FROM THE HIP
WALLACE MARX JR.
The Origins of Obsession
Where did your passion for guitar come
from? When did this whole guitar obsession
start for you? Who turned you on? What
made you stop and say, “I gotta do that”?
More importantly, where did you get your
I’ll go first. About a year before I was born, my
mom bought my dad a cheap classical guitar.
Although the folk boom was well over by this
time, it still resonated in the Midwest. The
plan was for my dad to take some lessons,
learn from some books, and then sing stuff
like “Kumbaya” and “Cockles and Mussels.”
Eric Dahl, right, and his father jamming together.
Photo courtesy of Eric Dahl
My dad, a jazz cat, was way too cool for any
of that. So the guitar sat untouched in the
closet for the next 10 years or so. Enter a
young me, bored and looking for something
to do. At the ripe age of 10, I was a massive
rock ’n’ roll fan, had been listening to the
Beatles since diapers, and knew enough to
prefer Sun-era Elvis over the Vegas years. So
there was this guitar in the closet. I looked
at the guitar, and then at a Beatles photo.
Guitar, Elvis photo. Guitar, Rolling Stones pic.
I slowly pieced it together: “If I play that thing,
I could be like them.” No further discussion
was needed. I started strumming that nylon-string for all it was worth. I didn’t know that
chords were involved, so I just strummed open
strings and sang. The old strings snapped
and, because I didn’t know you could buy new
ones, the guitar sat for a while.
I picked guitar back up again within a couple
years, and then the real passion began. My
first electric was a Memphis. Then I traded
some sports gear for a red Hondo II. After
that, I got a sweet ’60s Silvertone hollowbody
with three DeArmond pickups and a Bigsby.
For my 18th birthday, my dad got me a
yellow, late-’70s Stratocaster.
Good Memories on the Guitar Road
I have a gear buddy named Eric Dahl who
works for the WB network in Las Vegas. The
story of how Eric came into music is one of my
favorites. Like mine, it began with his father.
Eric’s dad grew up in Peoria, Illinois. He was
introduced to music at a young age when his
parents bought a brand new Hammond B- 3
in 1952 and the entire family took lessons. He
lettered in trombone throughout junior high
and high school. After heading to college
at the University of Arkansas, Eric’s dad was
drawn to the blues and rock. One night in
the summer of 1959, back in Peoria on break,
Eric’s dad was heading home after his shift
at the slaughterhouse. He made a detour
and took all his earnings—$325—and bought
a brand-new Fender Precision bass and a
matching ’ 59 Bassman amplifier.
“My Grandpa Dahl thought dad was crazy for
spending that much money,” says Eric. “But
after I showed him how much the gear was
worth in 1996, he was pretty impressed.”
Eric’s dad took his bass and amp to college
with him and started playing in a popular
R&B band called the Knights. “He used to tell
me stories about playing two and three gigs
in a night, just driving from party to party,”
says Eric. The guitarist in the Knights, Harvey
Hockersmith (aka “Mouse”), was a nephew
to Charlie Rich. “So, whenever Charlie would
get mad and fire his entire band, dad’s band
would get the call to back him up at fairs and
other gigs,” laughs Eric. In 1960, Bo Diddley
came to town. He had blown up his amplifier
at the gig before, so he used Eric’s dad’s ’ 59
Bassman to play the concert.
After seeing so much gear around the house,
it was only natural that Eric took to music
as well. He started lessons at the age of 5.
There were frequent jam sessions with dad
down in the basement and with several bands
over the years. Eric’s dad changed amps a
few times, but he never changed basses.
That original ’ 59 Precision fit him like glove
and had his sound. Eric’s dad passed away
in February of 1984, but Eric still has great
memories of making music with him.
Eric Dahl’s father’s original ’ 59 Fender Precision bass and
matching Bassman combo. Photo courtesy of Eric Dahl
“I’m thrilled that I still have these musical
artifacts in the family,” says Eric. “My plan
is to pass them on to my daughter one
day, along with the pictures of dad and me
jamming together. Dad gave me the gift of
music and I don’t think I can ever repay him
Guitar: Pass It On
Some of us get into guitar on our own.
Others have it passed on to us. But all of us
have the chance to pass the love and joy of
being involved in the world of guitar on to
Wallace Marx Jr.
Wallace Marx Jr. is the author of Gibson Amplifiers, 1933–
2008: 75 Years of the Gold Tone. He is a lifelong musician
and has worked in all corners of the music industry. He is
currently working on a history of the Valco Company. He is
a children’s tour guide at the Museum of Making Music, a
struggling surfer, and he once hung out with Joe Strummer.