I got a new guitar. My new guitar is an old guitar. It’s an old guitar that reminds me of a different old guitar that belongs to a friend of mine. He’s an old friend. We haven’t played music together in a long time. For a while, we spent a lot of time together.
Every Tuesday evening for the past six or seven years I work at an auction. This guitar is the first treasure that I have bought and paid for since I began working there. It cost me about half of what a dealer would charge. You can pick up your own Stella at a yard sale, if you are patient.
Stella guitars aren’t great sounding, sort of like a cardboard box with strings, but they are fun to play. My friend’s Stella had a different headstock, but otherwise it’s an identical instrument.
I saw this guitar and immediately flashed back to a time when we were working on our art, drinking Genesee beer, and hand rolling Bugler cigarettes. I remember the hardwood floors that had been stripped but not yet refinished. I remember the piles of books, records, t-shirts, photos, and empty cans. I played his Stella while he played the banjo. I don’t remember the song.
Do you know how sometimes you can hear three seconds of a song and instantly know it and where you were the first time you heard it? For me, most of those kind of songs come from this time in my life. As I have gotten older, I have become interested in the history of the things I love. It turns out that many of the songs that mean the most to me are old Carter Family songs. “No Depression” is one of these classic Carter songs. It was probably written by A.P. Carter. Although, there is some debate regarding an alternative claim to the song and some speculation that he may have borrowed (stolen) some material. It happens.
This song became a defining anthem for our scene when it was covered by the band Uncle Tupelo on their album No Depression. This song/album inspired a magazine, also called No Depression, that became the premier authority on our new version of alternative country music. Our low-fi, and overly twangy version of country rock is often referred to as the No Depression Movement.
This weird gospel tune more or less embodies the dogma we were forging from our blue collar artistic endeavors. We thought we were toiling at art, but really we were just some great friends (you know who you are) jamming some amazing songs.
Check out me and Stella. Don’t judge me, it’s my first foray into video.
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