Friday, January 29, 2010

My Hummingbird

My Gibson Hummingbird guitar is my pride and joy. My wife, Shirley has often said that I take better care of it than I do her. In some respects, that may appear to be true. Back when I was going places to play my guitar, if I was taking the Hummingbird somewhere to play in the winter time, the car was warmed up prior to putting the guitar in the car. Likewise, in the summer time the car was started and the air conditioner turned on to cool the car off before the guitar was put in the car. When taken from one environment to another, the case was unlatched, but not opened for at least 15 minutes prior to taking the guitar out of the case. The Hummingbird is now semi retired and no longer leaves the house.

My first guitar was a Harmony arch top. I believe I was in the 3rd grade when my mother gave it to me for Christmas. My mother paid $15.00 for it - big bucks in those days. She purchased it 2nd hand from Harry Goltz Army Store in Abilene, TX. My mother put the guitar in lay-away and paid it out by the week - a big hardship in those days. It had belonged to a Soldier training at Camp Barkley who had shipped out to Europe during WWII.
After a few years of playing the Harmony, I really wanted a better guitar. I played guitars that belonged to friends. I fell in love with the sound of Gibsons and Martins. I have very small hands and in those days Martins had very wide necks - too big for my small hands. I decided that I wanted a Gibson. My first Gibson guitar was purchased for $55.00. I believe that was paid out in installments. I was extremely proud of my first Gibson Guitar. I guess I felt much the way about it that I now feel for my Hummingbird.
I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1951. After Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base and Air Police School at Camp Gordon, Georgia, I was stationed at Kirtland, Air Force Base, New Mexico. I missed having a guitar to play but was reluctant to bring my Gibson guitar from home to Kirtland AFB. My uncle , Bill Wasson worked at Turnage Furniture and Pawn Shop in Abilene. The Pawn shop stocked guitars. At the Pawn Shop, I purchased an identical, but slightly older used Gibson guitar for $35.00 to keep at Kirtland AFB.
In 1957 a Wasson family reunion was held at the American Legion in Abilene. I took both of my guitars to the reunion in the event that someone else who played and did not have a guitar with them would be at the reunion. After the reunion, I put my guitars in the trunk of our car to take them home. I forgot about the guitars and they remained in the trunk of the car for three or four weeks. This was a very bad thing. The heat from being closed up in the trunk of the car had melted the glue in the guitars. Although damaged, the guitars were still playable and continued to get much use for the next 9 years. There were many jam sessions with fellow Abilene Police Officer friends including Ken Hamil and John Hulen Roberts. I joined up with a friend, Bob Napier at Potosi. We called ourselves, "The Horsefly's" and entertained at various events using my two Gibson guitars.
In 1966 I learned that an acquaintance had traded his Hummingbird for a Gibson electric hollow body guitar. He told me the name of the music store that he had traded the Hummingbird to. Shirley and I went to the music store for a look at the Hummingbird. When I played this guitar, I fell in love with it. The price of the guitar was $450.00, more money than my mind could grasp for a guitar. Today's replacement cost is ten times that purchase price more or less a few bucks, dependant upon th source from whch the guitar is purchased. I no longer remember the amount the music store allowed for the two damaged Gibson guitars that were traded in on the Hummingbird. I became the proud owner of a $450.00 Gibson Hummingbird guitar. The acquaintance who had previously owned the Hummingbird said that it was originally owned by a member of Bob Wills, Texas Playboys, however I have no proof of that.