The story of how I acquired this guitar starts in 1976. After graduating from high school in Saco, Maine I decided to move back to Florida. I was 18, had no plans for the future (basically no real plans at all) – so I ended up moving in with my mom and step dad in their apartment (condominium) off of Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. There was never a dull moment living with my mom and step dad, there was always something going on. It was pretty much the same ritual, right around 5pm my mom would bring me home some food from the Little Brown Jug (a bar and grill that her and my step dad owned and operated), I would sit down to eat, and then people would start knocking on the door and start “visiting.” I really didn’t care much for most of the people living in her building so I would just say “hello,” eat my food and do my own thing. Then my Mom introduced me to her friend Buffy (Dorothy Guy / Lynch). Even though her name was “Dorothy” I will refer to her as “Buffy” from this point on. Buffy and her husband Jim Lynch lived on the same floor as us, just a few doors down. Buffy would always come by to say hello to my mom, and they were always inviting each other to go out and socialize (there was a lot of partying going on here).
I didn’t know too much about Buffy (or her husband Jim) at the time (just a casual hello here and there), but they were always friendly to me anytime I saw them. I did discover that Buffy worked at Gusman Hall in downtown Miami, she had something to do with the concerts there. One evening Buffy came by the apartment and offered my mom and I tickets to the concerts. Being a guitar player, I loved to go to concerts. Buffy said to take a look at the schedule, and let her know which concerts we’d like to go to, and she would take care of it. She even said that I could bring my friends with me (4-6 at a time, very cool). This turned out to be a dream come true. Not only did she get us into concerts, but the seats were located on a balcony on the “house right” side of the stage. What a great view of the bands! I got to see the Little River Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, and George Benson (as well as several more, I honestly can’t remember all of the concerts I attended there, but I attended often).
One evening, I happened to be the only one home, there was a knock at the door. I opened the door and it was Buffy, and it was obvious that she had been crying. She asked me if my mom was home and I told her that she was still at work. She said thanks, and started walking down the hall. I asked if she was alright, and she just turned and said, “I’m ok.” I told her that if she needed anything just to let me know. She said, “Thank you so much, it would be nice if I had someone to talk to until Jim got home.” So I went down to her apartment. When I walked in she got me a soda, and we went into the dining room. There were photo albums, newspaper clippings, and photographs spread out all over the table. Buffy said, “As you can tell, I’m a little upset, and this is why” (she motioned to the items on the table). She continued, “This is the anniversary of my ex-husbands death, he committed suicide 5 years ago.” This was unexpected, but I was a little intrigued at the same time. She continued, “I don’t know if you know who Duke Ellington is?” I said, “Yes, of course I do.” Buffy explained, “At one time, I was his girlfriend.” Now this was getting interesting. “Duke Ellington was away overseas with his band playing, most of the band came back, but Duke stayed in Europe. One of the band members, Fred Guy, the guitarist, had a crush on me, and I kind of liked him also – well, I was pretty much in love with him, but didn’t want to cause any trouble within the band or with Duke.” She continued, “When returning from overseas, Freddie came by to see me, and the first thing he told me was that Duke was having his way with the ladies any chance he got. He told me that he loved me, and then asked me to marry him, and I said yes.” Buffy continued showing me pictures and newspaper clippings, and the like. She then mentioned that it wasn’t a pretty picture when Duke Ellington came back from overseas! “He was really pissed off about the whole ordeal.” But just the same, Buffy and Freddie Guy got married. Buffy began to cry again, and said she was sorry for crying. She said she feels so bad, and said that Freddie must have felt so alone to do something like that (referring to the suicide). Then she said, “Enough of that, your mom tells me you play the guitar?” I said “Yes I do, at least I try to.” She said, “Open that closet door, there’s a guitar in there, pull it out and let’s take a look at it.” I found a guitar case, pulled it out, and opened it up. I was speechless, it was a very nice guitar! I tuned it up, and proceeded to play a few chords on it…
