By Rongyi Zhang
Staring at the guitar in his hands, Jim Wysocki cannot stop recalling his close friend, Les Paul, a guitar legend and great inventor who passed away in 2009.
Exhibitors and vendors gathered in the Freeport Recreation Center on April 22 to participate in the annual New York Guitar Show and Exposition. The event featured Les Paul’s special exhibition, as well as hundreds of guitars & amplifiers. Jim Wysocki, a retired police officer, is now the speaker of a program named “Les Paul, From Start to Finish,” which is a road show that revisits Les Paul’s life by exhibiting some of his guitar collections and telling his stories.
“Les had his railroad track invention from 1928 when he took a real piece of rail and a microphone from his mom’s radio, then ringed strings across it,” Wysocki said. “That’s how he had the first electric guitar with standing feedback.”
This grand meeting for guitar fans has been taking place for six years. According to Rich Johnson, the founder of this exposition, this event is developing year by year.
“We started in 2012 in a small little church in Merrick,” Johnson said. “We grow a little bit every single season. We have a big advertising budget to get people in here. There are about 1,800 to 2,000 people in the show every season.”
This exposition, according to Johnson, is different from those that separate fans and exhibits with barriers, it focuses on interaction.“My belief is that anyone who pays ten dollars to come through should be allowed to participate in a small or large way,” Johnson said. “They can buy $300 guitar and they can try $3000 guitar, they can use the pedal and test the amplifier.”
There are many personal exhibitors that bring their own collection and show them to guitar fans. “I bring my 1978 Les Paul standard guitar and 1973 sunburst electric guitar with customized color to here,” Nick Conte, one of the exhibitors, said. “It’s my fifth year attending this show, and I think this is a great opportunity for guitar fans to communicate and enjoy the culture together.”
Another exhibitor, Dimo Georgievski, thinks it’s very convenient for him to show what he does. “I’m excited,” Georgievski said. “Because you can share your skills and experience with other people here.”
One of the sponsors in this event, Mike Venezia, explains they are not only there to advertise their products, their goal is to expand the popularity of guitar culture.“It is actually the only guitar show currently in New York area,” Venezia said. “The reason why I sponsor this event is that it’s a great way to reach as many people in the New York Metro area as possible right now. Also this guitar expo makes people aware that this culture actually still exists, you see a lot of people that come here they are forty and up. Nowadays we have the Xbox and Playstation culture among kids, they are losing music, so this event keeps us alive.”
Private Amp Room is another popular activity in this year’s guitar exposition. Attendees can turn the amplifier to the max volume and play guitar as loud as possible in that room, and people from outside would not hear any noise.Within the room are the amplifiers from Homestead Amp, a Pennsylvania based amplifier production studio. “Their amplifiers are one of the best amplifiers right now.” Johnson said.
Amplifiers are very important to the electric guitar, as they can strengthen the guitar’s sound and modify its tone. “We cater to the touring musicians and that’s our specialty, everything is completely 100% handmade by myself,” Peter McMahon, a senior craftsman from Homestead Amp, said. “Usually somebody will contact me and I’ll do my homework and study on the players, I listen to the players and I go meet with them and then I build an amp that suits their style.”
The Homestead Amp attracted many musicians to customize their own amplifiers in this studio. As a guitar player from the Rusted Root, which once sold over 3 million records worldwide, Dirk Miller was at the event to test the amplifiers from the studio.
“A good amplifier makes your performance even better,” Miller said. “I have to say that people from Homestead Amp are amazing at building amplifiers.”
Attenders feel that this event is a platform for both exhibitors and visitors to enjoy music together.
“You learn a lot, you see some sculptured guitars and customized guitars,” Bobby Schliessman, a visitor of the event who has been playing guitar for over 40 years, said. “You can pick up those instruments, and you can also talk to musicians, this is all about rock & roll.”
“This is a great event and it happens in the same week every year.” Ahmad Ali, a guitar fans from Stony Brook area, said. “I think people attending this event are primarily here out of the love of guitar. This year we have someone who is the friend of Les Paul. He actually has some of Les Paul’s actual guitar and equipment and some of his innovations, so you actually have history and music here at the same time.”
The 2017 New York Guitar Show & Exposition lasted the whole weekend, and they are planning to keep this event going on in the Freeport Recreation Center next year.