Instead of putting Buddy Holly’s 1943 Gibson J-45 acoustic into a museum somewhere, the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation decided instead to distribute its frets amongst 18 custom copies of the legendary original.
Each guitar not only contains one of those frets but is designed to include the title of a specific song chosen by its recipient, the list of which so far includes Peter Asher, Peter Frampton, Nokie Edwards, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and the latest honoree, Pete Townshend.
Townshend went with the hit It’s So Easy and last weekend in London was presented with the instrument by James Burton – guitarist for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others. His unique J-45 was built by luthier Tony Klassen, and the leather cover designed by Susie Temple.
As there’s always a twist, Pete once destroyed one of Buddy Holly’s Stratocasters – or at least that’s how the story goes. When asked by Premier Guitar in 2010 if he ever regretted smashing a guitar he answered:
Once. Just once. It was probably around 1968. We were around Detroit about to play at the Grande Ballroom. I had no guitar. I went to the local pawnshops and bought two Strats. One was recent, the other was much older, probably from the first year of manufacture. They were not expensive. The dealer had no idea what he had. On stage, I started with the older of the two guitars. It was almost certainly a guitar that belonged to Buddy Holly. I sounded like Buddy Holly. I felt like Buddy Holly. The sound was superb, off the map, bell-like, silky, just sublime. When the time came to smash the guitar, I switched it for the newer one, and a boy at the front of the stage protested. ‘No,’ he shouted. ‘Smash the good one, not some fake.’ So I switched back, and to my shame smashed the guitar over his hands.
The unpredictable Townshend last let his inner “auto-destructive” artist get the best of him in Tokyo in 2004 and has since sworn he never will again, so we wager the new axe is safe.
Here’s a jam (what!) by the Grateful Dead of Holly’s Not Fade Away from 1981, featuring guest Pete Townshend: