What’s Your “Guitar That Got Away”?

Hey there. Welcome to the Tone Taxi. Today we happen to be on somebody’s private driveway.

The ULTIMATE Guitar Practice Routine

Just show up every day, and I'll tell you what to play!

I think it’s called Look Far Drive. This is generally what happens when Joel and I get in the Tone Taxi. We get basically taken away to magical places. This is a really pretty drive, but I’m not quite entirely sure we should be on it.

Anyways, it cannot halt the musical discussion we need to have. Today’s discussion is going to be about the one that got away. I’m not talking about that prom date that was … it was just a magical evening.

I’m not talking about that kind of one that got away. I’m talking about the guitar that got away, that one that you might have traded in that you just can’t seem to get back, or that one that you sold to a buddy and then he went and sold it, and then pretty soon there was no hope in getting it back. It was one that left an impression on you.

For me, I actually have three ones that got away. I had a 2007 Larrivee LO3R that I traded in. I got to be honest, I really wish I had that one back.

My second one was a 1920s Style 4 Weissenborn. That one I traded in for a bass and it got purchased immediately from the store. I have no way to get it back again.

Then the last one was a 1950s Gibson HG-00. It was a square neck, small body acoustic guitar, played lap-style. It was super cool and I have not seen one like I since I got rid of it.

Those are my three ones that got away. I really want to hear the ones that got away from you. I’m not trying to stir up bad feelings, but I just want to share because I think it’s something that all of us guitarists can relate to. Please leave a comment below and let me know about the one that got away. Thanks for riding along today.

Please share the guitars and/or stories about the one that got away!


  1. Martin


    since 1979 I own a wonderful Martin D35. It was my companion for many years in the German folk scene. It still sounds wonderful. In 1985 I bought a used Guild 12-string model JF65, which also sounds great, but it is of course a different instument.
    Then many years later I got into DADGAD tuning and I needed a second 6-string, because I did not want to retune the guitar on stage. It alwasys was my dream to own a D45, but it was to expensive a that time, so I got a D42. That was such a big step forward, but sadly enough it turned out, that the construction was to weak and the top moved “upwards”. But I still had warranty on it and the dealer took it back. Unfortunately he did not have another D42 to replace it, so I had to buy a D45, which always was my dream guitar…but that meant to add another 2,000 €…but now i got it for about a year now and it is a dream.
    So now, i am surrounded by 3 guitars on stage in addition to an irish bouzouki, an autoharp and an ukulele.
    The D45 had to fixed, the action was to high, but now it is ok.
    But I must say, it is not an ideal guitar for fingerpicking, so I am thinking of adding a 000-x model to my collection.
    I know we are all crazy…will that ever stop ? I hope not!


  2. Profile photo of Duane W
    Duane W

    The lead singer in the band I played with ’72 and ’73 offer to sell me her near mint condition 1959 Gibson J45 for $200. As a full time college student who’s total income came from our weekend band gigs, I just couldn’t come up with the money. The band broke up just after the ’73 News Years Eve gig (she had announced earlier in December she wasn’t going thru another cold snowy mid-west winter and was moving to CA (taking the J45 with her). Two weeks after moving in to her new apartment, someone broke in and stole 6 instruments including that J45. After graduation I spent years looking for another J45 that played and sounded as great. I gave up looking after a right rotator cuff tear that makes playing any jumbo bodied guitars very painful. I have a friend who owns a very nice ’14 J45 and he lets me play it occasionally. About 15 minutes is all I can play before the shoulder tells me it’s time to stop. Guess the universe has a way working things out for the best in the long run. But I still think longingly about the ’59 J45 got away.

  3. Profile photo of Sean F
    Sean F

    I had a chance, at one time to buy a Fender Broadcaster. It was (only) $10,000 at the time. I had the money but chickened out at the last minute. Even today it would be worth 3 or 4 times that plus I would have played the heck out of that thing.

