TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD

The Brownsville Herald

McALLEN, Texas (AP) When Clifford Muir's parents gave him a guitar as a child, they initiated a lifelong love affair with the instrument that continued through a career in banking and finally evolved into a successful business.

The 56-year-old owner of Muir Guitars received the guitar as a Christmas present in 1963. He took a few lessons but lost interest. Then The Beatles arrived.

"It was basically the first part of 1964 back when The Beatles first hit," recalled Muir, a graduate of Harlingen High School, who also plays bass guitar for the Retro Rockers. The band has played Beatles and other 1960s favorites in the Rio Grande Valley for more than 20 years.

Muir took a renewed interest in his guitar when he found he could play some of The Beatles' music. Beginning in sixth grade and continuing through high school, he and a circle of friends formed various bands to play music not only by The Beatles but also by The Young Rascals, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and other groups popular at the time. That passion for music from the 1960s is still present with the Retro Rockers.

"We're a 60s tribute band, so we've kind of gone back to our roots, and that's what we do," Muir said. "We play the music that we used to play back then. We've been together for about 23 years." Only one other original member is still with the group.

"If people like us, they hire us," Muir said. "If they don't, we keep playing what we play. We consider ourselves a professional band. What we do is all cover."

During his years as a banker in McAllen during the 1980s, he would browse the pawnshops during his lunch hour where he saw vintage guitars Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch. The price tag was quite low for what Muir knew they were worth, and he knew their value would increase.

"I just started buying them up, and I just basically started collecting guitars in the 80s," he said.

The result of this venture evolved into Muir's Guitars, which opened in 1996.

"I had a lot of business experience from my banking years," Muir said. "I thought if I was ever going to own my business, now was the time to do it, as far as the age I was at the time."

The supply of vintage guitars eventually ran dry, however, so the business evolved again into an enterprise for new guitars and accessories. While there were several music stores in the Valley, "they weren't real specialized as far as trying to meet the needs" of guitarists, Muir said.

"Mainly I thought there was a demand for that in McAllen," he explained. "I felt like it should be more of a specialty store, instead of a general music store. I saw a niche there for basically a guitar shop."

Business, he said, is OK "considering the economy and everything."

"It's steady," he said. "It's more of a challenge than ever. Customers are hanging onto their money. We have to do a better job of convincing them they need a new guitar. All in all, it's pretty consistent with last year."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.