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Vintage Tours: Philadelphia Guitar Show
Ring that liberty bell, Ben Franklin. It’s The Great American Guitar Show!
We don’t watch much football, or hockey. History class was never our favorite. We’ve been trying to eat healthy lately and, honestly, Rocky is just ok. Wait, no. That’s insane. Rocky is amazing. But Rocky aside, for us, Philadelphia has one distinct kind of magic that no other city has: there’s nothing that makes us feel glad to be an American like Philadelphia in the fall.
It’s where this great experiment all started, so with our tri-corner hats and large crier’s bells packed in hard-sided carry-ons, we headed for the city of brotherly love with curious and eager feelings of patriotism, a healthy side of November malaise, and a budding desire to absolutely obliterate any notion of a “diet.”
A long drive through cold, wet mountains took us to the city, where leaves of yellow gold, pumpkin orange, and vibrant, fire engine red litter cobblestone sidewalks. The rental place was out of our usual convertible, and it quickly became apparent that these centuries-old streets were not designed for a gigantic SUV, and for some reason, you couldn’t turn left. Anywhere. After right turn after right turn, it began to dawn on us that we were lost, getting more so by the minute, and actually not in Philadelphia at all. Were we in New Jersey? Cherry Hill? We later learned that this is pretty easy to do, but wherever we actually were, it wasn’t at all where we were supposed to be. With a little luck and some friendly mind games from a terminally bored Philadelphia toll booth operator, we were back on track and finally one step closer to a big, fat cheesesteak courtesy of the Birthplace of America.
Once we settled at our hotel, we made our way to The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks for The Great American Guitar Show, one of the best in the country. Last time we attended the GAGS, there was a reptile show next door. So to say we were excited is an understatement.
We were gutted to learn that the reptile show was off, and in its place a gemstone marketplace, but we made the best of it. Instead of wearing boa constrictors like some voodoo prince, we glittered like kings, shining a light on 30 of the most interesting and unusual things we’ve ever found on the road.
Our favorite piece is this Ernie Ball Earthwood Bass, complete with a case so large our door person, Andi, can crawl right inside and take her lunch break.
This big, beautiful bass box is unlike anything we’ve seen before. What is essentially a Mexican guitarron with frets, the Earthwood Bass is the brainchild of George Fullerton, a legend of luthiery and formerly a close collaborator of Leo Fender. Ernie Ball produced the Earthwood Bass in limited numbers from 1972 to 1985, using wood wherever possible. The result is an incredibly rich, deep tone, amplified, if you’d like, by a passive Barcus-Berry Hot Dot pickup installed under the bridge.
After some terrible half-choruses of "Blister In The Sun," it was time to pack up our haul. We never did get that cheesesteak, but we probably would have regretted it and had to run it off on those Rocky steps anyway. We did, however, have a great time in a beautiful city, when there were no riots, and the air smelled clean and fresh, and everyone, even the toll booth operator, was happy to be who they are, and where they are, on a cold fall day in America.