In 1977 I bought my first guitar.
I’d been playing for a few years by then, originally pulled in by my older brother’s need to have someone play the bass line of Spicks and Specks while he sang and soloed.
By the age of 18, however, I’d outgrown Andy’s hand-me-down nylon string classical and even the serviceable no-name steel string acoustic my parents had bought me.
I bought a Maton CW80D from Allans Music in Hobart for $340.
That guitar was my best mate for the next four years.
I wrote songs on it, got up with friends at the St Ives Hotel, formed duos and bands that played paying gigs around town, serenaded girlfriends, played on a track that charted in Ireland and Germany, took it to the Netherlands and back, used it in a prac teaching class at Rose Bay High, busked regularly at Salamanca Market on Saturday mornings and dragged it around Tasmania for nine months doing school shows for TUK Theatre Co.
Until one day in 1981 I left it unattended for too long in one of the rooms at Salamanca Place. And it was gone.
That same week, TUK broke up and my mother died. In just a couple of days, my whole world turned upside down.
A few months later, I went to the Netherlands again with my Dad and on the way back visited some friends in Sydney. I stayed in the big smoke, became a working actor and bought a new guitar.
Fast forward to 2007. I live in Corrimal, north of Wollongong, with my wife and two kids. I’m a web developer and designer.
I take my coffee at Cafe Angeli in Railway St, and there’s a music shop a couple of doors down.
Two days ago, my passing glance fell on a familiar shape in the window. It’s a Maton, obviously, and an old one. Looking through the sound hole I can see it’s a CW80/6, a model that’s still in production (unlike the CW80D which was discontinued in 1983).
The guy in the shop tells me it’s from 1967, the year the CW80 line was introduced.
The price tag says “Responsible offers. Hmmmm”. I suggest he’s probably thinking around two grand? “About that”, he says.
Yesterday it was still in the window. “It’s still in the window”, I say. “Yeah, another bloke liked the look of it but he’s thinking about it.”
I emailed Andy. “Worth it as an investment alone”.
I talked about it with Hazel. “You’ve been working hard, you deserve it”.
This morning, I had to go to Sydney for a meeting. On the way there, I rang the shop. “Don’t sell it. I’ll be there by 3 o’clock with the money”. “It’ll be here for you – unless someone offers me three grand”. Ha ha.
When I went to pick it up, the shop guy said the other bloke had come back and was disappointed to be told it had been sold. But he wouldn’t even let the other bloke have a play of it. Shop guy took the chance that I’d be as good as my word. Thanks, shop guy.
I got it home and started playing. It tucks perfectly under my right arm. It has a beautiful action. The sound is like honey.
The back, sides and neck of these guitars are red-brown maple, with a slightly blonder spruce soundboard and darker rosewood neck and bridge. A dreadnought shape, with a black teardrop guardplate. The Maton “Double Thrust” Adjustable Truss Rod has kept the neck perfectly flat, even after nearly 40 years.
It looks – and sounds – like a classic flat top country and western guitar (that’s what the CW stands for, after all).
I go through some of the old repertoire: JJ Cale, Neil Young, James Taylor, Willis Alan Ramsey, The Band, Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, G Wayne Thomas for heaven’s sake (“Day Comes”, one of the greatest surfing songs ever written).
Before I even get to any of my own songs, my fingers remind me that it takes time to develop those protective callouses. Even as I tap the keyboard now, the pads of my left fingers sting.
I think about my old CW80D. I hope it found a good home.
I know my ‘new’ CW80/6 did.