Turlock’s Carnegie Center for the Arts hosts rock ’n’ roll legends, rare collection

naustin@modbee.comMay 24, 2014 



    A comprehensive, privately held rock ’n’ roll collection featuring more than 60 items from the 1930s to the present, including vintage guitars and drum sets played by rock ’n’ roll icons. This is the first time the collection has been exhibited, and no additional venues are planned.


    10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 17, extended summer hours until 8 p.m. on Fridays; “Guitar Legends,” a lecture by music historian Richie Unterberger, will be at 2 p.m. June 15.


    The Carnegie Arts Center, 250 N. Broadway, Turlock


    Admission is $12, $10 for students, members and seniors; free for children 12 and younger. For more information, call (209) 632-5761.

— A blast from the past rocked the Carnegie Arts Center, with patrons packing in to greet musical mavericks and marvel at guitars strummed by legends.

The Saturday-night fundraiser brought rock legends who played with Kiss, Cheap Trick, Lynch Mob and Night Ranger to Turlock.

John and Elisha Hall of Brentwood came north to have their picture taken with one of the Kiss originators.

“I’m a big Ace Frehley fan,” said John Hall. “It was an opportunity to meet the musicians, and it’s for a good cause.”

Lauren Young came in from Davis to see the exhibit, for which she’d helped design marketing materials. Mannequins in authentic Kiss costumes drew her in.

“It’s their eyes. They’re so real,” she said. “There’s a lot of really cool things.”

Winning two VIP tickets brought first-timers Ryan Schaffer and his dad, Shannon Martin, who live a stone’s throw from the Carnegie. “He got me liking this stuff, so I figured I’d bring him,” Schaffer said.

Observed longtime Carnegie supporter Brandy Gemperle: “It brings in a whole different group. It’s interesting to see people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s come together for the same genre of music.”

Others from the extended Gemperle clan attended as well. The event was the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Carnegie, said Mike Gemperle, who came with wife Kristi.

“Turlock is a hip place,” he said. “I think this exhibit shows the vibrancy of our community.” Others, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had vied to premier this collection, he said.

But Matt Swanson of Turlock chose the Carnegie, bringing his musician friends to help launch the exhibit of his collection of priceless guitars, drum sets and other memorabilia.

“These are the guys that made the guitars famous,” said his dad, Rick Swanson. The exhibit was the first time he had seen many of the pieces of his son’s collection, he said. “I’ve seen all of them in cases.”

Matt started playing at age 5 or 6, he said, the next in a long line of Swanson strummers. “Way back, he loved the sound of guitars. Heavy metal was his passion,” he said.

Guitars on display include four- and five-string basses played by David Ellefson with Megadeth. George Lynch stood beside the Bone Guitar and concert attire he took on stage in 1986 while playing with Dokken.

Steve Vai’s heart-shaped, triple-neck guitar, played by Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, is there, as well as Versoul guitars with lights and another covered with salmon skin.

“I like all the drum sets,” said Bun E. Carlos, original drummer with Cheap Trick. “I’m not a guitar guy.”

The Carnegie display includes sets from Guns N’ Roses and Black Sabbath.

“This is a world-class musical collection, and (Swanson’s) using it to do something good,” he said. It was the doing something good part that brought him to Turlock, Carlos said before the meet-and-greet with fans.

“We’re glad to do that, proud to be asked,” he said.

The Carnegie exhibit “is a positive influence for young kids coming up,” said Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy.

“Maybe somebody else can grab that brass ring,” added Jack Blades, the group’s lead singer. Night Ranger later would be performing a few things from “High Road,” their album coming out this summer, as well as classics like “Sister Christian.”

“You start the first notes and the crowd (starts cheering). Come on, after 30-odd years? Unless you’re a jaded human being, how do you not like that?” Blades said.

The song was written and sung by Keagy for his sister Kristy. But the band misheard the lyric and liked Christian better, said Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis.

“We said it was poetic license. We changed it and it changed everything,” Blades said.

Snippets of history seem woven into the threads of the costumes, the worn amplifiers and even a case of picks emblazoned with iconic names.

“Some of the guitars have really great stories behind them,” noted Rick Swanson.

Bee reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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