Friday, June 13, 2014

Xaviere Sonic Blue Thinline Telecaster Customized

Here's a great guitar for cheap, cheap that I just sold to a friend of mine. I go through stages as I'm getting a little bit older where I think I don't need electric gear any more. I still play an occasional acoustic gig now and then, but my needs for an electric guitar only pop up now and then. So, whenever they do, I get all excited and I go on Craigslist and I buy an amp and a guitar and I find a pedal or two that are my go-to pedals, and I rehearse a couple of times and play the gig. Then I don't have anything else scheduled and I sit on my gear until I talk myself out of needing it again. Then a year goes by and I go through it all again. That's pretty much how I came to own this guitar in the first place, and it explains why I just sold it.

I was in need of an electric and I'd read a whole lot about the Xaviere brand guitars at the website. Everything I read about these guitars was positive and the reviews at Premiere Guitar were excellent. They are not expensive guitars, and when you look at things like hardware and material choices, they aren't up to par with guitars that are five times more expensive. But that's kind of the point, right? I had noticed a long time ago that they had a sonic blue thinline telecaster-style guitar that was really cool. I wanted one. But they always seemed to be sold out. I guess I wasn't the only one. So I kept an eye out on eBay. The opportunity to play a full electric band gig came up and I thought maybe this would be a good way to obtain a Tele and still keep within a really tight budget. Then one day I found this guitar on eBay. Now it didn't look like the photos I'm posting...I did a lot of fixing up to get there...but I didn't spend a lot to do it.

When I found it on eBay, it was in rough condition. The neck and body were fine, so that's a good start. The neck pick-up was completely gone. The bridge pick-up had been replaced with a GFS Retrotron Surf 90 pick-up, also from the GuitarFetish website. These look like Rickenbacker pick-ups and they sound great. And, staying with the theme of this story, they aren't expensive. So, it had a good bridge pick-up, the controls were all loosey-goosey, and the back panel was barely hanging on. There were wires sticking out where the neck pick-up used to be and there was no pick guard. was sonic blue, it was a thinline tele style guitar, the neck had a cool vintage amber tint to it, and I only saw possibilities. Oh, and there was a weird little sticker on the body of the guitar right under the controls. I bid about $50 I think and won the auction. Then it showed up.

The previous owner failed to mention that, under the little sticker on the body was a hole. Not a little screw hole, but a hole the size of maybe another toggle switch or knob or something. Miraculously, I had a sticker at home that was exactly the color of the guitar body. I carefully cut out a little circle slightly larger than the hole and covered it up. Next I tightened everything up and taped off the extra wires and tucked them back in the body cavity. I ordered a custom pick guard from Warmoth in a cool tortoise shell design. It only took a week to show up at my door and I started to put it on the guitar. I quickly realized that, since this wasn't an actual Fender guitar, the pick guard didn't fit exactly perfectly with the Xaviere layout. At this point, I wasn't too worried about perfection and I got out a file and did a little custom work of my own. Screwed it on and it looked good from about five feet away. In fact, this whole guitar looks awesome from about five feet away. Once you start analyzing it, the back control panel is held on with duct tape, the tone knob is still a little wobbly, the hole is covered with a sticker...etc. But guess what? This guitar plays and sounds awesome.

It's basically set up like a Fender Esquire...a Tele shaped body with one pickup in the bridge position. It's got that Surf 90 pickup and is twangier than Pete Anderson at a Dwight Yoakam concert. It's twangtastic. Yes, I could go on and on. But you get the sounded great. And I have to say, the Xaviere neck is fantastic. It felt like a nice vintage instrument...and I'm not being paid by anyone to say that in case you're wondering. This is not an ad disguised as a story on a blog. None of my stories are. This is just an excellent guitar for the crazy price. All told I probably had a little over $100 in the guitar. $50 for the guitar plus another $25 for shipping. I think the pick guard was close to $40 shipped. And the sticker was free. I guarantee it was the best hundred dollar guitar I've ever played.

