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Searching for Blue Significance

Searching for Blue Significance

by John Calkin

previously published in American Lutherie #56, 1998

I guess I heard about Scott Chinery’s collection of blue guitars at the same time as everyone else. The photo of a necklace of sky-colored archtops lounging on the grass appeared in magazines well outside the field of music. And my reaction was probably the same as everyone else’s — where does this guy get his money? I was glad Chinery had dumped so much bread into the lutherie community, but otherwise I didn’t see the point. So when the staid Smithsonian Institution decided to house the collection for awhile, I was amused and confounded. What was going on here?

I knew two things for sure. First, as a connoisseur of vintage instruments and a collector of wide renown, Scott Chinery was a man to be reckoned with. In the early ’90s he made a short video (available from Stew-Mac) which skimmed off some of the creamier bits of his collection for the home viewer, and let’s just say that any one piece would make any musician’s day turn golden. If the above question about his money seems rude, you should know that Chinery is very up-front about the subject on video and freely talks about what he paid for certain pieces and what sort of tempting offers he has refused for his vintage groovies. My friend and guitar teacher, Mitch Block, played a party at Chinery’s New Jersey home and came back stupefied by the shear quantity of fine (not to mention important) guitars he saw there.

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