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Tuning Up: Mourning One of Guitardom's Biggest Gearheads

Remembering the life and impact of one of our own

The late Barry Weber, a well-known and beloved gearhead known as FrankenStrat2 on The Gear Page forums.
“What does it mean to be a gearhead?” That is a question that can be answered in many ways. There are people who create, play, maintain, buy, and sell gear for a living. And, of course, there are people who are passionately involved with playing, tinkering with, and collecting gear as a hobby. I suppose one could quantify the concept with some kind of formula involving variables like years played, repairs made, and degree of finish fade on their favorite axe. However, that would miss the point entirely.

Being a gearhead can mean so much more than being passionate about gear. That is the conclusion I’ve come to after pondering the loss of Barry Weber. Maybe you recognize the name and face from various guitar shops and gear shows you’ve been to. He’s certainly frequented them all over the country. Maybe you know him as FrankenStrat2 on The Gear Page forums. Or maybe you’ve never heard of him before. If so, allow me to introduce you to who he was.

Weber was president of Edith Weber Inc. on Madison Avenue in New York City. Edith Weber Antique Jewelry has specialized in fine antique jewelry for more than 50 years. That’s what it said on his bio page for Antiques Roadshow, for which he was an appraiser—maybe you’ll recognize him from his many TV appearances. Despite having a distinct career and identity in a completely different industry, Weber had another side to him. He was also a gearhead.

He played a mean slide guitar. He devoured guitar magazines. He was constantly on the lookout for gear. He loved jamming with his buds. He particularly enjoyed trying to get great tones out of anything, especially gear that was unfamiliar or gear that was always pigeonholed as only suitable for a particular kind of music or playing. He always viewed the challenge with an open mind.

Bladder cancer took Weber’s life at the early age of 59. He had pretty much beat the disease at one point, but it came back aggressively and won this time. News of his passing triggered emotional responses in a Gear Page forum thread that revealed much about who he was.

Not only did people comment on his amazing slide technique, they talked about his penchant for putting jams together among forum members. Operators of gear shows spoke of his willingness to moderate panels, organize social gatherings around events, and help with anything when asked. People who bought gear from him or sold anything to him described how their business transactions were secondary compared to the friendships that emerged. There was talk of his willingness to let you play his guitar or amp. There was talk of his patience to teach people simple amp mods. There was talk of how assertive he was in trying to preserve quality discourse on the forum, and there was talk of his fairness when debating the qualities of gear companies and products.

People posted pictures of Weber playing guitar and hanging with friends at gear gatherings all over the country. They posted audio clips and YouTube videos of him playing at jams and emceeing gear forums. His tone and his personality were captivating. One forum member talked about Weber helping him find the motivation to play again after putting the guitar down for a while to deal with some deaths in the family. Another person talked about dealing with a table saw injury that jeopardized his ability to play. After reading about it on TGP, Weber sent him a note, called him, and assured him he would be able to play again. He was right.

I didn’t know Weber well, but I had the chance to shake his hand and hear him play at gear shows a few times. A friend who has been a part of his legendary Casa Weber jams for years introduced me. My brief encounter with Weber resonates with the stories I’ve heard and the outpouring of love on the Gear Page thread. His personality and his positive nature had a way of influencing the entire room and, apparently, entire lives.

Weber’s name isn’t famous for being on large venue marquees or the grill cloths of notable amps, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t one helluva gearhead. As far as I know, he might’ve been the consummate gearhead. And judging by the type of person he was to so many friends and fellow guitarists online, we’re certain he was so much more than just a gearhead to his closest friends and family members. To them and everyone else whose life Barry Weber touched, we here at Premier Guitar extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt wishes for comfort and peace as they deal with his loss.

Joe Coffey