Near the end of 2018, an artifact of the San Diego music scene from over 30 years ago began making the rounds on local social media. It was a collection of outtakes from a series of commercials produced for the Guitar Trader music store.
Thom Beebe (who at the time was playing in local metal act Assassin) was part of the shoot. He was a salesperson at the shop and is showcased in the compilation improvising a guitar part based around the solo from Assassin’s song “Backstabber.” He has a difficult time making it through each take without laughing, a common theme from the shoot.
“There was a lot of stuff going on. You had all these different personalities like Mojo Nixon, Country Dick [Montana], Rolle Love, and all the guys that worked at Guitar Trader. Ed [Chwekun], who was the owner, he just let us go. He just said, ‘Do whatever you gotta do.’ It was just incredible. There were times when nobody could stop laughing. It was hard for me to do a take. The whole gist of the thing was to have fun,” Beebe said.
Country Dick, Rolle Love, and their band the Beat Farmers would go on to have national success later in the 1980s, as would Mojo Nixon, whose video for the song “Elvis is Everywhere” received heavy rotation on MTV, the network that the Guitar Trader commercials landed on. Beebe estimates that there were about 10-12 different versions of the commercials which were each 30 or 60 seconds in length. One of them showcased Nixon speaking from the inside of an television.
“I don’t remember whose idea it was, but we took a portable TV and somehow it got gutted, so it was just the outside of the TV. The bottom was off of it, so [Nixon] stuck it on his head so he was actually on TV. He came up with some real interesting comments. A lot of them, they couldn’t put out.”
The outtakes are up on YouTube, but the actual commercials are nowhere to be found. Patty Mooney and Mark Schulze, who helped shoot the commercials and posted the clip compilation on YouTube via their company Crystal Pyramid Productions have no idea where the master tapes are.
“A lot of that footage just disappeared, and the stuff that played on commercials… they had so much content that they just wouldn’t save it. This was according to some of the guys I knew. They’d say they just toss that stuff and reuse the tapes,” Mooney said.
Beebe believes the tapes are still out there. After ownership of Guitar Trader switched hands in the 1990s, Beebe returned to work at the store, this time as the manager. He was gone by the time the store closed its doors at the end of 2014, but he still knew the place inside-out.
“I should have gone through that stuff in the back corner in the upper attic above the repair shop. I kick myself in the butt thinking that I was right there, and if I had just had the opportunity to go through some stuff, I might have been able to find those big-ass, plastic cases that had all the videos in them.”