Scratch One From The Bucket List
Mar. 30, 2019 – After decades of living the frugal life, skipping unnecessary travel, passing on unnecessary things, eating at home, skipping the movies, playing cheap guitars, driving cheap cars, and generally living a restrained existence while watching my friends live it up, I finally got to do something just for the hell of it, just to make me happy, without being ever-sensible.
But let me back up a bit: I met my wife, Jean, 42 years ago in 1977. We got married 35 years ago in 1984. We bought the house 27 years ago in 1991. Our son was born 25 years ago in 1994. Jean turned 60, and I turn 66 this month. So 2019 seems like a pretty good year to celebrate.
It wasn’t without a bunch of sadness along the way. Grandmothers and grandfathers passed; mothers and fathers passed. The world turned. My mother, Pearl Fergerstrom, passed in 1996; my father Herman Fergerstrom, passed last year in 2018. Jean’s father, Masa Gushi, passed in 2003.
When Pops Fergie passed last year it was the end of a lengthy Waimalu dynasty, for us. He bought his home there in 1957, moving to the county from his first home on Coyne St. near the Varsity Theater. Generations of Fergies grew up in the tiny community, all the while watching the world evolve around them. The community grew up from a few thousand people surrounded by miles of sugar cane fields in the 1950s. The “city” of “Pearlridge” grew up gradually around us, adding tens of thousands to the population and congestion to the area.
We grew up on music. My dad had an ‘ukulele, a guitar, and he had my grandfather’s violin in the house.
He would play silly songs for us when we were little, songs which we learned by heart. We learned to play ‘ukulele and learned many Hawaiian and local songs, along with a Portuguese folk song or two. We would sneak into his room to borrow the guitar to try and figure out how to play it. We would try futilely to play the violin when we got the chance, only squeaks and squawks emanating. But always, we played music.
I’ve owned many guitars (and basses) over the years. It started in the Navy when I bought a no-name, made in Japan hollow body bass from the Navy Exchange. I later bought a Hofner Beatle bass from a Navy buddy, and a made in Japan no-name Les Paul Deluxe copy from a San Diego music store. I would practice daily, by myself, and when I could, with a friend. We once jammed on the helicopter deck of the ship while parked in the bay at Catalina Island! Turned up our amps to 11 and annoyed all the yachters parked around us! I also play harmonica and have an assortment of those instruments, as well.
After I came home, I continued to “accumulate” musical instruments.
So I earlier mentioned the upcoming 35th anniversary. The wife and I decided to treat ourselves with anniversary gifts to celebrate. She asked if she could have a diamond ring, which we arranged for, and parked it on her finger. She asked if I wanted a new wedding ring (no).
“C’mon,” she says, “you gotta get something you want for our anniversary!”
“I want a guitar.”
“But you already have plenty of guitars!”
“But I want a REAL guitar.”
“Okay, let’s get you a guitar. What kind of guitar?”
“A real Gibson Les Paul.”
So I searched around Honolulu for weeks, going into all the reputable guitar stores, looking for a real Gibson Les Paul. One day, I stopped in Dan’s Guitars and was looking around the shop. They had a couple hanging up for sale. I kinda played them without amp to see what they felt like, but nothing grabbed me. I had visions of rock stardom!
Then along came store owner Dan. “You sure you don’t want a PRS? We have plenty!” “No, all my life I’ve wanted a real Gibson Les Paul, and I’m going to keep looking.”
After figuring that I wasn’t overly excited by what was on the sales floor, Dan let me in on a secret: I have a whole bunch more in the back! That’s where he kept the “good stuff!”
He led me to the back into what amounted to a large closet piled high with guitar cases, then he started digging cases out from under the pile, opening each like an Easter egg to show off the pretty guitars inside. He showed me five or six, either too expensive, or unappealing to me.
Then he pulled out an ugly plastic case that looked like it held a busted up chain saw. Ewww!
But when he cracked the case, inside was a beautiful, flawless, vintage, mint 1987 Gibson Les Paul Standard!!! It didn’t possess one of the beautiful flamed maple ten-tops which you see in all the online guitar websites, but it possessed a warmth which was captivating. I looked at it, handled it, but would not play it! (Too shame!) I told Dan to play it and he took it out front, plugged in, and started playing ZZ Top tunes. What awesome sound!
I told Dan I had to “check with the boss” and that I would get back to him.
I went home and mentioned it to Jean and she urged me to buy it if that’s the one I really wanted. I still was not sure.
The next day, we went to a funeral where I had a chance to talk to my friend Sanford Lee, a known local guitar tech and former employee of Dan’s Guitars. I told him about the Les Paul I had been looking at, and showed him some photos I had taken on my phone. Sanford told me that it was a really special guitar and advised me to buy it as soon as possible, before someone else did.
I went back the next day and told Dan that I wanted the guitar. We took it out, polished up some slight blemishes, Dan played it for me again. Wow. He told me that this particular guitar is the one that Slash from Guns ‘n Roses seeks out to modify and play onstage on his concert tours. It has a three-piece plain top and is a Gibson reproduction of the 1959 Gibson Les Paul.
I bought it and took it home, cradling it like a newborn baby! It was so precious!
Then I signed up for guitar lessons.
(To be continued!)
Mahalo to Ma and Pa Fergie.