What kind of instruments do you collect?
Perry Margouleff: ‘Primarily guitars, both acoustic and electric. I don’t have any classical guitars from Europe. I collect guitars made in America in the 20th century. I do have other instruments, but guitars are at the heart of my collection. I couldn’t give you an honest count; I have in excess of 300.’
How did your love of guitars begin?
‘I started out on the drums, around the age of eight or nine. Then I went to see The Who perform Tommy at the Fillmore East. That was it for me. That’s when I knew I wanted to sing songs and play the guitar.’
What is the first guitar you bought that you would consider collectible?
‘I saw it around 1972, when I was 12: it was a Gibson Johnny Smith jazz guitar that I got from my friend’s older brother for $1100. I worked a whole summer as an assistant on a construction crew to make the money to buy it. I still have it. I also still have the first Firebird I got in 1975 or 1976 after seeing Johnny Winter. And the first Les Paul I bought in 1978 — a 1958 Goldtop. By the time I was 16 or 17 I was collecting and swapping guitars heavily, going around pawn shops and buying guitars en masse.’
How do you display your collection?
‘I don’t. People who have violins or other good instruments believe that when you’re not playing it should be in the case, where it is protected and safe. When I go to somebody’s house who is a ‘guitar collector’ and they have their guitars hanging by the neck on the wall somewhere, subjected to temperature changes and whatever else, I frown on them. Poor guitars! Would you want to be hanging around by your neck?’
‘The guitars I have are all very different;
I have one of these and one of those,
much like Noah on his Ark’
‘If I don’t play the guitar, and go, ‘Wow, this plays well and it’s a cool guitar,’ I am really not interested. The playability and sound of the instrument are crucial. If I play it and it’s kind of a dog, I go, ‘Well, it’s not really a guitar then.’ There are two different types of collector in the vintage guitar world. There are people who are, let’s say, myopically focused on the Fender Stratocaster; who might have 50 from different years and in different colours. But they are all essentially the same guitar. I view that as hoarding rather than collecting. The guitars I have, by contrast, are all predominantly very different; I have one of these and one of those, much like Noah on his Ark.’
So many of these guitars must have been in illustrious hands before yours...
‘That’s a whole other thing. I owned a guitar once that belonged to Jimi Hendrix and I sold it because I thought, ‘It doesn’t really play good and I am not Jimi Hendrix. It doesn’t mean anything to me.’ I’m not really into pop ephemera. I like the guitars for what they are. I have probably owned more than 3,000 guitars in my lifetime. But I’ve never bought anything I didn’t like. Again, I don’t think these things are to be looked at. The beauty of a guitar is when it’s making music.’
Is there a guitar you have been looking for that you haven’t been able to find — a Holy Grail of guitars?
‘That is a really hard question. I would say that throughout my life, my search for the Holy Grail was for the Les Paul Standard that had the ultimate tone and sound. At this juncture in my life, having played literally hundreds of them, I think I’ve found a guitar that fulfills that requirement. I am still an avid collector, but now I'm getting into more obscure things. There is always something to learn and new things to strive for.’