It was 1971, I was just into the first stages of the tendentious that would eventually put my playing to an end to any guitar playing for 5 years. Young, cocky, devilishly good looking and Mr. Know-It-All when it came to guitars.
I had done business with a store in New Mexico for years called Blackjack music, the owner Bob Gawlick became friends with my biz partner & I, when we owned Bananas at Large Music, and he eventually traveled out to see us a bunch of times. He basically had a giant Pawn, Indian Silver, and Music store in Albuquerque.
Well I had always wanted a 50's Flying V and after 2 or 3 years he said he had found one. I negotiated a price and he sent it out, only when it got there, it was one of the red "Big pickguard" models, the second version with the vibrola. I called him and told him he had missed something. That it wasn't a 50's V, well he lost it, said it was absolutely a 50s V and I didn't know what I was talking about!! (really?) Bob had yet to come to CA and got his dander up over the San Fran hippies that were tellin' HIM what was what, "fag flag burners."
Nasty argument ensued and we did no biz again with Bob. Well time passes (as you know) and word comes to me that Bob now has a real V, and he's still pissed at me (for being right I might add) and wants big dough for it. Well sleep becomes an option, my thoughts can only be of the V, for the V and how to get the V from Bob, (who won't talk to me.) I used to be an incredible schemer and here's what I came up with....
I had played with the Mendocino All Stars (they were all from New York) for years, and had picked up a fairly believable New York accent (if you had never been to NY, spoken to anyone from NY, or actually knew anyone from NY) soooooo... I call the store up and announce that I'm looking for vintage guitars and I'm put on hold and given over to Bob Gawlick, the man in charge. I then proceed to introduce myself as AL KOOPER (Blood Sweat & Tears, Blues Project) and how nice it is to talk to him. We shoot the shit, I tell him where I am (Philadelphia or some such baloney "on tour") and never mention the V, because this is only the first of many calls I plan to make. Or "only dah foist 'ah many cawls, ef' yha know wad I'm sayin'?"
Over the next month I keep callin' telling him stories of the road, gigs, girls etc. (I even sent him and autographed BS&T album, God I'm terrible) I call from phone booths, busy stores anything with different background noise (one from a rehearsal of my band that Bob was SURE was BS&T) As the imaginary "tour" progresses across the US, Al meets and jams with Albert King, (it's possible, right?) and is very impressed with his Flying V, (who wouldn't be?) does Bob know where Al can get one? (This is like the 20th call, I can't beeelieve this guy is...... a.) falling for this....... & b.) doesn't recognize my voice.......)
Sooooo I make a deal for 4 guitars to be "sent ahead" on the "tour" to San Francisco, (method to my madness, ehh?) I pay by money order, signed by Al, of course (the V was $1,000) and they are shipped to Leo's Music in Oakland. I am now the champion skunk of all time, my friends, who are all in on it, can't believe my hutzpah, they are in awe, they have all heard my "New York Vinnie" show on the phone, as I grease Bob, and I have become legendary. I AM the man.
A year later Bob and I actually patch things up. I never mention "Al" (who had promised to mention Bob's store in his next Rolling Stone interview) and I actually wind up in Albuquerque for a year, playing on records (some beauts) doing commercials and such. I live with BOB!!
As a daily reminder of my duplicity, there, proudly displayed on Bob's office wall, is the autographed (by me) Blood Sweat & Tears album...
I can finally stand it no more, and one day at the store I get on the extension phone and call him as "Al", I tell him to step out of his office and see who's on the phone at the counter...he rushes out, eyes wide, huge grins and sees me on the phone. I frankly didn't know if he was going to kill me or what. We sit down peacefully in his office and he quietly, sheepishly asks "was that you on the phone the whole time?" I fess up, and tell him it's true. He gets up, goes out to the pawn part of the shop and comes back in with a 100 year old, silver capped, supposedly from the civil war, meerschaum pipe I had admired. and said. "Please accept this, man you are GOOD, too good, I'm outa my leauge here, please don't do anything like that to me again... or tell my wife that YOU were Al!"
True story annnnd, although the V was snorted many years ago, the meerschaum pipe is on my desk as I write this baloney down.
I'll tell you the "Wavy Gravy" story next... "Ray, A little traveling music please........" Gleason
Al Kooper (Stapes)
Guitar Stories & Flying V Story #2 © 2007 Billy Stapleton. All rights reserved.
"Keep pickin’ ... "
- Billy Stapleton