Ronald Guitar was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1942. The youngest of seven children, Ronald stood out among his siblings as a gifted child, and one with a massive, pineapple-shaped birthmark on his left cheek. His father, Herman, was an angry tennis coach with long hair. His mother, Ethel, was a cake decorator who, due to a debilitating fear of pretty colours, worked exclusively in greyscale. Ronald’s parents encouraged his inquisitive mind, although personally they found him irritating.
After Herman disowned Ronald at the age of fourteen during a heated game of UNO, Ronald declared he was leaving for New Orleans to live with a cousin. It was in New Orleans that Ronald discovered the word cousin meant a child of your parent’s sibling, and not simply a woman who owned a car. He also discovered a love of music.
Up until the 1950’s, music was boring. Very few people played or even listened to it, and those who did were unhappy. Ronald believed this was not the fault of musicians, but rather the limited range of instruments. With only harpsichords and baked clay trombones to work with, there was little variety or innovation. But amid the grating notes and bland melodies of the day, fate was at work.
Ronald took a job with a small company that manufactured dog biscuits (not the kind we have today). One day, during his lunch break, he found a wooden box with a long handle extending from the top at one end. Tied tightly from the end of the handle, over a circular opening, and to the edge of the box, were six wires. When Ronald accidentally dropped his sandwich onto the wires, they produced a pleasant sound. Ronald took the box back to his apartment and began working on a rounded design, with a bridge, nut, fretboard, tuning knobs and pick guard. After six weeks, he completed a working prototype of a brand-new instrument. He called it the Handled Music String-Box. A neighbour suggested he rename it after himself. The Ronald was born.
A clerical error in the patent office meant Ronald had to rebrand his invention as a “Guitar”, and then he set about selling. No one wanted one. The concept of pressing strings with one hand and plucking them with the other was too much for people. A local church declared his handiwork the Antichrist. Ronald was about to give up and go on an arson spree, when he met a young bus driver named Roy—Roy Orbison. Ronald’s guitar intrigued Roy, and he asked to play it. He took to it like a bird to flight (flightless birds excluded, obviously). Roy offered six dollars for ownership of the guitar, its patent and exclusive production rights for the next twenty years. Ronald, starving and at his wit’s end, took the offer. He bought some lunch and a hat, then faded into obscurity. Roy formed The Beatles, and the rest is history.
Here’s to you, Ronald.
32″ x 40″ Acrylic on canvas.
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