He got the "guitar bug" at an early age, after buying an inexpensive instrument as a teenager and then reading that the "real," much older model was the only one a "real" musician would deign to own. He found an old one, bought it, and immediately discerned the difference in quality. Since his father was a vintage car collector, trading came naturally to him, but he was also fortunate to be taken under the wing of men who bought and sold antique duck decoys. Strange as it seems, working with duck decoys was the best education he could have gotten for seeking out and working deals for guitars. Despite a good education and a chance for a respectable career, Michael Indelicato would eventually become one of the world’s best-known guitar collectors, a vocation that would take him from mansions to barrooms and roads less traveled in search of rare, vintage musical instruments.
Each purchase comes with a story, like the search for the rare 1958 Gibson Explorer (a color photo, one of many in the book, displays its quirky, space-age body style). The first one he bought resulted in some testy moments when a biker gang got wind of the deal. They beat up the man he bought it from, trying to get their hands on the loot
($75,000 in cash), and later came to the author's house, undoubtedly casing it for a robbery but finding no instruments in residence. The second Explorer was a quick buy/sell, but had he known its actual history, he would have held on to it, since by now it would have quadrupled in value; it had been played by George Harrison and Eric Clapton at the Concert for Bangladesh.
One that got away: a 1959 Fender Telecaster in nearly mint condition. It had great sentimental value, too, having been owned by a friend of his grandfather, Bill Scoggins, who played fiddle for a brief time with the legendary Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. But the owner's wife wouldn't sell at the time, and after his passing, she came back with a price that just way too high. Indelicato reckons if he had bought the guitar, he might have kept it for himself because of the friend/family connections, and he still regrets letting it go.
One big deal: the author purchased the well-known collection of the late Scott Chinery, a rich man who could afford to indulge his passion for musical toys. Indelicato describes the insider details of this remarkable deal, and though no final price is mentioned, there was a million dollar deposit required just to look at and assess the collection of more than 700 pieces. Later, although he made money on the buy and there were a few outstanding instruments in the group, he admits that one outstanding guitar turned out to be a forgery, and on balance, though he would do it again given the chance, he wouldn't recommend that anyone else undertake such an extensive purchase.
The final chapter, “The Twain Shall Meet,” involves Sir Paul McCartney. It’s an episode underscored by Indelicato’s genuine modesty and awe at being in the right place at the right time with the right guitar for the world’s most famous left-handed guitarist.
Written by a practiced raconteur with in a line of work that provides an unusually rich supply of stories, Guitar Man is must-read for guitar freaks and collectors of any kind, and anyone who just likes a tale well-told.