Steiny was his name. He was a black six-string Steinberger guitar, and he belonged to Joey Salinas, who played in Sprawl, Rugrash and Joint Chiefs, among other Houston bands. Salinas bought Steiny in 1988, a year before studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Salinas loved Steiny, not only because Steiny looked like a black cable box on a stick, but because Steiny's neck was artificial. It could travel through Texas heat and Boston winters without warping. Like so many wooden necks do
But one day earlier this year, Steiny disappeared. Salinas recalls stopping by Lola's in Montrose one night after rehearsals with a friend. Just to get a few drinks. His Ford Explorer was packed with equipment (and Steiny), and he parked it a good distance from the club. Salinas says he and his friend were in the club for only an hour. On his return to the truck, Salinas noticed his gear was missing. The back window of the Explorer had been broken. "I said, 'Omigod!' ya know." Steiny was gone.
"I had some other shit in there, my pedals, I had some vintage pedals," says Salinas. "But I don't give a fuck about that. I want Steiny back."
Chances Steiny's hanging from some pawnshop shelf are kinda good. And if he's still out there, there's hope. A local Houston trio has started a Web page designed to deter thefts like the one that claimed Steiny and also act as a tracking device for already vanished guitars.
AxReg.com is the brainchild of a trio of Houstonians, Peter Breaz, Theresa Hildreth and Paul Eakin. For a $10 cost (coverage for three years), guitar owners will be able to register their instruments at point of purchase and get identifying stickers and a registration number in return. And all AxReg needs to register a lost or purportedly stolen instrument is a police report ("not a theft report," says Breaz). Photos are also helpful.
Homeowner's insurance usually covers valuables like jewelry, VCRs and guitars. But for a professional musician, instruments are perceived by the insurance industry as "tools," which means an extra charge, usually in the 1 to 2 percent range. For a $3,000 vintage guitar, that's $300 per year. Rates are even worse for musicians who don't have homeowner's insurance and who rent. The cost is usually no insurance.
"And insurance can only get you another instrument," says Breaz. "It can't get your instrument back."
Breaz and Hildreth got the idea for the site after Hildreth's son Shane went to purchase a vintage 1960 Fender Jazz bass and the seller wouldn't "pop the neck." That's where the serial number is hidden.
"I told [Shane], 'Don't buy it,' " says Breaz, himself a collector. "And if you're a collector, a guitar like that's worthless. There's no provenance."
A discussion between Breaz and Hildreth, who have been working together in the music industry since the '80s, followed, and the idea began taking shape. The two shared their thoughts with Eakin, a computer programmer, and the site was up by autumn. Three guitars have been registered so far.
Now the hard work begins.
"We've been talking to pawnshop associations, music retailers, police departments," says Hildreth. "Now it's just a point of letting people know we're out there."
What can happen in theory is this: A guy walks into a pawnshop with a guitar, shows it to the retailer, the retailer looks up the serial number, sees it's hot and alerts the cops. And some sad musician gets his goods back.
"I think it's a good idea, definitely," says Joe Carmouche, leader of the Joe Carmouche Jazz Group, professional musician since 1979 and Houston Police Department officer since 1986. "I'd do it."
HPD doesn't keep track of stolen musical instruments, let alone only guitars, which is what AxReg specializes in, but Alvin Wright of the HPD public relations department says he equates statistics on stolen guitars with numbers on stolen stereos or cell phones. "Someone doesn't steal [musical instruments] to use them for their musical enjoyment," says Wright. "They steal them to get 40 bucks."
And pawnshops are proof. Guitars are common items on racks.
The participation of new and used guitar retailers in the registry would be a big help. Music Trade reports that 1,153,915 guitars were sold in the United States last year alone.
"I think it's a great idea," says Kevin Perry, owner and operator of Great Southern Music. Perry, who sells about 15 to 20 guitars per month, also says serial numbers on all instruments in the store will be recorded in preparation for starting the registry. "So many instruments, so many things like VCRs and camcorders, are stolen today. They're so easy to pawn."
Says Salinas: "I know [Steiny's serial number] by heart. And [the guitar has] dents and dings -- I used to throw it around on stage. That thing's built like a tank. It's got 'love dents.' "
Like a cool dead uncle, a good guitar is irreplaceable.
Westheimer Street Fest
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Lotta music. Lotta freaks. The Westheimer Street Festival starts this weekend, and it's typically a great place to sample lots of quality local talent. The Fuzzgun/Houston Press stage, located between The Oven and The Mausoleum at 411 Westheimer, will feature a murderer's row of beer-drinkin'-age acts. Beginning Saturday, October 16, at around 1:30 p.m., the show will kick off with the Fondue Monks, followed by Ultra Mag, Clouded, Secret Sunday and the Southern Backtones. On Sunday, Under the Influence (the only Austin act playing), 23, Latchkey Kids, Los Skarnales, I-45 and Faceplant will play. Each band gets about 20 to 30 minutes to get up on stage, make a racket, then leave. Said Mark Reed, Fuzzgun Records prez and Mauz stage organizer, at a recent planning meeting: "I've tried to find a band that can set up and tear down in 20 minutes it can't be done." So for those moments of dead air in between, another stage adjacent to the Mauz building will host more bands. London Girl, Japanic, Walking Time Bombs and Last Soul Descendants were some names being tossed around as of last week. The actual playlist will be a surprise. Like what you might find in one of those gigantic turkey legs that those street vendors be sellin'.
And Yet Another Excuse to Get Sloshed
Oktoberfest at Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, is in its last weekend. Beer, beer and beer will be available, as will traditional German, Czech and Polish foods, souvenir steins and glasses, arts, crafts and children's activities. Cost is $6 per day, $12 per three-day pass. Call (713)629-3700 for tickets.
E-mail Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.