20 Years of guitarguitar: A Celebration

Published on 27 June 2024

15 minutes

 

We are 20! It’s official!

June 2024 marks the 20th Anniversary of guitarguitar! 20 years of the wild rollercoaster ride we call guitarguitar. That’s quite a milestone, and whilst we are not normally ones to look backwards and get sentimental, it is good to sometimes take a second to reflect and take stock now and then. 

You’re part of this journey too, of course. It’s thanks to you that we’ve been able to operate successfully for two decades, and that’s not something that gets forgotten or ‘lost in the mix’, as it were. This year is all about celebrating our 20th Anniversary, but we’ve worked to bring a year’s worth of special deals and events for you, so I hope you’ve been having lots of fun with all of that.

Whilst not a completely original staff member myself (I was in fact the first replacement member in the company), I have been here since 2007, so I guess I am one of the OG team! Therefore, I’m as good a guide as anyone to take you through 20 years of guitarguitar, from our first shop in Edinburgh to our 20th Anniversary in-store celebrations held only a few weeks ago. I’ll play Virgil to your collective Dante as we take a walk through two decades of great times. Please join me as I take you back to a world that didn’t have Instagram or Married at First Sight! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may even feel slightly aghast at the passage of time, especially if you’re in this story like I am!

 

Contents

The Beginning

Keyboardkeyboard?

Up North

Birmingham: the Home of Metal

Slash Brings Star Power to Epsom

Camden Calling

Behind the Scenes - Linwood

Employee Owned

2024

20 Spins Around the Sun

Thank You

 

The Beginning

2004: a time when Greece hosted the Olympic Games, and NASA's Spirit Rover successfully touched down on Mars. 2004 saw the launch of Facebook, the final episode of Friends and the release of Green Day’s American Idiot. What a time to be alive!

It also saw the opening of the first guitarguitar store in Edinburgh, in a little neighbourhood close to the Zoo called Corstorphine. Unlike later stores, there were no A-list celebrities to cut the ribbon, and no online presence to announce us to the world. It was an inconspicuous start, as beginnings often are.

Our original print adverts have become semi-legendary and, realising that many people may have missed these iconic pieces of propaganda, I feel like now is an appropriate time to present it to you. Behold:

Our original store is still there, of course, staffed by some original members who were there from the start. An acoustic expansion was later added to increase the size of the store and this is how it remains today, a busy hub in the centre of sleepy Corstorphine. Chris and the team will almost certainly have the kettle on, so head in next time you're in Edinburgh!

Some of the Edinburgh team brave the Scottish sunshine to wish you a personal welcome!

Edinburgh has also played host to a few artist clinics and jam nights. One frequent friend is no less a figure than Paul Gilbert, one of the world's defining shred guitarists. A lovely guy to boot, we have welcomed him in Edinburgh twice now for sold-out clinics and interviews.

 

Guthrie Govan and his Aristocratic friends have also been repeat visitors to the Edinburgh store. 

The flagship Glasgow store followed a few months later, with celebratory articles in national newspapers. Located in the Trongate area (‘tron’ is old Scots chat for ‘town’ and the area used to mark the boundary for the city, making our street quite literally the ‘town’s gate’, fact fans!), the Glasgow store started off relatively large and has multiplied in size numerous times since, something I’ll get back to presently.

Crowds go 'Wylde' for a special in-store appearance.

Times have certainly moved on from when the scene below was the location for guitarguitar’s entire centre of operations. Most of our current team won't even remember these heady days, but a few from this pic remain at guitarguitar, bringing up the 'I remember this company when...' moments with much authority. Such stuff as dreams are made! A rare peek behind the curtain to reveal the inner-workings indeed…

The original guitarguitar 'Master Control Centre' in 2004. Several repeat offenders remain as integral parts of the guitarguitar family today.

 

Keyboardkeyboard?

Back to the story. In 2010, the Glasgow store swallowed up the premises next door (an old FADS wallpaper shop where old ladies smoked cigarettes whilst manning the tills) into what was then known as GG-Digital. As Scotland’s only dedicated hi-tech store, it was a unique proposition: pianos in the window, digital drum kits lined up (with merciful amounts of headphones connected), and synths and drum machines as far as the eye could see!

 Early memories for me include spooky, dusty journeys into the premises whilst it was in mid-shopfit-state, with a torch in hand, to grab Squier starter packs that we’d stashed down in the cavernous basement for Christmas stock overspill. Sawdust, darkness, tools and lamps lay around, covered in dust, like lost relics of some forgotten culture. Proposed titles for the digital shop were asked for and promptly rejected in favour of GG-Digital, which is now just known as part of the main Glasgow store. (My suggestion of 'Synth City' was met with looks so withering that I still go over it in my mind.)

