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The King of rock and roll

Rick King of Guitar Maniacs is supplier to the rock gods

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Broadway, Tacoma, United States, the World.

Walk down a street, notice empty store fronts with official looking signs ensuring they’ll remain empty for a while. Pass the Rainbow Center and Club Silverstone. Go too far and hit the Republican Party storefront.

But what’s this? Yep, you’re seeing it with me. There, between the rainbows and the right lives rock and roll.

Rick King works in rock, and he sells it to the famous and the hungry for fame.

His shop, Guitar Maniacs, has been playing a part in rock history for 21 years. Back before they were gods, Krist Novoselic would come in and hang out with his friend Ryan Loiselle, who worked in the shop, and bring in his buddy Kurt Cobain.

Cobain went on to buy many “cheesy Japanese” (according to King) guitars from the shop; when King would ask what his plans were with the guitars, the enigmatic performer would say, “You’ll see.”

Cobain then went on to rock King’s world after hearing what he’d done with those cheesy guitars on Nevermind.

But even before the album that changed the face of rock, King says, “I was really into them. They were just good.”

And then when Novoselic brought Nevermind in, immediately prior to its release, King recalls, thinking, “Wow, this is hot.”

He had a dream about it that he shared with Novoselic: “I was at an arena with a lighter,” he remembers, and he recalls Novoselic being mildly offended, thinking King meant he was a sell-out.

King says that Nirvana wasn’t the only band of note to purchase gear from his shop: “Years ago we made a list, and it was huge.” Recently, King says, “I sold an old Echo unit to Jimmy Page.” He muses, “It was kind of fun to fly out to LA and drop it off.”

The Rolling Stones have been customers as well as most bands from the grunge era. “just name’em,” King says with a chuckle.

And past that, King says that Guitar Maniacs would loan artists instruments for recordings so that the band wouldn’t have to buy an obscure sitar for a short intro to a song. “We just asked that they would credit the store in the liner notes.” “It’s expensive to do this now,” King says.

Wii and Guitar Hero games are changing the face of rock and roll, with Britney Spears and Hannah Montana doing their own part to create a musical void, though King points out Grizzly Bear and The Elephants as highlights in a bleak time; he says the best time in punk was the early ’70s, and the “punkest band ever” was a Tacoma band out of 1964, the Sonics. “They were the best,” he reminisces.

And he looks optimistically at musical trends, philosophizing on what he’s seen over the years: “Every 10 to 20 years there’s a revolution.”

And even before the revolution hits, he offers up a bit of permission for all musical listeners and instrument customers: “If it sounds good, it is good.”

[Guitar Maniacs, 737 St Helens Ave., downtown Tacoma,


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