EARLY 1940s REGAL JUNIOR-SIZED ACOUSTIC
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My Dad had quite an assortment of guitars around the house when I was growing up.  Most of them were active parts of his gigging arsenal, but he also had various collectors’ items and off-the-wall stuff in various states of disrepair.  He loved to prowl pawnshops and the used sections of guitar stores and see what sorry item he could give a home.  Our house was like the island of misfit toys.  Eventually, as I got old enough, I’d tag along with him, and to this day when I enter a music store I walk right past the sexy high-end stuff and head straight for the used (and abused) instruments section.
 
This 1940’s Regal acoustic, however, was not one of the pawnshop castaways; it was an antique already worth quite a bit when, at nine years old, I started learning on it.   I’d take it out back of our house and sit for hours on a tree limb that stretched out over the pond, practicing, experimenting, and writing crappy songs.  One day I decided it would be easier to remember the notes of the strings if I scratched them into the wood by the bridge with a pencil.  I figured that would be useful info for anybody who came along and wanted to learn guitar.  I was just being practical.
 
To this day I can still see my dad’s boot print on my ass.  It’s faint, but it’s still there.
EARLY 1950s CALACE MANDOLIN
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It’s common for guitarists to discover mandolin after they’ve played guitar for a few years, but I’m lucky in that I took up mandolin almost immediately while I was still a nine-year old vandalizing antique instruments.  That’s because the only other instrument I could get my tiny hands around was this Italian mandolin my Uncle Paulo had bought as a bel giovane in Rome.  He brought it over to America while visiting us many years later and left it with my mom.  When my dad was finally speaking to me again after the infamous Regal debacle, he explained that mandolin was different than guitar.  He played some Italian and bluegrass recordings for me and I was hooked.
1951 GIBSON SOUTHERN JUMBO ACOUSTIC
Gibson sj 2
This is my mom’s main guitar.  After doing some forensics, I found out my dad bought it for her sometime in the mid-to-late 70's  She doesn’t play much anymore due to arthritis (and missing my dad), so I’ve been recording with it.  I don't tour with it because it's too precious for the rigors of the road, but this is the acoustic guitar you hear on most of my recordings.  It has tremendous bottom end for such a small guitar, and when crusty old guys in diners complain about the government and kids-these-days-goddammit, and say stuff like, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” they’re talking about this instrument.  It is a testament to mid-20th century American craftsmanship.
EARLY 1950s VEGA E240D ELECTRIC
Vega
The exact year this guitar was made is a guess ventured by observing the hardware and pickups, because we can’t find any information anywhere on this model.  The Vega company was an old banjo manufacturer, and we learned that they made arch-top electrics between 1948 and 1960, and that they were eventually bought by Martin in 1970.  But, while we found other Vega models built around the same time, we can find no information anywhere on an E240-D - or another one in existence, for that matter.  The consensus is that lt's a 1953.  I’ve been gradually restoring it, and it’s a very distinctive-sounding guitar; very much like an old Harmony, something like you’d find in the vaults of Ry Cooder, Mike Campbell, or Jack White.
 
I took this one on a three-week Eurpoean solo tour in 2016.  It started making funny noises toward the end of a show in Copenhagen, and the next day in Germany it underwent emergency "gastric bypass" surgery for that night's show (we just bypassed the volume nd tone controls until we could isoloate which pot was having troible).  When we opened it up, we were pleasantly surprised to see that no one had ever updated or re-wired anything.  The original wiring, soldering, and everything was intact.  So we figured a little trouble every 60 or 70 years or so is excuseable. 
1961 EPIPHONE CASINO
Casino 4
This one was my dad's workhorse.  He literally put the food on our table with this guitar when I was growing up.  His playing was a distinctive amalgam of jazz, western-swing, and straight-up country; sort of a cross between Chet Atkins and Django Reinhardt.  He really had his own style and sound, much more advanced and cerebral than what I do (probably because he drank less!).  I’ve been taking this guitar out on live dates lately, and I find myself channeling him through it; suddenly I’ll catch myself saying, “WHOA. What did you just play?  Don’t be writin’ checks you can’t cash, boy….”
"PAWN SHOP SPECIAL" ES335 CLONE
(MANUFACTURER/YEAR UNKNOWN)
Hb
A few years ago I walked innocently into a music store just to buy strings, and this caught my eye.  I had no need for a hollow-body electric, but…I’d also never owned one, either.  I tried this out and it played beautifully.  Ten minutes later I walked out the door with it, minus a mere two hundred and fifty bucks.  I keep it tuned down a second or third or fourth in some cases.  It’s responsible for most of the “retro” or baritone stuff you hear on JT tunes.
2005 SCHECTER ULTRA III ELECTRIC
Schecter 2
It happened again!  I walked into a music store just to buy strings, I swear!  I spotted this thing, and it reminded me of the old Hagstroms and Mosrites I used to admire in my days prowling vintage instruments with my dad.  I tried it out and was amazed to find that it handled more like a Gretsch; it just sang, and the Bigsby was just too cool.  I had to have it.  I had always been a Strat guy, but I ended up selling my Strat (sacrilege, Strat brethren, I know!) and an old Peavey T-60 I had lying around to buy this guitar.
 
