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For 20 years, small guitar shop serves start-ups and big stars alike

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Willie's American Guitars
Willie's American Guitars has been a fixture on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. The unassuming shop draws customers from around the world, including members of Los Lobos, the Rolling Stones, Brice Springsteen and Cheryl Crow.
MPR Photo/Tom Crann

There's going to be a party Wednesday night -- at The Cabooze Music club in Minneapolis -- in honor of a Twin Cities music legend. 

He's known as "Willie" and he doesn't play as much music as he used to, but his St. Paul guitar shop faithfully serves those who do. For 20 years, small-time artists and rock & roll legends alike have made Willie their go-to guy for buying and repairing guitars of all kinds.

Nate "Willie" Westgor earned a reputation for quick and skillful repairs at guitar shop in Chicago. His ability to work with bands under pressure -- and on short notice -- paid dividends when he went into business for himself.

"Even my first couple of days open, I had Los Lobos and Bruce Springsteen's band come through because they were used to seeing me in Chicago," Westgor  said.

Wednesday's 20-year celebration will include two former members of Los Lobos along with many other musicians. Willie's list of clients over the years also includes the Rolling Stones, Greg Brown -- even a young Kurt Cobain -- among many others.

Tom Crann met Willie Wednesday morning at his shop. It's small and easy to miss along St. Paul's Cleveland Avenue. Inside, the walls are lined with guitars of all sizes, shapes, ages and value. He took us on a tour.