Repairing Willie Nelson’s Trigger

“There are a number of things wrong with it,” says Erlewine, “but they’re just minor repairs to keep it going.” As for that hole and the craters surrounding it, he seems unconcerned. Though it looks like it might cave in at any moment, Erlewine has kept it structurally sound. “Willie is not concerned about the looks of this guitar so much as the playability and functionality of it.” How did Trigger come to take on its distinctive wounds? Not in the way you might expect. Rather than a stage accident or tour mishap, the way these things can happen, Nelson’s guitar became damaged through the sheer passion of his fingerstyle playing. Over the years his fingernails would “often chip into the wood and pull out wood as he plays.”

In perfect condition when he bought it, Trigger has recorded in its beaten-up top the motor memories of “over 10,000 shows and recording sessions” in the deep impressions of only its owner’s fingers and personality. There is no way to duplicate this phenomenon for mass consumption. Stick with the video, from guitar tool and parts giant Stewart-MacDonald, and see how Erlewine keeps Trigger healthy, “alive,” and “shored up over the years.”

Mark Erlewine shares a closeup look at the famous hole in the top. Mark’s been Trigger’s caretaker for ages, and he gives us the inside scoop on Trigger’s history.

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