My Guitar Story – Peavey T-30

I have to say that after reading “The Strat In The Attic” by Deke Dickerson

which is an awesome book that I highly recommend, even for not guitar geeks…

I thought back to the guitar I owned. It was (sort of) in a picture that I posted in a blog about records from the library. Only the guitar case is in the picture, you don’t actually see the guitar itself, but as it turns out, the case was a very big component. In the picture below, it is the tall black case with the black and white checkered guitar strap hanging over it.


As I have stated in past blogs, I did have my uncle Phil’s acoustic guitar for several years in high school. I toyed with it, learned some chords and how to play “Smoke On The Water” and “More Than A Feeling” intros, but basically it was just for fooling around on. I was never going to learn to pick notes and I was satisfied with dabbling. At some point, the guitar went back to Phil (thanks again for the loan Phil!) and eventually, I began to miss it. Not in an aching gnawing at you kind of way, but I longed to have a guitar again.

I’m not certain the chain of events that happened next, whether I badgered or pleaded endlessly with my mom, but one day we were at a music instrument store and I was looking at guitars. I remember mom had reminded me that I (nor she) couldn’t even afford a decent guitar, much less an amp to go with it, and with an electric an amp was essential. Though I admitted she was wholly right, I still looked with that gleam in my eye at the shiny beautiful guitars lined up in floor stands in neatly manicured rows and the ones hanging just out of reach on wall hooks. Presumably the “dealer will help you with these” types of guitars. I remember wandering and mom waiting and watching until a store employee finally moved in for the kill.

After a chuckling description of our dilema, not willing to take on the price of both a guitar AND an amp, we were essentially just looking and dreaming, the salesman said he thought he could solve our dilema. He lead us over to an unexplored area that held just the answer. A guitar by Peavey, the T-30

Peavy T30

that came with a case that had an amp built into it!  The picture below shows a T-15, but the case was the same.


He admitted that the guitar was not top of the line, and the amp was small obviously, but you could play it anywhere you could carry the case and plug it in. For a beginner as I was, it was perfect. When I got better I would trade up, but starting out, there could be no better setup.

Honestly, I have no idea what my mom was thinking, but she bought it for me. I must have begged or come up with some no birthday or Christmas presents EVER idea, or sad eyes, or something. Whatever her reasoning… I left that store with a Peavey T-30 and case with amp built in. Thanks mom!

I loved that guitar, despite my lack of knowledge of how to play it. The guitar itself was solid and heavy and I loved that it was wood and not the shiny mystery material that a lot of electric guitars were in the 80’s. The amp was small yes, and at higher volumes the door in the case (to hold you picks and strap and strings etc.) rattled a bit, but the best part was that you could plug headphones directly into it. Many an afterschool afternoon was spent jamming with the amp, then when mom got home from work plugging in the headphones and continuing to jam. You could manipulate the sound on both the guitar and the amp for maximum distortion, or to make it sound reminiscent of an acoustic. It really had it all for a begginer without too discening an ear and no talent, but sheer love for his guitar.

I usually had the T-30 sitting out and ready to go, so when I got the urge I could wander over, flip the switch and fire off some power chords (the only ones I knew) and play the 2 intro’s that I knew and then play some notes that I bent to sound somewhat Blues like, then set it down, flip off the switch and walk away. That was my eventual groove. I learned I really didn’t have the drive to actually learn to play, I just wanted to have it to play with. I accepted that. I stopped buying Guitar Player magazine and kept the guitar handy, but eventually kept it closed in the case more often than not.

When I graduated in 1983 from High School and went to U.W. Milwaukee, the Peavey T-30 came with me. I was able to show it off there to new friends and even dragged it across town on foot… and the case with the guitar in it was HEAVY… to go to the apartment that Paul Beck shared with some dudes and we jammed in a primitive not-really-playing-a-song kind of way. It was cool to be in a jam situation, but again I realized I had no talent to play the thing. I still loved it in an unexplainable way mind you, but I knew my limitations. 

Once, after an afternoon and evening of drinking with Dan R. for my birthday, I dragged the guitar and case to Dan’s room, turned off the lights and set the case in the open window facing the other towers. Not sure how it looks there now, but back then the 3 dorm towers were concrete monsters. From Dan and Andy’s double room the windows faced directly across to another tower, with the 3rd on the left. We were on a floor high enough to be above the central building.


I carefully turned all the knobs up to maximum distortion, the volume all the way up, and gingerly plugged in the cord. BZZZZZZZZZZ was all that could be heard. Even the buzz though was echoing between the towers and with a smile on my drunk face, I grabbed my pick and tilting my head first left, then right in preparedness, I raised my hand with the pick and fingered a chord I knew and dropped my hand and pick across the strings.

