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Steve Evans opened Jacksonville Guitar right after he graduated from high school in 1975 and the store's been a Central Arkansas favorite ever since. Guitar techs/salesmen Bob Tanner and Bobby Appleby were customers before they were hired 16 years ago. That's a lot of experience. The friendly staff will make sure you have everything you need and nothing more — unless you want it. The store itself is cozy, packed wall-to-wall with electric, acoustic and bass guitars, dobros, mandolins, ukuleles, straps, amps and tuners. If you want brand names, this place has them. They sell electric guitars from Fender, Michael Kelly, Gretch, Peavey, Luna, Dean, Ibanez, Jackson and Jay Turser. Most of the amps are by Fender and Peavey. If acoustic is more your style, you'll find names like Martin, Seagull, Bedell, Yamaha, Fender, Washburn, Takamine, Honer and Jay Turser.
And if that isn't enough, there's even an old-time cowboy guitar museum — those old Sears and Montgomery Ward models with Western scenes painted right on the top — that Evans has built up over the years.
Saied Music Company
2921 Lakewood Village Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72116
If your axe need some work, this is the place to take it. The few times we've strolled into the store, we've always been met by a friendly and, here's the key, knowledgeable sales staff. Saied sells a lot of band instruments to local high schools and the store now boasts quite a selection of Steinway pianos, but if you're looking to get started playing the guitar, or if you have an old one that needs a bit of a tune-up, you'll find what you're looking for here.
When our ukulele needed strings — and when we didn't know how to put them on — we took it to guitar tech and salesman Scott Longino. He's been working at Saied for six years and he's not your typical jerk-guitar-store guy. He knows what he's talking about and doesn't mind giving customers lessons on how to take care of their instruments.
"There are no secrets here," he said as he gave a mini-lesson on how to string a ukulele. "I don't mind showing people how to do this stuff at all."
There are beginner-level guitars available here. Electrics are mostly Squire, but there are some Fenders in the bunch. Saied has a pretty nice selection of Seagull guitars, which sound great for the money (usually between $400 and $600). They also have guitars by Godin and Dean.
14206 Hwy. 107
Sherwood, AR 72120
Got something with strings on it and don't know how to play it? Dickson's Music in Gravel Ridge may not have everything you want, speaking simply in terms of selection — the store sells mostly beginner guitars — but they can teach you how to play just about anything. Larry Dickson, who's owned the store since 1971, teaches everything from violin to mandolin, fiddle to guitar, banjo to ukulele.
The store is also a good resource for band parents, or school music teachers. There are plenty of instructional books and accessories like reeds, picks, strings and tuners.
One of the best things about the store: Dickson wants you to come back, so if he doesn't have it, he'll get it for you even if it means sending you some place else.
12315 Chenal Parkway, Suite A
Little Rock, AR 72211
This is truly the behemoth of all guitar stores. There's everything: A huge wall of newly finished Fenders, Gibsons and Jacksons; row after row of Nugent-sized amplifiers; more pedals to play with than you could possibly imagine; the quaint little wood-paneled acoustic guitar room (which is probably one of the only places in the store you can get away from the headache-inducing pseudo solos screeched out by teen-aged metal fans).
People like to belittle Guitar Center and bemoan its lack of personal touch, and some of that is true, but the place literally has it all. Want a Fender Telecaster with two humbuckers? They've got one. Want one of those hypnotic-looking Zach Wylde black and white Les Pauls? They've got one. Need a Martin or a Taylor? It's there.
And the prices are usually reasonable. So say what you will about GC not being exactly mom-and-pop, if you're out in west Little Rock and you need a few picks and a capo, you're probably going to go there.
506 Oak St.
Conway, AR 72032
Odds and ends, you'll find them here. Jack's always seems to have a solid selection of used guitars. It was on the wall of this little Conway music shop that we found our one true love: a 1971 Gibson SG Pro — and it was a steal.
Jack's carries new guitars from big brands like Taylor, Ibanez, Austin, Seagull and Alvarez, but it's worth it to check in on this place every now and then to see what kind of used stuff they have. On previous trips we've seen wood-grain Flying Vs, sparkling Stratocasters and beautifully-crafted Gretches.
Other than guitars, you'll find electronic drums, amplifiers, a full line of public address systems, mandolins, ukuleles and banjos.
1010 Oak St.
Conway, AR 72032-4353
Just a bit down Oak Street from Jack's Music, right in the heart of downtown Conway, is a little music store with a little newer sheen. Conway Music sells mostly new instruments but does have some used models. The walls used to be lined with Fenders, a brand the store no longer sells, but you will find Hamer, Schecter and Washburn brands in electric, bass and acoustic models. Conway Music also does repairs and has the normal assortment of pedals, straps, tuners and other accessories. You can also find Pearl drum kits, Zildjian cymbals and all sorts of sticks, stands and heads.
Just bought an instrument and don't know how to make it sing? Conway Music offers lessons in guitar, keyboard and drums.
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