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Sears Roebuck Silvertone
Miraculously, Chet’s first guitar survives. His stepfather brought it home,
where it was first used by older brother
Lowell (the initials carved in the top are
his doing—a girlfriend, apparently). A
motivated Chet traded a year’s worth of
early morning milking duty for the box,
whose neck had been broken and crudely
repaired with a screw. The action was
stratospherically high and difficult.
Walter Carter, sales manager at
Nashville’s Gruhn Guitars, who wrote
the chapter on Chet’s instruments for the
exhibit catalog, says he learned a lot about
Chet through the Silvertone: “Most people
who start on a cheap guitar, as soon as they
show some talent, do anything to get some-
thing better. And the fact that Chet played
this piece of junk for five or six years or
more, it’s mind-boggling. He clearly wanted
to be a great guitar player, and a bad instru-
ment was not going to stop him.”
In 1936, Chet’s mother sent 12-year-
old Chet to live in Georgia with his
father, chiefly to see if the climate would
be better for his troublesome asthma. It
was, but Chet lost his musical family and
friends. Lonesome, he picked this guitar