“I wasn’t always a V lover,” admits Palm Springs-based guitar collector Gary Gand as we sit in his elegant mid-century home in California’s Coachella Valley in early 2020, shortly before the world would shut down and make such face-to-face conversations impossible. For someone who wasn’t always a fan of the Flying V, the former music retail pioneer has ended up owning a few, and we’re here to see one 1958 model in particular, once wielded by Kinks legend Dave Davies and now part of the Gand collection following its purchase via Heritage Auctions in 2019.
Before we get into all that, how was Gary first seduced by the charms of Gibson’s most angular design? And what is it about the Flying V that makes him keep on coming back? “A few years ago when Lonnie Mack died I thought, boy, I don’t have a V, I should just get one,” says Gand. “The 50s ones were few and far between so I bought a used red one from 2001, with a stopbar on it. I sort of got it for show but I started playing it and I really liked it. I started really digging it.
“Everybody bad raps Vs because you can’t play them sitting down but my answer to that is, if you are sitting down, you’re not playing! Come on… this is rock ’n’ roll. You play a V onstage, everybody hears you. And if you’re a stage performer, that’s what it’s all about! It’s a commitment when you are a player: as soon as you put this thing on, you’ve got to deliver. All eyes are on you! It’s a lot like being an astronaut. You’d better leave it all in your pants when that thing takes off.”
A few years later, after getting a good reaction from using that first Flying V at local gigs – “usually around the holidays, ’cause it was red and I’ve got this sort of Santa thing going” – Gand went on the hunt for another and invested in a player-grade 1959 model, as featured in these pages when we first photographed his collection in early 2019. Yet that still wasn’t enough for this avid guitar collector. “You’ve gotta have one for when the other one’s in the shop,” he says, laughing.
“I was dreaming about the first time I ever saw a Flying V, which was Dave Davies on Shindig in 1965, playing with The Kinks. It’s such a famous image, we all know that, it’s one of the great images. This thing came up for auction and I thought, I’ve got no chance in hell of getting this guitar, it’s a celebrity guitar, everybody in the world is going to want this. But I thought, you know what, I’m gonna do what I always do, I’m going to register, I’m going to do my homework, and maybe I’ll get lucky.
“I always bid on the phone, I never bid on the internet. I want to hear what’s going on in the room, I want to hear how fast it’s moving, how many other people are bidding on it. Being a musician and an audio guy I need to be attached through sound.
“So, we’re driving to a rehearsal, and the phone rings – it’s now. I thought it was gonna be like in a half an hour. I have trouble with timezones. So I pull over, I’m bidding, and I think there are only two bidders. They started it at something, then they had a bid, and then I bid. Then the other guy bid, and I bid and they hammered it. It was like, 15 seconds. It happened so fast! But it’s exciting, I love auctions. The way I feel about auctions is probably the way other guys feel about sports!”
About a month later, Gary got his hands on the legendary instrument. “The guys at Heritage Auctions did the best packing job I’ve ever seen! It took me about an hour to get it unpacked! Then the first thing I did was check the neck, tune it up to pitch and all of that. I did adjust the action a little bit, but the truss rod didn’t need any adjustment. I plugged it in and it just worked and sounded great.”
Aside from a repair at the heel, some shrivelled tuner buttons being replaced and a finish touch-up on the neck, the Dave Davies V is pretty original, with its factory PAFs intact. The underside of the ABR-1 bridge was shaved down on the treble side to improve playability many years ago, and it plays fantastically well today. You might reasonably expect a piece of rock history such as this to be kept under lock and key, but Gary has gigged it.
“I took it to a show, used it on Kinks twin spin and it was great, it sounded great, it played great,” he says. “We’re doing that show again at the end of the month for two nights so I’ll take it out again for that. But it performed great, it was very inspiring to play. I can’t say enough good stuff about it.”