Collector’s prized instruments live on at local music school

Sounds of a Legacy: Now under new ownership, Case’s Music recently acquired 300 rare instruments, including 200 guitars, from the family of a Sault collector who passed away

The new owners at Case’s Music are helping spread the joys of music in ways they never imagined would be possible.

Shortly before finalizing a deal to acquire full ownership of the Queen Street music school, Jake Rendell and his wife Lee were contacted by a local woman who had recently lost her dad, Jerry Legacy – a well-known guitar collector and musician.

Legacy had a basement full of instruments in his west-end home at the time of his passing, and his family was desperate to clear them out.

“His daughter reached out to us and wanted to get some information,” Rendell explained. “She didn’t know how to value the instruments and things like that.”

“Typically, when someone has a family heirloom that they don’t really know anything about, they give us a call and ask if we can take a look at it,” he added. “We can tell them what it’s worth and what it takes to get fixed. It’s usually one or two items so we do that pretty regularly.”

But this was no ordinary circumstance.

The collection featured around 300 instruments, including 200 guitars, 19 violins, five accordions, and all sorts of folk and other unique pieces.

After Rendell spent some time going through each of the instruments at Legacy’s home, it was decided all of the items would be moved to Case’s for refurbishment.

The downtown music store is now holding, displaying, and selling the musical artifacts for the family on consignment, making up 90 per cent of the store’s entire instrumental stock.

“It’s a really interesting, eclectic, massive collection that this person had,” Rendell said. “It’s definitely the most instruments in one transition we’ve ever had. You can tell there are so many stories behind each one.”

In an email to SooToday, Legacy’s daughter Loralee Massicotte extended her appreciation to the Rendells for overseeing the massive changeover.

“We are so grateful to Jake and his crew for taking on this overwhelming task, it has been such an immense relief to have them handling things,” she wrote. “He has a real talent for organizing chaos and seems to thrive on it no matter what we throw at him!”

Of the 300 instruments Rendell’s team has documented, more than 70 have already been rehomed while another 70 are currently hanging in the store.

The remaining pieces, many of them in significant states of disrepair, will likely be fixed up and donated to organizations in need. The store can also use them for parts.

“I love seeing big and old guitar collections,” Rendell said. “It’s been a fantastic historical trip through time getting to learn all of this information. This is a once in a career kind of situation.”

The majority of Legacy’s guitars were crafted between the 1950s and 1970s.

His collection features a number of notable and valuable instruments that are rarely seen today – if ever.

“There’s a really interesting 12-string guitar that was handmade in the U.S. by a man named Fred Gerlach,” Rendell said. “Another valuable piece is a resonator guitar, made by Del Vecchio out of Brazil. There’s not many of them around. They’d retail between $3,000 and $5,000 online, and we have that hanging for $2,500.”

“Brands like Harmony, Kay, Echo, Stella – they weren’t expensive guitars back then, but they were the standard name brands you would start to see,” he added. “A lot of those guitars have recently become more collectible items, Harmony especially. He had seven or eight really good condition Harmony guitars.”

Craig West, a music teacher at Case’s Music, has a huge appreciation for the odd nature behind these uncovered antiques.

“These guitars are evolutionary dead-ends in a lot of cases,” he said. “It was an era of experimentation, no one knew what the rules were to follow. Some of it stuck, some of it didn’t. But the stuff that didn’t stick wound up becoming these remarkable little fossils sprinkled out through the guitar ecosystem, and it’s cool we can hook people up with them.”

But why would an aspiring musician choose an older guitar versus a newer one?

“For today’s player, it’s all about uniqueness as an artist,” Rendell explained. “It’s unique in the look and the feel, but mostly in the sound. They don’t make guitars like these anymore. You’ll get a tone with these guitars unlike anything else, and every one of them is different.”

Perhaps most important of all, the owners and music instructors at Case’s have been incredibly excited to share these renowned guitars and instruments with the nearly 350 students who walk through their doors regularly.

“We get students who come in here and pick out their first guitar from this collection,” Lee Rendell said. “It’s beautiful that a collector gets to live on his legacy through these kids who are learning to love music. It’s a pretty wonderful story.”

“We’ve talked about guitar history a number of times in our lessons, but we’ve never actually been able to put it in their hands,” Jake Rendell added. “From arch tops to semi-hollow bodies to acoustic guitars, we can take the customer or student through the journey on a lot of these evolutionary steps you don’t ever get to see.”

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Case’s Music next year, the Rendells told SooToday they’ve long viewed themselves as a music school first, and a store second.

While they continue to be proud of the education they’ve provided for students both young and old, it’s safe to say the recent wave of Legacy instruments has altered their perspective.

“The instruments are something that we want to lean into more,” Rendell said. “It’s established a little bit of a different identity for us as a guitar store instead of just a school. Whether it’s on consignment or going out and finding collections, it’s been a really cool process.”