Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vintage Guitar Market: The Great Rap/R&B/hip-hop Scare

Gruhn Guitars is one of Nashville’s premier vintage guitar sources and releases an occasional newsletter with market commentary. Think of it as the vintage guitar market equivalent of the Fed Chairman addressing congress. The most recent issue explores potential threats to the vintage guitar market; lure of easy money from booming stock market or high interest rates and waning interest in guitars caused by the rising popularity of the Rap/R&B/hip-hop genre of music. Needless to say, given I am a guitar blog author and guitar fan, that second one caught my attention.

One of my favorite sections of Rolling Stone magazine is the "Charts" area on the last page showing rankings and I do have to admit that I’ve noticed less guitar based music. Newsletter authors George Gruhn and Walter Carter point out that eight of the top ten records as of their writing were rap/R&B/hip-hop styles and had no guitar. According to them, the last time this kind of shift occurred is now referred to in vintage guitar circles as the “Great Synthesizer Scare of the ‘70s.” The scare originated because the development of electric keyboard instruments coupled with the popularity of disco showed that a song could be a hit without guitars as the lead instrument.

While there may be a chance that interest in guitars has peaked the conclusion they draw is that ongoing evolution of public taste will continue to come around to the guitar given its portability and versatility. They are more than comfortable continuing to invest in quality vintage fretted instruments. I ran across a tangible example of what they are talking about just the other night while watching “Crossroads” on the MTV's music television network.

This episode featured Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performing music from “Raising Sand”, currently number one on Americana Radio Top Ten. Throw a range of guitar based musical styles such as blues, bluegrass, country, and rock into a blender and out comes what I saw on that episode; something amazing! They did a rendition of “Black Dog” from Led Zeppelin IV that included tight vocals backed up by banjo (yes, banjo), standup bass, and one of the most amazing rock/bluegrass/blues/country guitar solos I’ve heard with a very cool effect of rattling keys from a keychain against the strings.

Watching that performance left me in no doubt the guitar is here to stay for the foreseeable future!

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