This weekend, guitar gurus and gear geeks will gather for the second annual Sleepwalk Guitar Festival, curated by Luke Doucet. Since guitars are like snowflakes (no two are the same), we asked four local Sleepwalkers to tell us about their instruments.
1. 2001 Gretsch White Falcon
Luke Doucet (curator/organizer)
After complaints that his oft-out-of-tune guitar collection (a bunch of beat-up Telecasters and Sears catalogue guitars) made his guitar tech look bad, Luke Doucet picked up this Neil Young–approved hollow-body. “I hit one big fat G chord,” says Doucet, “and knew that I was probably going to have that guitar with me at every single show.” Eleven years and 1,700 gigs later, he was right.
He says: “If that instrument were an original from 1957, it would be worth a small fortune: $30,000 or $40,000…. If I were Neil Young and I were selling that guitar, I’d probably get half a million. But, I’m not Neil Young.”
Doucet’s collection: 10 guitars
2. 1990s Fulawka D10 Pedal Steel
Burke Carroll (Nov. 3, 2:30 p.m.)
Burke Carroll picked up this pedal steel for $2,000. Its maker, Eddie Fulawka—now 83 and still making guitars—told him, “Just sell the guitar you’ve got. I’ll take whatever you get for it and you can have one of mine.” The guitar Carroll ended up with has more than a dozen pitch-bending foot pedals and knee levers hidden under its two 10-string necks. It takes 30 minutes to tune properly—or perhaps a bit longer after a flight to Egypt, Israel, or the North Pole, all places where Carroll has used the guitar for Armed Forces gigs.
He says: “A lot of times, where I’m taking it, people haven’t seen a pedal steel before. You get people coming up at the end of a show who’ve been watching intently all night, saying, ‘I just love that synthesizer you’ve got there.’”
Carroll’s collection: 7 guitars
3. 1947 Selmer Acoustic
Jesse Barksdale (Nov. 3, 4:30 p.m.)
Jesse Barksdale was backpacking through Europe six years ago when he saw the online ad for this rare acoustic. He immediately trekked to Corsica, France, where he met its owner and negotiated a price. After an “excruciating, nerve-wracking” five days spent waiting for an international money transfer to clear, the guitar was finally his. He ended up dropping $14,000 on it, which he still hasn’t paid off—no biggie, when you consider that the guitar was appraised at $30,000 three years ago.
He says: “I made the transfer without thinking about logistics. I didn’t have cash for a hostel, so I was sleeping on the beach, drinking cheap red wine and praying everything would work out.”
Barksdale’s collection: 4 guitars
4. 1955 Fender Telecaster
Colin Cripps (Nov. 4, 11:30 a.m.)
Ever since a 17-year-old Colin Cripps bought this vintage Fender for $1,300 in 1978, it’s had a way of coming back to him. In 1990, it was stolen from his tour van in Montreal, then recovered by a vigilant pawnshop owner. Cripps later sold it to a collector in New York. But the guitar returned a year and a half ago, after a friend who’d traded for the guitar passed away in an accident, leaving Cripps with a bittersweet $25,000 inheritance.
He says: “Whenever Daniel Lanois came to Hamilton, he’d call me up and say, ‘I need to borrow a guitar. You got that Telecaster?’ He tried to buy it from me once. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll trade you for that Harley.’ [I explained that the guitar was] the rarest one, that it had the sunburst finish. He said, ‘It’s just paint. I don’t care about paint.’”
Cripps’s collection: 25 guitars
Sleepwalk by the numbers with Nels Cline
The Wilco guitarist and first-time Sleepwalker gives us some stats on his own personal guitar collection.
60: Approximate number of guitars in Cline’s collection. “Owning tons of guitars or having expensive ones is not the point,” says Cline. “None of that stuff matters…. But it sure is fun.”
3: Number of cities Cline has guitars in (New York, Chicago and L.A.). “Wherever I stop for a while,” he says, “guitars start accumulating.”
$35: The price Cline—or, make that his dad—paid for his first guitar, a Melody brand electric. “It had one pickup, a really fat neck and a really tiny body,” he explains. “I still have it…. I don’t think hardly any [guitarists still have their first guitar], but I’m weird.”
$6,000: The most Cline has ever paid for a single guitar—a Roger McGuinn– model Rickenbacker 12-string. “I bought it for really intense but somewhat impractical sentimental reasons,” says Cline. “I’m a Byrds guy from their inception when I was 10 years old.”
1960: The year of Cline’s signature go-to guitar, a black Fender Jazzmaster with a tortoiseshell pick-guard. “It’s a particularly amazing guitar,” he says. “It’s seen lots of literal blood and sweat, and it sounds amazing.”
J200: The model number of Cline’s current dream guitar, a Gibson jumbo acoustic. “There are acoustic guitars that I would love to own and play. They’re not going to make guitars of that quality anymore,” Cline says. “Electric guitars are, if you think about it…oh, come on—they’re really just pieces of wood or plastic with pick-ups in them.”
Sleepwalk Guitar Festival runs from Nov. 2–4 at The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. W., sleepwalkguitar.com.