Well, so now some time has passed. I have another Fender Telecaster in my closet, and the Xaviere became expendable since I have no electric gigs and I need some cash money for an upcoming vacation. But how do you sell a guitar like this with such a weird story, but such great results? I posted a photo on Instagram (@jaimiemuehlhausen) and a friend fell in love with it. I told him it was his for a flat $100 and the deal was done. I'm happy it went to someone who will appreciate it give it a good home.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Old Kraftsman Arch Top Guitar

I just found these photos of this vintage Old Kraftsman arch top acoustic that I bought a year or so ago and thought I would go ahead and post it, even though there isn't too much of a story to go with it. I found this guitar in a thrift store in Escondido, CA, where I have been lucky enough to find more than one guitar over the years. In fact, it's exactly where I found a dirty, busted up old Yamaha acoustic that has turned out to be one of the best sounding guitars I have owned. You can read about it here. Usually this thrift store puts any guitar they have for sale back behind the counter, including Toys'R'Us quality instruments, thinking they are all valuable, and usually priced that way as well. But this one was pretty beat up and had some cracks and belt buckle scrapeage that would make any country musician worth his salt pretty proud. It was sitting out amongst the general population at the thrift store, mixed in with old used barbecues, vintage skis, weird appliances and some used, but still viable, tiki torches.

This Old Kraftsman arch top acoustic was never outfitted with a pickup. Strictly acoustic. And even though it was beat to within an inch of it's life, I knew I needed to rescue it from the possibility of ending up as a spray painted prop in a high school production of Bye Bye Birdie or as a wall hanger in an all-you-can-eat beef ribs restaurant. God forbid.

I'm oddly attracted to Old Kraftsman instruments, maybe because of this bass that I have featured on here in the past. Old Kraftsman was the house brand for the Spiegel Catalog company, and were made by the Kay Musical Instrument Co., who also made exactly the same guitars with other brand names on them like Airline, TrueTone, Penncrest, Silvertone, Kay and others. If you can find an Old Kraftsman model of a guitar, you can definitely find it's doppelganger with a Kay logo on it. The only thing I haven't seen a Kay clone of is an Old Kraftsman resonator guitar that was made by National, and are really rare and hard to find. I'm hoping to come across one of those in a thrift store someday, and you can bet it won't end up here on this website.

This particular guitar looked like it had been spray painted black on the front, possibly to hide the long cracks that ran all the way up to the f-holes. It was barely hanging on. It wasn't worth paying a luthier a ton of dough to repair, but I couldn't just let it fall apart either. The tuner peg buttons were missing, the bridge was missing, the tail piece was hanging on by a thread, the back was beat, and the fretboard was as dry as a London newspaper. (That's dry). Still, I figured I could mess around with it and see if I could get it to play. First thing I did, after some internet research for a cheap way to fix the cracks, was super glue them back together. Yes, not the way they do it at Stew-Mac, but you know what? Super glue is amazing! Not only did it hold this 75-year old guitar together, it stuck my fingers together for a short time too. Bonus.

Speaking of Stew-Mac, I ordered some vintage-style tuner buttons from them for a very inexpensive price, and I found a new but correct bridge on the Ebay for about $20. I put some very light strings on it to keep the arch top from cracking again, and, sure enough, it all held together. I won't say it sounded great, but it stayed relatively in tune and didn't sound too bad. I mean, I'm no fan of extra light strings on any acoustic, let alone a very old arch top from the Spiegel Catalog. So, when I say it sounded alright, I mean it was better than no guitar at all. And, it looked very cool.

I put it on Craigslist for cheap...maybe started it off at $150. I figured whatever I could get out of it would be fine, and at least someone who was interested in it would have it instead of ending up leaving the thrift store with some lady who's 4-year old would end up sitting on it while everyone laughs and laughs. Sure enough, I got an email from a guy who offered $75 and I said, "Come get it." I usually try to make some bucks on guitars that I flip on Craigslist, but sometimes you just need to rescue them from a horrible fate and pass them on to a life of love and usefulness.

