I have a Baby Taylor guitar which I love. My total slouch, lounge, go to, go anywhere guitar. I've electrified it with JJB Electronics Prestige 330 transducers that I got for like $40 from Bay City, MI. It sounds so rich through an amp that even guitar thugs swoon when they hear it. I've been working it a lot, recording these guitar pieces for next year. One day it felt like the jack socket was a little loose and I thought I would fix it right up. With no tools at hand, except a pair of pliers. Within minutes, oh man, the whole thing was totally buggered up, without a doubt.
That's when I met Martin, from Birmingham's The Little Guitar Shop, based in the Jewellery Quarter. I brought the guitar into the shop, which is an Aladdin's cave for guitarists, and Martin fixed me a cup of coffee, and fixed the guitar before the coffee had cooled enough to drink. Wow! On a very human level, isn't it just a great relief to find people who can actually do things these days?
Ges, who also works in the store handed me an ancient Telecaster to play while I waited. I don't think I've ever even touched anything quite like that. It was magical. Meanwhile they regaled me with the most incredible guitar stories. They should write a book.
I'm gonna say, I've been in a lot of guitar shops, over a lot of years, over a lot of the planet, but I don't think I've ever been to one as great as The Little Guitar Shop.
OUTSIDELEFT: How did you get into this line of business?
Martin, The Little Guitar Shop: Forever a guitar do-er upper and customiser, decided in 2009 to setup commercially with a workshop and shop.
OL: Are you/were you ever in bands?
The Little Guitar Shop: Yes... [Martin] plays in a Status Quo tribute band called The Quo - AKA The Four Rossis, and also plays in a covers band, the Starving Dogs. Ges has played in bands as does Rob, who does a mean Hendrix...
OL: You sell all sorts of guitars, do repairs, you do guitar shows and sell guitars online... Can you talk about some of those things? What's your main thing?
The Little Guitar Shop: 50/50 selling used and new guitars, constantly working on repairs and setups. We have our own range of hand-wound pickups.
wall of great guitars and way more too
OL: How has the online shopping world made an impact on you overall, I mean, I think you have about 20 feet of streetfront, and about 20 billion potential customers online... That's how I see it though?
The Little Guitar Shop: We use Facebook and Instagram as well as our website, we ship within the UK and to Europe, sometimes further afield. We do a lot of part exchange which is a differentiator - many larger retailers wont be interested in part exchange.
Outsideleft: Without alienating your potential customers who might be fickle about brands... Do you have favorite guitars?
The Little Guitar Shop: We all love the Japanese made Tokai guitars, I have a thing for 70’s Telecasters, Rob likes CBS era big headstock strats, Ges is a Tokai fan and likes small headstock Strats.
Outsideleft: Have you ever sold a guitar and thought... I loved that so much I wish we'd kept it, they're beautiful things after all?
The Little Guitar Shop: Most weeks! We had an original 1964 Fender Jaguar in blue sparkle finish which was a real gem. Also a 1974 SG Special with mini humbuckers that was very nice.
Outsideleft: You repaired my guitar in no time at all. But have you ever had to put a guitar back together that was totalled - is there ever anything beyond repair... Like say Paul Simenon's bass from Penny Smith's cover shot on the London Calling LP?
The Little Guitar Shop: Not quite as bad as his bass but not far off, we restored a VOX White Shadow that was ex Mott the Hoople for a customer, managed to get all of the original parts from a donor guitar that we happened to have in that was also beyond repair.
Outsideleft: What's the one thing guitar owners could do for themselves to keep their guitar in shape and sounding great?
The Little Guitar Shop: Clean your strings after playing, rusty strings act like sandpaper on your frets and cause a lot of needless wear.
Outsideleft: Is this a debate, what should a new guitar player aim for good guitar and average amp or great amp and so so guitar. Do people even talk in those terms anymore or is everything so well made now?
The Little Guitar Shop: It’s hard to buy a bad guitar these days, as a general rule avoid anything below £150 new or £100 used. Amp-wise a 10 watt modelling amp will cost around £150 upwards new, Boss, Yamaha, Line 6, Vox and Fender all do decent sounding combos in this price range that have a variety of tones and effects. Invest as much as you can in the guitar rather than the amp as your playing will improve faster on a better guitar.
Outsideleft: What about the North American guitar thing. Is that still thing, their pre-eminence?
The Little Guitar Shop: No-one complains about their phone being made in China or elsewhere, the USA thing is important for vintage guitars, less so for guitars made in the last 30 or more years, Japanese made guitars have been consistently good since the late 1970’s and are becoming collectible in their own right. Indonesian made Fenders, G&L and Ibanez etc are well made with quality locally-sourced woods.
Outsideleft: Can you tell us the incredible Watkins story?
The Little Guitar Shop: One Friday we had a customer bring in a red left handed 1960’s Watkins Rapier that was his father’s and wanted it restrung right handed, the bridge on these guitars is a cast aluminium so we needed to make a right handed bridge from an aluminium blank. Within a coupe of hours another customer came in with a right handed 1960’s Watkins Rapier (also red) that he wanted restrung and setup to play left handed. What are the chances? Anyway after a phone call we agreed to just swap the bridges and then setup both guitars with reverse nuts and had two happy customers.
OL: Can you anonymously relate any horror stories without going out of business or upsetting your paranoid client list?
The Little Guitar Shop: We had a customer bring in a Washburn electro acoustic 12 string that had a horrendous action, it had been stored in a loft for years and had suffered as a result - the neck was very badly bowed and the truss rod was seized, we managed to free the truss rod and fitted a new adjusting nut, whilst increasing the tension on the rod there was a loud crack and the truss rod had forced its way through the back of the neck behind the nut. Unrepairable!
OL: Who are your favorite type of clients?
The Little Guitar Shop: Anyone who is into guitars, we’re happy to give advice and talk guitars and gear anytime.
The Little Guitar Shop
Open Tuesday - Saturday
82 Vyse Street,
Birmigham B18 6HA
Telephone 0121 233 3788 / 0121 554 2587,
Facebook: the little guitar shop
Parking: On the street outside, pay and display
Toilets? Yes! You could be in the shop for a while!