One of the great things about working on the Stompbox book is that you never know where your detective work will lead. Our attempts to track down a pedal used by the late, great Mick Ronson led us to Guitar Hangar owner Rick Tedesco, who is not only a major “Ronno” fan but also the owner of a significant amount of Ronson’s gear.
“I met Mick’s wife, Suzi, years ago through Ian Hunter,” he tells us. “She was moving from Long Island back into New York City, and she had all of this stuff of Mick’s that she was tired of carting around and just couldn’t see putting in storage; she had Mick’s 200-watt amp that he played with David Bowie, his half-stack that he used on [his last album] Heaven and Hull, all his pedals, all kinds of two-inch tapes from the Seventies, so I made her an offer and bought it all.”
In 2014, when Tedesco expanded The Guitar Hanger from a backyard operation to a bricks-and-mortar retail outlet in Brookfield, CT, Ronson’s iconic sanded-down Gibson Les Paul (which Rick had purchased from the Hard Rock Cafe in Australia back in 2000) actually wound up playing a major role in the move. But we’ll let Rick tell the story…
Name, age, location
Rick Tedesco, 58, The Guitar Hangar, Brookfield, CT
How and when did you open the store?
I worked at a pretty big music store in the area, one that’s no longer in business, back in the Nineties. I left in 1999, and started Guitar Hangar online, running it out of a small building in my backyard. I was absolutely killing it for years, ‘til probably 2008, right around the time Google came along; and then I went from Page 1 on the search engines on everything I had in stock to like Page 24, because I didn’t have a million-dollar advertising budget like Guitar Center or whatever.
So I kind of muddled through from 2008 to 2014, slowly becoming more and more irrelevant, because nobody was walking through my backyard going, “Oh cool, a music store! Let me check them out!” You had to know about me. I had a loyal base of customers, but I couldn’t put a sign out saying Guitar Hangar, because of local zoning stuff. So finally I said, “I’ve gotta do something different. I’ve gotta go back to a store situation.” And I opened the shop at its current location in 2014.
The funny thing is, I pretty much picked up the guitar as a kid because of Mick Ronson’s work with David Bowie, and it was actually Mick’s guitar that wound up helping me get the new shop off the ground. I’d owned his sanded-top Les Paul since 2000, never intending to sell it. But in 2014, guy named Simon Dolan, a very well-to-do guy who is a huge Mick fan — every bit as much as I am, and then some — saw a video I’d done with Mick’s guitar. He said, “How much for the guitar?” I said, “It would have to be a ridiculous amount of money to get it from me — I’m not trying to sell it.” He shot me an offer, and I hit him back with a figure that I just thought was stupid, and he was like, “Okay, done.” It was the most money I’d ever been wired, by far, but I immediately went into a depression. I was like, “Oh, shit — what did I just do?” [laughs]
Ian Hunter’s my best friend — our wives are besties, and we all go out for dinner together like once a week — so I called him up to tell him what had happened, and that I felt so bad about selling the guitar. Ian just laughed at me. [laughs] He was like, “You fucking idiot, that’s why you buy things like this! Mick would be fucking laughing at you right now. Sell the damn thing!” It was almost like permission, when Ian said that, that I was doing the right thing. And I desperately needed the money; I was opening up my store in its new location, and that influx of money helped me really stock the shop. I dumped all of it back into the business.
A selection of pedals from Rick’s personal collection, which were formerly owned and used by the late, great Mick Ronson.
One of the coolest-looking guitars at the shop (or anywhere else): A Gretsch G6199 “Billy-Bo” Jupiter Thunderbird.
What kind of guitars do you play?
I’ve always played Les Paul Customs. Both because of Mick, and because everybody played Les Pauls back when I was an impressionable youngster — Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, guys like that. Back then it was two camps — you played Gibson, or you played Fender — and I immediately fell into the Gibson camp. So I’ve always played Les Pauls and always will, unless my back gives out and I’ll have to reconsider! [laughs] I have a double-neck SG, and a Gibson V, and a couple of other guitars I just had to have… but if you come to see me live, there’s a 99.9 percent chance that there will be a Les Paul hanging around my neck.
Do you still play in bands?
I no longer have that “I need to be in a band” thing beating in my soul, where I’ve gotta be playing out every weekend in a cover band, but I still occasionally play shows with the Original Alice Cooper Band. I was in a band with [bassist] Dennis Dunaway for like six years, and I’ve worked on a couple of albums with Neil Smith, the drummer. We’re good buddies, and we’ve done a bunch of shows together. I play Glenn Buxton’s parts and do backup vocals, and Michael Bruce plays guitar and sings lead. I got to sing backup for them when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – that’s the pinnacle of anything I’ve ever done!
Does Guitar Hangar specialize in hard-to-find items, or is it more of an all-purpose shop?