I said, “Wow, what a nice guitar” (at 18 years of age, I really had no idea what I was holding at the time). Buffy then said, “There should be a banjo in there also.” So I put the guitar back in its case, and looked in the closet and found the banjo. It was missing a few strings, and pretty beat up. I really didn’t know how to even hold the banjo, and it felt kind of awkward to me. She asked, “Do you also play the banjo?” And I said, “No, I’ve never really played or held a banjo before” (as I returned the banjo to the closet). Buffy then said, “You are a very special young man, to take the time to sit with me and listen to me go on and on about all this, you probably had better things to do.” I said, “What are friends for, right?” She then said, “I am going to leave both of these to you in my will.” I was in shock and said, “You really don’t have to do that.” She said, “No, I insist. Would you want the guitar and the banjo?” I then uttered the words that I would be most regretful for – even to this day! “I do play the guitar, but I wouldn’t have any use for the banjo.” She said, “Fine, the guitar is yours, I am going to leave it to you in my will.” What a shock! I had the biggest smile on my face when she told me that. We talked for a little while longer and looked at more pictures until her husband came home. When her husband Jim walked in the room he said hello and then asked me “What do think about all this?” All I could say was “Wow, I wasn’t expecting all this, what an interesting evening” (or at least something to that effect). As I was walking towards the door I said “Have a good night,” Buffy walked over to me and gave me a hug, and thanked me again. We really never talked about the guitar again after that, and eventually I ended up moving out of my Mom’s apartment (but only a few blocks away). I saw Buffy and Jim once in a while when I went to Mom’s apartment for food (my Mom would still bring home food around 5pm, so I would come by and eat). I am really not sure of the last time I saw Buffy or Jim Lynch, but I am pretty sure it was around the time Elvis died. I was at my Mom’s apartment – waiting for dinner, and the news of Elvis passing came on the TV. A bunch of my Mom’s friends congregated in her apartment that evening to talk about it and I am pretty sure that Buffy was one of them. I moved to Sausalito, California in January of 1978, and then from California I moved to Lake City, Florida where me and my brother Mike started our first “real” band.
Many years later I got a very unexpected, but pleasant surprise. Our band was playing in Jacksonville, Florida. My mom (who was now remarried to Robert Eckmier) decided to come and see us play (and of course she brought a bunch of friends with her). After saying hello, my mom handed me the keys to her car and said, “There’s something in the trunk for you.” When I went out to the car and opened the trunk, there was the guitar. Buffy had given the guitar to my mom to bring to me. I asked my mom, “Why now?” She said, “Buffy didn’t want to wait until she died to give it to you, she thought that maybe you could use it now?” I found out what really happened – apparently my Mom and stepdad Robert Eckmier (Bob) were visiting with Buffy and Jim, and Buffy had asked how I was doing. They mentioned that my brother Mike and I were in a band now, and we were playing in Jacksonville. Somehow it came up in their conversation that Buffy still had me in her will to get the guitar. Bob said, “Well Buffy, why wait until you die, it would be a better gift now, and he could probably start using it.” If you knew my step dad Bob, you would understand that this is something he would say. Buffy told Bob, “You’re right, why not give him the guitar now,” so she gave the guitar to Bob and he put it in the trunk of his car. When I took the guitar out of the case – it was virtually unplayable. The strings were left tightened, there were small cracks in the wood, and the neck was slightly bent. I was pretty disappointed, but I loosened all the strings and put the guitar back in the case. I didn’t open the guitar case for many years after that, but when I finally did, the neck wasn’t bent anymore (go figure). So now you know how I acquired this guitar. I eventually took the guitar to a guitar shop in Virginia to see how much repairs and a fret job would cost. It was weird, they wouldn’t give me an estimate, and they just kept asking me if I wanted to sell it. I said “No” and that was the end of that. The guitar just went back into the closet for many more years. Every year, I sent a Christmas card to Buffy and Jim. Buffy called me many years ago to ask how things were, and to ask how my mom was doing. She said she was trying to get in touch with my mom, but never heard back from her after she left several messages. I asked her how Jim was doing, and she told me that Jim had passed away. I told her that I was very sorry to hear that, and I gave her my Mom’s phone number. She asked if I still had the guitar, I said “Yes.” Buffy then said, “I thought you would have sold it by now.” And I said, “No, I still have it.” I am not sure why she asked that, but she did. A few years later the Christmas card that I mailed to Buffy came back to me as “undeliverable” with the words “deceased” written on the card.
I have never played the guitar in a performance, never practiced on it, and pretty much just forgot about it (left it in the case all these years). I didn’t even think about the guitar for a very long time (I think its because I really didn’t realize what I had). Then sometime in 2006 I started doing research online. The information that I uncovered, and the information that others were providing me turned out to be invaluable. To those of you that have taken the time to send me information regarding this guitar, I am extremely appreciative. To this day, I still receive emails with information surrounding the history and story behind this very special guitar.