In 1962, we were still running the store, and Coca-Cola did a promotion with all 50 states imprinted under plastic inside the bottle caps. Since we ran a store, I was able to get the card filled pretty quickly and gave it back to the Coke driver. If you got all 50 states and put them on the board and sent it in to Martinsville, Virginia, they had drawings for different prizes. The top prize was a fifty-dollar gift certificate for records at the Music Bar in Martinsville.
Sometime the next week, someone told me at school that they had heard on Martinsville radio that I had won. Several days later we went to Martinsville, to the Coca-Cola plant, and sure enough they gave me this little box with a gift certificate in it for fifty dollars worth of records. That didn’t do me much good, as I didn’t have a record player. I simply took the certificate and put it in a drawer.
In the summer of 1963, I was trying to play an old guitar that my Uncles Bruce and John had pretty much discarded. The action on the neck was terrible. I would go through the old string boxes they had, find old strings they had taken off the good instruments, and I'd put them on the old guitar. I’d get in front of the mirror and pretend I was on stage somewhere.
Sometime during that summer, we were in Martinsville for some reason and I wandered into the Music Bar and mentioned that I had this gift certificate. The lady who ran the place was really nice and said they had wondered why it hadn’t been turned in. Fifty dollars in 1962 was a fair amount of money. After I explained that I didn’t have a record player she said I could use it on anything in the store…
Over the next few weeks, I saved the money I’d made in helping in tobacco, and on August 31st, we went to my Uncle Pete’s to prime tobacco (breaking two or three leaves from the stalk, getting them ready to be cured) and it started raining. We came back home and went to Martinsville. This time I took my gift certificate and purchased my first guitar -- a ZimGar. Never heard of that brand before or since. It was a big, pretty thing, but the action was high. Before long the neck started pulling loose and I took it back to the Music Bar. They gave me another one, and after a few months, the bridge came off. Again I took it back and got another one…I still have it today, but it isn’t any better than it was then.
I got that guitar on a Saturday, and that night at the dance, I saw one of the local boys for the last time. He was a few years older than me. I remember Kenny Collins coming in and going down stairs. I went down to get a Coke and he was sitting on the counter. On Sunday night, Kenny, Dean Shelton, and J.C. Corn had a wreck, and Kenny and J.C. were killed.