The Power of One Guitar
You ever walk by a guitar in Wal-Mart or Best Buy and think, “What a cheapo. Who would pay for a POS like that?” Or maybe you’ve spotted one on Craig’s List and the first thought that plummeted through your frontal lobe was “They want how much for that plank?!” Well that’s not entirely far off from what guitarists Nick Didkovsky and Charles O’Meara of Forever Einstein did.
It all began approximately X years ago (give or take Y) when the two were browsing eBay to see what kinds of guitars were available. Usually they were excessively expensive vintage guitars or something rare and exotic, but equally expensive.
Then the Story Commences
Then, as so many stories often go, one fabled day O’Meara found a worn out, no-name, red, black, and white guitar. There was no way to determine what brand it was since there was an absence of any logo, and they would have to find someone willing to admit to being involved with the manufacturing of the guitar.
In an email to Didkovsky, O’Meara referred to the relic as “the guitar of [my] dreams.” O’Meara had further commented that the brand-less, retro instrument, with its one missing pickup and other archaic pickup, was meant for them. And with a price of $100 – a number that captivated the imagination of O’Meara for its cultural significance – it was an opportunity they couldn’t refuse.
The two then went in halves on the guitar and immediately began planning for what would be the $100 Guitar Project. This project saw the guitar circulated between some of their fellow guitarist friends who would then pluck around on the instrument, write a quick song, and record it on the very instrument that was taboo in most others’ eyes. Each guitarist would then sign it and pass it on to the next person in line who would wash, rinse, and repeat.
In a matter of twelve hours twenty musicians had signed up to be included in the project. As the project grew bigger Didkovsky set up a web site and a Facebook page to archive pictures and videos taken during the many recording processes. The project became so popular that the guitar has since traveled to Europe.
As songs began to roll in the two began sifting through wildly experimental avant-garde music to traditional rock and metal to classical to blues and country. The goal was to compile a two-disc album that has now been released by Bridge Records – a label owned by friend and contributing guitarist David Starobin. The album’s title was a bit expected, but appropriate. The $100 Guitar Project.
The guitar gained such popularity that even guitarists like Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Wilco’s Nels Cline, and Fred Frith contributed to the opus.
Skolnick, who had contributed a short bluesy piece, recanted horror stories of tuning and intonation problems, but reflected that it felt surprisingly good considering what it was. Cline commented that his experience with playing cheap quality guitars had conditioned him to tolerate instruments of less desirable features.
Since the project began the guitar’s true identity has been revealed in a metaphorical unmasking of Batman. It turns out the guitar – that is tattooed with over sixty autographs – is a Fujigen Gakki EJ-2 from circa 1964, as identified by a Japanese guitar specialist.
The Charity Contribution
This is where the project becomes more than just a cool idea that took off into something bigger. All contributing guitarists had agreed that all royalties would go to CARE, an organization that pushes back against the evils of global poverty, and Bridge Records donates 50% of all proceeds to charity on top of that.
The agreement to donate to CARE stemmed from a desire to give to something universally helpful. While proceeds were originally going to go towards a musical charity – the idea developed into a much bigger picture.
The Future of the $100 Guitar Project
Given the success of the $100 Guitar Project it only seems reasonable that there would be more interest to follow. A new album has been considered though since the one guitar has been identified the crew is considering a new one to continue the legacy of nameless guitars.
On top of that, tours are also being considered, which would give an opportunity to show off some of the music that didn’t officially get released, and filmmaker Emon Hassan has begun working on a movie based around the whole journey.