The Guitar Collection

The Guitar Collection of Guy Mackenzie

Musical Background

So how did a drummer get to be a collector of electric guitars? Guess it went something like this . . . .

It all began when my school friend Martin “Thumbs” Bellamy and I, inspired by listening to Joe Meek recording artistes (like John Leyton, Mike Berry, Heinz and The Tornados), one bright summer’s day in 1964 went to look round the Soho music shops (near the 2 I’s coffee bar) to kit ourselves out so we could hit the road as musicians. After much searching we finally decided on a Czech-built Futurama with a 10 watt Bird combo amp for him (at £25) and a Broadway drum kit for me (at £18) – mainly because they were the cheapest we could find!

Our first attempts at music were split between his home in Quenington, Gloucestershire and mine at Calgary House (now known as Calgary Castle) on the Isle of Mull, my idyllic childhood home with my parents – Eric, a very distinguished veteran of both World Wars, and Elizabeth Mackenzie who created the woodland garden that Calgary Castle has since become famous for. Calgary Castle is now a prestigious holiday home but thankfully, despite this, much loved by its current owners. Unfortunately, Gloucestershire and the Isle of Mull weren’t quite ready for our renditions of classics such as ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ etc. Actually nobody recognised them, which was a problem and fatal for a time!

After two years of musical wilderness I found myself in Southampton ensconced in the digs of the building firm that I worked for in Cranbury Avenue (yes, it is the street just off Derby Road). I learnt a lot there, but not about building, as it was then in the middle of Southampton’s red light district. An eye opener, and more, for a shy lad from a sheltered background! But I digress. I still had a hankering for being a pop idol so I placed an ad in a newspaper for other musicians to form a band. I then met Bill and Bob, two guitarists who were looking for a drummer and I joined their band The Blue Stars – yep, yep, they really did name themselves after that well-known chain of garages and manufacturers of car batteries! Bob played a home made solid and Bill played his Watkins Rapier 33 and dreamt of emulating Hank Marvin. He was also a naturally gifted musician and certainly, the best drummer in the “Blue Stars”! Incidentally, Bill Geddes was still playing regularly, and had released several CDs, until his untimely death two years ago. We achieved a modest success and also appeared at Southampton’s Guild Hall for the princely sum of £5 – on a package show featuring: The Footprints, The Nite People and headlined by Les Fleur de Lys, occasionally you can hear each of them on Sounds of the Sixties.

I then moved to London and it was back to the wilderness again until I moved to High Wycombe. I still couldn’t get music out of my system so in 1973, and yes – you’ve guessed it – I advertised again! This time I met Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster look-alikes, Jack and Dennis and their Fender copy Antorias and was transported into the wonderful world of Status Quo – a world I’ve never entirely left – we called ourselves Fat Man’s Toy. Yes we did ‘Paper Plane’ and ‘Caroline’ fuelled by home-made beer in Jack’s house until the volume caused his kitchen shelf to collapse and, yes, it was the one that housed his crystal glass collection! But we also played numbers like ‘Please Don’t Touch’ and ‘Shakin’ All Over’, both written and first performed by the late, great Johnny Kidd – I recently saw The Pirates live at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne – absolutely fantastic! Anyway, to cut a long story short, we lined ourselves up for our first gig in a pub in Reading. Sadly, despite the fact that we were a trio, we, for the whole night, outnumbered the punters! Was that the end? No, not us, we hired a hall, argued a lot and practised non-stop for three months (doubling the intake of home-brew in the process!) and hit the road again but this time we were a success and for two years we were out gigging 1-3 nights every week, and over the Christmas and New Year period, it was often six nights out of seven. By this time Jack had graduated to a Hayman 3030 guitar and Dennis bought a huge bass amp. For me it was first a Pearl Dynamic drum kit which I bought direct from Dallas Arbiter at a trade price of £90.20 on 23rd November 1973. Then to Jack’s fury, as he’d bought his Hayman 3030 guitar at the full retail price of £160, I bought a Hayman Showman drum kit in Solid Silver again at “trade” direct from Dallas Arbiter for £183.60 on 15th May 1975. One of our most popular numbers was ‘Baby Jump’ by Mungo Jerry, but my lasting souvenir of this time is a tape of me lead singing ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ by Eddie Cochran (recorded on £10 cassette recorder), live at The Bell in Maidenhead – a well known venue.