 

Up North

Meanwhile, Newcastle had already gotten into the action: the current location you’ll know these days is, in fact, the second place we have occupied in that great city of the North. Prior to our current home on Grainger Street, guitarguitar Newcastle lived in the Newgate Shopping Centre. Now better known as a crumbled pile of dust and ash, the Newgate Shopping Centre was once home to such businesses as Jessops, Wimpy and a boutique known as ‘For the Exclusive Man’. Future students, who will no doubt be living here in what is now luxury accommodation, will have no idea of the rich history they sit upon.

Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith drops in to our Newcastle store to hang with Jon.

The much more suitable location of 27 Grainger Street has been home to guitarguitar now since 2009, supplying the North with top end guitars and top end patter ever since. As with Edinburgh and Glasgow, many of the team working in Newcastle today have been with us since the beginning. Newcastle is also home to our web support team, the first line of after sales service for all of our web customers, as well as all other guitarguitar customers in need of advice. Mon the Toon!

We’ve had some wonderful events in our Newcastle shop, including signings with Mick Thompson of Slipknot and the He-Man of Rock himself, Duff McKagan.

 

Birmingham: the Home of Metal

With Birmingham being home to Black Sabbath, the Balti bowl and a huge number of guitar players, there was little argument in deciding where the next guitarguitar shop should be. Birmingham’s guitarguitar was opened in 2010, bringing this most rocking of cities a healthy dose of the GG magic! Birmingham has become one of our largest guitarguitar stores, attracting customers from all around the centre of England. Slade's Dave Hill likes to drop in too, as evidenced in our pic with shop manager Steve!

Nita Strauss was hugely popular when she arrived for a Birmingham in-store too!

Back to the timeline: whilst all this conquesting was happening, there was still time for plenty of special in-store moments. We have been lucky and honoured to host a brace of very special guests within our collective doors. Devin Townsend made the first of several visits to us in 2011, bringing his army of die-hard fans to our Glasgow store. Zakk Wylde chose us as the venue for his MXR/Dunlop pedal launch. It was one of our earliest events, and it was HUGE. Who was there?

 

Slash Brings Star Power to Epsom

Another legend in the form of iconic Guns ‘n’ Roses megastar Slash joined us as we intercepted the M25 ring and opened our then-largest store in Epsom. We were all a little star-struck at the appearance of Slash, which isn't difficult to understand: the top hat, the shades… it’s evocative stuff! The Epsom store, which opened in 2011, remains guitarguitar's most Southerly store. Guitarguitar Epsom is a real treasure trove and a destination point for musicians in the South. 

Here is a before-and-after, from the outside of the premises (in its former guise) to the official opening, with guitars on the walls and Slash in fine form.

Guns 'n' Roses guitar legend Slash cuts the red tape at our Epsom store launch. Great Killing Joke t-shirt there, Slash!

Rob Flynn is a frequent and most welcome visitor to our Newcastle and Birmingham stores, dropping in whenever Machine Head are playing close by.

We are lucky to have lots of well-known artists visit us in the stores such as Rob (and Joe Bonamassa, who is a frequent friendly face to our gg stores), and visitors to our site may be familiar with the now 8+ years of artist interviews that we’ve been putting out. Here’s a shameless and quickly put-together montage of just some of the wonderful musicians I’ve had the privilege of gently interrogating over the years…

Clockwise from top left: Ace (Skunk Anansie), Nergal (Behemoth), Rodrigo & Gabriela, Black Francis (Pixies), Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers), Jim Root (Slipknot), Mark tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge), Fredrik Akkesson (Opeth).

Some of these interviews are transcribed as reader pieces, but others are YouTube videos. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed some special moments with John 5, Gary Numan and John Petrucci amongst others. Mr Petrucci, in particular, left quite an impression on everyone who met him: not so much for his prodigious guitar skills but more for his exceptional loveliness!

Sharing special moments like these with not only famous guitarists but the lines of people who have waited to meet them is a special thing for us. There is always a great vibe at these events and the feeling of fun and goodwill really spreads throughout the store. We know only too well that our customers are the real stars: these are the people who visit us every weekend, or on their days off, and they (i.e. YOU) are the biggest and best reason for us to exist. It’s nice to show off pictures of us hanging with big names but the lifeblood of guitarguitar is the passion of our customers who come through our doors every day. We thank you wholeheartedly and without reservation. You are the reason we’re here, it's that simple.

The good people of Birmingham give us the horns, so to speak, whilst queing for Architects! You guys totally ROCK!

Okay, onward with the story! Glasgow gained a dedicated acoustic department in 2013, taking over the space next door. The Glasgow premises now reach across three stores in a row, even though somehow there still isn’t enough space for everything! How does that happen?

Gav, as usual, spearheads the celebrations as we hit 10 years old in 2014.

Every year, a team of intrepid staff members have faced the outright evils of a Scottish Summer and provided sanctuary and entertainment for artists playing at T in The Park (now TRNSMT festival). John and Mick have led the way, shooting the breeze with Lady Gaga, Trent Reznor and Pharell Williams, amongst many others. As ambassadors for guitarguitar, we think they represented themselves in an appropriate manner indeed. Good work, chaps.

