A man and his guitar... Something special was afoot when Hollisters guitarist Eric "Eddie Dale" Danheim strapped on a water-tower-green, sticker-encrusted Fender Stratocaster mid-set at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge earlier this month. I could feel it when Danheim laid into the first solo on "Pike County," a Creedence-inspired barnburner from the Houston quartet's upcoming debut CD (due out on Freedom Records this summer). It was as fluid a display of picking as I'd ever witnessed out of Danheim. And I swear I could see a sentimental gleam in his eye.

Obviously, this was no ordinary guitar.
If anything, most Hollisters fans in attendance that night experienced little more than mild curiosity at the sight of this seemingly new addition to Danheim's six-string arsenal. Besides, it was only a brief deviation from the norm. One, two songs, maybe, and then it was back to the spit-shined, candy-apple-red Telecaster Danheim normally relies on.

Still, for those who knew the story behind the guitarist and his beloved Strat, the reunion vibe was unmistakable. This marked only the third time in more than seven years that Danheim had taken to the stage with that beat-up old thing. All that time, the guitar had belonged to Dan Kiblinger, whose shop, Airline Guitar, is across town from Rockin' Robin Guitars, where Danheim originally bought the instrument. Thanks to a hasty decision on Danheim's part, the Strat ended up in Kiblinger's hands, and for years he refused to sell it to anyone -- Danheim included. But after a little convincing from Danheim's girlfriend, Kiblinger changed his mind last month, giving it up for about $850, well under his original $1,000 asking price.

"I must have had a thousand offers on that thing over the years," says Kiblinger, who snagged the instrument at a guitar show soon after Danheim traded it for an amplifier at an Austin music store. "It was the ugliest guitar I'd ever seen. I just had to have it."

Danheim purchased the instrument -- one of a wildly popular Fender line replicating the vintage Stratocaster -- new in 1986. As for its "God-awful" green color, Danheim says he had little choice in the matter: It was the only one left in the store at the time. Rather than wait on another shipment, he grabbed it, afraid he'd never find another that sounded so, well, unique.

"It's a real rich, milky, woody sound," says Danheim. "Guitars, you know, even if they say 'Fender' and cost $1,500, 90 percent of them sound fair to average. Then there's that elite 10 percent that sound special."

The homely '86 Strat is one of them, though Danheim didn't always treat it as such. During the late '80s, the guitar landed in Austin pawn shops whenever Danheim was strapped for cash. Each time he retrieved it, he would slap another '50s-era girlie sticker on its body. And when he finally gave it up in 1990, he regretted it almost immediately. He made various offers to Kiblinger over the years, but to no avail. Kiblinger simply loved the thing too damn much -- that is, until he decided to relocate his business and needed a little extra money for a new sign. "God bless him," says Danheim. "You could tell he wasn't happy about [selling] it."

And so there it was, cradled in Danheim's arms on-stage at the Satellite -- back where it belonged. As Danheim played, Kenny Vaughan, guitarist for Nashville up-and-comer Kim Richey, who had just finished a set next door at Rockefeller's, sat on the edge of the stage, head in hand, studying Danheim and his Strat. He looked suitably impressed.

"It's just a one in a million," says Danheim.

Appetite alert... Houston industrial popsters the Hunger have been hanging at home for the last few months, preparing demos for their follow-up to Devil Thumbs a Ride. That 1996 release was a surprise hit for the long-struggling quintet, thanks to the catchy, Alice in Chains-lite single "Vanishing Cream." Expect to see the new CD in stores at the beginning of next year.

"We've done 15 songs, and we've probably got about 15 more," says drummer Max Schuldberg. "I don't know if they're good or bad. We just keep on cranking out new ones and adding them to the list."

Given that Devil was recorded in a home studio on a minuscule budget, and that the band's new label, Universal, released the disc with few embellishments, the Hunger shouldn't be under any pressure to score big this time around. Still, admits Schuldberg, it would be nice to keep the commercial momentum going. The band performs Saturday at Clear Lake Beach Club.

Etc.... Houston's Fleece and Worship Guitars labels have teamed up for the domestic, limited-edition release of the British experi-psychedelic compilation Alms. The disc features local contributions from Project Grimm, Ash Castles on the Ghost Coast and Dry Nod. Only 1,000 CDs were made, but last I checked, copies were still available at Sound Exchange. Local thrash heavies Spunk have bestowed local Borders stores with the honor of being the first American outlet to carry their latest effort, discreetly titled Fingerbang, previously available only as a Japanese import.

-- Hobart Rowland

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Hobart Rowland