RIP Peter Huggins, aka “Guitarmaniax”

Jan 27, 2023

RIP to my good friend Peter Huggins, aka “Guitarmaniax.” Peter passed away last night after a battle with cancer.

You might remember Peter from the Guitar Geek Festivals; he was part of the Guitar Geek Army that I assembled to make those shows happen. He was one of the guys who was there to help me with whatever I needed, usually manning one of the video cameras for ten or eleven hours. And of course, whenever the setup/teardown/production turned into conversation about gear or guitarists that we loved, Peter was right in there, with a wealth of knowledge and experience about tons of stuff. Like the rest of us, he could talk for hours about his favorite guitar-related stuff, no matter how obscure or arcane.

Peter was from a slightly older generation of guitar dudes than myself, and had been into the guitar scene here in Los Angeles since the 1970s. He was part of a group of guys who had been hanging together for decades: Norman Harris from Norm’s Rare Guitars, Howie from “Guitars R Us,” Robb Lawrence, Kim Shaheen, Randy Munro, and many others. I can’t even remember exactly where and when I met Peter; he was one of those guys who was at every guitar event, and I guess after seeing him enough times at shows and events, we struck up a friendship. He was definitely a kindred spirit.

He worked for a long time at the phone company, and when they offered him a buyout to retire early, he took the money, bought a Ryder truck, and went to work driving guitars around to vintage guitar shows for most of the West Coast vintage guitar dealers. You would think there would be a bunch of people doing this, but it was actually a very specialized profession: finding somebody reliable enough and trustworthy enough to drive a big truck loaded with insanely valuable vintage guitars. It was a rare thing. Peter and his buddy Randy wound up becoming “the guys” and did it until Peter got sick a couple years ago, then Randy took over and is still doing it. One thing I’ll always remember is that Peter took around Guitar Geek Festival DVDs and sold them at the vintage guitar shows across the country. He didn’t have to do that, but he knew I didn’t have any distribution at those shows, so he’d always bring a box with him and then drop by after the shows to pay me for the DVDs he’d sold. Peter was always a really solid dude.

About a year and a half ago (if I’m remembering correctly), Peter got diagnosed with cancer, and by the time it was diagnosed, it had already progressed to the point where nothing could be done. Essentially, they just told him that he had to wait for the cancer to take him. He took the news in stride. He went to a couple of care facilities and because the cancer was in his back and his hips, he became confined to a bed and unable to walk. I texted with Peter quite often, and he always seemed like the same old guy, talking about guitar stuff and things that were happening in the world at the time. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how bad it was, because Peter never conveyed the true gravity of his situation to me. Kudos to Peter’s old friends like Norm Harris and Howie from “Guitars R Us,” they put some money in and paid Peter’s rent while he was laid up, and Howie went and got everything out of Peter’s place and put it in storage once it became apparent that Peter wasn’t going to recover. These old guitar guys stick together and take care of their own. Respect. (If I’m leaving anybody out here, apologies.)

A few months ago, Peter got transferred to another facility, not exactly hospice care but very similar—everybody in the place was in the process of dying. I went to visit him a few times. It was an awful place, it just reeked of sickness and death. When I went there the first time, I opened the curtain to his bed and didn’t recognize my friend—he had lost so much weight, he was a hundred-pound skeletal version of my previously rotund pal. He could see by the shocked look on my face that I could barely recognize him, so he started talking, and there was that old familiar voice, coming out of him. It was heartbreaking. Cancer is a bitch. Peter and I talked for hours about the same old stuff—guitar stuff. He truly was a guitar maniac. He never lost the passion for the things that interested him. I brought him a Merle Travis book when it came out.

A couple of days ago I got the message that Peter had been transferred to St. Joseph’s hospital in Burbank, and was now unresponsive and on a ventilator. I went to see my friend one last time, and I played some guitar music for him on my iPhone and I told him it was okay to go on to the other side. I’m not sure he heard any of it, but I just wanted him to know I was there. I’m not telling you all any of this to be virtue signaling. I felt as unqualified and powerless as any human could in this situation, and through the whole thing I felt helpless and worthless. I wished that I could do something to help him, but all any of us could do was just wait for the cancer to take him. It was a gruesome way to go. I only went to see him a few times in the care facility, and now that it was drawing to an end, I wished I had gone to see him more often. That’s the worst part about cancer, it just makes you feel helpless, because there’s nothing you can do. I don’t wish cancer on my enemy. It’s a terrible way to go.

Peter died last night, a few minutes after 7 pm. He was a really good guy, and all of us in the guitar community who knew him will miss him a lot. Thanks to Robb Lawrence for the photos.

Safe journey to my pal, Peter Huggins, 1956–2023. I hope they have guitar geek-outs on the other side, I know you’ll be at every one of them.