Mick introduces Pharell to the finer points of Scottish hospitality.

 

Camden Calling

In a crude paraphrase of Joe Strummer, London was calling. Our beautiful Epsom store catered for a whole new market, but we found that, whilst it’s close to London, it isn’t actually in London. London is where we needed to be, and since Camden is the spiritual London home of music and alternative culture, it seemed like the perfect place for us!

Andy in Camden, pre-guitarguitar-glory

We’ve been in Camden since October 2016 and this store is, without doubt, one of our busiest. Having a presence in this most energetic of metropolitan areas has completed our line-up of UK-based stores. As with the other gg stores, we host special events here, including signings, clinics and restringing days.

Camden manager Alessandra at an Epiphone/guitarguitar event: never knowingly out-posed!

 

Behind the Scenes - Linwood

In terms of the guitarguitar that you don’t necessarily see, there is the web support office in Newcastle that we already mentioned, plus our central HQ which has been located in the town of Linwood (actually still Paisley but that’s a mere detail) just outside Glasgow, since 2021. In this building you’ll find the coders, buyers, bloggers and marketeers, alongside our main warehouse and distribution centre. 

The Linwood HQ is where deliveries come and go, where videos and pictures are shot, where the techs tech and the bloggers blog. 

You’ll recognise the studio room from our YouTube videos, social posts and bespoke photos. It’s a bit of an 'inverse Tardis', where it looks sizable in our videos but is in fact a neon shoebox!

Keiran in our video studio, proudly displaying his allegiance to overdrive pedals and cuddly pillows

 

Employee Owned

There was cause for celebration in 2022 when the company owners made the decision to turn guitarguitar into an employee owned business. It’s a big step of course, and one that is still in the process of happening, but it’s also the beginning of an amazing future for the company. We’re all excited about what’s coming next, and we hope you are too!

 

2024

That brings us to roughly…now! We’re actually living the anniversary as I type, preparing more content and events for you throughout the year.

So far, we’ve had the Painted Strats, which have caused a real stir online and in the media. We collaborated with a PR company to put out a survey on who the most influential (not ‘best’, I hasten to clarify) guitarists of the last 20 years were. This was to tie in with our own 20th year Anniversary, so it was a sort of ‘most influential in guitarguitar’s lifetime’ sort of vibe.

Five were chosen to become the inspiration for a set of hand-painted Fender Stratocasters, which have subsequently gone on tour throughout the country, stopping at every guitarguitar store. Did you see them? Did you have a shot?

We’ve had 20th Anniversary celebrations in all of our stores, with deals aplenty, birthday cake and bubbles on hand to make the most of our birthday year.

We’ve also held a number of special instore events, such as this one with Alt-Country megastars 49 Winchester, which turned out to be a fantastic night! Keep an eye on our site and socials for more events throughout 2024!

 

20 Spins Around the Sun

So here we have it: 20 years of guitarguitar. At time of writing, we are half way through our year-long celebrations, so there’s loads to still look forward to!

As we hit this landmark birthday, it can be prudent to look back on the decades that came before, and for that I can point you towards this 20 Years of the Music Industry blog.

It’s been a great year for guitar culture already, as evidenced by fantastic tours by artists like Taylor Swift, the Foo Fighters, Jane’s Addiction and Beat, the new supergroup formed of Steve Vai, Tony Levin, Adrian Belew and Tool’s Danny Carey. In fact, I spoke to friend-of-guitarguitar Steve Vai a month or two ago about the state of the instrument in 2024, and here’s what he had to say…

 

The last 20 years have been a fun, twisting, turning, strange adventure for us without a doubt! Life, it turns out, is indeed a rollercoaster. We have grown and changed a lot since we began in 2004, much as the world around us has also changed. It is now 2024 and, in terms of guitars at least, some things are different (digital modelling, multiscale guitars, Country music becoming enormous etc) but most things are not: Fender and Gibson still rule the roost, Metal is as popular as ever, and the best-selling colour for a Stratocaster is still White! Hendrix, Page and Gilmour are probably still the titans of the guitar playing pantheon, but new(er) players like Tosin Abasi and Tim Henson are also flying the flag for unadulterated guitar action.

The country may be a mess, the world may at times seem to be turning completely upside down, but while we have electric guitars, distortion pedals and riffs, we can withstand anything!

Animals As Leaders' Tosin Abasi, bringing the Nu-Shred in Epsom.

 

Thank You

Having you join us so far on this ride has been our considerable pleasure! On behalf of everyone at guitarguitar - in our stores and behind the scenes - I’d like to sincerely thank you for being an extended part of the guitarguitar family. We have all met a great number of excellent individuals over the years, many of whom have become cherished friends! Long may it continue as we advance into the next 20 years! Stick with us for some great things as we move ahead into the wide-open, blue-skied future! To guitars!

 

 

 

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About the author

Ray

Features Editor

I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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