The Current's Guitar Collection: Jack Torrey of The Cactus Blossoms, vintage Silvertone

Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms and his guitar
Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms plays his Silvertone guitar in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
The Cactus Blossoms - Mississippi (live on 89.3 The Current)
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Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms plays a vintage guitar that he was happy to tell us about. It turns out he found it through an online search, and when he first played it, he couldn't believe the treasure he'd unearthed.

Torrey took some time to tell us about his guitar after the Cactus Blossoms played an in-studio session, hosted by Bill DeVille.

Your guitar is so distinct. What kind is it?

It's a Silvertone arch-top guitar with a pickup in it. That's how it came originally; I don't know the model number, but the tag was still on it when I got it. It's from 1952 or '53, I think. It still had the tag in the case, and it just said, "Spanish Guitar" — which it isn't! (laughs) But that's all I know about the make and model.

Do you remember where you got it?

I got it off Craigslist.

Was it listed by someone in Minneapolis?

It was in the Twin Cities area; I forget which outer-ring suburb. It's been a wonderful find. I found it on Craigslist doing a sneaky search that would exclude anything valuable, expensive or collectible, and this thing popped up in my search — and I jumped on it.

How long ago was that?

Three or four years ago. My first electric guitar, right here.

Take me back when you got it and you went to the person who was selling it. Did you try it out over there?

Yeah, I tried it.

What did you think of it, tonally?

It's great! It was new-looking when I bought it and I just couldn't believe it. I put all the wear on this.

It was love at first strum, man. Absolutely. I'm not getting rid of this — feel free to let people know it's not for sale! (laughs)

Had you been looking for a vintage instrument?

I'd been looking for exactly something like this, but my good taste and limited budget was making it pretty hard to find a guitar that worked for me. This thing is just above and beyond what I was expecting to find.

It's got this cool, kind of checkered binding around it. I don't know how many of these were made, but I feel it's kind of a rarity in the Silvertone world.

Do you write on this or do you have another guitar that you use to write songs?

I've got another guitar, a National that's a flat-top. It's not a resonator; it's a normal, flat-top spruce guitar. It's from 1951, but it's actually kind of a Frankenstein guitar because National Guitar Company didn't have a wood shop, so they were buying the bodies from Gibson. So it's like a 1951 Gibson J-45 body that National put their patented bolt-on neck on and did their own finish and everything. It's kind of like a classic Gibson, but it's not. It's not as collectible, because it's not a Gibson! (laughs)

It's an oddball, but I love playing that at my house.

Do you write songs with that?

I suppose I've written most everything on that, actually. I've never thought about it. I should play that guitar more to try to get some songs going!

Do you and Page [Burkum, Jack's brother and fellow member of the Cactus Blossoms] collaborate on writing or do you do it in an isolated way and then bring ideas to each other?

The latter — isolated and bring it together. We're very collaborative on music — on the arrangement and everything like that. There's a lot to work on on a song, even after you've got a melody and words.

Anything else to say about it?

If anybody sees another one, let me know; I might get it! It would be good to have a backup.

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  • Jack Torrey's Silvertone Guitar
    Jack Torrey's Silvertone Guitar (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)

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