  4. Profile photo of Jack Kintner
    Jack Kintner

    One did, one didn’t.
    The one that did was a brand new Taylor 12-fret finger picker kind of small scale (24.9) guitar that was hanging on their demo wall when I visited the El Cajon factory a couple years ago. The model designation was something like “BR-5” which I assumed was “builder’s reserve” or something like that, an experiment, a one-off. It was hanging right next to a satin black 612CE that recently been returned to Taylor from Jason Mraz after having been used in a video. It had been set up by some road mechanic so well it played itself. So I picked that one and passed on the 12-fret, a beautiful instrument with many different kinds of wood in it . Now I’m getting rheumatoid arthritis in my left hand, and boy would I like to reverse my choice. I’ll swing by the factory this winter and take a look, but it’s gotta be gone by now.
    The one that didn’t is a ’46 000-28 whose owner had died. He’d come back from the European theater (a war, not a concert) and bought it in NYC right after getting off the troop transport. Played it professionally for many years. Eventually it ended up on his fishing boat in Alaska. A grandson wanted to electrify it so he poked a hole in the side with a screwdriver so he could slide the mike from his cassette recorded inside. The guy died, then his widow gave it to me many many years later, top looking like it had been finger-painted with paint remover, this giant jagged hole in the side, two rusty strings and so on. I reluctantly accepted it and insisted on paying her $500 for the carcas, sent it back to Martin (probably should have taken it to a good luthier, but they did an OK job) and $2,000 and a year later I got it back. They plugged the half-dollar sized hole in the bout with a new piece of Brazilian rosewood ($25 plus labor). It sounds great. Glad now I didn’t turn her down!

  5. Profile photo of Tony P
    Tony P

    Thank you all who have left comments and stories so far. This is a tough topic to say the least, but I really appreciate you all sharing. Since letting go of the three I mentioned in the video, I have since decided that if a guitar pulls at me hard enough to make me dream about it, I have to get it… but I certainly won’t be trading anything in 🙂 Thanks again everyone for sharing!!!


  6. Profile photo of Thomas S
    Thomas S

    I had a 1966 Gibson acoustic it is mahogany I paid a100$ for it in the 70’s not exactly sure of the date. I loved it but I had no idea I was supposed to hydrate a guitar in the winter. I live in New England bad climate for guitars. The neck and fingerboard were almost exactly as my 1959 330s. Anyways no hydration top dried out. Not enough money to have it fixed sold it put the money in my minivan for my wife and kids . Wife was impressed and later bought me a 2007 deluxe CE but I still miss my old Gibson acoustic.

  7. Profile photo of Marty

    I first took guitar lessons when I was 11 in 1966.
    For three years I saved every penny I could to get myself a Gretsch 6120 but when it came time to put down the money, I bought my mom an electric clothes dryer, instead.
    Mom is now 98 and lives on her own! Partly, I credit her survival to my passing on the Gretsch so she didn’t have to hang out clothes, especially during the winters, all of those years?
    The second guitar that I actually bought wasn’t until 1998 on a road trip out west. My wife and I were driving in Utah and we saw a billboard advertisement for a Guitar Store and decided to stop there. We both bought Taylors … I went with a rosewood back and sides model and she got an all mahogany (including the top) 3/4 scale model. I don’t know which model it was but it looked, sounded great and played like a normal guitar (no cutaway or frills) but they both had solid hard cases and no electronics. So, I guess you could say that I played guitar all across the country? Well, after we got back from our month long wandering, the guitars took second place to buying and renovating our new home. That was when I made the practical (and regrettable!) decision to sell them because we weren’t using them. It seemed logical and we actually made a couple of dollars on the sales. But boy, I have always regretted that decision! I have many guitars now, but that is the one that got away and I still long for it. I still remember how loud and clearly is rang out around those campfires, like they were only yesterday.

