Sam’s Guitars opened in the former Private Shop on Brook Street in August 2021.

Owner Sam Orr has been playing guitar since the age of 5 inspired by Hendrix, Green, Peter Gilmour and “all the blues dudes”. He previously ran the iconic Brook Street Guitar Experience (famous for its Hendrix mural, now painted over) with his father. The business closed during the recession and Sam, who also performs as a member of the band 1968, worked in a series of jobs before deciding to focus on his ultimate goal. “Nothing kept me happy more than sitting around with planks of wood with strings on.”

“The shop started out of the way that Dawson’s was going. I was there at the end for 8 months. The first administration came at the beginning of the pandemic. I would have been sat there on my own chasing anyone that wanted Amazon delivery jobs, I saw it all unfold. I had a moment when I had a couple of people messaging me about repairing guitars during lockdown.

“I had always dabbled in buying and selling since I was a kid and I started to buy more during lockdown. It dawned on me that I needed to do this. Then there was an endless hunt to find somewhere to do it from. We went round our beautiful city and counted15 barber shops! About 25 takeaways, and I thought Its gonna suck if I can’t live in a city without a guitar shop. It was heart-breaking when Back Alley Music closed (2019) I remember the smell of Dawson’s didn’t change from when I was 11 until I worked there, that was a comforting part of that job. I did try and help with the upper management there and explain there was so much more we could do within the city, they were keen, but it never happened. They didn’t listen to anyone, and it just went under.”

He says that the kick of Covid inspired Sam to open his shop even during the decline of city centre retail. “Everything fell into place for this shop. I was told I was nuts for doing it, opening a shop when everyone is closing. I do everything guitar based, buying, selling, reconditioning and I’ve also been writing for www. I love Brook Street, it’s the best. Pierogi are going from strength to strength, someone travelled all the way from Manchester for them. There’s a huge network of independents and hidden gems, Grey and Pink, Woodstock, they all seem to fit well into the ethos of Chester. “ He feels that there is still more the council could do saying he feels they are “far removed” from local business. ” I’d like them to loosen up and have a look at what we have in the city and what can be used. Share Shop in Dawsons is great. It looks busier than Dawsons ever was!” He believes that the city is over saturated with certain businesses and would prefer more restrictions on the number that can operate. However, he does praise the Kingsway skate park saying it “changed his life.”

Sam is a strong supporter of the Chester music scene and is heavily involved with promotion but offered some constructive criticism. “It only ever accepts what it likes. There are death metal bands that have toured the world that are just guys that live in Chester. I know people that have worked with Amy Winehouse and others but it’s so insular and there doesn’t seem to be a chance for anyone else because everyone’s committed to organising the all-day festivals. The only way my band got any success was when we started to leave Chester. We played Telford’s on Halloween 2015 and we’ve never done it again we were just too loud. We had our singer carried in in a coffin. There’s a rich heritage but we don’t shout about it, the nights where you have a lot of different bands on don’t seem to exist anymore, the booking for venues seems very repetitive, no one wants to give the young ones a chance.

“It’s a pleasure working with The Live Rooms. It’s a good venue. I saw Eric Gales there, Walter Trout. He played at Telford’s when I was 11 and then he came back, and I still had my CD which he’d signed “Keep Playing” I asked him if he remembered signing it in 1998 and he said yes.

“There’s so much to do, I like the thought of helping the community.” Sam supports charities and the homeless and is always supportive of young musicians. ” The music scene could be a huge thing if it worked together as a community, and everyone talked to each other. Telford’s, The Live Rooms are huge staples, and so is Rosies regardless of what age you are. I don’t want to see the same band at the same venue every week, which is a curse Chester seems to have. We’re all friends, I only say it out of frustration and the scene not getting the respect it deserves. There are kids in bands in schools emerging from Chester and it’s up to Chester to bring it to fruition. A fine example was Rainmaker a band from Liverpool. I’m desperate to get them over here. “

Sam has toured extensively with 1968. “We toured America, we played at the Whiskey a Go Go (Los Angeles)” The band recorded their experiences in a tour diary available here:

including an encounter with porn legend Ron Jeremy. “It was surreal, we drove through the desert… That tour was amazing then we went to Europe. We were staying at the Four Queens in Vegas and then the next week we were in Bolton. The last album we released just after lockdown. ”

“We need to shout more about things. Everyone knows the Taco place is open on Watergate Street, that should be the case with everything not just Kerry Katona! This is such a beautiful city, I’ve been a Cestrian for 32 years and there’s so much going on when you look at anywhere else. I get really defensive when I hear people lagging it off. At 18 I hated the idea of living in Chester for the rest of my life, and then… I went to LA! We have toured all over the UK and seen small cities like Chester, York is probably the closest, but I prefer home. I feel safe in this city, it’s an amazing place to be. I was tempted to set up my own page called “Cheshire Dead” because there’s so much news that isn’t reported!

“The music scene seems to have plateaued. It will change with a lot more students coming in and a lot of very interesting musicians that have arrived via the uni and that is very important. A lot of Chester students go to LIPA, which again is something that could be reported on. People who form bands out of college and get gigs, they’re the ones. Roman Candle Promotions bring in some very interesting acts to Chester. St Mary’s is a great venue, but they seem to be plagued by noise complaints, people always love to complain!”

Looking back on the first year he says: “It’s been a great year. The faces when kids come in and get their first guitar, that’s why it’s been successful. I knew I was never going to get rich doing this, it allows me to tide things over and help other people. I don’t have a manager so I can turn up late if I want to. I live above the shop as well; I had Bad Manners in here once after hours. I have met Amy Winehouse, and the bass player from The Verve is a good friend of mine. Tommy from Spaced is a customer. I saw them at The Tivoli in 1998 and then he rings me up asking me to fix his guitar

It’s been the best thing I’ve done in my life. I didn’t plan on doing this until I retired until Covid happened. It made me realise there is so much you can actually do if you have a positive mental attitude to it. Negativity has brought me nothing. That’s the ethos of this place, besides the fact that it’s just my living room with a card machine!

%d bloggers like this: