Some stories are one-sided. What you see is what you get. Not so with the giant guitars that have shown up around Columbia, Missouri this summer.

Mike Sleadd with guitar

Mike Sleadd poses with the guitar he designed as a tribute to The Who’s 50th anniversary.

The Roots N Blues N Foundation raises money for a program called Blues in the Schools. This program seeks to infuse music (particularly blues) into elementary schools across mid-Missouri — with the hope of expanding across the state. It’s connected to a local festival held each year since 2007 – the Roots N Blues N BBQ festival. Given the prominence of the festival, and Columbia College’s new music degree, Columbia College decided to sponsor Blues in the Schools.

Independently, but perhaps serendipitously, Mike Sleadd, a long-time Columbia College faculty member and chair of the Visual Arts and Music department at the college was tapped to design an eight foot guitar. Why? Well, the idea is that the guitar, and a group of others designed by local artists, will be on display at Roots N Blues N BBQ to raise awareness for Blues in the Schools.

But it isn’t just any display. Sleadd’s guitar, along with the others, have been dubbed “Guitarhenge.” That’s right. The plan is to display these giant guitars in a circle, emulating Stonehenge.

Prior to displaying Guitarhenge at Roots N Blues N BBQ, the Foundation decided to use these guitars to drive interest for the festival – all while raising money for Blues in the Schools. On the evening of August 6, Flat Branch Brewery decided to throw a party complete with a guitar duo (of course), a display of several of the guitars (including Sleadd’s) and the tapping their seasonal keg of BLUESberry lager.

Why an owl?

Each artist had creative license, with the caveat that they should try to relate the design to music in some way. Sleadd says he wanted to feature an animal in the design. Then the idea came. The shape was perfect for an owl, and coincidentally, this year happens to be the 50th anniversary of creation of the British band, The Who. The back of the guitar says: “Who are you? Who, Who, Who, Who?”

And the moon at the top? If you’re a fan of The Who, you probably already guessed – it’s for the drummer who was named Keith Moon.