Late one night, after all the customers had gone home taking their sore heads with them, a boy was wiping down tables in his Father’s bar.
A couple of bands had been performing that night, and as he worked he overheard two old bluesmen talking about The Last Guitar Of All.
Crafted in the 20’s from perfect Brazilian Rosweood, it was the apex and swansong of the maker’s career. Having put every ounce of his considerable years of experience, love and passion into its manufacture, he played a single “E” chord and wept at its beauty. Immediately he knew; this guitar could not be used to play any old song. It must only sing of life, love, loss and the beauty that lies therein. Refusing to sell The Last Guitar Of All, the maker immediately sold his shop instead and began a search for the musician who would be worthy of its voice.
Legend was (and bluesmen in bars being bluesmen in bars, legend and truth collided somewhat) that over the next twenty years, he’d never found the player worth the guitar. So, upon his deathbed he gave The Last Guitar of All to his daughter, with instructions that when the time was right the player would come. Legend was she’d spent much of her life travelling the bars and concert halls of all the land before, on her deathbed, passing it to her own son with the same instruction.
As he heard the bluesmen talk, the boy felt music creep into his soul. Although it had never occurred to him before, he knew suddenly and without doubt that he’d always wanted to play. He would play of life and love and loss, and be worthy of The Last Guitar of All. The bluesmen, fulfilling their part in the story by setting the boy on his quest (and deciding that they were unlikely to receive any more free beer) faded away mysteriously into the night.
The next morning the boy pried up his loose floorboard, dragging all of his tip money from his hidey hole beneath and ran into town. After spending an hour staring longingly at the beautiful enameled red and black instruments in the music shop window, he found he could afford a cheap Korean learner’s model with just enough left over for a spare set of strings. He took it home and (the image of The Last Guitar hovering in his mind) began to play.
To be honest, that first couple of years, he made some noise that wasn’t pretty. Nothing worthwhile comes easy . But he played every day, and in his head he heard the singing of The Last Guitar of All, and after a while his fingers danced along the fretboard as if he were playing it, rather than the cheap Korean one.
He sang of life and love and loss with a little hope thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t too long before someone heard him play and not much longer before he was playing at weddings and parties of people he knew. His sister paid him to play at her wedding, so he went back to the music shop and one of the beautiful red window-dwelling guitars was suddenly his. And still his fingers danced, and still he closed his eyes when he played and dreamed about The Last Guitar of All.
And life went on as life does.
Someone at the wedding knew someone, and the boy was on the road as part of a band… And as he played night after night, he watched people dance and argue and fall in and out of love. So he played to make their love sweeter and more joyful and he played to make their loss and sadness bearable. And more people came to hear him, and fell in and out of love and lived their joy and sorrow.
Their joy and sadness became his own, and seeped into his fingers and onto the strings and out through the amps. He was quite popular for a while, appearing on TV a few times but popularity is a fleeting thing and he wasn’t really interested. When it went away after a decade or so, he wasn’t that upset. As long as there was a bar or a club somewhere who’d let him on the stage… as long as people would dance and sing along and live out their joys and sorrows to his music, his fingers would continue to dance the fretboard.
And as the years went on, a different ritual began to play out. There’d be at least one in every audience… sometimes he’d spot them, other times not. Someone whose eyes would fill with tears as he played a tune, and would approach him diffidently after the show to say “We got married to that song.”, or “We played that at his funeral. I just wanted to say thankyou.” And every time, despite the regularity of its occurrence, he’d find himself gulping back tears and smiling shyly, unable to say much.
One night he was caught up by an engaged couple who wouldn’t stop hugging him as they told him that the bride was about to walk down the aisle to one of his recordings; the same one that her mother had twenty seven years earlier. Blinking back tears, he returned to the stage. As he began to pack his gear, he noticed a strange case. On it was a note bearing simply his name and “This is for you.”
The Boy (or, let’s face it… the Old Man now) stared around the empty bar and wrinkled his brow as a long-forgotten story struck him. He gently opened the case and breathed in deeply as he stared down at the beautiful, vintage Brazilian Rosewood guitar that lay before him.
The next night, on a different stage, to a different crowd, he played his songs of life and love and loss and hope on The Last Guitar Of All. It sounded ok. It was a pretty nice guitar.