I did actually make a few dollars after all was said and done, but not enough to justify my time and effort if you want to count those things. " Time is money!" Well, sometimes it's not. It's just time well spent.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fender Excelsior Pawn Shop Amp

A few years ago I got lucky enough to score a pass to the NAMM tradeshow. If you aren't familiar, it's the musical instrument show at which buyers from all over the country come to see the latest gear from Fender and Gibson and PRS and all the other companies that manufacture guitars and amps and drums and keyboards and marching band instruments and harps and sheet music and metronomes and whatever else you can think of at the local music store. Whew. These passes are not easy to get, but I designed a series of custom guitars for Taylor and they were kind enough to hook me up with a pass. Yes, I just bragged on myself there about the Taylor thing. Sorry.

One of the things that caught my attention was this amp over in the corner of the vast Fender tradeshow sales room. It didn't even have a Fender logo on it. It said Excelsior. And it looked like something you used to see in pawn shops, back when you could find cool, obscure stuff in pawn shops. Or, to put it another way, before the internet. This amp is, in fact, called The Pawn Shop Series and it's a Fender, but just made to look weird...or...awesome...depending on who you are. I loved it. It had one giant 15" speaker, just like Stevie Ray used to use, one knob for on/off and volume, and one knob for tremolo. I LOVE TREMOLO! They made this amp just for me it seems. It also had a bright switch and three inputs. Yep, THREE inputs. That's more inputs than knobs. I love this amp! One input for guitar, one for mic and one for accordion. How cool is that?

I didn't get to hear it at the tradeshow, but I knew I was going to love it. And I was right. I went home after the NAMM show was over and Fender had posted some videos on their website of this new Pawn Shop Series. They were well-produced videos, made to look like some slick blues dude was running a pawn shop and tricking customers into thinking this amp was an oldie that perfectly fit their needs for guitar, harmonica, accordion and whatever else. The videos were a little cheesy, but they sounded great and I had to have one of these pawn shop amps. But where could I get one? Aaaahh. They weren't going to be out for awhile. Shit. I asked anyone I knew who might know something when they would be out. Heck, I even asked a guy at Guitar Center, and they never know anything about this stuff. "Soon!" they would say. Soon.

A few months went by and my nephew was in town. I live in San Diego and he wanted to go up to L.A. for the weekend to check it all out. We drove the 4-hour, 97 mile drive up to Hollywood and I started showing him around. At some point we drove past the giant Hollywood Guitar Center, where there's actually a chance you might see a semi-famous musician in-store. Plus they do have a downstairs vintage room that is astounding. It's worth the trip if you are a guitar geek. We parked the car and headed in. Nephew was busy checking out the latest electronic beats software and musical laptop gear, so I wandered over to see some actual instruments. Guitars. Amps. And holy moly, there it Excelsior Pawn Shop amp. I asked if I could play through it and the salesman smiled knowingly as he plugged a Telecaster in without even asking what kind of guitar I preferred. I was right...I was going to need this amp. I wasn't even remotely planning to spend any significant money that day, but there I was, handing over my debit card and calculating how much gas we'd need to get back to San Diego. The salesman told me that this was only the second Excelsior to hit the shelves in all of California and that they'd just gotten it in earlier that day. Of course that made me want it even more. I loaded it in the back seat and we headed on down the road.

I have owned a 1963 Fender Tremolux amp, and it's well documented here on this website that I am in love with Swamp Thang tremolo pedals. Those are my standard bearers for tremolo. I got this home and plugged my own guitar in and...boom, awesome sound. They aren't super're not going to hold your own against a Marshall stack with this amp, but it had plenty of power for my modest needs. Great tremolo sound which I just kept on most of the time I owned this amp. I loved the big ol' 15" speaker and I loved the retro looks. Kind of a secret weapon. Some people would never be happy with an amp with very few controls, but this is right up my alley. Turn it on, set it and forget it. I love it.

