“Gramma, com’ere!!!! You gotta see this! It’s a two-headed guitar!”
In 1884 FF Wichard built a special guitar in his shop in Benton, St.Louis. Not an ornate parlour harp guitar; more like a functional to-be-played guitar. It wears the stamp of Wichard on the struts and a long ago penciled notation still legible of “Benton, St. Louis” written on one of the struts as well.
The guitar lives with me today, after having given music to many songs before it came to me. I did some research to find out more about it and even one of the leading harp guitar guru and historians in the USA didn’t know this guitar. I did come across a note about a violin that was repaired by FF Wichard in 1902 so I picture a luthier shop at 1422 Benton Street, St. Louis smelling of fine wood shavings and glue where stringed instruments are crafted and brought to life as well as repaired and rescued with care.
The lives my guitar touched as far as I know, took place on a journey from Boston where the wealthy family of a friend had a fine music room and collection of instruments, to a home in Portland, Oregon. The guitar sat in the corner of a gentleman’s study in Portland for more than 50 years. I don’t know if it was ever played, or was an heirloom tucked in the corner behind the leather wing-back chairs; the patina of its wood glowing softly from the Tiffany lamp above it.
The guitar touched my life when the gentleman in Portland who was a friend of mine passed away and those sending his treasures back out into the world thought I would cherish this one and sent it to me in Canada.
I play guitar and my son plays guitar so my grandson grew up seeing and hearing guitars played. My speciality when he was young was Raffi’s “Baby Beluga” that we sang and danced to time after time after time as we do with little 5-year-old boys until they tire.
So as my grandson came skidding around the corner in his socks on the hardwood floor, grabbed me and pulled me to the other room shouting “Gramma, com’ere!!!! You gotta see this! It’s a two-headed guitar!” I smile thinking back to the amazement and delight he had in finding this guitar that had come to live in our house.
He was struck with wonder that guitars could be so different from what he knew them to be; that things like this even existed. And his delight was palatable as he took Grampa by the hand, showing him the guitar, chattering about how wonderful it was.
With my grandson graduating from high school in a few days, my wish is that he continues to find delight and discovery in things like two-headed guitars. That as he moves on and grows it is with learning about our past and things we treasure as well as new bright ways and roads to follow; to never stop skidding around the corners shouting “com’ere, you gotta see this!”