Chris Hanford couldn’t believe he had a 1952 Les Paul-designed electric guitar in his hands Saturday at the New York Guitar Show and Exposition in Freeport.
“I’m a guitar nerd, and to play one of Les Paul’s first guitars — it’s crazy,” the beaming 19-year-old from Manhattan said as he sat playing blues, funk and jazz riffs.
The booth featuring instruments — not for sale — designed by the late guitar pioneer was one of the more popular ones at the sixth annual event, which continues Sunday at the Freeport Recreation Center.
“Instead of being in a museum where it sits behind glass, we let people touch and play these things,” said Jim Wysocki of Mahwah, New Jersey, a friend of Paul’s who runs Les Paul From Start to Finish, an educational program.
Matthew Schneider, 11, of Bethpage, was playing the Led Zeppelin classic “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” on a guitar Paul designed for band guitarist Jimmy Page. He has three guitars already and wants to get a fourth.
“There are different styles of guitar, and each has different sounds and different pickup,” Matthew said.
Hundreds of adults and kids wandered the aisles of the gym looking at guitars and guitar equipment, some just for fun, others intending to buy.
Kelly Kendrick, 42, of Brooklyn plays everything from rock to classical and country. He has seven guitars, but at the expo he was thinking about buying another.
“I like to play guitars suited to the type of music I’m playing,” he said.
Dennis Begonja, however, was reluctantly in only-browsing mode.
“She’s with me, so I’m not buying anything,” Begonja, 37, of Glen Cove, said as he admired a $5,799 1966 Gibson Firebird V guitar — his wife standing close by.
“He has 50 guitars — he doesn’t need any more,” Denky Begonja, 39, said with a smile.