It’s been my main electric ever since.  It’s so versatile, it’s like bringing four guitars on a gig, and I’m going to get a second one as a backup, in the other "groovy" 60's finish they offered, wine red - just as soon as I can find one.  And it’s perfect for spotting any guitarists in the audience; they’re always the ones squinting and staring, and then coming up after the show to ask what it is.
1997 GIANNINI CRAVIOLA
Crav

My dad and I were spending the day hitting guitar shops, looking for nothing in particular, when I stumbled across this funky classical.  Sure, it’s visually striking, but its tone was what killed me.  It sounded like a lute.  I had a Fishman system put in and it STILL sounds like a lute when you plug it in. It's also my "physical therapy" guitar - after you've done four nights in a row and your fingers sre cheese, this is very comforting and healing to play.  It's like BUTTA.   You can just sit around noodling on it with a bloody mary and a tylenol and ask yourself "What da hell am I doing with my life?" 

2004 DEAN CHROME G
ACOUSTIC-ELECTRIC RESONATOR
Dean resonator
There’s nothing I’d love more than to dazzle you with my roots music credibility and authenticity by bragging about my priceless National resonator guitar.  Well, this guitar wants you to THINK it’s a priceless National, and lots of people are spellbound by it when they see it onstage.  But I gotta be honest; it’s a stock “thinline” all-metal resonator with a lipstick pickup by the neck and a piezo transducer under the resonator.  I plugged it into my rig and fooled around until I dialed in an excellent combination of the two pickups; just enough high-end and just enough “balls”.  I was so afraid I’d lose that blend that I crazy-glued the volume knobs into their respective positions, where they remain to this day.  Still vandalizing instruments after all these years.
2002 DEAN BOCA
12-STRING ELECTRIC
Dean 12
Another Dean!  I once rented a Rickenbacker 12-string from SIR Studios in New York City for a session, and I was surprised to learn how much I DIDN’T like the way it played.  I figured I must have just gotten a bad one, so I tried several others in a few stores, and...same thing.  Just did not like the feel at all.  Vintage freaks and collectors will disagree with me, but (for a fraction of the cost) I prefer not only the feel, but the sound of this to a top-of-the-line Rick.
2004 STAGELEFT GUITARS “ADAMSCASTER”
TELECASTER CLONE
Tele
My friend George Adams is one of those mechanically-inclined civil-engineer guys who piss you off because they casually undertake the sort of endeavors where you and I would crash and burn, but they just make it work it’s like no big deal.  George decided to try his hand at building guitars and decided the Telecaster design was the simplest and most logical way to start.  His first prototype was unplayable, but his second - this one - hit me just right.
 
I noodled around on it one afternoon while we sat around watching football at his place, and I took it home with me to try for a while.  Six months later, after doing some sessions and gigs with it, I told him “You know, if I’m never gonna get around to giving this thing back to you, the least I can do is buy it.”
2013 FENDER VILLAGER 12-STRING ACOUSTIC
Fender 12
A few years ago I started doing a lot more solo gigs, and I like to do those with three or four different acoustic guitars on hand, a few in alternate tunings, etc., just to keep things interesting.  This was another "shopping accident" - I spotted it in a store and loved the way it played so much that I bought it without realizing I hadn’t even tested the amplification system, which was pretty stupid, but it was a Fishman system, so I must have given it the benefit of the doubt.  I fired it up on a gig and was blown away by how great it sounded through a PA.  One of the worst things you can do to your life is own a 12-string guitar.  Apparently, in a fit of self-loathing, I decided my life wasn’t hard enough; I had to own two.
1977 GUILD D44 ACOUSTIC
Guild d 44
My parents’ best friends were another musical couple with two sons the same age as my brother and me, and we’d go over to their house every Thanksgiving when I was a kid.  Our two families would have dinner together, then adjourn to the living room and just play all night long.  It was such a period of discovery and such a supportive environment.  There were all kinds of instruments hanging around.  I started on bass, but I soon learned guitar and then became a (barely decent) piano player and (positively mediocre) pedal-steel guitarist by the time I’d hit my early teens.

