It´s a stellar Southern California afternoon when we caught up with Dan Duehren, co-founder and resident bluesman of famed California Vintage Guitar and Amp in Sherman Oaks. As this month´s Guild Dealer Spotlight, California Vintage is one of those stores that every player dreams of walking into. The instruments are not behind glass or guarded by the ever-persistent sales person looking to make the day´s commission. Instead, it´s like walking into a living room of your house that just happens to be packed wall to wall with a holy-grail selection of the greatest guitars and amps you´d ever want to play. Fluffy leather chairs, a big wood dining room table instead of a cash counter, antique rugs and open beam ceilings, CVG is one of those places every player needs to visit at least once. We spent some time asking Dan a few questions. Here are some highlights.
“We pride ourselves on instruments that meet the standards of the professional musician,” says Dan. What this represents is that the people of California Vintage understand the rigors and desires of players at every level of experience because if you can meet the demands of pros, you are highly skilled at listening and directing the player to the perfect piece of gear. “To carry the kind of gear that we sell, you need people who are knowledgeable of the most esoteric pre-war archtop to the latest custom shop Stratocaster. So our people, whether its in gear repair, collecting or playing, are some of the best in the business,” adds, Dan.
And yes, they have something from every era and every style. Most of the instruments tend to be American made, and can range from National resonators to parlor guitars, to vintage Marshalls and modern Fender combos. However, the combination of both old and new is initially unnoticeable to the consumer because CVG´s vintage vibe makes everything look used. New old stock tubes, old ukes, torn grills on amps add to that feeling of being in a old pawnshop.
The stock of Guild guitars is one of the largest in the country. “Yeah, I´ve always loved Guild cause I come from a vintage background and in the 60´s and 70´s Guild made very good guitars. They have a distinct tone that comes from their bracing in the same way Martin has its own tone, and to my ear, they are truly some of the best acoustics you can buy today,” says Duehren. “When someone walks in the door seeking a 12-string, and you want the best one you can get, it´s clearly a Guild F-412 or 512. It´s really been the standard for an acoustic 12-string for many years,” he adds. “If you´re looking for a dreadnought and want to spend less than a Martin, I´d show them a D-55 or a D-50. You can´t get a better guitar at that price point,” Dan explains.
Guild – How´d you get started in this business?
Dan – I was a touring musician with a buddy I went to college with that was a great businessman who booked us on my first three-week tour. That first tour turned into about five years of being on the road. We went all over the country and backed up a ton of great artists. Lots of blues people like Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thorton, T-Bone Walker and Albert Collins. But after those years of being on the road, I got a little tired of it. I was always buying and selling guitars when we were out on the road. I´d always go to pawn shops when we had a day off, buy something, bring it back home, sell it and make a few bucks. So I´ve always had that in my blood.
Guild – How has the business changed over the years?
Dan – Back in the 70´s, we only bought and sold guitars from and to musicians who needed to use the gear on the road from everything from the local Holiday Inn to the bigger stages around the country or doing a session. But that´s changed so much now. Most the buyers today are collectors or hobbyists who really enjoy the instruments but are not really professionals like they were back then. That´s the biggest change I´ve seen.
Guild – You have some classic guitar brands here, Fender, Martin and National. Why did you select Guild as a prominent part of your guitar inventory?
Dan – I´ve always liked Guilds. As I´ve said earlier, I come from a vintage background and the vintage Guilds of the 60´s and 70´s are very well thought of guitars and very well made. In fact, they are highly collectible today. During the 80´s Guild sort of got lost when it changed its model designations, moving away from the standard F-series for example. But now that they gone back to those models and designs, the line became a much better, more desirable product line and that´s when I got involved selling Guilds again and we´ve done very well with them.
Guild – You have such a large quantity of guitars here, have you always had both acoustic and electric?
Dan – Yes, we´ve always had both. I myself have a rather extensive personal collection of acoustic guitars that I´ve always loved but we sell a lot of electrics especially these great reissues of classic guitars.
Guild – What do you want to say to people considering a visit to your store?
Dan – I think I´d want them to know that we are about selling guitars that you play. There´s not a single guitar, acoustic or electric that we sell here that you couldn´t go out and gig with. And we cater to the professional in town. We have all the studio musicians, the rock bands of all sorts coming in here because we probably have one of the largest selections of pro quality gear new and vintage electric and acoustic guitars anywhere. We also back it up with a great service department, a great repair center and all of our staff is just really knowledgeable about what they´re selling.
Guild – We notice you have a lot of amps, even new old stock tubes and such…
Dan – Yeah, we do. One thing we don´t carry are a lot of beginner guitars as we don´t really cater to that market. Everything we sell is meant to be played by a pro, right out of the gate. Like the tubes, they are meant to go into old vintage amplifiers.
Guild – What do you think the future of the guitar business looks like?
Dan – I think guitars are timeless because you can take them with you. Especially the acoustic guitar because it´s self contained. You can take it to the beach, play it in your car, play by yourself or with others. You don´t need a cord, you don´t need an amplifier, you don´t need a rhythm section behind you, so the guitar will always be desirable and so will people like us to help provide them.
5244 Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401 www.californiavintageguitarandamp.com