Central auction will have plenty of big names

ELIZABETHTON — Don’t expect the auction in the gym of Central Elementary School on May 11 to be the typical PTA-style raffle. Not with brand new guitars signed by such legends as Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels and Kenny Rogers being placed on the auction block.

The auction is just the latest part of the story of how the Fender Guitar Co. donated 600 new guitars for use in a program inspired by scientific research that demonstrated that students who learned music were better at reading, mathematics and other subjects.

Carrie-Underwood-signatureThe guitars were distributed to school systems in East and Middle Tennessee.

While the Fender gift was extremely generous, Central Principal Terry Morley said the gift needed sustainment in an environment where the guitars would be passed from one student to another during the coming school years. There had to be a way to replace the worn-out guitars.

The answer was to take some of the guitars and get them autographed by noted guitarists and other famous musicians.

Eighth-grade teacher Dawn Taylor said the idea started simply. Her brother is David Miller of local radio station WBEJ. She said Miller and Daniel Grindstaff, a local banjoist who toured with Nashville’s Marty Raybon, succeeded in getting Carrie Underwood to sign two guitars.

Dolly-Parton-2Inspired by her brother’s success, she began approaching other entertainers. Others at the school also used contacts to line up signatures. Taylor said a contact in Nashville also helped round up the talented and generous signers.

The result is that the school now has about 20 signed guitars to auction. In addition to Parton, Williams, Daniels and Rogers, there also are guitars signed by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys; John Carter Cash and his wife Ana Christina Cash; Rosanne Cash; Patty Loveless; Ricky Skaggs; Rhonda Vincent and the Rage; Chris Stapleton; Josh Turner; Lady Antebellum; Tanya Tucker; the movie cast of “La Bamba” and the Little River Band.

With a month to go until the auction, there will be even more names and guitars added to the list. The auction is already so big it is going to be carried online by eBay.

Nearly all the guitars are Fender models, both acoustic and electric. The one exception is a Gibson signed by Chris Stapleton. Taylor said Stapleton did not wait to have a Fender sent to him to sign, he went out and bought a Gibson and sent it to the school.

Hank-Williams-JrThere are also some things being offered in the auction beside musical instruments. She said Music Alternatives in Los Angeles sent along some signed vinyl records, CDs, posters and other items. James Taylor sent two tickets to one of his concerts, and local football star Jason Witten signed two footballs.

All of these items will be in the May auction, but Taylor said there will also be an auction in October for the items that are still out for signature and may not be returned in time for the May auction.

Although the haul is certainly valuable, Taylor said she hopes the public will enter the spirit of the auction for charity and give generously so that the guitars in the education program may have a long life.