Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 28
THE CITY OF GUITARS
Git-Shopping in Paris
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Could this be the eighth
wonder of the world? Paris' Rue Victor Massé,
a street devoted to guitars, basses, and amps.
La Pédale lives up to its name: the whole
store carries nothing but stompboxes.
Paris remains today a global capital for world
n your way to Paris for a romantic getaway? GIs made pilgrimage seeking wine, women, music. On any given evening, you can see
Wanting to see the sights in the City of and song in Gay Paree's infamous "Pig Alley." bands in nightclubs, theaters, coffee shops, or
Light? Then take this advice; forget Rick Steves,
Pigalle remains a tourist destination today, cave-like underground bars playing everything
think Stevie Ray.
monstrous charter buses unload tour groups to from Django's Gypsy jazz to that special French
Skip the Eiffel Tower (don't they
rock and roll, African blues
have one of those in Las Vegas, anyto flamenco. And it's to this
way?). Make a detour around the Arc
grubby street the musicians
de Triomphe (ditto). Catch a quick
all come to buy strings and
glimpse of Notre Dame and Sacréthings. When in Paris, do as
Cœur (you've already seen them in
the Parisians do.
Woody Allen movies).
"It's historic," explains
Instead, direct your feet to Rue VicPhilippe Turpault with a
tor Massé in the Pigalle district of the
Gallic shrug of the shoulders,
9th arrondissement. There's nothing
describing the street's wares.
quite like it anywhere in the world: A
Turpault is owner of one of
street of guitar shops running as far
the best shops on the street,
as the eye can see.
Oldies Guitars (31, rue Victor
Talk about a sight worth traveling
Massé). His shop may be a
halfway around the globe.
small boîte - or "box," as the
Pigalle is the site of the Moulin
French like to say. Yet it's a
Rouge cabaret of can-can dancing
world of wonders for vintage
fame, a red-light district of seedy sex
shops and suspicious bars. During the
Among numerous other
Jazz Age of the 1920s, Pigalle and its
Elvis is the king in France as well, as proven at Guitare Collection.
guitars, Oldies' inventory
neighboring Montmartre district was
recently included a '30s
home to many a loud nightclub, the destinations gawk at the Museum of Eroticism, strip clubs, National Duolian, a Model 65 Dobro with
of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and and drag bars. But most visitors sadly miss out etched-wood body, a '20s Weissenborn Hatheir Lost Generation.
on the best part - those guitar stores still lining waiian, and a '57 Gretsch 6120 in front of a
It was homebase, too, for Django Reinhardt Rue Victor Massé.
line of well-traveled '50s Fender tweed amps.
and the Hot Club de France from the 1930s
In a half-mile stretch are more musical- But it was the rare Euro contingent that was
through the early '50s. In the ancestors of these instrument stores than you can count, catering most fascinating: an exotic Höfner archtop
Pigalle shops, Django and fellow Gypsy musi- to vintage and new guitars and basses, amps, with more pickups, knobs, and switches than
cians picked up their Selmer guitars and the several shops devoted just to effects or custom- a '50s Mercedes-Benz; a stylish archtop made
surrounding cabarets where they played their made cables, drums, sheet music, repair by Parisian luthier Jacques Favino; an acoustic
hot jazz. During World War II, it was where shops and luthiers, and miscellaneous bizarre by Henri Miller with a black-painted body and
German soldiers came to hear the American- instruments from French musette bagpipes to white Bakelite trim dressed up like a tuxedo;
accented swing and, after the Liberation, where bouzoukis to Theremins.
and a whole nook full of Gypsy guitars by