7 Plaza Rd
Tombstone musician strums on rare 18-string guitar
by Jonathon Shacat on Dec 30, 2008,
SIERRA VISTA — The 6-string guitar is very common. The 12-string guitar is somewhat uncommon. But the 18-string guitar is extremely rare.
“In the world, I guess there are hundreds of millions of 6-string guitars, hundreds of thousands of 12-string guitars and, as far as I know, only three 18-string guitars,” said musician Johnny Bencomo.
Bencomo, 60, who lives outside of Tombstone and has played guitar for 45 years, tells an interesting story of how he came to own one of these unusual instruments.
In 1989, he went into a music store in Nashville, Tenn., and saw an 18-string guitar. He picked it up and played a song called “Amanda.”
“There was just incredible sound coming out of it. I couldn’t stop. I played 15 minutes of the same song. That’s how much I was mesmerized. It was like I felt when I played my first 12-string in 1968,” he said.
The guitar was for sale for $1,000. He didn’t buy it, although he later wished he had.
Back in Arizona in 1992, he told his wife about that 18-string guitar he had played in Nashville a few years earlier. She contacted L.G. “Stew” Stewart, a self-taught luthier, or maker of stringed instruments, in Hereford, and they asked him to custom-make a guitar with 18 strings. He agreed to do so.