With two kids who play guitar and another who plays drums, a trip to the Eiteljorg’s Guitars! exhibit was a natural one. My only disappointment is that we waited until there’s just a few days left before we went to see it.
This is a collection of more than 100 guitars that were owned by famous musicians. This isn’t just a catalog show, these are the actual guitars — and pieces of guitars; there’s a chunk of the guitar that Jimi Hendrix smashed at the Royal Albert Hall — owned by the actual musicians. The guitars were loaned by different individual collectors, like Jim Irsay, museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and even a couple of the musicians themselves. (If I remember correctly, Graham Nash even loaned one of Stephen Stills’ guitars, which struck me as funny for some reason.)
While you may think the Eiteljorg is “only” about western Native American art, or that there wasn’t much happening out in Colorado and Arizona on the music scene, don’t forget that Los Angeles and Seattle are out west too.
There are a couple of interactive areas for you to try, like an electric and an acoustic guitar. And you can also check out an iPod Touch and headphones to listen to some of the different songs played by those very instruments, or at least those musicians.
There were early guitars from the Southwest, including the dobro and steel guitar, the harp guitar, and even a very early electrically-amplified guitar. My son and I marveled at the Sears & Roebuck ad from 1934 that offered a guitar for $14.95, and we listened to some of the old songs that had been played on models just like them. My son is a guitar player, and we’ll occasionally see sparks of interest in the history of something he enjoys. He was listening to those old songs intently, amazed that the instrument he plays today was inspired by those very early models.
As we moved up through time, we saw and heard different musicians that we had only barely heard of, like jazz guitarists Alvino Rey or Charlie Christian, and some that I keep making my kids listen to over and over, like Jimi Hendrix (my son’s favorite), Nirvana, and the Grateful Dead.
What was really cool was that my son has been wanting to go to Cleveland to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. When we were done with the visit, we asked him if this made him want to go even more.
“No, I’ve seen what I wanted to see.”
Well played, Eiteljorg. Well played.
Photo: Erik Deckers (Used with permission)