goes to either a Fender Twin from the late seventies, MusicMan, or the Gibson GA17RVT.
1979 Fender Twin
"I use a Rockman Powersoak and a Rocktron Hush with it to drive it without too much volume."
"I bought this and the ES-125 from the original owner who bought them together in the sixties. The Bigsby was original on the ES-125."
"My collection (and noise) was outgrowing the guest room of our house, so my wife and I decided I should build a separate room from the house just for playing and displaying the guitars and equipment. So we found a place next to our house and the work began. First, a slab floor was poured; then concrete block walls were erected. A handyman and I did the rest. The room has a reinforced fiberglass door with a steel outer door, an alarm and monitor cameras for my peace of mind (we also have two 200 lb. Mastiffs). It has no windows, two small skylights and is climate controlled. Apart from the alarm and video cameras, I can also monitor the humidity, temperature and I am alerted of a fire from the inside of the house."
"I rarely play out, and really I get such pleasure from nailing one of the songs I am working on and accompanying the recording don’t feel the desire to." Alan says, "I am no pro and I know my limitations'' as Clint Eastwood said in Dirty Harry. But, I couldn’t be happier playing for my own pleasure and accomplishment and sometimes with or for my friends."
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