“The sustain, listen to it.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Well you would though, if it were playing.”
The Gibson Guitar Factory tour piqued both Anna and my interests. I like guitars, and Anna likes seeing how things are made. Unlike other tours, this one starts in the gift shop. Of course, you’re there, so you have to play the guitars. And then you notice that no instrument costs less than $3000.
Unlike a Guitar Center where people are jamming and trying to play louder than the person next to them, the Gibson shop was eerily quiet. None of the amplifiers were on, or even had cables hooked up. If you wanted to plug in, you had to be a serious buyer.
I played an ES-335 in all of its unplugged $3000 glory.
At the beginning of the tour we saw different models of hollow-body and semi-hollow-body guitars made in this facility. The Les Paul models are all made in Nashville (or abroad, though they did not mention that…).
You’re unfortunately not going to get a real sense of what the tour was like because taking photos was banned.
The assembly line was very specialized, with each individual shop worker focusing specifically on one task, whether it was shaping the body of the guitar, gluing the edges, sanding the wood, or applying paint. Even with a tour I couldn’t figure out how they made a guitar. They definitely weren’t teaching us how to build a guitar, just giving enough of an overview to remind us why these start at $3000.
All the tour really did was coax me into recommitting to building the guitar that I still haven’t built after what must be five years now.
The end of the tour led into the gift shop, where we could now more fully appreciate the value of the stringed instruments in front of us.
For a completely different experience, and a very poor segue, you should also check out the National Civil Rights Museum.
The museum is in the old Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was eerie how preserved the exterior of this 1960s era motel was against the backdrop of modern-day downtown Memphis. A wreath hangs over the balcony outside room 306, where King was gunned down.
The museum itself was very impactful. It was an interactive history of oppression and slow gains in civil rights over time. It was interesting from a Northerner’s perspective, because growing up much of the discussion of civil rights focused on the backwards South. However, the museum did not give the North a pass. It pointed out riots and unfair treatment of minorities in northern cities as well. This really illustrated the unconscious biases education can have.