Meet Michael Rudes, owner of Vintage Guitar Gallery of Long Island. Let’s find out more about Michael, his interests in music and gear, and his impressive New York-based shop.
How and when did you get started in the guitar business?
I started thinking about opening a business in 2012 and by 2013 opened my first store at 1016 Grand Boulevard in Deer Park. After having a successful first year in business I started talking with Chris Briggs from Briggs Music in Huntington about a possible partnership between our two shops. In July of 2014 I began moving my inventory over to a specially designed climate controlled space within Briggs Music located at 764B Park Avenue in Huntington, New York.
Are you a guitar player or a collector yourself?
I am both a player and a collector. However, I have a real deep appreciation of the history and artistry of the older vintage instruments. I credit my mom to instilling a deep appreciation for and understanding of all types of art. She would take me out of school a few times a year to take me into New York City to visit the city’s great art museums and teach me about all kinds of styles and a little bit of the history behind the pieces we saw. As a result, I grew into a person with a great appreciation for all kinds of artistic expression and various aesthetics, as well as having great love for music, especially Classic Rock from greats like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Beatles, etc.
What types of instruments do you consider to be your store’s specialty?
My store specializes mainly in American-made guitars and amplifiers made between 1920 and 1970. I am particularly fond of Fender guitars from the 1950s. We also perform detailed appraisals for insurance and estate valuations, as well as have a decent amount of instruments that have been generously consigned to us for sale.
What was the most interesting instrument you ever bought and sold, or something you bought and kept for yourself? How did you acquire it?
The most interesting instrument I have ever purchased was from an independently owned fine instrument distributer in Delaware. They sold me an incredibly beautiful alpine white Gibson Les Paul Custom that was previously owned by Les Paul, the legend himself. Les had gifted the guitar to his friend. The reason that the instrument is so incredible is not just that it has been owned by and signed by Les Paul, but he gifted the instrument to his friend of a half-century, Vladimir Grinioff, in 1999, after Vladimir suffered a heart attack and continuous health complications. Vladimir led a very interesting life. He was known by most of his friends as a “playboy,” as is noted in a letter written by Les that goes along with the guitar. Vladimir had a very secret part of his life that he did not share with many, only those that were very close with him. Publicly, Vladimir was known to be a virtuoso pianist and classical guitarist who had even played concerts for the likes of various heads of state, as well as the President of the United States. Additionally, Vladimir was a prize-winning author who became most famous for writing two widely publicized books, includingTale of a Whistling Shrimp [about life under communism in Russia], which was particularly well received. Vladimir was in fact working closely with double agents who shared vested Russian/American interests, and was a fundamental collaborator with the political groups who eventually overturned and helped to dissolve the U.S.S.R. in the early 1990s. He went on to eventually retire as an executive officer of the C.I.A.
What are some of the coolest pieces you in your current inventory?
Some of the coolest pieces in my inventory would have to be an original 1960 Fender Stratocaster in Olympic white, a 1966 Fender Strat in Lake Placid blue, a 1962 Fender Jaguar in Dakota red, a 1927 Gibson L1 with custom painting of the famous Robert Johnson portrait, a 1956 Danelectro U2 in the original custom aqua finish, as well as a 1929 Gibson Mando-bass very similar to the one owned by Eddie Van Halen.
What are some of your personal favorite instruments and what’s on your wish list of things you would like to acquire?
Some of my favorite personal instruments would have to be the 1960 Strat and my recently sold 1976 Gibson Explorer. Currently, I have four guitars on my wish list. I would love to have a 1957 Magnatone Mark III Deluxe in white, an original Bigsby similar to the Merle Travis guitar, a 1957 Kay Barney Kessel Jazz Special, and a 1963 Gretsch Princess model 6106 in rare pink finish.
1929 Gibson Mando-bass
1927 Gibson L1
1956 Danelectro U2
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