USA/California Guitar Shops

Posted: June 16, 2016 in Uncategorized
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My final blog on guitar sightseeing that I fitted into my recent holiday is here!

IMG_5870I’ll start with Norman’s, a vintage/rare guitar shop on the outskirts of LA. I visited here on the way to LA after  driving the Big Sur/Pacific Coast Highway.  It is in quite an odd location, a row of shops off a busy road (not for nervous drivers, there are six lanes of traffic and this wasn’t even a freeway/highway!). After parking up, as  I was walking to the store I passed Norman and he said hello, seemed like a nice fellow. The shop itself has quite a big floorspace with guitars grouped by type. The vintage stuff is split from the contemporary models as are acoustics and electrics. First impression is what a friendly store this, they must get tons of visitors just visiting the shop because of it’s reputation. There seemed to be a few in there of this sort trying out vintage guitars for the hell of it. I didn’t want to do this for a few reasons, I might pick something up that I couldn’t walk away with and end up putting on my credit card, also I don’t think it’s fair on the store as some of these instruments are extremely expensive and rare. For instance, they had a ’52 tele just hanging on the wall! The staff are super friendly and will offer you help and do encourage you to try anything you want. As I said, with no intention of buying I keep my hands off the expensive stuff!

The stock is very comprehensive, they even said if they didn’t have model I was after then they would probably have it out the back. Here is the vintage archtop section, full of Gibsons and Epiphones.

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And a few other shots including myself trying out a thinline Telecaster in candy apple red.

IMG_20160525_125550IMG_20160525_125603IMG_20160525_130433IMG_20160525_130359Also, not pictured is the Stonehenge monument model from ‘Spinal Tap’!

After a good 40 minutes, I opted to by a Norman’s t’shirt and a Fender one too. I would love to have bought a guitar from this shop, the stock was incredible and it was a an extremely friendly guitar shop. There is a great BBQ joint on the other side of the road worth a visit too!

On the way to our LA hotel we stopped off at another legendary store, the Hollywood Guitar Centre on Sunset Boulevard. I’d already been to one of their stores before Las Vegas but was not prepared for the scale of this store. On the way in you are greeted by the guitar equivalent of the walk of fame. This was famous players hand prints on the floor. Here are a few examples, sorry for the picture quality, felt like a bit of weirdo taking pictures of the floor!

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Outside of the shop there are also a few exhibits behind glass, mainly related to Van Halen and Jeff Beck.

The store itself has plenty of sections, you enter one main room and then there are rooms off this for vintage, higher end guitars, acoustics, accessories and other instruments. Here is me trying another thin line tele! This time in Blue…this one didn’t grab me like the one at Norm’s.

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The epic vintage guitar room. There was some serious vintage gear in here! I tried out a 1962 Gibson 330 that felt incredible. Wouldn’t fancy subjecting an old guitar to a long haul flight though, naturally it was cherry red. IMG_20160525_145033

My impressions of the Guitar Centre is that as big chain (almost like a supermarket) it lacks a little personality. It was great fun looking through all of the stock, but it felt a little impersonal and they felt like they was just shifting stock. The staff were very friendly though, I think I prefer a smaller shop for a good buying experience though, somewhere where you establish a rapport with the staff. I ended up buying some strings that went on my 330 and a fantastic strap that is on my new Tele.  Both of these shops are well worth visiting. Personally, I didn’t enjoy LA itself that much, but these shops were jaw dropping good!

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