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Silver Strings: Collecting Guitars

Ken Vose
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 6)

An exhibit of guitars--primarily electric--at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History will run through April. The Chinery exhibit, which runs concurrently, features 36 instruments. Various guitars from the Chinery Collection will be on exhibit through November 1998. In addition, the Blue Guitars are slated to be showcased at the Smithsonian in the spring of 1998.

As Smithsonian spokesman Randall Kremer says, "The guitar as an instrument deserves special appreciation and attention on a national, if not an international basis, and that's what the Smithsonian can provide. The guitar has existed as a cultural icon for a number of years, in addition to being one of the most versatile of all musical instruments. Very few instruments can cross the boundaries of classical, jazz and rock with the aplomb of the guitar. We felt that it was an appropriate subject to present to the more than 29 million people who visit the Smithsonian each year."

Along with his love of vintage guitars, Chinery has a passion for fine cigars, and at one point collected them. "I did collect pre-Castro Cuban cigars for a while, but I kept smoking them. I didn't want to, you know. I wanted to keep them, but it just didn't work out. Once I got into Cubans, I thought I could never go back to the others. I smoke two double coronas almost every day. But, just recently, I found an American cigar made in Florida called the Santiago Cabana [now known as the Signature Collection by Santiago Cabana] and it's got the Cubans covered."

His guitars are the subject of a recently published book, The Chinery Collection: 150 Years of American Guitars, by Tony Bacon, author of The Ultimate Guitar Book. Chinery also recently compiled a CD of music performed on guitars from the collection. "If someone loves vintage guitars," Chinery says, "what would be the thing they'd most appreciate? The obvious answer would be to hear them. So that's what we've done.

"I called on Steve Howe, who is one of the most innovative guitar players in the world. He brought in a great jazz guitarist, Martin Taylor, and they had the use of the entire collection for the session. There are duets between an original C.F. Martin and an Orville Gibson, the D'Angelico and D'Aquisto Teardrops. And one fantastic side, "Blue Bossa," featuring all the Blue Guitars. Seventeen tracks. It's a mindblower."

"Patrons are hard to come by," says Stan Jay, "and what Scott Chinery has done is most unusual, because he has the financial resources to be a muse to the arts, and for the first time manyof our best luthiers have been able to produce their finest work in comparison with everyone else's. The Blue Guitars project, on top of an already magnificent collection, is a joyous thing for those of us in the community of instrument lovers."

Ken Vose is an East Coast-based novelist, screenwriter and television writer. His book, Blue Guitar, will be published by Chronicle Books in the spring of 1998. Playing Along

If you're interested in learning more about the world of vintage guitars and other fretted instruments, subscribe to 20th Century Guitar and Vintage Guitar. Some great books also are available on the subject, including The Ultimate Guitar Book by Tony Bacon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, 192 pages, $40), American Guitars by Tom Wheeler (Harper Perennial, 1992, 370 pages, $27.50) and Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments by George Gruhn and Walter Carter (GPI Books, 1993, 313 pages, $49.95).

A wide selection of guitars from The Chinery Collection will be on view at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History through November 1998. Admission is free. For more information, call (202) 357-2700.

For general information regarding The Chinery Collection, call 800-442-1094.

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