    1. Profile photo of Michael D
      Michael D

      Marty, 6120… I feel you. One of my guitars is an Ibanez AF 75 that I thought would scratch my Gretsch itch…although a very nice guitar… alas, ’tis not a 6120.

  8. Shawn LaMaster

    In 1979 I bought an old (had to be 60’s I think, maybe late 50’s) Hofner semi-hollow body electric (335 style) in Houston, around Rice university, to take out on the construction barge I was working on. I had it for many years and then gave it to a so-called “friend” for his birthday. He ended up running my car I also loaned him into the ground and left it abandoned downtown when he moved away – have never heard or seen him or that guitar since! I did have a Takemine 12 string stolen once, but that Hofner is the only guitar I have ever consciously let go, and I wish I had it back!

  9. Profile photo of Michael D
    Michael D

    Interestingly enough, I after eating far to much and playing with a bunch of guys who are much further along in there guitar journey, I was talking to one of the other players about this. My guitar that got away is not an acoustic, rather it is a 1989 Fender Strat American standard. Just beautiful. It had a gun metal blue finish, rosewood fretboard, and played like a dream. The single coils had just the fender bite that I was looking for, but being young and needed to both pay my rent and, well, eat, I sold it. Along with the Strat, I also sold an old early 1970s Crate all tube amp with the most delicious reverb. It was when Crate still came in, well, crates. I should have sucked it up and moved back in with the fam, but pride is a silly thing, and I still regret selling the guitar.

  10. Profile photo of Pat H
    Pat H

    Driving down from the Sierra foothills I stopped to explore a thrift store full knickknacks made by local artists. There in the corner was a huge dark guitar sitting in an old open case with Gibson on the headstock and written in script Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe. Cost $300. The store owner said it belonged to a local man who owned it his whole life and recently passed away. I picked it up and tried to play the huge guitar, but with a super high nut and saddle with very high action was difficult to fret with my small hands. Yet for some strange reason every fiber in my body said buy this guitar. I was mesmerized by this guitar’s dark beauty. But my logical mind said why buy a guitar you cannot play easily? You already have a guitar you love. I put it down, walked around the shop yet from every corner my eyes were drawn to this Roy Smeck Deluxe. The owner told me the family thought it probably hadn’t been played in 25 years.

    There was no internet nor cell phone invented yet. The owner thought $300 was expensive for an old guitar (at that time circa 1984 so maybe 50 years old). You know how it goes. That guitar haunted me for weeks. I researched it in the library and talked to a guitar shop owner who explained the Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe was originally set up for Hawaiian style but the action could be lowered with a major neck reset (but one couldn’t count on it having the same tone). So this guitar was probably in its original condition! Two weeks later I drove back to the foothills but the guitar was gone. A few years later the Gibson Roy Smeck model was a featured guitar in one of the guitar magazines and noted folks like Jackson Browne and Ry Cooder were owners. The magazine valued Jackson Browne’s guitar at that time at $50,000. Every time I see a vintage Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe I wonder if that was the guitar I held once? Somewhere I have that magazine article as a reminder to trust my intuition. The guitar that got away still haunts my mind.
    Here is Jackson with his Gibson which he would frequently play in concert.

  11. Profile photo of Anna K
    Anna K

    I am still hoping to meet THE ONE. I am patient though.
    My first guitar is actually a Luna tenor Uke that my grandkids call the “little guitar.” Keeping that. Just for them.
    My next is a Taylor GS mini that I take everywhere.
    And the next….
    So far I think I want a Martin 000. I kind of like the Eric Clapton signature. I tell my friends that Eric wants me to play in his band…in about 20 years.

