A Pointy Guitar (page 1, page 2, page 3)
By, William Stephens

A short anecdote...
I remember playing a gig at a dinner club playhouse bar kind of facility out in the country once. We played several sets, in a nightclub environment they regurlarly setup to connect with the youth of america. I remember leaving there about 3 AM and I was exhausted.

In the morning (about noon), I went to grab my trusty flying V and it was no where to be found! This is where panic sets in, we had forgotten equipment from time to time like the microphones and even once, all the cymbals and the microphones, but never anything like an amp or guitar! I called our head roadie and he don't even remember last night.

In pannic, I hopped in my car and headed back to the club. When I got there it was deserted except for one car around the back. I went up to the doors and knocked away, thinking that this is the end of my Flying V. After a while I saw someone moving inside, as he got closer I saw that he was a janitor. As he approached the door and fiddled with his key ring he looked at me and smiled, then opened the door. "I knew you would be back" he said with a chuckle, at that point a flush of joy surged through me. My guitar was saved by the janitor. I never let it out of my sight again... well that's a lie, years later it would sit at the luthier for 9 months.

Back to the story...

When I first got my Flying V I was under the impression that only 200 of these limited edition V's were made. Additionally, although I saw V's in the brochures from Gibson, no store anywhere I knew of ever had any for sale. I now find that they were issued in 59,65,66,69 and 70 which comes as a total surprise. I would have picked up a new 65 in a heartbeat if I knew at the time they were even available, remember I wanted a pointy guitar. I would have drove up to Kalamazoo and picked one up at the factory if I had known. Kalamazoo was only 2 hours away.

When I say "I" I really mean my Dad would have taken me, I had a bicycle in 1965. I thought that the only issue older than my limited edition was in 1958. Naturally I thought that this guitar may be worth more than face value someday because of the limited edition and the rarity.

With all that in mind, what follows next is inconceivable...

I PAINTED IT WHITE!!!!

Actually I had it painted by a famous local custom car painter, he did an excellent job. At the time around 1977 or so, this was the "look" that the people wanted, at least that's what management said.
Enlarge

My newly white V at rehearsal in Aurora, Illinois sometime in 1978. Notice the 200 Watt Rhino stack behind me. I'm pretty sure you've never seen one of those before... it's orange and yellow!

I did it thinking that someday maybe I could send it back to Gibson for restoration and they would forgive my transgressions. I already needed a new pickguard, a little unwiring and, oh yeah, those 3 screw holes for the vibrato, so what the heck!

Looking back, the V never looked cooler for the times and it still had a superb feel and sound that I absolutely loved.

One person in particular, Norm, a bass player I worked with on and off for years objected quite strongly simply saying: "Stupid move Bill, Stupid move". I knew he was right but I had my priorities, which in looking back were completely ludicrous. Norm will be the primary mitigating factor for the future of good old number 108. For now it was on with the show. Now I had a cool looking flying V, in white that sounded exactly the way I wanted and in spite of all this, my baggie of original parts soon got a little bigger.

I decided, rightly or wrongly, to install some chrome Grover tuning heads. This little modification had some additional dammaging effects. First, the tuning post on the Grovers is a bit larger than the originals, so I had to drill the holes out a bit. Second, the Grovers have a different mounting screw location, so I had to drill some additional screw holes for those. Looks like I'm going to hell now for sure, at least from a collectors point of view.

The Grover heads did not work better or worse than the originals but it's what everyone was doing at the time. I didn't want to be a weirdo, I wanted to be cool, I wanted to fit in, so I did it! Anyway, being service manager for one of the hottest music stores in Chicago at the time had it's perks. Like free Grovers, Marshall parts, and basically any part that existed. They were either in stock or available to order for even the most flimsy of reasons and once again rightly or wrongly, I controlled the inventory... need I say more?

I finally drew the line when all my associates started replacing their pickups with third party units like DiMarzio that were just beginning to appear in the mid 70's. My position at the time was if you can't do it with a stock guitar and amp, you can't do it! This of course was from a guy who had savagely modified his stock guitar until it begged for mercy. Changing pickups however was never ever on the table. I had PAF's, the gold standard of pickups back then. I Never realized that I really had T-buckers till recently. Not a lot of difference except maybe for the T.


This was at a visual effects studio/soundstage place in Hollywood, California. I don't remember the name, there's dozens of them in Hollywood. We recorded on a 16 track Ampex 2 inch tape machine with a small plaque stating the Elvis Presley recorded Burning Love on it. They were still setting up the recording studio/soundstage and we recorded in part to shake down the new equipment... Elvis Presley?? Needless to say, it was free exceept for a couple reels of 2 inch tape, some beer and burgers and about 20 hours.

A word of advise to all you over 50's in the crowd. If you have something on tape get it digitized A.S.A.P. This videotape was 25 years old and has been enhanced a lot to get what you see, it was nearly all black.


---> The story continues, Click here.