Guitar Tales, Chapter 3: Epiphone Sorrento, 1967

Guitar Tales, Chapter 3: Epiphone Sorrento, 1967

1967 began unassumingly enough. The Milton Berle Show aired for the last time and the very next day the Newlywed Game made its debut. Tit for tat? Not by a long shot. A cultural (anti-)revolution in Albania the following month couldn’t rightly called a response to the degradation of American’s television standards but it can’t rightly be called a complete coincidence, either. For each action an equal and opposite reaction and whatnot. (That my older brother’s birth coincided with Hoxha‘s ideological awakening seems now to be fraught with meaning.)

My Precious: 1967 Sorrento

But what did all this mean in Kalamazoo as the sixties marched wildly onward? Trees continued to be felled, with most of their precious flesh going to the making of paper. How many half-filled legal pads were carelessly thrown away that year? Pads of paper that originated in mighty Kalamazoo. Nothing but a few pages of scrawled, senseless figures; maybe a doodle of a face with missing teeth and asymmetrical eyeballs. Nothing important. Just a tree. Just a forest that is no more. But some of that wood took a different journey. For the Paper City (also the Celery City and *sigh* The Mall City) was home to the venerable Gibson Guitar Corporation and in 1967 the luthiers and craftspeople were making Gibsons side-by-side with Epiphones. Down at 225 Parsons Street a few blocks of wood were transformed into a beautiful red hollow-body electric guitar. The Sorrento. This Sorrento enjoyed thirty years of who-knows-what before it found me. I’m guessing it had mostly experienced blues-rock.

Flash forward to Brighton, MA in 199-something, and with a few hundred dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I hit the road. Brendan drove the old Nova up 128 to a shop in Peabody. There it was. A candy-apple red Epiphone Sorrento. A real beauty. At the time I wasn’t even sure I’d play it all that much. But I needed it. Done. The trip home was marred by an accident on the highway. We weren’t involved but 128 was shut down for an hour. Eerie.

It’s almost not hyperbolic to say that without that guitar there’d have been no Betty Goo (“nobettygoo!!”). Only electric guitar I used throughout the life of that band. I don’t know exactly what it is but the thing plays like a nothing else. The thing just… fits me in the right way. It was, in short, made for me. In Kalamazoo. In 1967. And for that I’m thankful.

With Betty Goo at some shithole in Burlington, VT. ca. 1998 (pic by LexiKhan)