When the phone call connects, soft jazz music surges in the background and Frank McDermott answers by saying, “Blue Eagle Music Store.”
For those who pass the store every day, they may only see the store as another guitar shop. But Blue Eagle Music, 40 N. Court Street, is so much more — not only does the store sell guitars, but it is also home to McDermott’s massive guitar collection.
Blue Eagle Music originally opened in 1971, and McDermott took over in 2006 after he started avidly collecting guitars. Though he started collecting later in his life, Frank has been playing since he was young.
“I started playing when I was 15,” McDermott said. “I came out of playing trumpet and I got my first guitar from a guy up the street: an electric guitar with an amplifier ... got hooked on it, dove into rock ‘n’ roll and never looked back.”
Like most guitar players, McDermott was heavily influenced by rock ‘n’ roll greats like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Aside from a simple love of the instrument, McDermott also has a degree in classical guitar. He likes to draw heavy inspiration from many classical and jazz heroes.
In order to expand his guitar collection, he tends to visit a variety of different sites including flea markets, yard sales, antique shops and many other places.
“Pretty much every weekend, I’m always out looking,” McDermott said. “But I’ve been doing this long enough now that people pretty much know that I buy guitars, so a lot of them just come into the door.”
McDermott’s personal collection ranges from 100-150 guitars, with the majority of them being stored in the Blue Eagle Music store itself.
Besides storing guitars, Blue Eagle Music offers a variety of different services. It sells guitars, keyboards, band instruments and drums occasionally, while also doing repairs on amplifiers and various string instruments. People can also take music lessons at Blue Eagle Music Store as well for exclusively string instruments, including guitar, banjo mandolin, fiddle and bass.
Some of Frank’s guitar collection can also be seen at the Storytelling Through Practices of Collecting Exhibit at the Kennedy Museum of Art.
Jeff Carr, the collections and exhibit manager at the Kennedy Museum of Art, also plays guitar and was extremely interested in McDermott’s collection.
“He’s got quite an interesting personal collection from his years of operating the shop,” Carr said. “Being a guitar player myself, I’m interested in guitars. But what’s not to like when you have twenty unusual guitars on view?”
The exhibit initially started back in 2003 and just this past September was reissued. Through the use of local media, the Kennedy Museum was able to gain an extensive amount of local entries, which led to the current collector's exhibit. The exhibit offers collections ranging from sticks collected by a child to an avid camera collector to even an extensive pen collection.
The exhibition offers insight into what drives someone to collect and also sheds light on how exhibits like these showcase different meanings and interpretations of these various objects.
“The theme [of the exhibit], if there even is one, is just to show the variety of what people collect,” Carr said.
The exhibit features several guitars from McDermott’s collection, ranging from Stratocasters to the first item in his collection: a Penco copy of a Gibson SG, manufactured in Japan during the 1970s.
Allie Kurilec, a junior studying nursing, is a gallery guard at the Kennedy Museum of Art and was fascinated by McDermott’s exhibit.
“I thought they were really cool,” Kurilec said. “I loved watching him set them all up and he was restringing them all. They were so cool.”
In a year and a half, the Blue Eagle Music shop will celebrate its 50th year anniversary.
“We ought to be doing something special,” McDermott said. “I don’t know what it is — I have a lot of time to think about it.”