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The Tale of an Heritage 575 Custom Guitar - Part I

Heritage H 575 CustomFrom Ornament to Instrument

Well, that is the challenge, turning a very expensive ornament into a playable instrument. The story starts in November 1998 in Manny's Music on 48th Street, New York. With 2 hours to kill before going to the airport I managed to part with $2,000 ('even' as they say) for a shiny Heritage semi (just like the one on the left but with gold plated finish).

Manny's have been dealing with legendary customers for around 70 years. The client list reads like a Who's Who: from Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Buddy Holly and the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix, U2, Eric Clapton and Nirvana… and they have the signed photos on show to prove it! More recently they have had visits from Elvis Costello, Richie Havens, Harry Belafonte, Jim Thirlwell and Paul Kanter. So they weren't exactly overawed with my presence, but they were very helpful and surgically removed my credit card from my wallet with great skill.

Coming back through Customs at Heathrow I paid my dues...and I still have all the receipts!

So, what's the problem? Well, ever since bringing this beautiful guitar into the country it has been unplayable. Action too low, slips out of tune, intonation on the name it. All of a sudden it became one of those guitars that you could spend 15 minutes faffing about tuning, two minutes playing and then give up because it sounded so awful.

Get it set-up properly, that's what's needed. Well of course I knew that. Two professional set-ups later and there was no noticeable improvement. The Heritage 575 Custom became an ornament. I had lost interest. After all, I had other guitars to play.

But I'm not one to give in and Tuesday night I had been watching Neil Saddler (The UK Blues Project) playing in Reading. So, I was re-enthused. Heritage make fabulous guitars and this one can surely be shown enough TLC to get it playing beautifully. So I laid the challenge down to Guitar Heaven in Wallingford. In a very cool and unruffled manner they have accepted the mission: 2 minutes tuning and 15 minutes playing will do me.

I took the Heritage over to Guitar Heaven on Wednesday afternoon 6 March. Paul Cleverley, director and co-founder, booked the guitar in. Being a decent shop, and Paul quite sociable, this all took about 90 minutes and with a mug of tea along the way. Paul set about checking all obvious things and actually had it playing much better with a few professional tweaks of various bits and bobs. I'm clearly in no rush (I've owned it since 1998 and it's now 2004) and there were a lot more things that Paul wanted expert eyes to look at. So, I've left the guitar in his very safe hands.

To find out what if the story ends in Guitar Heaven or Guitar Hell click here to read Part II.

Kevin Harrington
5 March 2004

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