Personal Space

Story Jason Browne | Photograph Luisa Porter

Local celebrity or not, Jeffrey Rupp had to wait in line for his guitar room.

The former newsman and Columbus mayor, now director of outreach at Mississippi State University, finally claimed his nook of the house about a year ago. A small, cube-shaped room where he can indulge in the passion that has accompanied him through his many career evolutions.

“I’ve wanted a guitar room ever since Donna and I got married, but every time I’ve had the chance, we had another child, and it became a nursery,” said Rupp.

Now his girls are 13 and 9, and Jeff finally got to take his prized guitars out of their cases.

His current top five — of 11 total — are arranged at standing height along the wall opposite the flat screen. They’re the first thing he sees when he walks in. Then he chooses.

“For me, it’s therapeutic to play. I pull a guitar down and noodle around, maybe watch TV while I’m doing it. Every guitar has its own voice and personality. I love the different types of wood. The smell of them. The feel when I’m holding one. It’s comforting,” he said.

There’s also a little guitar in the corner, with fine strings for tiny fingers. He cried the first time his youngest plucked out The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”

The room is dressed in a relaxing light brown. A brightly colored sectional with deep cushions is tucked in the corner. It’s where he practices. Writes. Mixes recordings on his laptop. Watches the news. Reminisces about bands he was in. And learns songs for bands he is in.

But it was a long time coming.

“I sort of got used to it. I had all these gorgeous guitars in the closet. It wasn’t until I hung them up that it all came back, and I thought ‘beautiful.’”