Music Stores Musical Instruments

My First Real Guitar!

At my place of employment, there are a few other musicians and music lovers. One guy plays death/speed metal guitar in a band that has a decent local following, but when we talk, we are usually discussing guitars and equipment and not the music.

Our conversation one day came around to our first guitar that was decent in name brand and playability. I brought up my first axe, which was a Fender Squier Bullet. This was a step above the other Bullet models that Fender was putting out at the time (about 1987). The body was more solid, a Strat-style neck, but also looked very 1980s, with that hair-metal pickup configuration of two single coils and a humbucker.

Strange enough, I actually still own that guitar. Wile at least a dozen other electric guitars have passed through my ownership, that one has remained. Starting out as my main (only) guitar, it moved to back-up when I secured a Fender MIK Telecaster. Soon the frets began to pop out of their grooves, and rather than repair or sell it, I put it back into its case and let it sleep for now 20+ years.

My co-worker asked me to take a photo of it so he could see it, and I obliged. Pulling that old brown case out from the closet was a struggle in itself, as it was buried under a few suitcases and other junk. However, once I opened it, the memories came back. It still has the 1980s charm to it, and there was still some Scotch tape remnants where I put a photo of one of my girlfriends from back them. I cannot even remember who that girl was. I also remember that this guitar was a victim of an early guitar modification. I tapped the humbucker with a grounding switch so that I could have a pseudo single coil pickup in the treble position. I can’t remember if there were originally three control knobs on it or if I installed a third control for tone or volume – the configuration looks too weird for Fender’s design. Of course, it did have a vibrato bridge. If I remember correctly (I still haven’t plugged it in to check it out), the single coil pickups that were installed were not too much Fender sounding, so playing surf music on it didn’t have the same tone.

This was my first decent electric guitar. Before this, I had been playing bass in bands, and I was finding out that, to get my songs out there, I needed to form a band with which I was the next Joe Strummer. I couldn’t afford much, and was still keen on playing bass if need be. I purchased this Bullet from Wonderland Music in Dearborn, MI, which has long since closed down due to competition from Guitar Center. Back in the 1980s, Wonderland was THEEE music store in the Detroit area. Crazy Clarence would have sales three or four times each year so that you could get cheap guitar strings, and the craziest television commercials!

If you don’t know who Tony Bacon is, he is a world-renowned guitar historian. He has put out books on Fender, Gibson, Martin, Rickenbacker, and other top-name guitar companies. He also put out a comprehensive book on the history of the Squier brand (Squier Electrics: 30 Years of Fender’s Budget Guitar Brand, ISBN 978-61713-022-9). Unfortunately, there is no information on this particular Bullet in the book. In my years of floating around at shows, music stores, and guitar shows, I have only seen one other Bullet like this, and it was in black (mine is white). I find it strange that there are not a lot of relics out there of this model, as it proved (at least to me) that it was a quality guitar for the price. I have noticed that over the past few years, Fender has upped its game on the Squier brand, producing some high-quality models coming out of Asia that can compete with its Fender models at a more affordable price.

Upon looking at this old girl, perhaps for sentimental reasons, I may take it to a professional guitar repair person and have it re-fretted. I know that I will never sell it, but it may be nice to have and play occasionally in the basement to bring back memories.

Chew on it and comment.


By Matt Merta/Mitch Matthews

Musician and writer (both song and print) for over 30 years. Primarily interested in roots music (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk). Current contributing writer for Fiddler Magazine, previous work with Metro Times (Detroit), Ann Arbor Paper and Real Detroit Weekly, as well as other various music and military publications. As songwriter, won the 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (Bluegrass Category, "Something About A Train," co-written with Dawn Kenney and David Morris) as well as having work performed on NPR and nominated for numerous Detroit Music Awards.

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