Step into McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica and you’ll be instantly transported to some alternative universe or guitar paradise, a place where you might expect Jimi Hendrix’s ghost to suddenly appear. Guitar Center it is not.
Opened in 1958, McCabe's specializes in acoustic and folk instruments, including guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, fiddles, ukuleles, psaltries, bouzoukis, sitars, ouds, and ethnic percussion. The walls are covered end to end with vintage string instruments, many of which I have never in my life seen before. It looks like it could be a wing in the Rock n’Roll Museum. Of course, McCabe’s is more than a music store, it’s a music school (Bob Dylan once took lead guitar lessons here), and if you follow the guitars to the back room, you’ll also find a small 150 seat concert hall, wrapped up in what feels like your living room.
Here lives the real gem.
McCabe’s first concert was in 1969 and featured Jackson Browne. Since then, the unassuming stage has been graced with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Les Paul, Charlie Haden, Tom Waits, Beck, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, Emmy Lou Harris, and far too many artists to mention, most of which are homegrown L.A. Talent. Amen to that!
McCabe’s brings new meaning to the words, “If these walls could talk.”
A poll by LA Observed rated McCabe's as one of the 32 greatest things about Los Angeles. I’ll second that, or as the Los Angeles Times put it, “the best guitar music west of the 405 Freeway."
On their website, McCabe’s boasts that they have “rentals for the cautious, lessons for the eager, truth-telling for the fearful, repairs for the clumsy, concerts for the devoted, and free coffee for all.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.
What You Need To Know
McCabe’s Guitar Shop
3101 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday Noon – 6 p.m.
From the Westbound 10 freeway, take the Centinela exit.
Turn right at the bottom of the ramp, and go 1 short block to Pico.
Turn right on Pico, and we are 3 blocks West on the right.
From the Eastbound 10, take the Centinela exit, which empties at Pico.
Turn right, and we are 2 1/2 blocks up on the right.