Joe Zimmerman knows firsthand the importance of musical instrument repair.
After graduating from Council Rock High School, Zimmerman borrowed his keyboard player’s guitar and traveled with his blues band to Florida for a three-week tour. Upon returning, he opened the guitar case and found a broken, practically bent-in-half guitar.
Zimmerman took the guitar to a repair shop and the man, in addition to fixing his guitar, took him under his wing.
“I started being his apprentice,” Zimmerman said.
That was in 1976 at a guitar shop called Music Too in Morrisville.
About the same time, Zimmerman arranged sound for bands that had been booked at the famed City Gardens in Trenton, N.J., which became the subject of the movie, “Riot on the Dance Floor.”
Sylvester Stallone’s brother, Frank Stallone was a regular. Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen was a drum instructor and Zimmerman worked on Hooters’ singer/guitarist Eric Bazilian’s guitar. Jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan “hung out” and Henry Rollins “came through.”
“I knew a lot of people,” Zimmerman said. “It was a small community.”
A few years later, the community grew a bit smaller, when his mentor died at age 29 of a heart attack.
“I felt obligated to carry it on,” he said of the music shop.
For the next 18 years Zimmerman worked inside a Morrisville shop, A to Z Music.
In the last six years, his business, Joe Z Guitar Repair, has taken residence in Falls Township. A guitarist with the CatHouse Blues Band, Zimmerman said he hopes to grow the guitar lesson aspect of his business.
“We teach people how to play,” he said. “A lot of people will go on YouTube and learn to play a song, but they don’t know how to play.”
How quickly someone learns to play depends on “how much you put into it.”
In terms of diagnosing and fixing guitars, Zimmerman, 60, has put in two-thirds of his life. Even after suffering a stroke in 2015, Zimmerman works nimbly to identify and repair – and in some cases rebuild – all guitar makes and models.
“I’ve seen some really bad ones,” he said, recalling a guitar that had been “smashed” by a customer’s girlfriend. “It was in pieces. I actually reconstructed it.”
Neil DeRidder has been bringing his guitars to Zimmerman for repairs and maintenance for the last 15 years. He prefers the small local shop over the larger music stores.
“You can’t talk to them,” DeRidder said of guitar repair technicians elsewhere. “You don’t get the true feel.”
Zimmerman recommends having instruments checked every six months. As seasons change the wood expands and contracts – but the metal frets do not.
“This is why I bring it to him,” DeRidder said. “He knows.”
Joe Z Guitar Repair is an authorized service center for various guitars, including Fender and Gibson.
Zimmerman also does appraisals for insurance companies when guitars have been damaged in a flood or fire.
“I know guitars,” he said. “I do anything – any kind of guitar. I’m a problem-solver.”
To learn more
Joe Z Guitar Repair is located at 165 Falls-Tullytown Road in Levittown. The store is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Appointments available upon request. For more information, call 215-547-5639 or visit www.joezguitar.com.