Originally published in the July 4, 2011 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Meeting Gabe Hernandez, who helped found Music City Pickers.
Country fans likely know Brady Seals as a member of the ’90s group Little Texas, a band that sold millions of albums and racked up a passel of hits, including “God Blessed Texas,” “My Love” and “What Might Have Been,” but his latest venture might just land him on the small screen. A lifelong musician whose musical pedigree includes being a cousin of Jim Seals (of Seals & Crofts) and Dan Seals, as well as the nephew of songwriter Troy Seals (“Lost in the Fifties Tonight”), it only makes sense that Brady would take his expertise as a musician and his love of instruments and combine them into a brand-new venture, Music City Pickers—an operation that facilitates the buying and selling of vintage musical instruments.
Brady first stumbled upon the idea when he began selling some guitars on eBay for fun and listed one of his Les Pauls as “extremely rare.” Former Gibson employee/guitar aficionado Gabe Hernandez contacted Brady about the guitar, informing him that while it was rare, it wasn’t quite as rare as Brady thought, and the two struck up an immediate friendship and kinship. Eventually, the idea for Music City Pickers was born.
“I started talking to Gabe and realized he was just full of knowledge when it came to finished guitars,” explains Brady, “and then I found out he had worked for Gibson, and we met at a guitar show. He told me about this idea he had about going out on buying trips. And I thought it was a fabulous idea, and that’s really how it all started.”
Based in Nashville, Pickers specializes in buying and selling vintage guitars and other instruments, and offers a convenient way for owners to sell them without the hassle of online auctions or meeting strangers for a face-to-face exchange. And Brady hopes that with his and Gabe’s expertise, sellers can feel confident that they are selling their instruments to people who not only appreciate them, but will treat them fairly as well.
The venture makes perfect sense for Brady, who has played guitar since he was 9 and possesses a deep love for guitars that stretches as far back as he can remember. “Musical instruments have always been a passion of mine—buying and selling and trading. Even back when I was 16, I was such a gearhead. I’d trade an old white Les Paul special for an Emulator II [synthesizer] back then. I was in a music store all the time seeing what everything was worth. It was just in my blood, so buying and selling is really just an extension of what I do.
“I love acoustics. Martins are kind of my forte. I love D-18s, D-28s, triple-O’s are big on my list. I had the blessing to find one on Craigslist that was circa 1870s—it was a 1-28 and the guy didn’t even know what he had, and truth be known, I didn’t know what I had either. It’s a real old one. I took it to a friend and he said it literally could have been around or being made when Abraham Lincoln was around! You just think, ‘If only this guitar could talk . . .’”
With such interesting stories out there to uncover, and in the vein of the popular television shows American Pickers (of which Brady is a fan) or Antiques Roadshow, Brady envisions a perfect opportunity for a show about Music City Pickers on which fellow artists could guest star from time to time.
“We’re definitely hoping one day that Music City Pickers might be a TV show,” he says. “We’re certainly in talks with some Hollywood directors and Nashville as well about that possibility. We would have celebrity appearances on the show, of course, and there are a lot of possibilities since so many artists are guitar collectors.”
Of course, Brady isn’t abandoning his music career—in recent years he’s recorded as both a solo artist and as the lead singer of Hot Apple Pie. He’ll continue to perform, although he’s cutting back on touring as he launches the company and begins the buying trips he and Gabe will make around the country.
“We’ll hit music towns for sure—Chicago, Memphis, Austin—music-driven places that are home to people interested in buying and selling,” he says. “But I’m definitely going to continue making music. I’m constantly producing and writing and doing other projects,” Brady says, noting that he doesn’t want to be away from 2-year-old son Evan and wife Lisa for too long. “I’m doing these road trips and every now and then doing an unplugged show along the way. It’s another career for me pretty much. I love the whole mentality of going out on the road and finding cool stuff.
“We’ll go into a town and set up in a hotel and pay top-dollar cash as much as we can for the instruments,” he continues. “We’ll basically buy for three days, come back home, and sell to vintage guitar companies and through eBay and Craigslist and any other resources. A lot of companies are doing this with gold right now. They’ll come into a market and say, ‘We buy gold!’ But Gabe and I, we feel like guitars are as good as gold!”