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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

Ask Charlie...

The Ones That Got Away…

by Charlie LoachJuly 2023

Hello Troubadourians! I’ve owned a lot of guitars in my life. I guess that “a lot” is relative to any given situation. I know people who have only ever owned less than five instruments in a lifetime—and never more than two at any time—so my current collection of 13 would seem like a lot. I know more than a few people who own 30 or more guitars right now and have owned over a hundred in their time. Yeah… I know. All of my ex-wife’s snark to the contrary, I’ve really only ever owned instruments that I intended to use, either as a guitar to play on the regular or as a specialty instrument to use for recording as an accent instrument. For me, the latter group of instruments has been historically small and have always been subject to the limitations of my budget. And, they are the first to be sold or traded in when other needs arise. Examples of these instruments are lap steels, 12-strings, resonator guitars, nylon string guitars, and so forth. One type of guitar that entered my collection, first as a novelty and now a staple, are baritone guitars. I have three… These are very cool instruments and I have bonded with their rich voices and tonalities. I’ve written about them in previous columns, and I may revisit them again in the future. But this time I’d like to tell you about a couple of “main guitars” that I’ve owned, which I no longer have but think about often.

Before I get into the main part of this story, I want to be very clear; I know that I’ve been blessed to have owned—and still own—so many wonderful instruments, many of which are well beyond the means of a lot of people. I don’t take this lightly. I have made it a priority in my life to own and play fine instruments, and I have made many sacrifices in order to do so. But still, I realize these are “first-world” problems…

I was an early adopter of PRS guitars. I purchased my first one in 1989 from Rick Fagan who at the time was managing the Blue Guitar, when it was located in Pacific Beach (Hi Rick!). I remember playing a few PRSs there, each one a different model with varying features. All of them were impressive. I asked if I could get one with its specific features but with the neck shape from a different model. The answer was yes so I ordered a Custom 24 with a quilted “10 top,” tortoise shell finish, gold hardware, and an ebony fretboard on a “wide-thin” profile neck. This was when PRS would do just about anything for little or no upcharge, so my custom beauty cost me the princely sum of $2,100. That guitar today would have to come from the PRS Private Stock program and would likely run about five times that much. I really loved that guitar, and it sure got a lot of attention due to its stunning looks and tones as well as its relative rarity at the time. This was when PRS wasn’t well known and most people—guitarists included—would ask me, “what kind of guitar is that? A PR-what?” That seems really weird to me now. I took that guitar to the 1990 NAMM Show and had Paul Smith sign the back of the headstock. I had to wait almost an hour for Paul to sign it but while I was waiting, I got to meet Brad Whitford and Mark Knopfler. That was cool! That was my main guitar, my only electric guitar for several years. A lot of the early Wild Truth music was made with that guitar.

In 2002, I took a trip to Minnesota to visit relatives. They lived very close to La Crosse, Wisconsin, so one day I found myself in Dave’s Guitar Shop. I happened to play a beautiful sunburst PRS Custom 22 Hollowbody Artist and fell deeply in love. It was about $2,800, but my wife said, “No. We can’t afford it.” I was very disappointed. This was in December, and I talked about it constantly. I had no idea that she had secretly put a down payment on it and had it shipped to San Diego for my birthday in March of 2003. That was really awesome! It quickly became my main guitar and most of This Golden Era was recorded with that guitar. I took that one to the 2004 NAMM Show and had Paul Smith sign that one too. Those guitars helped me define, and refine, my playing into what it is now, at least as it applies to my approach to the electric guitar.

But changing bands and genres caused a change of guitar. I stopped playing electric guitar in favor of acoustic guitar. For six years I played my Collings D2 exclusively. I’ve written about wanting and needing to recreate my playing style for the acoustic guitar and how the neck on my Collings became my ideal neck shape and width. So much so that when I needed to return to playing electric guitar, I found my PRSs to be uncomfortable, almost unplayable. That was soul crushing for me.

While I was playing my Collings exclusively, I was also developing a relationship with the company. During that time, Collings was developing a line of electric guitars that would eventually become more extensive and varied than their acoustic guitars. I had played some of their first electric guitars and while they were as excellent as their acoustics, they didn’t move me like my PRSs did. I remember Bill Collings asking me what I thought about a City Limits model that I was playing at a NAMM Show and how it compared to my PRSs. I told him that it was excellent but not as sexy as my PRSs. (He thought that was very funny and would later tease me about the non-sexy guitars that I would eventually order from them.)

Within a couple of years, however, the Collings electrics did evolve—and became sexy—and I started to think about buying one. Since my D2 had become the benchmark for what I wanted in a guitar neck, I was able to convince Collings to build me a City Limits with the same neck shape and width as my beloved D2. This was now 2010, and even with their willingness to build a custom guitar for no upcharge, I was still forced to sell my PRSs in order to afford this new guitar. Ironically, it was Rick Fagan who facilitated this next chapter in my electric guitar journey. Rick was willing to order the City Limits and take both of my PRSs—and a Martin D-41—in trade for it. The day I picked up my CL was bittersweet. I had a new electric guitar, one built to my exact specifications, but I had to give up two guitars that had become a large part of my musical legacy.

Since that day, I have purchased two more Collings electric guitars, both with the custom neck like my original City Limits, and I love them very much. Now, much as what happened in the early days of owing my PRSs, people ask me, “What kind of guitar is that?” followed by, “Gee, I didn’t know that Collings made electric guitars.” It’s cool to be in the vanguard of a new era… but I still miss my PRS guitars. I wonder where they are…

Need to know? Just ask… Charlie (

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