Frank Zappa's Guitars: A Curious Case Indeed

Frank Zappa’s Guitars: A Curious Case Indeed

Earlier this week, a West Hollywood auction house announced their intention to sell numerous possessions of the late Frank Zappa to the highest bidders. Since Julien’s Auctions’ press release leapt into the internet, many people have been speculating as to what, exactly, will be displayed and distributed to those with enough cash to score a slice of music history.

Will any Zappa guitars be up for auction?

All we know for certain from Julien’s official press release is that on Friday, November 4, the “auction house to the stars” will offer Frank and Gail Zappa’s “collection of exotic furnishings, fine antiques, salvaged architectural pieces, unique collectibles and whimsical items that appealed to their panache for colorful and non-conformist eye.” There is no mention of guitars being part of the auction, but their press release does boast a pink Thing-Fish ukulele.

So, how many Zappa guitars are slated for the auction block?

As it turns out, (and this comes directly from cordial email correspondence with Darren Julien himself), “several” of Frank Zappa’s guitars will be sold as part of the Property from the Estate of Frank and Gail Zappa Auction in about 12 weeks. When asked if any of Dweezil’s guitars would be part of the auction, Mr. Julien assured me they would not.

This is where things get a bit sticky. How does this very reputable auctioneer unequivocally understand that none of the guitars up for grabs rightfully belong to Frank’s eldest son, Dweezil? Because the Zappa Family Trust said so? Despite what it says on paper, the ZFT does not represent the best interest of all the Zappa progeny. The late Gail Sloatman Zappa made bad deals, especially where her two oldest children were concerned. Since her demise in 2015, the two youngest Zappas have continued to enforce Gail’s vainglorious, self-serving regulations.

Right. But what about Frank’s guitars?

Dweezil Zappa appeared on episode 718 of the WTF with Marc Maron podcast in June. During the course of their conversation, Zappa and Maron touched on the topic of guitars. Maron, who is no slouch in the axe department himself, asked how many of Frank’s guitars remained at the Zappa family house. Dweezil’s explanation was a heartbreaker.

“Well, it’s hard to know, because some of them disappeared over the past few years. I know of two that used to be there that aren’t there now. There was a Stratocaster that had a gold Floyd Rose tremolo system on it, and it had the parametric EQ stuff that Frank was using for several years. That guitar went missing a couple of years ago.”

Dweezil went on to describe another of Frank’s guitars that vanished mysteriously.

“And also a Telecaster– that was a butterscotch colored one that he had custom made by Performance Guitars. I told Gail about those.”

“Someone’s got ’em,” said Maron.

Dweezil noted that when Frank passed away, each of the Zappa kids was given certain items. He said that he was given several of Frank’s guitars. Dweezil assumed the beloved instruments would remain safe and unmolested at his mother’s house. Dweezil underestimated Gail and the crazy lengths to which she would sometimes go.

“Four or five years later, Gail, my mom, decided the guitars were hers, because they were being stored at her house. She just said, ‘They’re mine.'”

Upon her own death last year, Gail Zappa bequeathed to her eldest son three guitars of her own choosing. How very philanthropic of her, willing back guitars -and maybe not even the same ones- that she stole from Dweezil in the first place. Dweezil explained that Gail’s largess came with an insane caveat: He could take possession of Frank’s guitars, but he could not have the cases that hold the same. WTF, indeed.

Ahmet Zappa upheld the strange no-cases rule denying Dweezil a safe way to transport and store Frank’s guitars. When Dweezil asked Ahmet to bend Gail’s rule and allow him to take the guitars in their proper guitar cases, he was told, “Nope. This is how Gail wants it.”

When Maron queried Dweezil about the current status of the guitars, all Dweezil could tell him was that they had been moved to another location, and that he never did receive the guitars Frank wanted him to have.

What can the Inquisitr add to this story? Plenty.

A source smack-dab in the middle of the brotherly brouhaha told me that prior to her death, Dweezil asked Gail for three specific guitars that had belonged to his late dad. Gail agreed to let him select three guitars and then reneged on the deal. This impeccable source also said that Ahmet decided to keep those three specific guitars for himself. Youngest sister, Diva Zappa, has also taken possession of one of Frank’s guitars.

The Zappa Family Trust offered to let Dweezil and his sister, Moon, select one guitar each from the leftovers. Of course, this “generous offer” comes with another insane Gail-flavored caveat: The value of the guitars will be deducted from Dweezil and Moon’s respective portions of ZFT revenue, if and when there ever is any. There’s more to this story, though. Dweezil has been denied access to choose any of Frank’s guitars in advance of the auction.

How will the curious case of Frank Zappa’s guitars turn out? This remains to be seen. At the conclusion of Dweezil’s conversation on WTF with Marc Maron, he said the whole situation is “messed up” and not consistent with his father’s integrity. Maron told Dweezil that he hopes it doesn’t mess up his heart for the rest of his life. Dweezil offered these poignant parting words.

“None of this has to happen the way that it’s happening. At the end of the day, you know, it’s about music.”

Dweezil Zappa is his own man and an outstanding musician in his own right. There are times, however, that he evinces echoes of the very best parts of his paternal parentage. Here’s what Frank had to say about music.

“Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love. Love is not music.
Music is the best.”

[Photo by Keystone/AP Images]

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