Gibson 330

Jeff Jahloon

Jeff Jahloon

This is a true story

Gibson 330

Jeff Jahloon

Gibson 330 – Jeff Jahloon

I think it was 1973, or 1974. I'd just got paid out from a motoring accident and had a spare couple of hundred quid. I was going to buy a new car, but I had a company vehicle so it was not entirely needed.

I was playing in local bands, hanging out with a few musicians, at the time I had a Hofner Verithin wired for stereo, as a guitar it was OK but certainly not what you would call a professional grade instrument. Nowadays it makes me smile seeing how much money people ask for what was never a quality instrument to start with.

A few years later I eventually sold the Hofner Verithin to a work colleague, he said it was the one model of guitar he really longed to own, so on the understanding that if he ever wanted to part with it he would sell it back to me, I passed the guitar into his keeping for £30.

Well he did part with it, to a second hand shop for £30, it was worth a bit more than that at the time, I was pretty peeved, vowing not to part with a guitar again, at least not at a bargain price.

Hofner Verithin with Bigsby
Hofner Verithin

Back to 1973, or was it 1974? There was a guitarist I knew, Phil Cross, son of a local pub Landlord, (the Birkey in Crosby) and my Dad knew all the pubs of any note in the area, so that was the connection.

Phil had played on those cut price albums that were covers of originals, the best being a cover of the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” selling at less than half price of the original, the sort of thing an unwitting aunty would buy you at Christmas.

Even so, Phil was a very accomplished guitarist, I only heard him play his instrumental version of “Man of the World” once, but I will never forget it, or the impact of the guitar he played it on, a tobacco sunburst Gibson 330.

So when Phil offered to sell me the Gibson 330 for £100, my lucky day had indeed arrived. Straight off my playing improved 300%, this was a beauty to play, one of those guitars that is just right. Like you can pick up ten identical models of guitar and one of them will be just right, streets ahead of the others.

Things indeed had starting changing for me, recovering from the motoring accident, joining a new band, expanding musical skills, promotion at work, it was a good time.

Then one day Phil turned up at a gig, he said the best number we did was a Beach Boys cover, “I Can Hear Music” I knew he was biased.

We sat musing over a pint and he asked if I would sell him the Gibson back. I was reluctant as it was my only guitar at the time. Phil offered to throw in a Fender Mustang, which was pretty, but no match for the 330.

Then he threw in the crunch argument; his wife reckoned since he sold the 330 his luck had vanished, if he could get it back, maybe things would change.

So I agreed with him, if I ever got to the point where the 330 was no longer my main guitar, I would sell it back to Phil. While it was not the outcome he wanted, it did seem to stamp a seal on our agreement over the future of the guitar.

You see you never really own a great instrument, you are its curator at that moment in time, you will pass it on to another owner, (hopefully player) so some treasured instruments may be around hundreds of years from now.

So a few years passed, I got married, moved out of the area, and lost touch with Phil. But I never lost touch with the promise to sell / return the guitar, but I was still using it three nights a week, and in Thatcher's Britain, that paid the mortgage.

Jeff, the fretted 70's
Paying the Mortgage

Time passes, and often the only family updates are weddings and funerals. The update I got at a family funeral went a little along these lines; one of my female relatives asked if I had ever known Phil Cross, well I answered positively, yes quite well. Do you know what happened to him?

This statement chilled me as Phil had always said he would die young, as his father had, and indeed the news was not good.

Phil had passed away from cancer, it shocked me as he was only two or three years older than me. Do you know what happened to him before he died? I really did not want to hear any more, but gossip is a compelling master.

Phil had religiously converted to become a Jehovah's witness, this was a shock, having already lost a friend to the Mormons. I was about as incredulous and unbelieving when a young friend explained the non existence of Santa Claus and the existence of sex.

My female relative continued hammering nails into the coffin; “Phil cut his hair short” - no not comprehensible, “Phil wore a suit” - impossible “Phil had a briefcase” - the World had ended.

I was alone in the house that night, with a thought train running through my brain, why had Phil converted? It seemed impossible, the long haired rebel and rock musician gone respectable? Why and how had he died, OK it was cancer, but did the restrictions of the Jehovah's Witnesses affect any possible treatment?

At that point I realised the guitar would be with me for quite some time, the obligation to pass it back to Phil had passed with his passing. I will always remember him as the original owner and hope to pass this story on to the next curator of this fine instrument.

However the story does not end there, as I sat in the quiet house that night with all these thoughts rushing through my head, there was a knock at the door.

When I opened the door it was to greet two Jehovah's Witnesses, for once I was lost for words, taking the pamphlets and nodding in agreement, I don't know what they made of me, sure I was as white as a sheet, if it had been the grim reaper himself at the door, my reaction would have been the same.

I moved back into the room, sat down, my hands were shaking, I just did not know what or how or when or if.

Looking back across many years this was a landmark, I still cherish the 330 and take it out to play now and then, often wondering how much luck can be assigned to a possession, I've expanded my guitar collection over the years, there may be around twenty well loved instruments, all with their own story, but if my house was burning down, I'd brave fire and hell to rescue just one.

.....ends Jeff