  12. Profile photo of Michael S in Illinois
    Michael S in Illinois

    My story is actually more of a loop than an exit line. I went to look at a small body, Martin Custom 12 string being offered by a music store in So. Wisc.from a n estate sale. Cool guitar, felt Great, sounded Wonderful, etc. So I left the store (not leaving a deposit) trying to think of how to convince my Wife this would be a smart move….I get Home an hour or so later, my Wife(the Saint) said something like: “cool..let me see it”…..I immediately called the store that I’d be back the next day, only to hear it was sold 1/2 hour after I left the store!! So, rounding out this story, 2 days later I get a call saying the guy’s wife wouldn’t let him keep it as he brought home 3 guitars that day…the 12 just had to go!! So I have a custom 00012-28 to noodle around on….

  13. Profile photo of Daniel H
    Daniel H

    Too many to mention but the one that stands out is a National 1954 New Yorker semi-acoustic with a pickup. Near mint condition. It was GIVEN to me by an anonymous donour at a school where I worked. I played it a bit, it had a chunky neck, but a smooth jazz tone. Body by Gibson. It didn’t sound like a dread, not great for acoustic jamming, so I sold it for a song $600. Now I realize I will probably never have something quite like it..but there are always some great guitars out there..right?

  14. Profile photo of Ellen W
    Ellen W

    No regrets at this point. Am I weird, or what? Dragged an absolutely killer vintage tenor sax around with me for 30+without playing it, and now I finally am learning how. And I still have my first “real” guitar–a Larrivee OOO-3. I also have a “closet” bass, an 80s G&L. Hmm. . .

  15. David

    LP Gold top. Needed $ for a new Harley. The bike wore out. Bet that LP is still running.

  16. Profile photo of Stéphan B
    Stéphan B

    For me the one that got away was a nice mid. 80’s trans, red Ovation Ultra.

    I sold this guitar to one of my cousin for a very “family” price, the only thing I asked him is to
    give me the chance to buy back the guitar first if he decide to put it on sale one day.
    The first thing I learned, the Ovation was no longer in is possession ? “Thank’s Bro”
    Maybe he took is revenge for my unfair exchange of Hotweels & Matchbox of our younger days ?

    Anyways I missed that guitar not so much for is sound or the value, but the memorys that are attach to her.
    Haaa nostalgia nostalgia….

  17. Profile photo of jeffd

    my fav that i should have never gotten rid of was a numbered a series Yamaha 12 string all Koa guitar .There 150 of these guitars made from Yamaha it was such a sweet guitar cost 2k and i traded it for a new dove that i do not have know.I truly wish i had # 57 still in my growing collection .I player that guitar daily at the end of each practice session.It helped me write some very warm songs.The tone was so very special.One day i will find another one

  18. Profile photo of James H
    James H

    I had a Ibanez Byrdland archtop electric in the 70’s that I should have kept.I always wanted the Gibson model but could not afford it.Still can’t to this day!!
    That was a beautiful guitar.Very well crafted in a natural finish with a Venetian cutaway, at about a quarter of the price of the original.
    I traded it for a Made In USA Ovation straight up.They were hot guitars back then,but I sold it to a friend a few years later.
    I bought a Ibanez AK95 about 8 years ago,which is actually more like a Gibson ES-175.It reminds me of the one that got away in many ways.Not as good though,but it will have to do.

  19. Profile photo of Heidi H
    Heidi H

    Ohhh, this topic causes pain to this day! ;D A few years ago, a local guitar shop had a used Breedlove (Concert model, if I recall correctly) that was my “dream” guitar! Not because I’d researched that particular few-year old model, but because there was something MAGIC about it! The previous owner took extremely good care of it, it had a few to several years of “playing” and “aging” to make it better-than-new, and it just .. ah shucks, I don’t wanna get all sappy and sentimental here but WOW! 😀 It had some “extras” re: abalone purfling and sound hole trim, some special but very tasteful/understated fingerboard inlays, beautiful woods all around, but what really “spoke to me” was how it FELT in my hands, and how it SOUNDED! So well-rounded/well-balanced, responsive to lightest touch yet didn’t “muddy” or “get too busy” with hard strumming… OH how I wanted that guitar! Price was a sweet deal too, for such a fine instrument, made in Bend Oregon just one state south of me… But alas, the better half said I couldn’t have it unless I sold my Baden (and perhaps my Alvarez MD80) because I didn’t/don’t play well enough to justify an instrument like that, spend that kind of $. I did TRY to trade my Baden in on it, but shop wouldn’t take it as down payment.. (too many people are too brand-conscious and hung up on “name”) Sigh… if I ever came across that guitar again, or one very similar, I would just DO it.. what are savings accts. for if not for making magic, after all? 😀

