“What kind of guitar is that?” I asked my dad as I pointed to the TV.
“A Gibson Les Paul”, he answered.
At that moment, I knew I wanted that guitar.
I would always snoop through my older brother Robert’s CD’s and tapes in attempt to discover cool music. When I was 11 or 12 years old, watching his Guns N’ Roses Live at Tokyo concert on VHS and quickly became a fan of their music.The thing that stuck out to me was the guy with the big curly hair, rocking a Pepe Le Pew t-shirt and several Les Paul guitars throughout the show. There was something very mysterious and sexy about the shape of that guitar. To me, it was like seeing a beautiful woman. I asked my parents for that model guitar for Christmas, to which I was told, “That’s $2000! Sorry.” I don’t blame them. I didn’t even know how to play guitar at the time.
Fast forward a few years. Me and my buddy Reese are high-school freshmen (minor-niners) and big-time into Metallica. James Hetfield was and still is the man to me. We ended up taking weekly guitar lessons from my older cousin, Nelson. I always thought Nelson was the coolest because he had a Gold-top Les Paul himself. I was in awe whenever I saw the guitar. He taught us the basics and we flew from there.
As I discovered other bands, I found that many other players were into Gibson Les Paul’s as well. Guys like Zakk Wylde, Gary Moore, Jimmy Page, Al Di Meola, Randy Rhoads, the guys from Thin Lizzy, they all slung the Les Paul. Every time I would hear these guys play, it fed my desire to obtain my personal holy grail.
Fast forward a few more years. It is now 2005 and I am working at the Wawatay Radio station as a technical trainee in Moose Factory. It was there I met and worked with George Witham. All of us younger guys had referred to him as “that kick-ass drummer.” He taught me many things in the technical field and being a musician himself, offered a lot of advice and insight on music. It was a fun job and I even got to be the disc-jockey on Friday afternoons.
It was also this job that I was able to save up money for THE guitar. I was always browsing the Gibson website and drooling over the guitars, and knew I wanted to get the Standard model.
After sleeping on it, I decided to go with the Desert Burst finish. I almost chose the Iced Tea finish. Those flamed maple tops always took me in a trance, like staring at the sand in shallow water.
I called up Steve’s Music – Toronto, and inquired about their Les Pauls. They told me they didn’t have any standards with the Desert Burst in stock, but they would be receiving a shipment within a week and they would call me back. So I waited… and waited… and waited…
BAM! They call me back a week later. The longest week of my life. I finalized the order and was told I should be getting the guitar in a few business days.
Now, it’s kind of an unwritten rule with guitarists to NOT pay for a guitar without trying it out first, but I was 850 kms from Toronto so I couldn’t exactly just walk down the street and try it out. Not that I gave a shit at the time. The clerk said thank you and told me the “guitar is beautiful.” For $2,500, I sure hope it was. A little more waiting. The suspense was killing me. “I hope it will last.”I called the train station freight department in Moosonee a week later and was told they had a box that said GIBSON on it with my name. HOLY SHIT! I ran straight to the docks and hopped on a boat taxi to take me across to Moosonee so I could pick it up.
From the moment I got the box, I was smiling ear to ear for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of the month. I returned home and opened it up as my mother and younger siblings had gathered to witness the unveiling. It was like being a kid at Christmas. It was here. The guitar and instrument I had idolized everyday for several years had finally arrived. I played with it for the rest of the day, even polishing it twice before going to sleep, eager to pick it up again in the morning.
I’ve had the guitar for 12 years now. And although I have other guitars to play/practice with, “Dez” (Desert Burst) is still my favourite. It’s probably been through a billion notes by now. It has been recorded on both Shine albums and played at dozens of shows.
New goals and challenges arise as time goes on. The guitar not only sounds and feels like home, but it also serves as a reminder of the fire that I had in my belly as a young, worry-free teenager, and to never stop chasing and working toward my goals.