A Tale of Two Jacksons (and how I couldn’t love them)

Andy Kohler
5 min readJan 15, 2019
I sent these back to Musician’s Friend. It would have been easy to keep them. They were beautiful instruments yet I had no particular feeling about either one of them. Pardon the outrageous mess in the background — we were doing an addition/remodel and the house was in disarray.

I’ve been a Strat person since 1990 or so, when I bought a MIJ flower power Strat from a little music store in Akron that later burned down. I used that guitar for the next 20 years. It has great feel and low action but also (took me a while to realize this) the most passive pickups on earth. Over the years I’ve done stupid stuff like bust the whammy bar off in it and probably let way too many shady “guitar techs” work on it but the wear it shows is largely from me playing it and using it as it was intended, which feels good.

At Stone Tavern, with my old band Vox Voronet in Kent, Ohio. 2010ish?

It was only when I started another band in 2010 that I played around with my gear (bought some Hardwire pedals, better cords, tried a louder-than-life Fender Frontman 212 amp) and bought a very used Epiphone Les Paul standard for $200 from a guy out in Brookpark.

Dime-a-dozen Epiphone but I liked it a lot.

When I bought it, it was missing a bridge screw, a few strings and had no case. It felt naked and horrifying to walk around with a guitar and no case, even briefly. After installing new tuners and then ultimately having every moving and non-moving part replaced (old guitars are just like old cars, they seem fun to buy but if you intend to actually drive them they end up needing a new everything), purchasing an aftermarket case, and paying for a pro setup (thus making the total buy-in on the guitar about 2.5 times what it was worth), the Epiphone was nice. I just loved the weight of it, the cherry burst finish and the little words over and under the selector switch for treble and bridge, the long rock n roll heritage behind it (even if it wasn’t a “real” Les Paul). It had a more upfront sound than my Strat but after all that work the G string was always a tiny bit out of tune, a very odd problem that I couldn’t figure out. I eventually traded it outside Kravitz Deli in Youngstown for a battered transparent blue MIM strat that I painted daphne blue and added a different loaded pick guard on. That guitar sounds amazing!

Andy Kohler