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Old 05-15-2015, 06:48 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,602
Default LIGHTFOOT guitar auction

Guitar man gives it up for good causes

Dave Southen
Mike Maloney
Dave Southen plucks a guitar signed by Randy Bachman while a Gordon Lightfoot stands by.
London Community News
By Scott Taylor
Dave Southen relaxes in a chair in his comfortable Colborne Street home and considers a couple of questions posed just the moment before.

Why does he buy guitars and have them signed by famous musicians only to give them away?

Southen laughed. “Well, I’ve been a guitar player for years and I’ve been involved in raising funds for charities for quite some time. About seven or eight years ago, my wife saw an article in the New York Times. It was advertising this little Gretsch Americana guitar, which was done up to look like the cowboy guitars of the 1950s. I ended up buying 42 of those guitars and we gave them away to charity. And that got me going. They’re cool and everybody needs a guitar in their house.”

Not long after, while looking for a guitar for himself, Southen came across a Baden acoustic. While chatting with the company’s founder, he mentioned what he’d done with the Gretsch guitars. One thing led to another and before he knew it he’d purchased 52 hand-built Badens, which he also auctioned off.

The proverbial light bulb turned on above his head. Years later, he’s still in the business of helping dreams come true.

Southen’s plan is diabolical in its simplicity. If you donate $10 to charity, the charity gets $10. But if he buys a guitar, gets it signed and auctions it off, the charity receives many times his original investment.

Some that benefit from his generosity include the El Sistemo music program at Aeolian Hall, the Lions Club and Bethany’s Hope Foundation, the charitable venture of the Rock the Park organizers.

It’s true that a portion of what he spends is a tax write-off, but more than 50 percent of it comes out of his own pocket.

So that begs the next question: How does he do it? The first thought is he must be filthy rich.

Well, not so much.

“It’s not that most of us can’t do this, it’s that most of us choose not to do this,” he said. “I don’t have a big income, but once you reach a certain stage of your life your wants become simpler. On the stuff front, there’s nothing really that I want. I’ve made a conscious decision over the past few years that I want to spend time with the people that I love and having experiences — rather than accumulating stuff — and making a difference in my community.”

Southen has experienced the highs and lows of the auction world, but the highest was impressive indeed.

“We’ve sold guitars for as little as $250, which was disappointing, and for as much as $35,000.”

That bid for a single, rather unremarkable guitar was an oddity, to say the least.

“That was the most interesting because it was a guitar that was both signed and played by (former Canadian astronaut) Chris Hadfield at the Tribute Dinner for St. Joe’s Hospital last year,” Southen said.

A YouTube video of Hadfield playing Space Oddity from the International Space Station in 2014 went viral. When he played the same David Bowie classic on stage, the guitar became a collector’s gem.

“That was a fantastic night because it wasn’t a wildly expensive guitar, but Chris generously consented to play it on stage.” Southen said.

Just to be certain buyers are happy, he includes a gig bag, a tuner and lessons with the guitar.

After he tells his story, he sits back in the chair again and begins to pick Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans in the company of an electric ax signed by Randy Bachman and an acoustic signed by Gordon Lightfoot.

They’ll soon be gone, but Dave Southen is at peace with that. He has more on the way. His pal, Helix frontman Brian Vollmer, is on a mission, and Vollmer hasn’t let him down yet.
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