Guitar lament strikes a broken chord with airline

Author: By David Usborne

Dave Carroll is his name, he lives in Halifax and is a velvet-voiced singer with a folk-rock band called Sons of Maxwell. And since he posted a certain video on YouTube two weeks ago, he has also become an international folk hero.

It all started the day Carroll and his band members took a flight from Halifax to Nebraska for a concert. They flew United Airlines ? a company which today must be profoundly wishing they hadn’t ? and changed planes in Chicago. While in Chicago they witnessed baggage handlers hurling their luggage about, including Mr Carroll’s guitar. When they got to Nebraska, the guitar was broken.

United Airlines is hardly alone in having a disconnection between its “friendly skies” promotional image and the cattle-truck reality of its services. But for a full year Carroll battled with the airline for some remuneration. Specifically, $1,200 (£725). Just some kind of acknowledgement would have been nice.

United did not deliver. Hence the song, elegantly entitled “United Breaks Guitars”. To give it some oomph, the band posted it on YouTube earlier this month as well as on social networking sites such as Facebook. It helps that the song and the video are both accomplished and funny. In any event, the response has been beyond anything Carroll could have imagined.

The YouTube clip has had 2.6 million hits and Sons of Maxwell have found themselves featured on CBS News and even on The Oprah Winfrey Show. “It’s just incredible considering where my career was last week,” Carroll observed, noting that sales of his band’s other albums and hits on its website were both soaring. “It’s overwhelming,” he said.

The video includes images of Carroll watching men chucking his guitar about from his plane window. He sings: “I have heard all your excuses and I have chased wild gooses and I say this attitude of yours must go.”

Marvellously, it sort of has. United ? surprise ? has come out of its shell since the song became a smash, writing a cheque for $3,000 for the Thelonius Institute, a charity that supports jazz. Carroll himself has received two free Taylor guitars from Bob Taylor, who makes them.

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