Music, memories, memorabilia at guitar shop
By Chris Day
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Only a fan of heavy metal would instantly recognize the significance of the signed memorabilia that adorns the walls of this downtown guitar shop. It takes an even bigger fan to amass such a collection of VIP all-access concert passes, autographed posters and band photos and even a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul guitar signed by Zakk Wylde.
Enter Shelton Davenport, a 46-year-old Hertford native and self-claimed heavy metal fan who has spent the last several years attending concerts and compiling his collection.
“I’ve got that one guitar,” said Davenport. “I’ve got a lot of drum heads. I’ve got a lot of VIP passes. I’ve been to a lot of shows.”
Many of his collectibles are on display inside the Fine Tuning Guitar Repair shop on Poindexter Street in Elizabeth City.
In a variety of frame sizes, Davenport is seen posing alongside members of some of heavy metal’s biggest acts. In one he’s with Anthrax and in another he’s with Sean Kinney, drummer and co-founder of Alice in Chains. There’s also a photo of him with the late Vinnie Paul, drummer and co-founder of Pantera who died last June.
Davenport graduated Perquimans County High School in 1990, a period of transition from 1980s hair metal to the Seattle grunge scene.
In 1992, Davenport joined the Army and five years later returned to the area, where he works as a civilian at the Aviation Logistics Center at the U.S. Coast Guard base. Davenport has attended dozens of live shows from Norfolk to Las Vegas. Other live performances include the bands Kiss, Motley Crue, Korn, Slayer, Soundgarden, Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin, to name a few.
In many instances he got to meet the bands and hang out with them backstage. His first VIP all-access experience was a concert by the band Seether, which formed in the late 1990s in South Africa.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” he said, of meeting the band.
He got hooked on the experience and began attending more and more shows as a VIP.
“I kind of got the fever,” he said.
To gain VIP access Davenport has to pay more than the usual price for concert tickets. He said often online ticket outlets will have a link to where fans can purchase them. But the cost of the access pass is worth it, he said.
One signed photo Davenport is particularly proud of features him standing beside Zakk Wylde, a former guitarist for heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne. Wylde, who replaced Jake E. Lee in the late 1980s, performed with Ozzy up till the mid-1990s. He’s performed with Ozzy on occasions since.
Davenport has met Wylde three times, with the most recent visit being last August when Wylde’s band Black Label Society performed at the Norva, in downtown Norfolk. During his Ozzy years Wylde was known for playing a custom Gibson Les Paul with a bullseye design on the body. Eventually, a signature series model of the guitar was produced and Davenport purchased one. While he does not play guitar, he wanted the instrument for a keepsake.
“I’ve always wanted that guitar,” he said, nodding proudly to the six-string in a locked display case inside Fine Tuning.
After an online search last spring, he bought it. Then last August when Wylde was performing at the Norva, Davenport decided to take a chance and bring the guitar with him.
“I thought perfect, I’d get him to sign it,” he said.
The Gibson Epiphone has a plate on the machine head stamped with Zakk Wylde’s name. It even has Wylde’s preferred EMG pickups.
Reportedly, the guitar’s bullseye was inspired from the spiral from the Alfred Hitchcock film, “Vertigo.”
“That’s why I wanted it,” Davenport said, referring to Wylde’s logo. “I wanted this one. It’s what he was known for.”
The opportunity to meet his rock heroes is how Davenport described why he enjoys his hobby so much.
“It’s a rush, man, it’s a rush,” he said, adding the first time he met Wylde was especially exciting. “I was almost speechless.”
Davenport also met Vinnie Paul last year and was really impressed how friendly he was.
“He was one of the nicest guys I ever met,” Davenport said.
“Korn was a big one for me, too,” he said, pointing to a signed concert promotional. “Those guys were super nice.”
Davenport enjoys the concerts just as much as the backstage experiences.
“I just like to appreciate the artists,” he said. “Who would have known that would be the last time he’d come through here.”
He was referring to Chris Cornell, the former singer of Soundgarden who died in May 2017. Soundgarden performed in Virginia Beach in August 2014.
The value of Davenport’s collection can’t be measured by money, but in memories. While he has much more of his collection at home he is happy to display some of it inside Fine Tuning. The items make for great conversations, especially the guitar, he said.
Davenport said that all of his encounters with rockers have been great.
“Zakk is probably the most accommodating. He even choreographed how the photograph was going to be set up,” he said laughing. “He’s really hands on when it comes to meet and greets.”
“I’ve got so much stuff signed by Zakk,” he said. “He puts on a hell of a show. He holds nothing back.”