I have always been fascinated by every detail of the equipment used by legendary musicians. Not stopping at guitars and amps, even as a kid I would scrutinize the tiniest details of what they used. This was gear that simply wasn't available to a '60s fanatic who was growing up in the '80s; so I scrutinized everything from coily cables to the psychedelic and mod-patterned guitar straps on all those great old Gibson, Gretsch, Fender and Martin guitars.
Some of the first things I began seeking out when I signed on to eBay years later were the ubiquitous Ace brand guitar straps that hung around the necks of all my favorite folk, rock and roll, and r & b musicians. These old straps were cheap for a long time, but in the last few years, LOTS of people began seeking them out, driving prices through the roof! At the same time, a visionary company in Chicago bought the entire supply of vintage fabrics from the old Ace Company, and that's how Souldier Straps got started.
The worst aspect of the old Ace straps is the caustic vinyl backing that will eat into lacquer finishes, sometimes in just a few hours. This vinyl is the source of those odd bubble marks seen on so many vintage guitars. Fortunately, Souldier is using the vintage fabric but not the evil backing; Souldier straps are sewn with a far more comfortable and lacquer-friendly fabric that is made from recycled seat belts! The seat belt material is very comfortable and safe for all finishes, so you don't need to suffer from a sore shoulder, or a ruined guitar finish, to enjoy retro guitar strap fashion.
Souldier straps are proudly made in the USA, and carry a lifetime warranty; just the type of product we enjoy carrying here at Gryphon. I'll never forget the night I was playing a gig and one of the flimsy ends of a vintage Ace strap completely fell apart; luckily, I was able to catch the guitar before it hit the stage! Souldier strap ends are made from fine quality, triple-layer reinforced leather and won't crumble on us mid-gig.
For this article, I've chosen some of my favorite, iconic moments in guitar strap history (I see plenty of humor in this silliness but playing music is all about FUN and what better way to fly your personal freak flag than with a great, colorful strap?)
Check out this great image of Bob Dylan and George Harrison, taken on stage in 1971 at the Concert For Bangladesh in New York City. This was Dylan's first US stage appearance since a quick cameo at a Woody Guthrie salute in 1968, and his first US appearance performing his own music since his legendary 1966 tour. This is the type of photo that always gives me goosebumps; two giants on stage, completely locked into one another musically, with the mutual respect and empathy caught mid-performance. Another photo (probably taken seconds after this image) graced the cover of "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol.2", released shortly after the Bangladesh event. Around Dylan's neck are a Martin D-28 and my personal all-time favorite vintage strap design. While I sold off my collection of original Ace straps after getting hip to the superior Souldier versions, this is the one original that I kept (see photo, along with the Souldier recreation).
In September 1969, John Lennon made his first major post-Beatles concert appearance (at least one before a paying, public crowd) in Toronto at the Rock N Roll Revival Festival. John's performance was later released as the "Live Peace In Toronto" LP, cementing its place in musical history. Not only is John sporting the longest beard of his life at this gig, but he's also got his signature Epiphone Casino hanging from a fantastic Ace strap. All of us Lennon fanatics are grateful that this is one of the patterns Souldier has recreated.
There are probably no images more iconic to electric guitarists than Jimi Hendrix on stage at the Woodstock festival. Not only did this concert give us Jimi's epic rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," but this was one of the longest concerts Hendrix ever performed (nearly 2 hours), full of his typically fiery playing bookended by some hauntingly beautiful instrumentals and nods to r & b. Jimi certainly didn't need a strap to project his image to the world, but one must admit that his beautifully patterned, multi-color Ace strap really "pops" in these photos taken early in the morning on Yasgur's farm. Luckily, Souldier Straps is reproducing this strap too, as well as hundreds of other similar patterns. Come by Gryphon and check out what we currently have in stock for guitar and ukulele. We'll have some of the classic patterns on our website so you can purchase those online.