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Vintage guitars on display at Guitar Showcase in San Jose

Vintage guitars on display at Guitar Center in San Jose
Vintage guitars on display at Guitar Center in San Jose
William Baeck © 2014

Guitar Showcase has been around forever, at least in rock music terms. They first opened their doors in 1965, and among their early customers were members of the Grateful Dead in the 60s and my brother and me in the 70s. OK, Jerry Garcia is more famous. But I’ve been a customer longer.

The guitar store has been a labor of love for all these years. One example of how cool the place is: Dan, who sold me my first electric in 1975, still works there.

Since the early days the owner has been a player and collector as well as a businessman.

Some of his guitars and amps, extremely valuable vintage pieces, are secreted away in a vault at the back of the store. And as much as I love browsing the new pieces they have for sale, the historic items in the back are what really makes a guitar nerd’s heart throb.

Behind the bank vault door are rows and racks of guitars from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s: Stratocasters—all curves and 50’s flash; utilitarian planks of Telecasters originally painted off-white but now butterscotch from age and countless gigs in smoky bars; countrified Gretsches with cattle and cacti on their fretboards; and upscale, cool Les Pauls and big silky sounding Gibson jazz boxes.

The floors are lined with equally vintage amps, all designed to make those guitars sound as big and raunchy as possible.

The good news is that most of the guitars and amps that are outside of the glass cases are available for you to try and buy. The bad news is that few of the ones behind glass are.

But if you’re a guitarist, what a treat it is to play a 1978 Fender Telecaster through a 1955 Fender Princeton amp. It’s like being onstage at Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert only with no audience and a very poor headline act.

But at least I can pretend. Along with several other guys (and very, very patient significant others) in the vault.

If you go
Guitar Showcase

3090 South Bascom Avenue, San Jose
(408) 377-5864
Open 10 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm Saturday, and 11 am to 6 pm Sunday
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