This is a story of music, love, and faith. It is a story of family, friends and the story of V-PICKS Guitar Picks. Therefore, I love to tell it to anyone who will listen and then I hand them a guitar pick. Nothing would make me happier than if I could tell this story to every person in the world that plays one of our plectrums. It is the reason I am writing this letter. I do indeed long for you to hear and understand the passion and the secret behind what I think is the best guitar pick in the world. A guitar pick story, a family story.
Let's go back to 1980. V-PICKS Guitar Picks were not around yet. I was a young man then and just married to Mrs. V only a few years. I loved her more than anything. We lived in a modest little cottage and I worked a day job and tried to be a Rock Star in the evenings and weekends. Don't we all?
My favorite guitar player was Peter Frampton. Playing nothing but Les Paul guitars and trying to emulate everything I saw and heard Peter do. The music and sound of three other guitarists, Ed King, Brian May and Barry Bailey also caught my attention. These four artists pretty much summed up what I considered to be my destiny of sound and style. Therefore, I spent most of my energy grabbing at any hope of sounding like these icons of the Rock world.
However, I was not happy with one piece of equipment, my guitar plectrum. Even after playing a plethora of brands, materials, shapes and colors. Only to be disappointed after a short honeymoon period. So, I decided to make my own unique plectrums. What material? Well, how about wood? That didn't end well. Metal? Uh, that really didn't end well! It did not take long to learn that metal guitar picks destroy guitars and guitar strings. Rubber was even a consideration at one point. After finding out that Brian May and Billy Gibbons were both using coins as their plectrums, I started buying up foreign coins and grinding them down. However, it was all in vain.
Then, one day I was walking through a store and I saw it. It was a type of acrylic. Clear guitar picks! Immediately I was drawn like a mosquito to a bug lamp because I was also into marine saltwater aquariums and I had a plexiglass tank that I just adored. This material looked so inviting that I bought a sheet of it. So, the next day I cut out some shapes with a hack saw. Then took it to a grind wheel and created the bevel and point. Every gig for the next few weeks sported a different size and shape of pick until I finally found the right one. A friend and fellow employee that was still in high school would take them to shop class and buff them. Until then, I just buffed them on my Levi jeans. It has been said, "Poor people have poor ways."
Well, I must have made about 50 of these plectrums and gave them to friends and fellow band mates. Both, guitar players and bass players as well. Some told me I should market and sell them, but I wasn't really into selling stuff. Hey, I was gonna be a Rock Star, right? I ain't sellin' stuff! I used them for some years.
Then, there came a time when I decided I didn't want to be a guitar player any longer. I just got tired of it all. It seemed that guitar playing was going into a direction that I didn't like. Most of all, the melodies were going away. It just wasn't fun for me any longer. I quit playing live and even told the studios to stop calling me for any recording dates. You could say I just dropped out of the scene. After deciding to play the sax, I sold off all of my guitars and bought tenor and alto saxophones. My new hero was David Sanborn and I was like hair on a gorilla with his albums, and I was now studying and learning to play the sax.
Now, let's fast forward this movie. This nonsense with the sax lasted about 4-5 years until I decided it was time to play guitar again. Because I decided to play country music, I bought some Teles and Strats. However, one very odd thing happened. The memory of the plectrums I had made a decade before was forgotten. They never, even one time, crossed my mind! That same quest that I had back in 1980 began to replay. Trying this wood, this plastic, this coin. The very same steps I took before. Consequently, I was even grinding down silver quarters and Ben Franklin Half Dollars at one point.
2003 we remodeled our home. My daughter and I were cleaning out a closet and found an old guitar bag full of goodies, effects, pickups. Considering to just throw it out, I decided to go through it, just in case there was something in there I wanted. In the bottom I found a familiar looking triangle, clear guitar plectrum. My heart almost stopped! And then the past started coming back to me. "Audrey, Dad made this guitar pick back in 1980. I loved these things and got to where I wouldn't play with anything else. I don't know why I ever stopped using them." I said. It was then I realized, all the rest of my acrylic plectrums must have been in those guitar cases I had sold to get money to buy my saxes. They had been completely forgotten!
