Guitar hero

The Antique Rocker

Rockin’ in the free world: Billy Young of The Antique Rocker.

Rockin’ in the free world: Billy Young of The Antique Rocker.

Photo By brad bynum

The Antique Rocker is located at 454 Washington St. For more information, call 324-4540.

The Antique Rocker is a friendly neighborhood guitar shop. It’s the kind of intimate, personal store that’s becoming rarer and rarer in these days of loud, obnoxious big box strip mall stores populated by employees who have all the snobbery of experts with none of the knowledge.

The Antique Rocker plays on a much smaller, more manageable scale.

“I’m a one-man show over here,” says the shop’s proprietor, Billy Young. “When I take a vacation, the store closes.”

The biggest difference between the Antique Rocker and the box stores is Young’s approachable, hands-on attitude about guitar maintenance and support.

“So many places, they sell a new guitar, the customer leaves, and that’s the end of it,” he says. “I stand behind what I sell. … Whatever the instrument needs, I’ll hang with you.”

The Antique Rocker has been in its current location, just east of downtown near the corner of Washington and Fifth streets, for five years, and was in a different location, near the Reno Livestock Events Center, for 18 months prior to that. Young is originally from Pennsylvania, has been playing guitar since he was 12, and collecting instruments since not long after that.

He has some professional luthier training and can fix a lot of the common buzzes and bumbles that plague stringed instruments. If a problem will require more attention or time than he’s able to give it, he recommends other repairmen.

“There are a lot of good players, but they’re not mechanics,” he says. “I’m amazed by some of the guitars I see people use—they’re rattle traps.”

At any given time, the shop carries 125 to 150 guitars—acoustic and electric, new and used—as well as violins, mandolins, banjos, amps, percussion instruments and miscellaneous gear.

With every stringed instrument he sells, Young includes a maintenance tip sheet full of advice that might seem obvious, but considering the notorious lack of good sense and judgment often displayed by many guitarists, it’s all pretty reasonable. There are tips like, “Don’t leave your instrument close to a lit fireplace,” and “Never leave your guitar in a vehicle unattended. Extreme heat and cold can damage the guitar, and there is a good chance it could be stolen.”

Young often holds court with a few customers—guitarists who just stop in to buy picks and strings and end up hanging out for big chunks of time. The groups that hang out in any specialty shop tend to speak insider’s lingo, and this is especially true of musicians, but the crowd at The Antique Rocker is more approachable, probably because Young himself is fairly relaxed and willing to talk about even very technical aspects of guitars with candor and good humor.

It’s clear he’s a man with a lot of love for stringed instruments.

“Guitars are art with strings on it,” he says.

So who are Young’s favorite guitarists?

“Jeff Beck. Eric Clapton,” he says. “There are so many greats … but I’m basically old school.”