From Minnesota To Sydney ~ Route L5

by Tommy Dunne

Born and raised in Dublin, Tommy Dunne now lives in the USA. His cousin Reg Dunne lives in Australia.

In February my cousin Reg Dunne (Ex New Viscounts, Caroline, Kings) called me from Australia and asked me to look out for a Gibson L5 or a Johnny Smith. I scoured the dealers and found a '93 L5 Wes Montgomery Vintage Tobacco Sunburst that had just been traded in at Lavonne Music in Savage, Minnesota (about 20 miles south of Minneapolis). A Gibson Citation also came in that day but $12,000 was way over budget. I looked over the L5 and it was in immaculate condition. No tarnish, no scratches. It had never had a strap on it as the stud was never screwed in to the base of the neck. The case didn't have a mark on it.

I played it unplugged and it sang to me. I talked to the father of the owner of Lavonnes and he told me it was bought new from them by a collector from San Diego who traded it against a Chet Atkins signed guitar. To save myself a thousand words, I asked them to e-mail pics to Reg which they did, but it all comes down to playing and feeling the instrument. Reg told me he would accept my judgement…nice compliment, but now the onus is on me.

I went back after a few days and the Citation had been sold for $11,500 so I said it's make your-mind-up-time. I negotiated a price with Pete, the store owner, and bought it with a 3 day return agreement. I brought it to a friend, John Ganapes, who also bought an L5 from Lavonnes 2 years ago, to get a second opinion. After about 10 minutes playing it he said that he didn't need to play it any more…what a relief. I took it home and plugged it in. I compared it to my Fender D'Aquisto…chalk to cheese.

I called Reg and told him if he wanted to back out of the deal it would be OK by me (I even got approval from my better half) No go. Now I had to ship it to Australia. My youngest daughter said if I bought her a ticket, she would personally deliver it during Spring Break! Lavonnes supplied me with a cardboard shipping box with moulded styro and lots of air-bags. A friend (a drummer) from London who now lives here and works in the freight business told me to mark it as an unsolicited gift and Reg would not have to pay any import duty on it. I trusted it to UPS and they charged $422.95. and gave me a tracking number which I gave to Reg. We both tracked it… by the hour.

Off she went from here to Louisville, Kentuckyy, to Toronto, Canada.  To Honolulu Hawaii, to Sydney Australia. So far, so good, and then... then…. SHIPMENT HELD TO VERIFY COMMODITIES -  GOVERNMENT AGENCY QUARANTINE - PAYMENT MUST BE MADE PRIOR TO RELEASE - BROKERAGE RELEASED - WAITING FOR CLR AGY.  Reg had to pay AU$1,500 before he could get his hands on it and decided to pay now and fight them later. Maybe they had a look at it and thought it was brand new. Why did I listen to a drummer? (sorry Aidan). I should have listened to my daughter !

Reg called me about two hours after it had been delivered and had changed the strings from round-wound to flat-wound and had tweaked the trussrod a little. He was ecstatic about it. I didn't call Reg again until about a week later when I thought that the initial excitement might have died down…wrong! He compared tracks made by this guitar to recordings made with other guitars and was astounded. He told me that this guitar had made almost all his other guitars redundant and that he had already put his Hofner Comittee, Rickenbacker, Maton Jazz, and Washburn Jazz guitars up for sale. He said he would probably never take his Gibson 175 out of the case again.

He had only been doing studio work lately but has now decided to put a band together with a girl singer he had been working with in the studio, piano, stand-up bass and drums.

He's been rejuvenated. What a trip.

 © Tommy Dunne 2004

  © Irish Showbands Archive 2004

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