All Guitar Vero Contest, Part 2

As my poor wife Claire was unable to come on this trip (long story), my friend Pete, who we were staying with in France at the time, was free. As he’s also an independent film-maker, he kindly offered to document the trip.

I didn’t sleep much on the flight across to Los Angeles. Aircraft seats are just not comfortable, despite the ability to electronically dim the windows on a 787.  We landed at LAX around 3:30 pm, spent a little bit of time getting through passport checks, and then some more time, waiting for a driver to appear, who I think was waiting the wrong side of the airport, and then we were on our way.

All Guitar Vero Contest, Part 2

The Wyndham Santa Monica is literally a minute’s walk from Santa Monica pier. A lovely spot. Nikke and Kendall from Vero had arranged to meet us, and just give us a little guided walking tour of the Pier, and the surrounding area. Then they suggested we stop and have a bite to eat and a beer at one of the restaurants on the roadside facing the beach, where we got to know each other, and watched the sunset behind the roadside palm trees. Then Kendall and Nikke left us to ur own devices for the evening, as we wanted to explore a bit further, and stave off the jet lag at least until bedtime, where we hoped we might sleep better, ready for our trip to Norman’s the following day.

All Guitar Vero Contest, Part 2

Anyway, despite all good intentions, and a good strategy to combat the jet lag, I think I had about 3 hours sleep. The body clock is a complicated system, and this had thoroughly messed up my circadian rhythm. Pete on the other hand, having been in New York a few weeks prior to this, and much more used to travelling than me, had had a better night. We walked up to Santa Monica boulevard and grabbed a pavement-side breakfast. Coffee was the most important wake-me-up component.

Kendall and Nikke picked us up at the hotel and Kendall drove us down to Ventura Boulevard, Tarzana, where the famous Norman’s Rare Guitars store is situated.

Norm’s, as it’s now affectionately called, was established in the mid 70s by Norman Harris, who made his name as a musician forging connections with guitarists through the buying and selling of rare and highly sought after guitars. His store has been frequented by many A-list guitarists, including Joe Bonamassa, T-Bone Burnett, Slash,  Mike Campbell, Joe Walsh, and the late Tom Petty, to name but a few, and Norman himself is now considered to be one of the guitar industry’s foremost experts on vintage guitars. A few years ago, Norman’s Rare Guitars launched its own YouTube channel, and now has a following of well over 380,000 subscribers, myself included, broadcasting their featured guitars of the day, with resident and guest performers who turn up to play these amazing and interesting guitars, acoustic and electric, giving the store such a refreshing and unique perspective on the world of guitars, and upon the LA guitar scene as well.

All Guitar Vero Contest, Part 2

Next door to the left of Norman’s Rare Guitars, is the more recently launched All Guitar Network, another project of Norm’s, and the perfect partner to the store, in that it has access to the store’s guitar collection, but it also is taking the subject of guitars to a whole new level. 

Hosted and co-ordinated by musician and composer Mark Rivett, AGN has a greater focus on learning, it is establishing itself as the go-to channel for guitar news, views, tutorials, and features with guest musicians, such as Joe Bonamassa, Tim Pierce, Josh Smith and David Becker, as well as the resident store musicians and presenters: Michael Lemmo, Nick Dias and Norman himself, who are also a focal part of the AGN network too.

As the All Guitar Vero Contest is a partnership prize of Vero, Norman’s, the All Guitar Network, and Taylor Guitars, there’s a lot of people behind this for me to thank. Anyway, the prize involved me picking up my new signed Taylor 717 Grand Pacific Builder’s Edition Guitar, and so we called in to AGN first to meet Mark, where he introduced me to the guitar, though the formal presentation was to be next door at Norman’s. I was immediately struck by the quality of the case itself.

I had a little time to open it up, revealing the guitar in all it’s glory. Signed by many, including the Contest judges Tim Pierce and Michael Lemmo, I was keen to take it out and examine it further. But the waiting area at AGN wasn’t the place, besides, they were keen to shoot the presentation and a little ‘jam session’ with Michael before the store opened at 11. So, we all ventured next door. Tim Pierce, I was sad to hear, wasn’t able to make it, so it was just going to be Michael and me.

I’m 6 feet tall, but Michael is about 6ft 3” or 4”. My son Tom is 6’ 5”, so I’m getting used to this younger generation getting progressively taller. Fortunately we were sat on the famous sofa at Norman’s, so I don’t look too short on the video that Dylan shot from the All Guitar Network. Rather than detune and play the winning piece, I opted for standard tuning, and another song: “Watching The Rain’, so typically English for the scorching heat of L.A.:


Maybe it was the sheer over-tiredness, but I really didn’t feel at all nervous. Listening back, I’m not only pleased with my own performance, but I’m still impressed by the talent of Michael Lemmo, that he could listen once to me playing a couple of verses and choruses, and then pull off a complete accompaniment like that. Awesome!

Next off, we went next door, for me to be interviewed by Mark for the AGN channel. I pre-warned Mark of my tendency to suffer from the “Dreaded Erms”, or hesitation, on camera, and I must say that, like Michael, he put me completely at ease, though you’ll see there are a number of jump-cuts in the interview. I really haven’t mastered talking on camera yet, and I really do prefer a script. They did a superb edit on it though, I think. They really did make me look almost a natural… Great work, guys!

Vero – True Social

Norman’s Rare Guitars

All Guitar Network

Taylor Guitars