If you’ve played long enough, you have stories to tell. Good ones, sure, but also the hard ones that influenced how you handle your guitars, your cases—all your gear.

It’s those dreaded lessons learned.

Recently we talked to Peter Rydberg, musician, engineer, and producer from Philadelphia (Blue Design, 1935). When we asked him how he stores his guitars when he’s not playing them, he said, “They sit in a case when they’re not being used. I learned that lesson early.”

Which … well, we had to hear more:

“In college, I was in my dorm room, where I was practicing on a very old Gibson guitar that one of Dad’s friends had given me. Something he’d just had in the closet. It was an early ‘40s Gibson archtop. A student-model guitar, but a beautiful instrument. Hard as hell to play—one of those guitars that’s good to practice with to get your chops together.

A heartbreaking drink run

“I had two roommates at the time, but I was alone in my dorm room right then, so when I walked down to get a soda out of a machine, I left it leaning on a wall or on the stand. During the couple of minutes I was gone, one of my roommates had walked into the room. And, when I got back, the back of the guitar had a huge crack in it, and my roommate was standing right there.

“I asked him what the hell had happened, and he said, ‘It was like that when I got here.’”

“If I’m not playing, the guitar case is locked”

So, here we stopped Pete, because obviously a fight had broken out over the corpse of that guitar, right? But, as it turned out, he didn’t immediately suspect a clumsy roommate:

“How does that happen? It actually does happen. Those rooms got hot in the wintertime. You have atmospheric changes that affect the wood, and maybe the back just popped out by itself.

“But I learned, If I’m not playing it, the guitar is in the case, and the case is locked.”

And, actually, that wasn’t the end of the GIbson.

Gibson resurrected

“Twenty years later, I still had that guitar, and I finally looked into getting it repaired. The cost of the repair was … well, it was gonna cost me as much as the guitar was worth. Can you believe it? But I found a guy to fix it, and he did a great job; he was really proud of himself and his work.

“And three weeks later, it cracked the same way in a different place.”

RIP Gibson. And thanks, Pete!

The best kind of lesson is one you can learn from someone else, right? We’ll be collecting horror stories related to guitars, guitar cases, and traveling with your instrument and sharing them in future posts. You can share your story with us or on Facebook. Sign up to receive our newsletter or subscribe to our RSS feed.