It wasn’t like a scence from “Back To The Future” where I was flung across the room, but I hit the chord just right and the amp exploded out growling sharp blast that crossed the commons and echoed off of the opposite tower. It echoed for the longest time and I was delighted. I waited a moment. Nothing. Then I hit that chord again. Whomp omp omp omp… lights came on and people came to their windows to see what that hell that racket was. I lit into what I thought was a cool random solo for like 2 full volume minutes of stringed fury. It was awesome. The echo was coming back into the room and the sound was huge, like at an ampitheater. I basked in it for a minute, then packed everything up and gigglingly hid in my room while students in the all 3 towers shouted and yelled out their windows at the drunk fool to shut the hell up and knock it off. It wasn’t my best moment, but it still makes me smile to this day. Total harmless abandon made possible by my Peavey T-30, well, and Old Thompson Whiskey with Squirt.

I only have 2 other memories of the guitar.

For the 100th tape I made for Jeff, which we made like letters, I made as a videotape. I had video equipment borrowed from Mark H. and I did several weird takes of different stuff to fill up the video. One section was me pretending to play along with the Stevie Ray Vaughn song “Gone Home”, or maybe it was “Riviera Paradise”… while sitting poorly lit on the couch in front of the hideous panelling that was in our apartment in Sun Prairie.

2013-11-22 14.41.27

Those glasses. Holy cow. They look like goggles.

Finger work closeup.

2013-11-22 14.33.37

That was the last I think I ever played it, or at least pretended to.

Ultimately, poor and struggling and intent on making a nice Christmas, I secretly packed the T-30 into the car and headed down to the Buy And Sell Shop on East Washington Avenue. This place is gone now, but back then it was packed with all kinds of crazy stuff. I never went downstairs, but the stairway was lined with old black rotary dial phones. Hundreds of them. This is where I also much later got an 8-track tape to try in a reel-to-reel tape player that came into my hands that had an 8-track player built into the side of it. The store was dirty and old, but had some real character and had a small area devoted to musical instruments upstairs. I took the guitar there and they hemmed and hawed and I was afraid they were going to pass on it, but eventually offered me something, way less than it was worth and way less than I had hoped, but grudgingly I took it.

It’s not a guitar that anyone would search for these days, it’s not vintage, or rare, but I wonder what hands it has travelled through since it left my hands. It would be interesting to find out.

Anyone out there buy a Peavey T-30 with a built in amp from the Buy and Sell on East Wash back in the 90’s?

Say hi to my guitar for me.

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  1. Hi there,
    Well, that was a really nice story. You talked about her like it was a girlfriend.
    I liked the ending – Say hi to my guitar for me… 🙂
    I happen to have a T30 myself so I looked on the Internet if there is something about that old guitar and I found your story. My father bought it to me when I was about 20 years old. I played it on and off for about 5 years (even played it in front of an audience with couple of friends at a party in my military service … ) , and then it went to it’s case in a closet for about 25 years !
    Now, that my young daughter is having interest in music, I got her out and started to play it once again. All the foam inside the case disintegrated to crumbs, but amazing as it sounds, the guitar itself is still in great shape – actually having the same look and feel as in the day I bought it !
    So, it’s not your guitar, but maybe her long lost sister 🙂

  2. wow you know I have owned a lot of guitars over years I mean a lot of them but I just picked up a Peavey T-30 at a pawn shop a very solid guitar. it doesn’t have its case and I wish it did but any way I really am impressed with it I think it sounds I can relate to your experience and you know I think she’s a keeper.Btw did you know your serial number would be cool if u could remember it. Mine is 33yrs old now its a 81 model, and looks just like yours all wood white pick guard rectangle shape black pick-ups all original as far as I can tell and I love it.

    1. Tony, 81 is when I would have gotten mine. Sophomore year in High School. I thought it was a great idea to combine the case and amp, small though it was. Perfect starter guitar. Man, I wish I HAD made a note of the serial number. Than would be a fantastic story if I could trace it through the years! Treat it well. It might have been mine. 🙂

  3. I found a T30 after a long search. People are finding out about the great old USA guitars. Back then or now get a shit fender or Epiphone. You need to rebuild them. These were born perfect in Tennessee.

  4. I have about 11 or 12 guitars and 4 amps and a lot of stuff other stuff that is related. I read about Peavey guitars and saw videos on them. I just had to have one like many others. The T60 sounded great but the price went up each look. I found a Peavey T30 for only $100 bucks, probably the most unpopular of an unpopular guitar maker. That’s the one for me, no cool wiring or wild pick ups. Just like the Strat I hate. It came in perfect case and it was perfect, new 8s on it and it is a guitar I fell in love with after 12 bars. It has a great out of phase honk with the 5 way switch in the 4th position. My hands just took off with this natural little wood guitar. They say what stories it could tell if it could talk. I don’t think this one has any. Seems like it was bottled up in that case. Now it is out and I ain’t ready any time soon to put it back in.

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