Not Like I Love My Guitar
The very last guitar ever made for Prince hangs in a glass display cabinet across from Prince’s study, a few short steps from the soundstage at Paisley Park. It’s the G1 Purple Special, which he proudly held up to the crowd in that soundstage at the very last party he ever threw on April 16, 2016. The guitar’s luthier is Simon Farmer of Heathfield, England.
On the other side of the soundstage, a few short steps away in the lobby, there is a fence on which hangs a replica of that guitar, whose creator is Nick Garcia of San Angelo, Texas. The guitar hangs alongside other priceless gifts left by faithful, heartbroken Prince fam who came from near and far in the wake of April 21, 2016 to pay their respects.
To tell the story of the guitar, let's start by telling the story of a 10-year old Nick who heard and saw the 1999 video for the first time on MTV. Intrigued, he put down his Star Wars toys and picked up a 1999 cassette tape, and he’s never looked back since. One night, MTV played a series of older Prince videos. “I remember Sexuality, Controversy, I Wanna Be Your Lover, and Automatic…but especially Automatic. Here’s a guy standing there in high heels, with a police hat and posing like a female!” As luck would have it, later that year he was visiting his aunt and older cousin who was in the market for a wedding dress, so a trip to Houston was in order where, providentially, Prince and his band were stopping on the 1999 tour. “Long to short of it, I somehow managed my way onto the trip and to the concert. So, at the age of 10, I’m seeing this cat for the first time. It was on from there. He was the exact way I saw him on the videos, but he was even better live.”
When the movie Purple Rain hit, already a fan of the soundtrack, he sat in the theater with his cousin (who had promised Nick’s mom his eyes would be covered during the bad parts). By the time he was 13, Nick had seen Prince live five times, and while most of his friends were into Michael Jackson or Disney videos, he was hanging with his cousin, jamming to Prince.
Over the years he was blessed to see Prince in concert so many times, he lost count. He especially remembers one night in Dallas. “Keep in mind, back then there was no Twitter, no Facebook. The way you found out about an afterparty was one of the band members would come out after the crowd had mostly exited, and they’d announce where the afterparty was. So, you would haul ass and rush over to the named venue. At this one show, it was December 30 and it was cold, maybe 20 degrees. We get to this venue about 1 am. At a previous show, we had met some cool people and my wife, gotta give her credit, she got us the hookup.”
While most afterparties were open to whoever could get there and in the door, this event was invite-only. It got to be quite late and after several hours there was still no Prince. “At this point, half the room had given up and left. I knew he was gonna show, cause Larry Graham had entered along with some of the NPG. Around 5 am the room seemed to get very silent. Prince walked in, literally two feet in front of me. For a good while it seemed the crowd was in church or something…no music, just silence. Prince started playing pool with Larry and the vibe loosened. We then moved over to a table overlooking the pool table pit, watching Prince playing pool. He was a really good pool player.”
After watching them play pool for around an hour, Nick suggested to his wife that she approach Prince and see if she could meet him. It took some convincing, but finally she stepped down to the pit and immediately she was stopped and removed by a bodyguard. “Remember, it’s December, close to 6 am, probably like 15 degrees outside, she has no coat, and I have the car keys. And at this point I’m frozen to my chair. Seems like I was there for another hour when Mayte walked in wearing a long coat and now I’m feeling really bad. I should go. But the minute I get up I’m approached by Earl, one of the worst, rudest bodyguards Price ever had. So, I’m thrown out too! As I exit, here I am thinking my wife is suffering out there in the cold. Wrong! She is in a damn van with members of Prince’s band having hot cocoa. I could have stayed inside watching Prince play pool!”
Nick’s final two shows were in Prince’s home, at the Piano and a Microphone Gala Event on January 21, 2016. “It was just unreal. After seeing stages rise, bath tubs, Thunderbirds rolling out on stage, all the props…it was just him, a microphone, and a piano. And just those two items made up 100 times over for all the props back in the day. It kind of reminded me of his Musicology tour when he did his acoustic set. He could have done a piano and microphone tour then and filled up the arenas.”
After those two unforgettable shows at Paisley Park, Nick was glued to Twitter, watching for his next stop on the tour, hoping to see the magic of Prince with his piano and microphone once again. On the morning of April 21, 2016, he was at home and around 9 am received a text message from a friend, with a photo of sheriff’s cars in front of the gates at Paisley Park. His friend, who was formerly the sheriff in Nick’s hometown texted “the word is there’s a possible man down”. Nick remembered being at Paisley Park a few months earlier and looking up at the catwalk. He thought perhaps a worker had fallen and was injured. But all too soon it was confirmed: Prince Rogers Nelson was dead at the age of 57.
“I remember looking at my Dad’s picture, not knowing why, but I just looked at him for some time. And I remembered when me and my Dad went to Vegas on a father and son trip. We saw the Legends concert where there was a Prince impersonator performing. And I remember my Dad leaned over to me and asked, ‘Is that what Prince is really like?’ and I had just laughed.
When I lost my dad back in 2011, of course as is typical, you get calls and condolences from everyone who knows you. When the news broke about Prince, I received more calls than I received for my dad. People that I didn't even remember reached out to me, for days and weeks. Out of the blue people would walk up and say, ‘Sorry about your boy Prince’. I would ask myself, damn, is it that obvious that I loved Prince? Days rolled by a lot slower for me, and it seemed April was never ending. I probably played Sometimes It Snows in April a thousand times.
