WHEN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE,
was flooded in late April 2010, many musicians
in town turned to legendary tech Joe
Glaser for help and he, along with other
repairmen and artists, answered the call.
“Once the floodwaters receded and they
let us in the storage facilities,” says Glaser,
“it was instantly clear that this was a gigantic,
stinking, slimy mess. We gathered up a
lot of gear and I said optimistically that a
lot of it could be saved, even though I didn’t
know if that was true. I called some techs—
Vince Cunetto, who did the Fender Relic
series, John Levan, and Ed Beaver—and we
took a few days off, set up tables, and just
started tearing instruments down.
“We saw a lot of vintage Strats from the
’50s and ’60s. We took the necks off and
took the pickups out. About two-thirds of
the pickups weren’t working. We put the
metal parts in bags with some oil so they
wouldn’t rust. On most of the guitars with
rosewood fingerboards, the maple necks
had swelled up as much as 1/8". It seemed
irreversible. But after a long time, almost a
year in some cases, they dried out and came
back down to size. It was unbelievable. The
ones we tried to speed dry didn’t do as well
as the ones that we let take forever.
“The finishes all lifted and got flaky. We
tried to put them back down and that’s mostly
done by softening them up with solvents. We
hit them with lacquer thinners or retarders and
most of them went back down—they stabilized.
“A really remarkable thing was that out
of all the damaged pickups, only three of
them couldn’t be repaired. One thing that I
have learned after all these years is how to
determine where a pickup is broken—near
the inside or the outside—just by plugging
it in and listening to it. I developed all these
tools a long time ago for taking Strat and
Tele pickups apart gently so I could find the
breaks and put them back together. In an
effort to save the original sound of these
guitars we ended up repairing the pickups.
“The general consensus was that many
of these guitars ended up sounding better
than ever after repairing the flood damage.
As we started putting guitars back together,
several players—Keith Urban, John Jorgenson,
and others—came in and said, ‘I swear
that’s the best that guitar has ever sounded.’
I thought at fi rst that they were just glad to
get their guitars back. But then Paul Smith
got a couple of guitars, fixed them up, and
called me and said, ‘Is it possible that these
guitars sound better than before?’ I don’t
know what it is, the water, the cooking in the
heat, the urine and vomit and diesel oil in
the river—who knows? But I heard this from
enough people that it seemed like a pattern.
“A big takeaway for me was don’t give up
on gear. A surprising number of amps fired up
after people let them dry out completely. A big
percentage of guitars were salvageable. My
greatest takeaway was that this is an incredible
community. Everyone took care of one
another: the techs who worked for free, players
who loaned each other gear to get through
gigs. That was truly inspiring.
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