It's 2010: "I Need My Father's Guitar"🎸Billy Strings, 17, and His Impassioned Search for Dad's Beloved Martin
Dad sold it so the family could eat. Unbelievably, Billy stumbles upon it online years later, and pleads for the current owner to sell it. See the heart-rending video & see Billy's own urgent words!🎸
Get to Know Billy: The Wildly Popular FR&B Bio That’s Already Topped 3,200 Page Views!👇
“I Am Its Rightful Owner”
Three days after Christmas, 2009, an ad was placed on UMGF.com, the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. Billy Strings (born William Apostol) had just turned 17 not two months before. Mad props to Andy of his brand new Show Notes on Substack for passing along the site! Show Notes is well worth your perusal and subscription!
This is the actual ad Billy saw on the site (it’s all still up, online, in its entirety. All typing is as originally written by both parties. No spelling, punctuation, or grammatical alterations have been made):
Owner, named Joe: “Hi Folks- I am offering a D-93 for sale. This is a 1993 Limited Edition model dread with some very fancy appointments. It is the very guitar still listed via google search on the Elderly [Instruments, a music store in Lansing, MI] website. The pictures are still up and a nice description is included.
“This guitar was purchased a few years ago from Elderly and surprisingly the ad is still up but does say sold. (again, it is the very same guitar). Take a look and I will get up to date pics and condition posted tomorrow morning. It is structurally fine with no cracks, dents, old repairs of any kind. The neck is as straight and easy to play as any I have seen.
“The finish has crazing and a few areas that have finish missing including along the binging on the neck. The poly finish used for about 18 months or so back in the mid 90's did not like to stick to plastic. Elderly downplayed the cosmetic condition a bit, but it is just that, cosmetic.
“Asking $2100 plus expedited shipping. Thanks and I hope everyone is having a great holiday season.”
i cried and cried.
In a lightning bolt of sheer improbable chance, Billy happened upon the website and saw the ad. Two weeks later (January 15, 2010) he replied to it:
Billy: “I need this guitar. I am its rightful owner. next time you log on please have some good news for me...i am already saving up. I need my fathers guitar.
see that wear next to the pickguard and in the back of the neck/binding? that is from my dads fingers...he played her from 93' to about 04'
it was supposed to be mine when he passed away, he sold it because my brother and i were starving. i cried and cried. please tell me you still have it please!!
Incredulous, the owner replies immediately:
“Hi William? I have read your post, short message, and profile info paragraph. I see your account was opened earlier today. The D-93 is still available. I think many here and on other public forums would attest the need for a healthy skepticism and cautious approach to selling items such as these online.
“Having said that, feel free to reply or send another message to discuss the purchase of the guitar. If it was indeed your fathers you may be relieved to know that one day soon you may be it's rightful owner, but for now that title is taken. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.
“I am not in any position to consider any layaway's or payment plans and I see that mentioned that you are ‘already saving up’ as I am not a dealer and would be keeping the guitar if I didn't need the funds.”
Billy: “ohh thank god. ok...the problem is i get about 800 dollars a month on the 3rd, it would take me three months to make that much money. i could send you like 900 every month until April or something but you said you cant do any kind of payment plan or whatever. basically it comes down to this... I cannot come up with 2100 dollars until April.
“you don't think that if i sent you 900 on the 3rd of February and then another 900 in march you could keep it safe for me? i know you need to sell her but i cant lose this guitar again. we gave elderly 400 bucks to hold it and they told me they wouldnt sell it, when i came back with 200 more to put down on it, it was gone.
“i know this is my fathers guitar, the spruce is darkened with age, there is some wear right next to the pick-guard and on the back of the neck/binding...and on the bottom of the case the little knobs are busted off. please try to work something out with me.
I dont know what i will do if i cant get my baby back.”
Owner’s reply: “Hi Billy- I'll give this serious consideration, and here's why. This guitar was purchased from Elderly by a very dear friend. He felt it was the best flat top he ever had, and he knew what he was talking about. He could play swing, bluegrass, the blues, and the list goes on.
“The timing of his purchase turned out to be unfortunate to say the least. He had the guitar for several weeks only to suffer a massive stroke that left him unable to play. We all had hopes that he would recover, but tragically he died shortly thereafter. His family sold off his many guitars and as a bluegrass player I had to have this one.
“I, like many of us, find myself making difficult choices with respect to sentimental value versus the hard reality of keeping the bills paid. I don't doubt your sincerity, and if everything is at it seems, it would be a fitting way to pay tribute to my friends memory.”
Billy: “man, im terribly sorry to hear that, well you would be happy to hear that if i ever did get a chance to get the ol' girl back, it would be treated right and nurtured, and i would never sell it to anybody for any reason. not again, if i get this guitar back i will have it until i die, and it will not be neglected. that's a promise.
“its just gonna take a couple months for me to come up with the cash, if i would have known you had it sooner i probably would have already purchased it. but as far as business goes... like i said 900 a month until April.
“unless you can't do it, if not i'll understand, I'm just afraid that if i wait until i have all the money in april, someone will get to it first. i mean it is a beautiful guitar and rare as well. I just hope we can work something out, i am giving it all away right now, i will have literally no money if i do this...and it will be very worth it. i never thought i'd see it again, now i have hope.”
Owner: “This is an update of the ongoing transaction to reunite the D-93 with the son of a former owner: Payment #1 of three monthly installments has been received. See you all next month with another episode.....”
The next month…Owner: “I have now received a second installment as planned and in a few short weeks this beautiful D-93 is heading ‘home’...”
Billy came through with the final payment in April 2010, prompting this reply from the Owner: “Final payment deposited, packing the D-93 for shipping!”
Ten days later, after Billy confirmed receipt of the guitar, this from Joe, the former owner:
“Well Folks- The D-93 has been reunited with the family that is so closely tied with the memories of years past. A better storybook ending I would be hard pressed to think of.
“If you like a nice heartwarming tale it is well worth the few minutes to re-read the thread. Here is an excerpt from the email I received today from the happy ‘new’ owner after the guitar arrived, pretty much sums things up nicely.....
Billy: “thank you so much Joe, she's even more beautiful than the last time i saw her, the spruce is darker, and it still rings like it did. I am so grateful I do not know how to thank you enough. I will have it for the rest of my life and that is a promise. never again will it be in anyone else's hands. it is not only a very nice, valuable guitar, but more than anything it is a family jewel. thank you so much. thank you.”
The heartfelt farewell: “Enjoy the guitar William, it's been a pleasure corresponding with you these past few months. May the guitar bring you years of enjoyment and reminders of the special connection you and your Dad shared thru music, the language with no barriers”- Joe
Now, watch and listen to Billy tell the story, in his own words:
Related: Another singer/songwriter’s search for a Martin! FR&B’s key contributor, Stephen Michael Schwartz, races another buyer on a Hollywood freeway! Who will get to the guitar shop first for the grand prize 1923 Martin?
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BONUS BILLY! “Running on Empty” and “Midnight Rider”: Billy and band does Jackson Browne and the Allman Bros. live in concert, 2019: