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14-Yr Old Builds Tele Meets His Match

For 14-year-old Griffin Black the song “Refugee,” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was his favorite song. In fact, the Heartbreakers are his favorite band.

As you might expect, Black loves to watch old Tom Petty videos on YouTube. And, one night Griffin was watching footage of a 1985 concert when he saw “Mike Campbell, the lead guitar player from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing this really cool-looking guitar,” he says.

That guitar was a highly modified Fender Telecaster that Campbell called “The Red Dog.” And, it’s the guitar Campbell had used for the recording of the hit song “Refugee.” Campbell’s Red Dog is a one-of-a-kind custom build.

Griffin knew, “I wasn’t going to be able to find it at a Guitar Center somewhere,” Black says, “so I figured I’d have to build it myself.” And, that’s just what he did. He re-created The Red Dog partscaster using parts from Ebay and rare instrument dealers. But he wanted more.

“I just thought it would be pretty cool if Mike Campbell could see the guitar sometime,” Black says. “It’s his signature guitar — no one else in the world has this guitar except now me and him.

Using the Internet, Griffin figured out the East End Management managed the Heartbreakers, and he gave them a call. It took a while to get to the right person, but finally the woman he spoke to said she’d call back if she could make it happen.

A few days later, his phone rang with the news that Mike Campbell had actually visited Black’s website and wanted to meet him backstage at an upcoming Philadelphia show.

I was very impressed that a young 14-year-old kid would just build a guitar rather than buy one,” says Campbell.

It wasn’t long until Black was backstage with his hero. He and Campbell chatted a bit and then Mike asked to see the guitar. Campbell remarked that it looked and felt similar to the original Red Dog. Mike played a few riffs and then asked to play it — ONSTAGE.

“At first I was a little confused because he was already playing it,” Black says. “But then he said, ‘No, I want to play it onstage for ‘You Don’t Know How it Feels,’ and I just said ‘absolutely.‘ ”

So, at the July concert in Philly, Campbell picked up Griffin’s guitar played it for the second song of the night. While playing Campbell scanned the 3rd row of the audience looking for Griffin’s face, “As I was playing it, I looked and I saw him,” Campbell says of Black, “His face was lit up like a Christmas tree.

After the show, Griffin found that both Campbell and Tom Petty had signed the guitar for him. He put a piece of plastic over the signatures so they won’t wear away while he plays Heartbreaker songs in the future.

Griffin sounds like a future TDPer for sure, we’ve reached out to him and hope to let him know about out little corner of this world. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.

Refugee, with Mike playing the original Red Dog Tele:

Story complied from numerous sources. Photos credited to Brad Horn/NPR and Courtesy East End Management

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29 Responses to “14-Yr Old Builds Tele Meets His Match”
  1. RocknDrTom RocknDrTom says:

    what a great story! And Kudos to Mike Campbell and Tom Petty for being great guys!

  2. binkydognose binkydognose says:

    Great great story, made my day.

  3. Jmezz Jmezz says:

    Shared this on Facebook. How cool is it that Campbell took it on stage with him to try out?

  4. TXAg14 says:

    This is really a great story. Mike Campbell’s one of my favorite guitar players, and it’s good to hear how down-to-earth he is. Hopefully Griffin joins up here.

  5. jays0n jays0n says:

    Fantastic how that worked out. Thanks for sharing; as the others say, it brightens the day.

  6. popeye says:

    What a positive story. Goodwill at it’s best.

  7. arakele arakele says:

    I first saw this on NPR via facebook. Great story for this kid to have built a guitar from a player that influences him AND getting to meet them. I am sure he will keep this guitar forever.

  8. nasticanasta says:

    Very Groovy… I like when stars are humble…I’ve met many guitarists, had dinner with Allan Holdsworth, Larry Coryell… hung out with Frank Marino (Mahogany Rush), had drinks with Frank Gambale, Jack Bruce,back stage passes to one of Ronnie Wood & Bo Diddly’s shows…what a great bunch of guys…

  9. twangsoul twangsoul says:

    Alway’s liked TP and the Heartbreakers. It amazes me the patient’s of this kid to hunt for the parts and hardware, then build it good enough so that Mike Cambpell would play it on stage. What a thrill for this young man!

  10. daveIT says:

    Great story and I haven’t heard it yet but I heard the new album ‘Mojo’ is more the guys playing together than a studio stitch project. I can’t wait to hear it.

  11. cosmiccowboy cosmiccowboy says:

    Super story regarding some great guys and a great band. Tom and Mike both are both of great integrity and are of a dying breed of musicians. It’s the support of this generation of musicians that will ensure a higher musical standard for the future (in a world where one doesn’t nearly exist). That boy will never forget that moment in his life and hopefully he’ll pass it on. Way to go fellas !!!

  12. IMettaMan IMettaMan says:

    Looks like a good old-fashioned honey of a tele.

    Would that I had half the drive and talent Griffin has when I was his age.

  13. SackvilleDan SackvilleDan says:

    That’s a fantastic story, congratulations Griffin!

  14. RubyRae RubyRae says:

    Reaffirms Mike Cambells great guitar influence, and of course Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers timeless music. What cool stand up guys. Big Kudos to the 14 yr old builder and guitar slinger himself! That is a real uplfting grass roots story.

  15. Ken1 Ken1 says:

    that was a really nice story … I’m sure it is a great experience :)

    keep twangin’ and btw I like the guitar looks real cool


    good luck


  16. ChuckZilla ChuckZilla says:

    Awesome story, and awesome looking guitar.

  17. e-merlin e-merlin says:

    What a great story. And what does it say about Griffin’s guitar that Mike Campbell would take it out on stage and play it without a second thought!

  18. If I was a BIGSHOT Rockstar and a kid or anyone for that matter went to the trouble of recreating a 1 off guitar of mine I’d want to see it and play it too ( :

  19. tatittle says:

    I must admit my first thought…likely out of envy, was boy to have my parents fund excursions like that would have been unimaginable. But truly, I was not creative enough in technical way to have done this type thing as a kid, that may be partially because my builds came from scrapyards rather than vintage guitar shops as a kid. nonetheless this is a good story and a good kid who undoubtedly is headed somewhere good in life if the world doesn’t sidetrack him with temptation.

    Indeed nice that the rockers had class and selflessness to spend some time, like the baseball players of the 1950′s, with the people that put them there.

    This brings up the strange reality that the rock n roll, especially pop, of the 1950′s through 1970′s is just leagues above todays stuff. This probably has as much to do with the environment and times as with the great talent. There are talented people today whose music is forgetable b/c it has already been done in many ways. Which brings up a readers letter to Rolling Stone decades ago warning that before long all of the possible combinations of notes will be used up, and no new melodies and songs will be possible!

  20. vecca says:

    bravo! Both Griffin and Mike.

  21. mkm2269 says:

    What a great story. I’ve always thought highly of Mike Campbell and Tom Petty, and to know that they would be that cool to meet the kid, play his guitar onstage, and then autograph it just shows how they remember where they came from. What a job by the kid too.

  22. arthurguitar says:

    that is a great story. i’m 25 and have been obsessed with the red dog since i was about 3 or 4 years old (about 2 songs into my first viewing of the pack up the plantation video). does anyone have any idea about the spec for this guitar?

  23. mefgames mefgames says:

    This is one of those stories that just makes you smile. Nice to see someone his age making it happen for himself. Nice looking guitar. And props to Tom Petty and Mike Campbell for going the extra mile.

  24. orangedrop orangedrop says:

    Awesome job Griffin Black!
    You built a very fine looking (and apparently playing) guitar there *thumbs up*

    Kudos to Mike Campbell and Tom Petty for making Griffin’s guitar and his experience so warm and memorable.

    I have to assume Griffin’s parents nurture his musical and artistic/guitar building talents.

    It is this kind of support and validation that allows a young mind reaching for the stars to attain those heights and beyond.

    This builds a lifetime of confidence, self love and an openness to give of ones self.

    Thank you all for sharing this moment with us…
    It gives me hope for society learning to share rather than hoard.

  25. tjalla tjalla says:

    great story mate. does my heart good to hear (usual kids!) shooting for their dreams and seeing them realised… sometimes us older folk think ‘nah, that wont happen… just daydreaming’ – and that’s why they don’t.

    Hope to see you up there with the heartbreakers one day Griffin!

  26. Too cool I hope to see him join here as well

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