I realized in 2014 that I needed to get back to community stuff — I couldn’t just specialize in high-end, niche-y, boutique guitars and gear. I’ve always done repairs, but now people know about it, because I’m not hidden in my backyard. And we do band rentals, and sales on all kinds of stuff. I own probably 300 band instruments — if you need a xylophone or a clarinet reed, I can get it for you. And I have a P.A. system, I do live sound, I have a studio where I can record your band. I can pretty much do anything music-related.
What’s your pedal selection like?
I carry the normal stuff like Boss and MXR, but I also carry a lot of Electro-Harmonix pedals, plus some cool stuff like JHS and Walrus Audio, things like that. And then we’ve always got some some odds and ends, like old wah and rotary pedals.
Do you have a favorite pedal?
It always changes, but I love the Electro-Harmonix line. They put out some crazy stuff — their Mel9 Tape Replay Machine just blew me away. Being my age, I’m steeped in Seventies stuff; and to be able to have a mellotron at your feet, it’s like, “WHAAAT?”
When I was learning how to play guitar in the Seventies, there were really only like a couple of pedals — the fuzz, the wah wah, the rotary pedal and the phase shifter. [laughs] So now, it’s expanded out so there’s literally like a bajillion choices. And it feeds on people’s GAS [Gear Acquisition Syndrome] — everyone wants the latest one, the coolest one, and it’s constantly changing. And that’s why they made Velcro, so the old pedal will come off the board and you can lay the latest one right on there! [laughs]
Has anyone ever asked you for a pedal that’s been impossible to track down?
Not really. I can usually get whatever anybody wants. Like, I had a guy recently come in looking for a Digitech FreqOut pedal, which is basically like putting a Sustainiac pickup in your guitar, except it’s a pedal; you step on it, and it’s basically like an e-bow. It’s pretty amazing! You can just hold a note and it’ll ring forever, or you can make it flip over and ring at a higher octave, and that’s just the coolest pedal. A customer introduced me to it, and I ordered two — one for him, and one for me! [laughs]
I’m learning along with everybody else. A lot of the time, it’s a customer who introduces me to a new, cool pedal, instead of a manufacturer. I own a music store, and I’m a musician; so when I go home, the last thing I want to do is cruise around internet forums, looking for the latest gear. [laughs] But people will come in and tell me about something, and I’ll look it up and be like, “Cool!”
Is that kind of interaction the best thing about owning a music store?
Yeah, that, and being able to hang around with musicians every day. We’re an eclectic lot; sometimes it’s good eclectic, and other times it’s “Oh my god, I need to get out of here!” [laughs] But look, it beats working for a living; that’s the honest truth. I haven’t really had a hard day’s work in about 25 years, so I can’t really complain!
Well, what’s the worst part about it?
I think the hardest thing to do is to inform customers that don’t really know anything, and who have gotten involved with the wrong person or the wrong company, that they’ve been fed a bunch of sales bullshit instead of honest information. Somebody’ll say, “Well, the guy over there told me…,” and I’m like, “But that’s not right! You should never have bought this; that’s nowhere near what you need, and you should never have spent this much money. Take this back!”
I enjoy being able to come from a position where I don’t care about being able to get a ten-dollar spiff for selling something; I just want to create a relationship with this person by giving them the right information, the right product, and showing them how to use it. They’re so used to the corporate shark tank, but they leave our store like, “Wow, that was a really cool experience!” There are so many people out there who are buying a first guitar for their kid, and they’re really clueless about the whole thing. So if you get someone coming in who’s at that stage, and you do them right — because, let’s face it, this world is so broken with customer service — they come out like the happiest people in the world.
Other than Ian Hunter, who’s the coolest visitor that’s ever come in to your shop?
Well, I had James Burton in here, and that was pretty neat. James had come out here for a friend’s birthday, and he wanted to surprise him, but he didn’t want to fly out here with his guitar; he needed a Tele and an amp, and somebody told him I’d have what he needed, so he came to me. I let him borrow a Tele and an amp, and then he was going to come back the next day to return it. I called Ian, and said, “Guess who was just in here?” Because that’s Ian’s era — Elvis, Little Richard, Ricky Nelson, all that stuff. He said, “Really?!?” I said, “You want to meet him?” “Yeah!” “Well, I’ll call you tomorrow when he brings back the stuff.”
Ian’s a big walker, and he likes to do a couple of miles around the neighborhood every day. I called Ian when James came in, and it was like he flew here instead of walked — he was here in like ten minutes! [laughs] He was like a little kid, getting to meet one of his heroes, so that was kind of cool to see, and James is a total southern gentleman, sweetheart, great guy. And I had [former Yankees all-star] Bernie Williams in here last week, so that was kind of cool. He’s more of a music guy than a baseball guy these days.
I think I already know the answer — but if there was one guitarist, living or dead, that you could talk gear with, who would it be?
“Hello, Mr. Ronson! How are you?” [laughs] I mean, I met Ian a couple of years after Mick passed away, and I’ve heard every Mick story from Ian — sometimes two or three times, depending on how much champagne we’ve drunk. But yeah, I would have loved to have met Mick.
270 Federal Rd #7
Brookfield, CT 06804
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