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  • Writer's picturedjSwade

On First Guitars

I don't know how many guitar players still have their first guitars. My first guitar was a Yamaha FG-75. It probably cost under $100 new, but I didn't buy it new. In fact, I didn't pay a penny for it. I was in high school, singing for a band comprised of high school friends. I got tired of waiting for our sporadic practices to play music. I needed a way to make my own music.

A friend of mine had a Yamaha, fairly new at the time, hardly used. He didn't want it. I offered to buy it, but he just gave it to me. That has been one of the best non-investments I ever made. I learned to play on that guitar and it was the only one I had for years. It went everywhere with me, to beach parties, friends' houses, even to work, where I would play it during my breaks. It's like a beloved family member, getting on in years now, but still treasured. It doesn't have a Martin or Taylor sound to it, but it's a very nice guitar with a voice all its own. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

A few years ago, I realized that I didn't know anything about the guitar, so I decided to do a little detective work. There's some information on the internet, but I had to piece the story together from a bunch of different sites. The serial number is 20428246. There's plenty of information right there if you know how to crack the code. The first digit, 2, is for the year. The second and third digits, 04, are for the month. The fourth and fifth digits, 28, are for the day. So, my Yamaha was built on April 28, 1972. That means it celebrated its 50th birthday earlier this year! The last three digits, 246, are the unit number manufactured that day, so my guitar was the 246th guitar made that day.

But wait. There's more. The guitar has a red FG Nippon Gakki label with a tuning fork image to the left. Based on that information, as well as some additional research, I believe the guitar was made in Japan for the Japanese market and was not meant for export to other countries. If so, that adds an air of mystery to the story. How did a guitar meant for the local Japanese market end up in San Diego, California in the hands of a high school student? I don't think I'll ever know, but it's fun to contemplate.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but as much as I love my Yamaha, I could have treated it better over the years. A few years ago, I decided to give it the care it deserved, so I turned to one of the guys who was in that band of mine in high school. Billy Moore is an incredible guitar player and has quite a love for the instrument itself. Though he's not a luthier, he does quite a bit of work on his own guitars and has helped others with their guitars from time to time as well. He volunteered to spruce up my Yamaha and, as you can see in the photo I included in this post, he did a wonderful job. It looks just like new.

I'm still playing my Yamaha at the beach, at work, with friends and on my front porch with my Corgi Sugar. I plan to keep it for the rest of my life. With a little loving care, I think it's strong enough to even outlast me.

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