But, as with many bands, personalities clashed and Dennis and I left Jack to his own musical wilderness and joined Eric, and Earthborn was formed. We even had Roger Newell, but sadly without his triple necked custom Wal bass, (Yes, Rick Wakeman, Marty Wilde’s Wildcats etc) join us for a few gigs and changed our style, ending up as a four-piece doing clubs and pubs within an area which included London, Hampshire, the South Midlands and Hertfordshire. In this band I was the one who drew the short straw and had to lead sing favourites like ‘Viva Espana’ and ‘Una Paloma Blanca’ – well, no-one else would! Thankfully, we always managed to avoid ‘The Birdie Song’!! By now I had graduated to a Premier Kit (in black and orange hoops!), Slingerland chrome snare (I sometimes used an unusual 10-inch 1930s Premier Ace chrome snare drum with double snares – the second under the batter head), coupled with Super Zyn and Zildjan cymbals (which I still have today). Eric was using a Fender Stratocaster and a Fender Twin Reverb, Dennis had a Fender Musicmaster Bass and H & H amp and, Mike the new lead guitarist, a Fender Telecaster and another Twin Reverb.

All went well till about 1978 when another split occurred. Briefly I joined Wayne as a duo, backed a weekly talent contest at the King’s Head in High Wycombe, then Trooper (at that time a young and upcoming band from Oxford) until I met the person who I enjoyed playing music with the most, Tony Price, who used an Epiphone E-270 and I have a similar model in my collection today. We sometimes gigged as Tony and Guy or as Earthborn 2 (or 3 or 4) or whatever our agent, Bob Kember from Watford, wanted us to be for the booking he’d made for us. Tony Price is an amazing entertainer and with the right luck and promotion would have been the star he always deserved to be. However for some reason, which I have never had difficulty understanding, Tony was never, in all our time together, appreciative of my singing ability! How do I know this – well, why else did he keep turning my mike down and his Watkins Copicat up, just as I was about to harmonise with him?

But we finally went our separate musical ways – he and his wife to Lincolnshire and me to Cornwall. Tony has since had a long and successful career in music and released several CDs, only retiring himself and his Fender Stratocasters in 2005. (Tony Price sadly passed away in December 2011.) Since moving to Cornwall I’ve only come out of retirement on a few occasions to gig in Penzance and Hayle, or to annoy the neighbours!

Through all this time I found a love of guitars and a love that I could never quite understand – because I can barely even play one! But for me that’s a bonus because I can appreciate them without being hampered by liking them only because of their sound or action or whatever all you budding Jimmy Page’s look for. So with that, how could I resist becoming a collector – and that’s why my collection has yer Fenders (of course), yer Gibson (a Victory) but also a Fenton Weill and a Tremo Twenty (a what?) – the quirkiest guitar of all, excepting of course, my Burns Weill bass and my weird, wonderful Teisco SS-4L. And not forgetting my selection of Supersounds – some of the earliest solid body electrics made in the UK (more information on Supersound Guitars and the company itself can be found in the Story of Supersound website). Which do I love best – fair reader, I’ll let you be the judge, as you check out my collection. It may not be the best and it hopefully isn’t the worst – but it is all mine!

Finally, my own guitar heroes? Naturally – Mick Green (The Pirates, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Bryan Ferry) and, of course, the legendary Welsh rocker himself, Dave Edmunds – who can ever forget ‘Deborah’, or ‘I Knew the Bride’ and ‘Girls Talk’.

However a special mention must go to guitar collector and the UK’s No 1 Rockin’ Blues guitarist Larry Miller and, of course, the greatest Rockin’ Blues guitarist of them all…the incomparable Johnny Winter.