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Shop Talk: McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California

Founded by well-known furniture maker Gerald McCabe in 1958, McCabe’s Guitar Shop has remained a mainstay in the California music scene. Now in its 60th year, the shop, which primarily specializes in acoustic instruments, has served as a cornerstone for LA-based guitarists as well as just about every player and legend passing through. While this Santa Monica shop sells and repairs guitars by day, in the evening McCabe’s serves as a concert venue that often presents world-class talents and legendary performances.

NUMBER OF INSTRUMENTS CURRENTLY IN STOCK
Walt McGraw:
It can go as low as 400 just after the holidays, but it’s usually closer to 1,000.

COOLEST INSTRUMENT CURRENTLY IN THE SHOP
That’s an awfully personal question. Some would say it’s a toss-up between the electric sitar and the shahi baaja [an electrified and slightly modified version of the Indian bulbul tarang].

MOST EXPENSIVE INSTRUMENT YOU’VE EVER SOLD
A Brazilian Rosewood Martin 00-45S with a list price of $25,000.

FAVORITE INSTRUMENT YOU’VE EVER SOLD
You’ll have to choose between stuff like an Armadillo charango, an electrified bagel, a Lew Chase original, a 1930s KeyKord and a 1917 Gibson Style U Harp guitar. Those are all still in our museum. We recently sold a Morin Khuur Horsehead Fiddle from Mongolia. That was cool.

MOST SOUGHT-AFTER INSTRUMENT BY CUSTOMERS
Ukes, ukes and more ukes. Those are always best sellers. We even had George Harrison come in a couple of times to buy ukuleles from us.

BIGGEST PET PEEVE AS A SHOP OWNER
We love the Internet. Really, we do.

FAVORITE CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER
Boy, we’ve had everyone from Bob Dylan to Taylor Swift. Don’t make us pick.

ONE THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR SHOP
Free coffee.

STRANGEST REQUEST FROM A CUSTOMER
Either the time a germ-a-phobic customer asked for a guitar that had never been touched by human hands—or the call we got asking if we could rent out a “bunch of kazoos.”

MOST COMMON SONG OR RIFF WHEN TRYING GUITARS
Our staff couldn’t agree. Which is a good thing.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BUY A GUITAR
Find a shop where you feel comfortable hanging out. Guitars are unique. You need to find an instrument that fits you. Take the time to play a few different models before making up your mind. Come back another day if you need to think about it. You should never feel rushed or pressured.