Word emerged today that Top Shelf Guitar Shop, 2358 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Bay View sold the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards a guitar.
Veteran local musician Jeff Benske – you might recognize him as the guitar-slinger in The 5-Card Studs – opened Top Shelf 12 years ago.
The guitar – a blonde 1967 Fender Telecaster with a white pickguard and maple neck – has been in the shop's inventory for a while now and it was posted on the store's Facebook page in September 2013.
Benske said he bought the guitar through the shop about two-and-a-half years ago.
While he wouldn't say what he got for the guitar, a similar example online was listed at $7,995 (Benske did say he didn't get quite that much).
Today, on the same page, Benske re-shared the photo, with this message:
"Well, it took a couple of years and some help from Nate Westgor, but if you're going to move a '67 Telecaster, it might as well be to Keith Richards. No, I didn't meet him. I think it's cool."
"It's a very strange story," Benske told me. "One of those things I didn't expect to happen."
Benske sold the guitar yesterday to Westgor, of Willie's American Guitars in Minneapolis, after Westgor visited the shop on his way to bring some guitars over to the Rolling Stones to look at.
"This morning, Nate texted me to say 'I just want to let you know I sold your guitar to Keith Richards."
The Stones, of course, headline the Marcus Amphitheater tonight. Westgor told Benske it'll likely be among the many guitars Richards will play this evening.
Though Benske didn't get the backstage passes he was hoping for – "not a chance" Westgor replied to the request – The 5-Card Studs are playing the pre-Stones party at JoJo's in the Amp forecourt from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.
Benske told Westgor to let the Stones know that he's leaving five backstage passes for them.
To have one of your guitars land in the arsenal of perhaps the most legendary living rock 'n roll guitarist "is a nice little feather in your cap," says Benske.
"The stars were aligned."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.