Guitar Wood & Van Halen

 

The latest chapter in the Gibson guitar wood – Lacey Act controversy comes to us from the office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander – not a guitar picker, but an accomplished pianist.

Alexander says he and Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon are working toward some clarification of the Lacey Act which he and Wyden contend was never intended to be the pretext for seizing instruments made of wood harvested before 2008.

If the clarification doesn’t work, Alexander says he and Wyden are prepared to introduce legislation to change the act itself.

Alexander’s push for either or both is timed to coincide with the summer concert season. In recent years, the Lacey Act has complicated the travel plans of musicians who in some cases leave the good stuff at home and travel with less expensive instruments that don’t have to have paperwork to verify where the wood came from and thus stand less of a chance of getting seized.

Mentally, I’m trying to picture a resurrected Jimi Hendrix – a long held fantasy of mine – coming to life at the end of a customs line with his guitar case and getting busted for the guitar instead of the joint in his hat band. Such are the times we live in.

“I don’t want the musicians from Nashville who are flying to Canada to perform this summer to worry about the government seizing their guitars,” Alexander said in a written statement in which he added that Justice Department and Fish & Wildlife Service brass have told him and Wyden that they don’t intend to do such seizures.

“We are also working to make clear which laws apply and don’t apply to business importing and manufacturing with wood and to remove burdensome regulations on importers and instrument manufacturers.”

The outcome, whether negotiated or legislated, would amount to what Alexander terms a “safe harbor” for instruments made pre-2008.

If this works out, Alexander and Wyden should consider working on some kind of act to deal with the cancellation of the rest of the Van Halen tour. It would probably need to be built around some kind of mechanism by which the reunited band members determine in advance whether they will be able to put aside their robust hatred of each other before they sell tickets to the shows. If they need votes on this they could include some kind of settlement for Michael Anthony.

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