By Ian Kimmet

For Christmas 1957, my parents' present to the family was our own stereo record player, which boasted a separate stereo speaker wired up to the back of the cabinet and placed across the room. One year later, I had amassed a small collection of 78's and a few 45's, bought with pocket money from my Milk Round in the early morning before school.

It was sometime in January of 1959 that I heard Eddie Cochran's "C'mon, Everybody" on either Radio Luxembourg or the BBC and had my second rock 'n' roll epiphany. My first had been hearing Buddy Holly's "Listen To Me" on a one-sided Decca promotional instore-play 45 from earlier in the year, for which I traded a mint-condition-currently-hot-favorite, Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe," much to the disbelief of my pals who thought I had gone soft in the head. Although Eddie was signed to Liberty in the United States, my 78 was on Decca's American import label, LONDON American Recordings, with its silver and black label. Within a month of hearing "C'mon Everybody," we lost Buddy. In a little over a year, we would lose Eddie.

Buddy's Fender Stratocaster {stolen on his 1957 tour of the States} and Eddie's Gretsch G 6120 were the two guitars to have the greatest impact on budding Brit rockers in the late '50's. Every other veteran rocker would go on to change his guitar model and make. But both Eddie and Buddy remained loyal throughout their careers.

After following the Gretsch's progress for 40 years, I finally had an audience last month with my "Holy Grail" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio—sharing the same rarefied air in the display section as Buddy's Magnatone amplifier, from his New York recording sessions, and the Tux from his 1958 British tour.

I remember my first sightings of the guitar in all its glory—with the deep orange Maple finish and the gold Bigsby Vibrato {Tremelo Arm} in living color—on the covers of the albums "Singin' To My Baby" and "Cherished Memories" and watching Eddie perform "Twenty Flight Rock" in The Girl Can't Help It. I stayed in the movie theater the entire day, morning 'til night, hiding between shows to see three performances.

I remember that Eddie had changed the neck pick-up for a Gibson pick-up to get a more rounded sound. I remember Buddy Holly saying that when they toured together Eddie had to patiently tune the Gretsch before every show, whereas he only had to lift his Strat from the case and step right out on stage.

I remember Big Jim Sullivan saying that Eddie substituted a banjo string for his first string and then a first as a second, on down, and a photo of Big Jim playing Eddie's Gretsch with Eddie watching, propped up on the shoulders of Brian Bennett and Licorice Locking and looking decidedly stoned (Big Jim claims that Eddie was drinking a bottle of Bourbon a day on tour).

I remember George Harrison saying that he attended Eddie and Gene Vincent's shows on the 1960 tour in England to watch Eddie's fingers.

I remember talking to Dave Dee of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, (then a rookie policeman in Bath, England) about him playing the guitar over a couple of nights in the Police Station, where it had been deposited after the fatal car accident.

I remember reading in The New Musical Express weekly music paper about how it had pride of place in Eddie's parents’ living room, displayed for visiting fans. I read later that a fan in England came across Eddie crouching and shielding the Gretsch with his body backstage during a fight that had erupted in the theatre.

The last official photograph of Eddie was taken in his dressing room at the Bristol Hippodrome Theatre directly before his final performance. He's sitting alone on a couch, shirtless, but preened and wearing his black leather pants, contentedly playing the Gretsch.

I remember wondering if the Gretsch would ever go on the auction block and, if so, would it become the highest-priced guitar in rock history. As I stood there tingling, gazing upon this most precious artifact, a "Rock Stradivarius," Rock's Dionysus' Aulos (surrounded by items of Eddie's clothing, his white bucks and shirts and pants from his early Cochran Brothers days), I relived my ecstatic moments of great sonic discovery: "Twenty Flight Rock," "Sittin' In the Balcony," "Pink-Peg Slacks," "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie," "Sweetie Pie," all the "Milk Cow Blues" takes—but especially the live recording from "Boy Meets Girls" where he showed us what that Bigsby was really for!!, "Sweet Little Sixteen" from the same show, "Hallelujah," "Nervous Breakdown," "Pretty Girl," "Guybo," "My Way."

I searched the surface for physical signs of Eddie's touch and, indeed, found several. The Mother of Pearl inlays (steer horn and cactus motifs) on the first, third and fifth frets are worn down from the third to the first strings. The gold plating on the tip of the Bigsby Vibrato Arm is worn off. The Gibson pick-up poles are raised on the 1st and 3rd strings, and the Gretsch pick-up poles are raised on the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th strings. The guitar surface seems totally unblemished, in perfect condition, after years of tender love and care and shared magic.

I wish there had been a mirror reflecting the back of the guitar, and I wish I could have held Eddie's baby, his Gretsch G 6120 (serial # 16942).

I know I was smiling, remembering Eddie dancing with her in "Go, Johnny, Go."