A few years ago my parents' friends both left us way too soon, and their son Phil, still one of my closest friends, said he wanted me to have his mom's beloved Guild.  I have always adored Guild guitars; you cannot find a better sounding acoustic guitar than an old Guild dreadnaught.  I record with this, but I would never carve it up and put electronics in it, so it never goes out on live dates.
1939 GIBSON L-7 ARCH-TOP ACOUSTIC
L 7
This is the crown jewel, and the oldest of my dad’s collection, and it’s in almost pristine condition.  I honestly haven’t done much with it; I was initially afraid to touch such an antique (I string it lighter than I'd prefer, to minimize the tension on wood so old).  This instrument is so old it actually pre-dates the electric guitar.  Back then, in the big-band era, the role of the guitar was more of a percussive component of the rhythm section, and in order to cut through a horn section and upright bass, piano, and drums, these guitars were designed to project - and to be LOUD.  Tired of losing the battle to the drums, a fellow by the name of Les Paul started experimenting with putting telephone parts and record player tone-arms on them, which eventually resulted in the electric guitar.

You look at this thing with its gorgeous arch-top construction and f-holes, and you think it’s going to have this jazzy, dark, mellow sound.  But no, it’s very brassy, bright, and in-your-face.  Frankly, I’m not sure yet how to incorporate such a guitar into what I do, but finding a way to do that is going to very interesting.  For now, I just pick it up and play a tune and wish the old man were still around to yell at me to put it down.
1993 SEAGULL S-6 ACOUSTIC
Sg
My first acoustic guitar and to this day, still my main acoustic.  The thing is just a frigging tank.  You cannot destroy it.*  A few years ago I started doing a lot of outdoor shows during the summer near the beach.  Sun and salty air are hell on guitars, and all the others seemed to survive pretty well, but this one’s finish has taken a beating from the elements, so it kind of looks like Willie Nelson’s guitar.  You know, that one he’s played so much that there’s actually a hole in the front.
 
*UPDATE: MAYBE YOU CANNOT DESTROY IT, BUT TURKISH AIRLINES CAN!  I WAS ON TOUR AND TURKISH AIRLINES FIRST STRANDED ME IN ISTANBUL AND EXTORTED AN EXTRA $650 TO GET ME TO BERLIN, THEN LOST, AND THEN COMPLETELY DESTROYED THIS BELOVED GUITAR.  WHEN I GOT BACK TO NEW YORK, I TRIED TO HAVE IT REPARIED TWICE BY MY LOCAL REPAIR GUY, "GRUMPY OL' GEORGE."  GEORGE IS A HOT-BLOODED OLD GREEK FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, SO  I WAS CAREFUL TO POINT OUT THAT IT WAS TURKISH AIRLINES. WHO DESTROYED THE GUITAR.  HE BEGAN WITH, "THOSE FUCKING ANIMALS" - AND THEN IT GOT NASTY.
 
HE THEN MADE IT HIS PERSONAL MISSION TO REPAIR THIS GUITAR, BUT AFTER TWO VALIANT (AND HIGHLY MOTIVATED) ATTEMPTS, IT EVENTUALLY SUCCUMBED TO ITS INJURIES.  BASSIST AND GOOD BUDDY PEMBERTON ROACH SAID HE HAD AN ALMOST IDENTICAL MODEL FROM ABOUT THE SAME YEAR SITTING AROUND THAT HE DIDN'T REALLY NEED.  I BOUGHT IT FROM HIM IMMEDIATELY, BUT NOT BEFORE CONCOCTING THIS LITTLE SOCIAL MEDIA TIRADE TO WARN THE WORLD ABOUT TURKISH AIRLNES...

WE TRIED TO HOLD TURKISH AIRLINES ACCOUNTABLE, BUT ALL THEIR LEGAL DEPARTMENT WOULD SAY WAS, "THAT'S FUNNY - THE DAMAGE DOESN'T LOOK NEARLY AS BAD FROM OVER HERE..."

