Boxcar Blues – The Red Dog Saloon

       The three globes of a pawn shop caught my eye from across the street. This burg has a hock shop? I wondered what they wanted for the guitar in the window. I ran back downstairs, throwing a smile Mei Li’s way. “Nice day!”
       “Yie. Ten yiu, hehe.” She placed a delicate hand to her mouth, her eyes smiling the way one only sees on Chinese silk screens. She was the authentic item.
       I stepped out and crossed the pavement to the other side.
       Inside the store, the pawnbroker pulled the guitar from the display. “Now this here’s a nice number,” he spieled, eyeing my clothes, sizing me.
       “Solid maple back, spruce top, I’d say it’s at least, hmm.” He took another look at me. “It’s going for seventy-five dollars!” He said it in a hurry. Maybe he thought the market might drop before he finished.
       It was a time when everything was on a downturn, money tight. They called it the Seventies. And back then seventy-five dollars meant mucho moola.
       I ignored his pitch and lifted the acoustic in my hands. It was an old Gibson jumbo with a natural finish. I hefted it and noticed it had a good solid feel. Strummed, and a nice, smooth deep tone rose from the soundboard. Tested it with my idea of country-western, a bouncing blues with complicated changes and a rock-and-roll beat.
       The storekeeper asked, “Where do you play?” He looked impressed.
       “In New York,” I lied. But, I did play in New York, in my room that is. Before coming West I lived in a hamlet in the Catskills. The economy there bottomed long before the rest of the U.S. During the OPEC pinch we lost everything.

       “Sure! And I win a thousand bucks every time I’m in Las Vegas.” He turned his back. He thumbed through a  receipt drawer, making busy.
       I calculated my meager budget and figured what I could spend. “Will you take fifty?” I was serious.
       “I thought you New Yerkers were rolling in cash?” He sneered. “Sorry, no less than sixty-five.”
       “All I’ve got is fifty.”
       “OK. Give me fifty now and when you get a job playing at the Red Dog, pay me the other fifteen and it’s a deal!”

       The Red Dog was a rowdy saloon that kept a regular clientele of railroad men drinking away their weekly earnings. I’d never thought of using my guitar-playing to make a living, but the thought stuck.
       In no time, I was making a few dollars a night with my fingers flying like bees around the fingerboard. I used every trick I ever learned, and licks I didn’t know I had in me.

       It was a sweet trap. Several months passed before I even realized I’d forgotten my goal to reach California.


4 responses

  1. i play a Guild M120, an all mahogany with Indian Rosewood fingerboard. In England i have a Seagull S6. i love the concert sized guitars, never cared for the jumbos, i can’t really play them to be honest, the sound of the M120 is astounding considering the size, i put size 13s on for glass slide & you get a beautiful labial sound.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. The guitar in this story was originally a Guild J30 jumbo. It’s the one I have. The sound I describe is what mine gets. But, I thought more people would identify with the Elvis Presley guitar. I personally dislike the Gibson. Too overdressed. I also converted my Guild for slide playing. I raised the neck action with a metal nut adapter and got a beautiful resonator sound. My favorite bottleneck style is Rye Cooder’s Crossroads soundtrack and his Rolling Stones’ Sister Morphine along with Mick Jagger’s Memo From Turner and Randy Newman’s Gone Dead Train. Cooder has some fiery, gut wrenching licks. Have you had a chance to hear any of those?


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