For those who don’t know, Mike Dugan is the face you see in almost all of our YouTube videos. Back when I started this little endeavor I wanted to include two good friends of mine to highlight the wonderful world of wacky gee-tars (Dano Dave Damelio is the other part of this)! Mike is the best guitar player I knew and he had an encyclopedic knowledge of all music from the 50s-80s so he was the perfect guy to play songs from the era that the guitars were made. You dig? So while I was writing my book and buying and selling guitars at an astounding rate (I once had over three hundred guitars here in my house), Mike simply relied on a trusty few axes that he used night after night. And today I wanted to highlight one of his guitars… a wonderfully worn Gibson Les Paul Deluxe gold top.
See, Mike has really chosen to make a career out of being a musician. Lots of people play guitar and practice all the time… maybe star in a few bands… you know the score. But how many people do you know who choose this crazy job of a professional musician? I don’t know too many, and I gotta give Mike a lot of credit that he keeps on truckin’ despite many hills and valleys that included changing musical tastes, venues closing and a general move away from live band music. I’ve known Mike a long time and I’ve seen these highs and lows. Professional musicians are just cut from a different cloth. It’s hard to explain but many of them look at guitars as simply a tool. They don’t really want to collect or buy rare guitars. They just need something reliable and something that sounds good so it can be used night after night. Truly utilitarian.
So take this Deluxe as evidence. I just friggin’ LOVE this guitar in all its wonderful wear and tear. Like, this really is honest wear! Not many guitar players can point to years of struggle and accomplishment all contained in the DNA of an instrument. In an era where we buy guitars that “look” like we’ve spent years in smoky bars… this guitar is an actual example!
The back has worn like an old piece of furniture from belt buckles and an old fob watch. The neck has been sanded by the movements of a left hand, and there’s still evidence of a worn Dickie Betts signature… just one example of the adventures this guitar has been through. The gold top is showing green all over the place and at the most extreme points is flaking a bit, but when Mike told me about selling this guitar I just had to write an ode to him and his Deluxe. Mini-humbuckers are among my favorite pickups and the cool thing about his Deluxe is that it’s an early example. This model was introduced in 1968 but by late 69 the model began to feature the neck volute and sandwich body which no one seems to like.
Occasionally when Mike travelled south for the winter he would leave some of his guitars with me for safe keeping. Whenever he left this one I’d open up the case occasionally and jam a bit, but really I just loved to check out the wear and quirks. All up and down the east coast… from the Iridium Club to Daytona Beach… Mike tore it up on this one. I could name a bunch of well-known artists he shared the stage with, but why name drop when all you have to do is see Mike play guitars on our videos. There’s an old saying about practicing and getting better at guitar. You gotta shed. You gotta earn it to get where you’re at and you gotta put in the time. You gotta shed. I didn’t do it. I went the path of a family and full time job and that’s cool too. But to get a guitar looking this way… well, you know.