1958 GUILD F-20 ACOUSTIC
F 20
So you think this is a cute little mini-guitar, huh?  So did I, until I casually strummed a chord on it and this HUGE sound came from out of nowhere.  I used this on a few tracks on The Yale Sessions.  I don't recall ever having seen my dad play this guitar; it must have been another one of his collector pieces, which may explain why, right after I finished recording with it, the bridge came unglued and tilted up; obviously this hadn’t been played in quite some time and was traumatized by being suddenly pressed into duty.  So it’s been in “drydock” for a while.  I’ll string it lighter when it’s back on its feet.
1971 ESPANA 2002 CLASSICAL
Espana
Another one of my dad’s guitars.  An unassuming classical made in Finland, it too has a HUGE sound and plays beautifully.
2006 CRAFTER MANDOLIN
Crafter
Once again, when it comes to roots music credibility and authenticity, I’m a cheapskate and a complete fraud.  Having played mandolin most of my life, you would think I would have a beautiful old Kentucky model, or at least a Flatiron, but once I found one of these and plugged it in, I never looked back.  I don't even know who in hell "Crafter" is, but these things were all over the place at the time.  In fact, I ended up buying a second one and keeping it tuned down a fifth to use as a mandola.  ("Do not try this at home" ed. note - if you try to use a standard set of of mandola strings on a mandolin, not only will your intonation suck, but your bridge will pop off and sail over the castle wall with enough force to clear the moat and hit the princess right in the ass.)  If it lacks anything in tone acoustically, it more than makes up for it when plugged in; it sounds GREAT.  And it records well, too.  Hey, if it works, you stick with it.
 
(And hey, there's  that old Peavy T-60 in this photo - the one I sold to buy the Schecter!)
LATE 1990s HOHNER ELECTRIC
Hohner
My dad bought this on a whim; we were out prowling guitar shops and he said, “You know, I’ve been meaning to get a solid body all these years” (he’d always been a hollow-body or arch-top guy).  He thought this one was cute and plunked down a few hundred for it on the spot.  I thought it would be a piece of junk, but it's a GREAT little guitar!  I love it when that happens - anybody can throw down ten grand on an old Les Paul and know it's gonna be great, but I guess the underdog in me loves finding a little cheapo that roars to life. This thing handles a lot like an LP Junior or an SG, and I’ve been bringing it along on live dates as a backup.
1972 SHOW BUD MAVERICK PEDAL STEEL 
Steel
When I was fifteen, this was loaned to me by Pete, one half of the afore-mentioned couple who were friends with my folks.  He had it for many years and saw that I was really into it and said, “I don’t play it much anymore; why don’t you take it home with you for a while and work at it?”  Which is exactly what I did.  The whole summer before my junior year in high school, I was playing out nights, and home during the day practicing pedal steel in my room.  Which is a horrible instrument to hear played badly.  Unfortunately, my dad was on pretty much the same schedule, gigging at night and home during the day, and it drove him nuts.  “Jesus - don’t you wanna take a break for a while?”  I eventually got good enough at it to bring it along on some gigs in the first band I was in, but by the time I had gotten my hands on it, it was so old and clunky that it couldn’t really stay in tune.  At least that’s my story...I might have just really sucked.  Anyway, I still have it.   If I ever have trouble with my neighbors, I’ll just fire it up again and start playing it again.
2001 GIBSON ACCU-BASS JR
Bass
The only time I ever gambled on a mail-order instrument.  I saw this on one of those Musician’s Friend “blowout deals”, so I took a chance.  When it showed up I fully expected to send it back. I was shocked to find that it played incredibly well and sounded great with both pickups and the tone wide open.  So it stays that way.  Whether recording or live, I just plug it in, everything wide open, and go.  It HAD to be a fluke; no way all of these were that good.  This is supposed to be a "starter" bass, something cheap you use until you can afford something serious.  I never got around to getting something "serious" because this little thing kicks so much ass.  My bassist friends, with their vintage P-basses and Jazz-basses and Pedullas, and whatnot, all laugh at me.  Until they plug it in and go, “FUCK!”
BLUEBIRD CHROMATIC HARMONICA
(YEAR UNKNOWN - 1940's - 1950's?)
Grandpas harnonica

This was my grandfather's, so who knows how old it is?  There's no serial number, so I can't research it.  It still plays really well, but I think I swallowed some rust from the days of the Eisenhower administration when I first tried it.

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