The next day found me at John Dean's house with my new-found old friend. We played it and decided to put this lost formula back into action and began making acrylic guitar picks once again. I sent them to friends all over the world on various forums. They loved these new handmade guitar picks just like my buddies did way back when. John asked me, "What are you going to call it?" I said, "I don't know. The Plexi-Pick?" John held up the pick between his finger and thumb and said "The V-PICK!" "Yeah!" I shouted. That was the day V-PICKS Guitar Picks were born! The funny part was I thought he named it that because they were shaped like a V. The Vinster didn't even realize that John had named it after me for quite some time. Doh!
Here is where the faith and passion comes in. About the same time this was all going down, my daughter Audrey had gotten very, very sick. She was not getting better and seemed to just get sicker and sicker. We began to worry and got her in to see doctor after doctor. They checked her for a lot of very scary things. And even though they were getting closer to a diagnosis, we just seemed to get more and more confused and worried over the situation. It finally got to the point when Audrey was hospitalized. They eventually got to a diagnosis after months of tests. Rheumatoid Arthritis. An Auto-Immune disease. We finally found the evil thing we had battled for so long!
One day, sitting at a stop light while driving home from the hospital by myself, I was really very depressed. Not knowing how I was going to fix all of this like Dads are supposed to, I cried out "God, I don't know what we're going to do about all of this. Audrey is so sick and I don't even know how I'm going to pay for all these hospital bills. We need help!" The light turned green and I drove home and life continued on as usual. At least we now had a diagnosis. At least we now had a name for all this pain.
Two days later, a forum buddy wrote me and said, "Stop giving these guitar picks away. Many of us want some and we're not going to let you give them to us anymore. So, you need to start selling them and here is the best place, The Gear Page Forum. Another good friend started a thread on the Birds and Moons Forum. After conversing with some guys online, and Mrs V as well, we decided to sell them for $5 each or 3/$12. I didn't think they would sell but the time it took me to make them, they had to draw that sum to make it worth my time and effort. So, I guess they were classified as expensive, boutique guitar plectrums. Mrs V designed our website and they were officially called V-PICKS. I could not see the world paying me money for my plectrums. Oh ye of little faith.
The orders immediately started rolling in on PayPal and did not stop. People were paying me in advance for a product they had not yet seen or played. They trusted me and they didn't even know me! The money to pay the doctor and hospital bills just seemed to come from nowhere! Audrey started getting better and better! Hope and light was at last coming back into our lives!
Now, let us fast forward again, a few years later. We have not fallen short of paying one bill! Audrey is now grown into a wonderful young adult and is married with 2 children. She has become a family therapist. Recently her doctor told us that EVERY one of her blood tests came back normal! Someone at church this morning told me how good and healthy she is looking! Our son Adam is also a therapist and is married with a son and two daughters and they are doing quite well. He is also a very successful author and has written over 17 books. We are very proud of them both! Eventually we moved to Nashville in 2010. We are selling thousands of picks literally all over the world! Not a day goes by that I'm not talking to, or writing to someone from Europe, Asia, Israel, etc. Carlos Santana, Brad Whitford, Billy Gibbons, Phil Keaggy, Johnny Hiland, Vernon Reid and other well known artists are now playing V-PICKS. Our plectrums are sold in over 400 stores here in the US not to mention worldwide. We are making guitar picks, electric guitar picks, acoustic guitar picks, mandolin guitar picks, bass guitar picks and even dulcimer guitar picks! We have well over 100 different models of plectrums now.
In conclusion, we have a great God, my friend. He hears when His children call out to Him. I give Him all the glory and praise for where the Smiths are today. Could it be, after that one cry for help, did He hear from Heaven and gather us under His pinions as promised so long ago? Does He actually know how many hairs are on our heads and does not even a sparrow fall from the sky that He does not know? Choose you, this day, who you may serve, but as for me and my house
we will serve the Lord.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story.
To read more about V-PICKS Guitar Picks, please visit our Wikipedia page.