It’s back. It hasn’t reared it’s ugly head in years. I felt a twinge of it returning late last fall and I hoped it would go away by simply trying to ignore it. Even though I used my most sophisticated techniques, cultivated by years of successfully practicing out right DENIAL in other areas of my life, it kept cropping up around the fringes of my imagination. I am now coming to terms with the fact that it never really completely went away after all. At this point it has reached a stage-4, full-on flare up, and I must turn and face the truth. Sometimes the only thing to do is to embrace your enemy with a manly bear hug and a big ol’ slobbering wet kiss.
I’m talking about G.A.S. my friends. It’s insidious. It’s chronic. It can be fatal. To your bank account. The terminal stage is a death bed confession to your wife, significant other, soul mate, cocker spaniel or other suitable proxy – as to how many GUITARS you REALLY own. This is no harmless sniffle, this is G.A.S. people. I’m talking about (gasp!) GUITAR ACQUISITION SYNDROME. G.A.S. is very real and very serious. It usually manifests during one’s teenage years, as it did with me. But sometimes it may not show up until much later. This is known as Adult Onset G.A.S. and can be far more serious. Adult onset G.A.S. is sometimes mistaken for a midlife crisis, and usually starts with a diabolical little voice whispering in your ear that “you’re never too old to rock and roll.” Adult Onset G.A.S. is usually a more rapid slide into the abyss as you probably have enough money in your bank account, or at least access to a couple of smoking credit cards to get yourself in really deep, really fast.
I was stricken with G.A.S. at the tender age of 14. What brought it on was a picture of Elvis holding a Gibson with a sunburst finish on the sleeve of the 45 “Devil in Disguise”. I wasn’t actually much of an Elvis fan, but that song had some serious mojo and really cool licks. Although it certainly didn’t hurt to have Scotty Moore blazing away on guitar. What really got me was the picture of the Elvis guitar with a sunburst finish. I just had to have it. In my case, it was a $25 HARMONY with F Holes and a sunburst finish. It was as heavy as a boat anchor with the action so high that it nearly ripped the flesh right off your fingers just trying to make a G chord. It was the boot camp of guitars. If you survived that, you could play anything. The driving force behind my quest for another, and better guitar, was not so much G.A.S. as it was the primal instinct for survival. I knew that all the fingers on my left hand would fall off if I kept trying to play my Harmony. As a 14 year old boy, there were darker forces threatening my right hand, but we won’t get into that here.
At this point, I should make it clear, that though G.A.S. may start with guitars, as it progresses, it includes any and all stringed instruments; everything from banjos and mandolins to ouds and diddly sticks. The current flare up of G. A.S. has brought on a subversive stalking of an instrument that has occupied my thoughts in a manner bordering on obsession. I want a ukelele. There – I said it out loud. C’mon – sing it with me people -UKELELE! I’m not going to get into the whole history of the instrument here, although it is really fascinating.
I did have a uke as a kid, but that was more like a toy and I quickly lost interest. And let’s face it, back in the 60’s they were anything but hip. Ukeleles generally conjured up images of collegiate crooners from the Roaring 20’s wearing full length racoon fur coats and straw boaters.
I remember Arthur Godfrey on our black and white TV playing a uke. He was about as hip as Lawrence Welk or Liberace, and then there was Tiny Tim. Wow. What can I say about Tiny Tim, God rest his soul. He was a pop sensation there for a while, but no way could he cut heads with someone like Keith Richards from the Stones. All this stuff is on Wikipedia if you don’t know what the Hell I’m talking about. Just hit the G spot – and by that, I mean Google.
Moving along here, because this is getting really wordy and I sense I’ve already lost most of you. I had noticed that there had been a resurgence of interest in ukeleles in recent years, but what really got me going on all of this was hearing a great tune from Eddie Vedder on Pandora. I thought he was accompanying himself on mandolin, and I really liked the sound. Upon further investigation, I learned it was a uke and that he had cut an entire album and even went out on tour playing songs with various ukeleles. I gotta say, that’s when I got bitten by the bug. Not too long after that my friend’s daughter asked me what musical instrument her Dad might want for Christmas. I did what I always do in such circumstances. I told her to buy him something that actually I really wanted – a uke.
Well she did, and it is absolutely gorgeous, curvaceous and voluptuous. Hey, get your mind out of the gutter, you perv, we’re still talking about ukeleles here. Anyway I confess I have uke envy. It’s kind of like penis envy amongst us male bonding types, only different. I’m going to cash in all my empty beer bottles and count up the change I’ve been hoarding and see how far that gets me. G.A.S. has it’s cold and bony fingers wrapped around my soul. With a uke, it’s 4 strings, 3 chords and I’m good to go all night.