Back in 1975, when he had Michael Landon hair and a penchant for Led Zeppelin covers, Ed Collevecchio played rhythm guitar for Holiday - the great, unsung rock and rollers of Lejeune High.
His first guitar was a Sears Silvertone, a junk instrument best known for getting inexpensively smashed onstage by The Who's Pete Townshend.
But his second, found hanging in a Jacksonville pawn shop, was a Gibson SG - cherry-red, its mahogany body cut with a pair of horns, the kind of guitar Townshend didn't smash.
"It was loud and it had the right name on it," he said.
When Collevecchio got it home, he etched his name on the back in a neat cursive. But after just a few years, that guitar disappeared like so many artifacts of youth. He traded it to a shop in Greenville, along with a 12-string and roughly 50 bucks, for a handmade Spanish acoustic. The faithful Gibson, with Collevecchio scrawled across the back, split with its bandmate and went off on a 30-year solo tour.
Then a few weeks ago, Collevecchio got a call from Louisiana at 5 o'clock on a Thursday, and a stranger offered him a cherry-red ticket back to his childhood.
When that call came, Collevecchio was 51, a graduate of ECU, married, father of two sons and a daughter, founder of Creative Associates, a successful North Raleigh interactive marketing firm. Though in middle age, he still wrote and recorded music for his company, and he and his sons owned something like 18 guitars between them. But it wasn't exactly rock and roll anymore.
So here was this stranger on the phone telling him that a red Gibson SG was up for auction on eBay, and the name Ed Collevecchio was scratched across the back, and that maybe he'd want to jump online and check it out.
"This miraculous little etching pen came out in the '70s," Collevecchio said. "My parents made us etch our names into every valuable so when the bad guys came and stole everything, you could say, 'Hey, my name's on there. This guy in Baton Rouge looked at it wondering if it was Eric Clapton. He could have thought Ed Collevecchio was Eric Clapton's real name."
Luckily, Collevecchio was easy to find via Google, and the old Holiday guitar man could quickly get to bidding. The auction was almost over by the time he jumped in, and as a skilled eBayer, Collevecchio waited until the last few seconds to place his maximum $900 bid. Reunion with your high school guitar, which once wailed to the touch of your younger fingers: $876.
The seller in New York, it turned out, had bought the guitar in Greenville in the early '80s, so Collevecchio's Gibson had known just one other owner. It was a tad musty, though, so the old ax had likely done some time in a New York basement. It must have missed him down there, yearning for that first A minor chord of "Stairway to Heaven" and his slightly shaggy old friend in Raleigh.
Spruced up a bit at Harry's Guitar Shop, the old Gibson plays beautifully, its tone fat and warm. If you squint a little, you can see the Michael Landon hair sprouting on Collevecchio's head. If they sold that stuff on eBay, along with some starry-eyed teenage idealism, he would have paid a lot more.