    2nd guitar I’ve SORT of felt bad about not buying, was back in in the mid to late 1980’s. It was a true Spanish classical guitar, brand-new, all solid woods etc, The owner of the local small, amazing music store had actually SUGGESTED I take it home and play it for a few days, to see if it was “THE one” for me! (Yeah, pretty flippin’ amazing to get so much respect from what many people perceived as a grumpy/crusty old musician/music store owner! :D) Anyway, I DID take it home for a few days, and while I loved it, AND the owner was going to sell it to me for a SIGNIFICANT discount (classical guitars weren’t popular in the pacific northwest at the time) I still decided I preferred the SOUND of a much less expensive Yamaha classical guitar, and bought it instead. It may have simply been “dead strings” on that Spanish guitar.. and it would probably be worth some “real $”” by now, but the GOOD thing about a less expensive and more “common” guitar is that I was probably a lot more likely to feel comfortable “playing” it (using the term very loosely :D) and more comfortable taking it places, and/or letting my brother or others play it. 😀 (I DO still have that Yamaha classical, and even though the back and sides are laminate, that solid cedar top has improved with age, and I still love it! :D)

  20. Ted Wagner

    1 – 1965 L-series Fender Stratocaster, cream with rosewood board. Stolen.
    2 – 1968 Gibson SG Special, given to me by very good friend, and guitar mentor, who played lead forPG&E, after he found an original 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard for $500 (!!!). Pawned for $50 for drugs in FL by another “friend” … or, Stolen. He was later shot dead in a deal gone very bad.
    3 – Unknown vintage (probably 1960s or 1950s) sunburst 3/4-size Gibson acoustic. Sold to a friend, who painted it all psychedelic colors, and traded in on a low-end Martin acoustic.
    There are others, including a 1967-8 (?) Gibson Firebird VII triple P-90 ($125!!!), a righty version of the one Paulie is playing on the back of “Ram”. Traded for the above Strat, even up. And my second guitar, a 1960s cherry red, single-pickup, single-cutaway Harmony Rocket. Sold to buy a really bad Japanese copy of an SG, which led to my gift, about a year later. Recently satisfied the Harmony crave (sort of) with a used Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II. 😉

  21. Profile photo of Bob H
    Bob H

    It’s the Mexican made classical guitar I used when I first played guitar around age 10 or 11. It had been my father’s previously, though it certainly wasn’t an heirloom or anything. He’d gotten it from a friend and had started learning guitar. Later he had a local luthier build him his ‘dream’ guitar and I got the cast off.

    I had that thing for years. The tone was really pretty good for a no-name, inexpensive, classical guitar. I studied classical for a couple of years, then folk for a short while, then we moved and I more or less gave up on playing for far too long, though I kept the guitar with me. After college I was living with some friends, one of whom was a musician and he took a liking to it, playing it on stage in his act (he was not a classical guitarist by any means ). I moved back to Hawaii a couple of years later and he kept the guitar.

    It’s only now, some 30 plus years after all this that I wish I had it back…I may actually see if he’s still got it, though I suspect not. You never know though.

    On a happier note, I still have the soprano ukulele I played in 4th grade here in Hawaii. I still have it because my mom kept it. Next time I’m in Hilo I’ll see if I can play something on it for everyone.


  22. Pecos Bill Jarocki

    I had #73 of the 100 Taylor Chris Proctor Signature Models. I purchased it used. Engelmann/Rosewood GC. It was one of the few guitars that Taylor made that had a one-time only transferrable warranty. The wide nut was ideal for finger-style and the Florentine cutaway was beautiful. It was really a great guitar.

