Meet Mike Rudes, Owner at Vintage Guitar Gallery of Long Island:
As a kid, one of my fondest memories was when my mother would take me out of school and we’d go into New York City to the art museums. I’d soak up all the different styles of art and ask a million questions about the history behind each piece we saw.
I have such a deep appreciation for the history and artistry of the older vintage instruments, and indulging in the slightest differences in tones between them has always been playtime for me. I've always considered them works of art.
My first guitar was a 1960’s/70’s Ovation B-140 Classic, previously owned by my uncle Bobby before he tragically passed away when I was 3. When I was 15 and in desperate need of anything that would impress girls, it came to my rescue and became mine. Thank you, Grandma. You can read more about this and the Ovation in my post titled The One Guitar You Never Sell.
Bobby's (my) Ovation.
Now I needed to actually learn to play it...and needed something to play on it, which led to the discovery of music as a teen and throughout college at Ithaca. I soon got really into Classic Rock from the greats like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Beatles, Clapton, etc. What better place to skip outta class in the early ‘90s than Ithaca NY where one could peruse around Rumble Seat Music and Ithaca Guitar Works all afternoon? Shops like these became my local art galleries to check out the constantly revolving curations of gear eye candy.
Rumble Seat Music's old Ithaca Shop (below). Ithaca Guitar Works (above).
I initially got into this as a business for fun in 2012. I stocked up a small collection of the most unique and interesting vintage guitars I could afford at the time, and was playing around with an invention idea for guitarists called the iRock Guitar, as well as some weird amp ideas, which I will get into in a blog post soon. I'm most into Fender guitars from the 1950s. Leo Fender was my inspiration as an inventor. I admire the way he shaped the industry by perfecting his work through tireless experimentation and player feedback. I'm working on a new post soon exploring Why Leo Fender Was The Nicola Tesla Of The Music Industry (and why I clearly am not).
Anyway, you may relate but with kids and dogs taking up enough space, my wife wasn't thrilled with the multiple guitars nor the parts needed for my invention-experiments laying around. So, I rented an industrial office space where I could work my day job in sales and marketing in the front office, display the guitars around the meeting area, and use the industrial space in the back to do repairs and play around (make a mess) with parts. I set up a website that got some traction locally and vintage enthusiasts and musicians would swing by to relax and try out a guitar or two, chat, buy one, have me fix something on one of theirs, or ask me to help them sell one. The advising, repairing, and consigning grew into a good sized side business. I found I really enjoyed helping people find and get a good deal on a piece they always wanted, or get better sales results when it came time to let one go - maybe even more than I was enjoying looking at and playing with the guitars themselves.
Back in 2013 at my old office / shop meeting area.
My sales, marketing and web experience seemed to give me an advantage at the time when selling online. Selling vintage guitars online was still pretty new and I was surprised by how much it was working. I then stumbled upon Reverb really early on, too, and found myself getting more and more local inventory to sell for people - and more and more traction selling online to buyers all around the globe. I made some great contacts and was entrusted with some incredible estates by family members of a few collectors. Time for tinkering shrunk and time for online selling increased. So my workshop is now in my garage and my office space is now in the town of Huntington, right around the corner from The Paramount Theater. I rotate a curation of gear eye candy that decorates the space alongside local artists’ work at Launch Pad of Long Island, and I co-work alongside other independent professionals, small business owners and innovative start ups. I meet one on one, by appointment with people locally which helps me really get to know them better.
I love the time spent with the collectors, enthusiasts and musicians that come my way. We share great stories, and I can take my time with the questions, concerns and preferences of each person I meet. We often talk about many common struggles in the Vintage space, too. I plan to get into that in a post very soon. These relationships have grown over the years and I’m so grateful for the trust of these people, their friends and family, and their prized possessions.
It's a real treat to get to take so many incredible pieces for a test drive. Tons of unique beauties have come and gone over the years. It’s hard to say which ones I miss the most but I’ve listed a few with links to their pics for you and included my wish list where you can share your opinion or yell at me about something I’ve tragically left off of it in my post My Current Bucket List Full of Vintage Guitars.
As for all the collectible history in this business lies another big reason why I'm starting this blog. Each piece that crosses my path brings along with it great stories from customers and friends in the industry. I've been wanting to collect these stories to bring them to life for others to indulge upon. It would be awesome for you to share yours with me here, so that I can feature them.
Here is one that's fun to share from a 1998 Les Paul Custom in Alpine White that I bought from a seller after he was at an auction for the widow of an unusual friend of Les Paul. If you want to hear about it you can check out my post called The Spy Story That Sold Me My Signed Les Paul.
At the NY Guitar Show with the author of The Les Paul Legacy Robb Lawrence, and the guitar.
I also want to provide you with a lot more than the the ultimate collection of vintage guitar stories. Ideally, this will grow into a space where you can easily get the answers and information you need about vintage guitars, and - in a utopian world - where vintage guitar experts, collectors, buyers, sellers, enthusiasts and window shoppers around the globe can connect in perfect harmony.
Cue the violins.
Please comment below and let me know your thoughts and questions. Please share any sentimental or interesting stories you have around one of your guitars.
Also, please sign up for my email list so that I can better meet your needs and interests with customized content in this blog. I want to keep you posted on anything worthy, or feature a great story you may want to share with everyone sometime.
Thanks for reading!