Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 106
(ABOVE) The back of the headstock
carries reproduction tuning machines
and shows the wear of a working guitar
along with the inked serial number
(cropped for the sake of security).
from the University of
Memphis, Chris began writing songs that
would become his first
album and working with
Tony Maseratti, a Grammywinning producer who
would become his mentor
and encouraged him to write
material that could be used on
TV shows; programs like "Dawson's Creek" and "Grey's Anatomy" had created a platform where
music was used as a cinematic
element, much like in feature
films. For Arena, ABC's "Pretty
Little Liars," NBC's "Chicago
Fire," TV Land's "Younger," along
with MTV shows like "Catfish,"
"Scream," and "Teen Mom" offered a
chance to create, record, and put his
music in front of vast audiences while
forgoing rigors like booking gigs, touring, etc. In 2015, his song, "Dreams,"
was used on "General Hospital" and
earned him an Emmy nomination. His
song, "Extraordinary," will be part of
the upcoming film Cage Dive, while
another, "Turn Me On," landed a spot
in Random Tropical Paradise, set for
release in late 2017.
Today, Arena works from his studio
in Venice and is prepping a second
album, while the '59 resides
in the Rare Guitar section
of the Grammy Museum,
leaving (as it has twice for
performances by Arena at the
Gibson Baldwin Showroom in
Beverly Hills) only when accompanied by an armed guard
and a $1 million insurance
We spoke with him about the
When did you first hear the story
of the Les Paul and how your grandfather got it?
I don't know exactly when, but I
know he sold his D'Angelico Excel and
went to Sam Ash Music in Hempstead,
New York. He wanted a black guitar
to match his tuxedo, but a Les Paul
Custom was $375, and he didn't have
that much. The Standard cost just
under $300 with a case, but of course
was sunburst. So, he had the store
order a Standard in black and bought
a cheaper case from them. It has held
up very well through the years; it's
weathered, but still in great shape.
When did you first get to hold it?
As a kid. I remember my father
wouldn't hand it to me unless I was
sitting down, or he'd hold it while I
stood in front of him... Hey, it's heavy!
But I really don't recall the first
time I was allowed to truly hold and
play something on it; a good guess
would be around 12 years of age.
And I remember playing "Stairway