  23. Profile photo of Nick A
    Nick A

    In the late 1990s I sold a left handed all black strat clone with flame maple fretboard and neck made by the Harmony guitar company. I’ve never seen another left handed one and rarely come across them right handed. It was well built, looked so beautiful and sounded great. At the same time I sold my late 60s Fender Bassman Export Amp head I acquired whilst I was a university student. All to pay off utility bills.
    Boohooboohoo 🙁
    Acoustic wise I’ve been lucky and not gotten rid of anything I would have missed.

  24. Profile photo of Dom T
    Dom T

    Mine was my first REAL guitar. I was in my early thirties and it was a Yamaha. No idea what the model was, but it sounded great. I decided like a dummy to give up music. I’ve done a lot of dumb things but none as dumb as that. I know the guy who bought it and I am asking him if I can have it back. Dunno why, just want it back.

  25. Profile photo of jeff s
    jeff s

    I sold my second guitar a Gibson mk 45 for rent money at college in 1983. 80.00. I worked mucking stables for 1.00 p/hr to buy it. (No I am not bitter about child labor exploitation). That was a sad day when I sold it. It was an unusual guitar and it had its thing. Wish I had it back.

  26. Profile photo of DEXTER KEATS

    Actually, it hasn’t gotten away. I’ve almost sold it, almost traded it twice, and it’s still with us. It’s the first guitar that I started carrying on trips. The first guitar that I carried into a hotel and jammed in the room. The last day there I had to ask them to hold it for me in the managers office because we were checking out but going to lunch and it was really hot outside (it couldn’t stay in the car). The first guitar that I carried down a cool rustic street in McKinney, TX. Hindsight, I should have taken it out of the case and played on that street… What was I thinking? I know what it was, I couldn’t play much of anything yet. This site fixed that… It’s not anything super special but I literally play it until my fingers hurt so bad that I have to take a break, which is several hours a day. There is something about the way I can play it. It’s just so comfortable. I can bang on it or fingerpick it… It’s my 2013 Gibson Hummingbird Pro that I bought used not too long ago. It had just bought a Martin D35 and I was getting some strings to see that this mahogany and sitka spruce box had just come in, I pulled it off the wall and couldn’t put it down…

  27. Profile photo of Fred G
    Fred G

    In the early 70s I bought a Giannini Graviola, Brazilian rosewood, weird shape, but really decent tone and easy to play. Wish I still had it for weirdness factor.

  28. Profile photo of pog s
    pog s

    two—not actually 100% guitars…well, one was a banjo that a boyfriend bought so he could learn to play and then join me with my guitar. i saw it in his trash by the road after we broke up. I got out, put the two pieces of it in my car. i took it to matt umanoff’s on bleecker and he said $250 to fix it. I took it home…it sat for years…i gave it to someone…he never got it fixed and threw it out..i should have reclaimed it. I had beautiful inlay work on the neck–was a 5 string. the other was in a store window–second hand–a guitar-a strung banjo..for $100…a friend said just buy it…i was nervous about the money…etc etc. i still wish i’d bought it…and a beautiful round-backed mandolin that someone stole when i had a party.

  29. Stephen Perge

    An all-mahogany 1971 Guild D-25 that my son’s junkie acquaintance took with him when we kicked him out of our house. It was in rough shape and needed a neck re-set, but it had a sweet tone and I’ve always had a thing for Guilds. Still, I’m forever thankful that he didn’t take my ’71 Martin D-35!

  30. Profile photo of Poppa Smoke
    Poppa Smoke

    Sure, the one that got away was my old 1957 Gibson J45. I played the fire out of that box for years then sold it to a buddy, got it back then traded it for a Martin D28. I still have the D28 but would trade it in a minute for that sweet J45.

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