Interview: Deke Dickerson, author of The Strat In The Attic9:00 AMDollie DeVille
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing America's favorite roots musician and self proclaimed guitar geek, Deke Dickerson, about his new book The Strat In The Attic: Thrilling Stories of Guitar Archeology. As I expected, he was a hoot to interview. I learned a lot about the book as well. I hope you have as much fun reading about his new book as I did interviewing him!
Dollie: I saw you have a new book out, The Strat In The Attic: Thrilling Stories of Guitar Archeology. I haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet because I just heard about it last week. I know a lot of my readers are vintage collectors. While it might not be guitars specifically, I thought they still would be interested in reading about your collecting endeavors.
Deke: Well, I tried to write the book so that anybody could read it and be entertained, even those who don't know a thing about guitars! It's an interesting book of human interest stories, really, about a bunch of nutty people who are crazy about guitars.
That sounds interesting! What exactly is the book about?
It's a collection of "guitar archeology" stories, which is to say, stories about tracking down special, rare, and valuable instruments. There's a chapter about how I found Link Wray's Danelectro Longhorn guitar, for instance, or how I bought Scotty Moore's Echosonic amplifier. Then there are stories about guys who found really valuable guitars for very little money, out of cleverness or out of luck.
Are all of the stories about your experiences collecting guitars or did you feature stories told to you by other collectors?
Probably half of them are my own stories, and the other half are stories that I got from friends and colleagues of mine--vintage guitar dealers, collectors, and a few just plain ol' dudes with good stories to tell.
Many guitar "collectors" are content with buying new guitars to add to their collection - What got you into seeking out older and forgotten guitars, or guitars owned by guitar legends?
Well, at first, when I was younger, I just wanted a couple of good guitars to play! Then, I discovered that I was a really good "horse trader," and was able to find some really good pieces for very little money invested, through trading and swapping and finding stuff at Estate sales and the like. After many years, I then began to realize that a lot of the "important" guitars--like Link Wray's Danelectro longhorn, for example--were OUT THERE, and if you utilized standard detective techniques, you could turn these guitars up, and sometimes buy them!
How long have you been collecting vintage guitars, and how has the process changed over the years with the addition of technology such as EBay?
Uh, well I guess I might as well admit that I'm old! I started looking for guitars in the 1980s. Things were so cheap then, but we all thought they were expensive. Then prices started going up and then they went up a lot more, and now things are crazy. It's all supply and demand, and with each year that goes by there are less and less original and unmolested guitars from previous decades available to purchase. eBay has definitely changed the whole market for guitars, mostly by standardizing prices. Back in the old days, if you found an old Telecaster somewhere, one guy might ask 300 bucks and another guy would ask 2000 bucks for the same guitar. With eBay, at least people can come to a much better estimate of a guitar's value. It's a double edged sword, because eBay has also eliminated the great bargains you used to find, before people knew that old guitars were valuable! Nowadays everybody knows, they look on eBay and get a pretty good idea of what their guitar is worth.
Do you have a "Holy Grail" guitar that you own? Or is there a white whale guitar that still eludes you?
Well, my holy grail guitar was to find a Bigsby electric guitar, and I did. That's one of the chapters in the book. Bigsby made the first modern solid body electric guitar for Merle Travis in 1948, and he only made 21 electric guitars between 1948 and 1956. It took a crazy amount of detective work and research, but I found not one but two Bigsby electric guitars! So in that regard I feel like I'm 'done.' But there are still so many interesting custom-made and one-off guitars that are still out there, waiting to be found. One of the chapters in my book is about a guitar that was supposedly made in 1957 by Gibson, called the Moderne. They supposedly made one or two prototypes, but they have never surfaced. There are only tales of intrigue and mystery and rumor and lies, so it's quite an exciting subject for "guitarcheologists." There's an exciting story in my book about where the Moderne might have wound up. If the Moderne ever surfaces, in any condition, it will be worth a few million dollars. So yes, I'd still like to find the Moderne, or even a vintage photograph of one!
I hope you find it someday. I would love to see it! You've written a lot in your career: Bear Family liner notes, guitar magazines and various other contributor pieces. Is this your first book?
Yes, this is my first book! It's exciting because even as you mentioned, I've done a ton of writing for magazines and CD reissue companies, having a book makes people say, "oh, I guess you really ARE a writer!"
Was there a specific event that triggered you to decide once and for all to document your adventures in a book?
Yes, there was! The publisher contacted me and said "We'd like to PAY YOU to write a book!" ha ha!
That is pretty good motivation to write a book! Do you have interest in writing more books in the future? Autobiography? Hillbilly adventure fiction?
Hillbilly adventure fiction! I wonder if there is a market for that? Yes, I would like to write more books. They are already talking about a Volume Two of "The Strat In The Attic," so that's a good sign! I also have been planning a book of tour stories from my many years on the road playing in bands, and a biography of Merle Travis, and a book about all the old original rockabilly-hillbilly-blues-rock and roll musicians I've worked with.
I am so glad to hear there are talks of a second book. Where can we buy The Strat In The Attic? Are you going on a book tour or selling it at shows in your "Capitalist Corner"?
It's available from me personally, yes, but it's also available on amazon and at places like Barnes & Noble and your neighborhood book store. If they don't have it, they can order it! It's published by Voyageur Press, a real bona-fide publisher.
Other then publishing this book, you just released a new album as well. Tell us about "Echosonic Eldorado."
I wanted to make a rockabilly album before I got too old! All of my albums have mixed styles and I thought it would be good to have an album of pretty much 100% rockabilly tunes.
You have Duane Eddy playing a song with you on the album. How much fun was that for you? How did you come to be friends with Duane?
Well, I hired Duane for my 2010 guitar geek festival, and it was a great success. Since then, I've stayed in contact with him, and he's just a super nice guy and easy to get along with. I asked him if he'd consider playing guitar on a song on my new album, and was honestly surprised as hell when he said "yes." I think the song came out really cool, too!
Duane Eddy was actually the reason I went to my first Guitar Geek Fest. You are so lucky to have been able to record with him. Where can we buy your new album?
My new album is available everywhere, iTunes, Amazon, cdBaby, or directly from me on my website at www.dekedickerson.com. It's available on CD, vinyl LP and download!
Anything you would like to add?
Thanks a bunch for your time! Us guitar geeks don't usually get interviewed by the pinup girls! (laughs)
Thanks again Deke, good luck in all of your endeavors!
You can pick up Deke's new book, Strat In The Attic at any of the places listed above. Amazon is selling the book for $16.79 with free shipping. You can't beat that! Deke is being modest above, so I thought I would mention it to you. Deke has a book signing coming up at Caveman Vintage Music (650 N. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA) on Saturday June 29th 12:00-3:00. If you are local, why not pick up the book then and get a signed copy? I know I will be getting my copy very very soon.