‘Those kind of cars don't pass u every day.’
‘All good things, they say, never last.’
‘Love, it isn't love, until it's past.’”
When it was announced The Revolution would reunite for a few shows at First Avenue in early September 2016 Nick knew he had to be there, so he immediately booked flights and a hotel. He planned to visit Paisley Park, and he wanted to make something special to leave at the fence. Being in construction, he had made Prince Symbols for wall décor, as gifts for friends and family. So, two weeks before leaving he decided he’d make a replica of Prince’s Symbol guitar, and he got to working on it right away. “I had it cut out, glued and clamped, ready to pick up again the next day.” But that very night he saw a picture that was floating around the internet. It was of Prince, holding up his new guitar before the crowd on April 16. “It was beautiful. I started looking around the internet for more information about it and found the builder. I was truly amazed. I spoke to a friend that was there at Paisley the night he showed off the guitar, and he described how happy Prince was, holding up his new toy. I thought a lot that night about how sad I felt for Prince not ever playing it, and I felt sad for the builder that had built this gem. The luthier, Simon Farmer, is a true genius.”
“It was now a week before takeoff to Minneapolis. My Symbol guitar project was put aside, and I was somehow going to replicate Simon’s guitar. As I started cutting the wood, I paused. I didn't feel right. The Cloud and Symbol guitars had been copied by others. But Simon’s was new, and I felt I had to get his permission to make a replica, so I contacted him. And I seriously thought he wouldn’t respond to me and I’d end up going back to the Symbol project. Surprisingly, that afternoon, I received an email from Simon himself. He was so nice, and he was honored by what I wanted to do, so I got his blessing. Now, I had a mere four evenings to get the project done. The body of the guitar was no problem. If you look at the G1 Purple Special, you'll understand. But I was stuck on the gold tube shape. I bought shower rods, towel bars, anything tubular I could find. Nothing was working, and I was panicking. As I was thinking, I was talking to my Dad, asking for his help. But nothing came. Then the phone rang.”
It was a phone call relating to another project Nick was working on, and while getting a ceiling fan off the shelf for that project he noticed underneath the shelf there was a candy cane. “It was a Christmas decoration that my Dad had made for my Mom. He had made several of them, and they were made of PVC pipe. I remembered seeing him bending the pipe.” So, his request for help from his Dad was heard, and answered. The tube was perfect for the guitar project and he finished it, just in time. With the paint still drying, he was off to Minneapolis.
Once he landed, he was surprised to see people’s reactions to the guitar. “A lot of people knew by the color it had something to do with Prince, but they didn't know the story behind it. I saw lots of happy faces. People would stop me at the airport and ask me, ‘Hey, are you a musician?’” Nick had met a group of people at First Avenue and they all headed to Paisley Park together. “So, the guitar was finally at its final destination, the fence at Paisley. My family and others thought I was crazy to leave it there. They thought that someone would steal it.”
Time passed by and Nick heard the news that Paisley Park would be opening as a museum and for tours, and with it the announcement that fans could no longer place items on the fence. They said the items there would be removed, and the salvageable ones archived, so Nick held out hope that his guitar had survived and would somehow be preserved. “A local friend from Minneapolis went to Paisley Park on the day it opened as a museum, October 6, 2016. I was overwhelmed by what she told me: My tribute guitar was on display inside Prince’s house.” Nick's guitar is also featured in the Paisley Park Archives Celebration 2017 Tour Book, on a page highlighting memorabilia hung on the fence surrounding Prince's beloved home.
After his journey back to Paisley Park in September 2016, Nick started making more replica guitars, if nothing else, to soften the grief of losing his musical hero. “I gifted a few to people I've met, and now I'm basically making my way through all his most notable guitars and instruments. It's a complete joy.”
One special project that has brought joy to many is a miniature replica of Prince’s purple piano and Symbol microphone stand. Nick explains how this came to be: “One night I was finishing up the Super Bowl tribute guitar. The color purple I used reminded me of Prince’s piano at the Gala Event in January 2016. I looked at some material I had there in my shop and thought of making a miniature piano, as a display table or end table. That thought turned into a project. At first it was just gonna be the piano, but one night, I was looking through a program I was able to get my hands on and I looked at the title, Piano and Microphone. Above my desk, I have a picture of Prince and 3rdEyeGirl, and his microphone with a Symbol attached to the pole stand. So, my piano and mic piece was complete, and I gifted it to my son.”
Nick loves the time he spends in his shop, which he affectionately refers to as Mosquitoville. “I've now done about 15 projects, mainly guitars. All have been gifts, and I have enjoyed doing giveaways on Twitter.” One of his guitars was given to a 4th grade art teacher from New York who used the guitar to raise funds for her school’s art program.
Life in a post-Prince world is an adjustment for all of the Prince faithful. No longer is there a reason to monitor social media for his next, sure to be unpredictable move. In his mind Nick had pictured one day getting close enough to Prince to meet the amazing man on a personal level, though he is comforted in knowing, “..my art is there, in his home. But I miss my friend.”
Follow Nick on Instagram [madeatmosquitoville] and Twitter @Nickgar1621