"But why don't you still own it?" you might ask. And you'd be right to ask after such a glowing report. Well, I had to go to NYC for a trip that was short notice and to be honest, I just needed a little extra cash in my pocket for the trip. NYC is not a cheap place. So I sold it reluctantly. Some time has passed and now I see them show up on Craigslist every so often. And Jeez...they are cheap. I saw one for $175 the other day and it took every ounce of restraint not the contact the guy and go pick it up. If you are contemplating one of these amps, and you love that cool Fender vibe and some sweet tremolo, don't even think twice. Pick one up. Not loud enough...get two. That's still cheaper than most everything else out there these days. I see that Fender has a new Pawn Shop amp or two out this year. But they just don't have that same appeal to me as this Excelsior did from the moment I spied it. I'm gonna need another one at some point.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fender Nashville Telecaster 2008 Honey Blonde

It's just me, but even though I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Telecaster guy, I just can't seem to fall in love with these Nashville Teles. They're really nice and, some would argue, more versatile due to the extra Strat pick-up in the middle. But to me, a Tele has two pickups. End of story. Well, I guess not really the end of the story, or else Fender wouldn't be making them. But whenever I find a good deal on one and pick it up thinking maybe I'll keep it, it's not long before it's for sale on Craigslist or Ebay.

This one was manufactured in the Fender Mexico factory in 2008. I have come to the conclusion that, unless you just really have some personal reason, there is no reason not to buy a MIM Fender guitar. My friend O, who is better known as a founding member of legendary San Diego bands Olive Lawn, fluf, Reeve Oliver, The Make-Up Sex and now #Octagrape...and also known as the guitar tech for J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. ...and also known as a legendary skateboard photographer...and on and on, says this: "You can buy a Fender made by Mexicans down in Mexico, or you can buy one made by Mexicans in California. Either way, it's the same machines, the same specs and the same guitars." And he says that lovingly...he's the most die hard Fender guy I've ever known and was sponsored by Fender at one point.

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I found it in a pawn shop down in Chula Vista, CA, right down by the Mexican border. My son and I were killing a few minutes after his soccer game and I spotted a pawn shop. This always elicits a groan from my kids, until I explain that this is how we get to buy nice soccer shoes and dance lessons. We walked into the shop and there weren't any instruments to be seen. I started to turn around to leave, but the owner asked if he could help me. I explained that I was looking for guitars, and since he didn't seem to have any, I'd be on my way. He asked, "What kind of guitar are you looking for?" I said maybe Gibson or Fender or anything interesting. He brought out a cool old Gibson solidbody from the late '60s with some kind of weird sparkle finish. It was out of my price range. I asked if he had any Telecasters and he said, "Sure. I have one," and he brought out this Nashville model.

I unzipped the grungy crusty gig bag it was in with low hopes. But low and behold, once I took out the guitar, it was pretty nice! It had a couple of dings and one of the knobs was loose, but those are just bargaining chips. The strings were old and useless and you could tell he just wanted to sell it. I asked how much and he said $300. I put it back in the bag and told him it was quite a bit more than I wanted to spend today. Heck, I wasn't even looking to buy a guitar...we were just killing time after the soccer game. He asked how much I would spend and I blurted out "$200 cash out the door." I wasn't expecting him to accept but he said, "SOLD!" Oh. Okay. I guess I better look this thing over again real quick. I barely gave it the once over. Everything looked solid, so I ran across the street to the Mexican grocery store (lots of Mexico references in this story), and used their rickety ATM machine with the $3.50 surcharge.

I got the guitar home, cleaned it all up, tightened some screws, put new strings on it, plugged it in and...boom...nice guitar! Like I mentioned at the beginning, I get these Nashville model Teles and it doesn't take long to list them and sell them. I briefly tried to talk myself into keeping this one. It's nice. The honey blonde finish is gorgeous and the tortoise pickguard looks great with the honey blonde. The Fender Tex-Mex Strat pickup in the middle sounds good mixed with the two Tex-Mex Tele pickups. It has a nice maple neck and an alder body. And as much as I like tradition, the six-saddle bridge does work better than those three barrels. You know what I'm saying.

I listed it on Craigslist and it wasn't long before I flipped it for $300. Not a huge profit, but $100 buys some nice soccer shoes for a 10-year old. Nothing wrong with that.

Sigma Guitars by Martin & Co. DR1ST Acoustic

It seems like every major manufacturer has their second tier brand of guitars these days. Fender has Squier, Gibson has Epiphone, Ovation used to have Applause though I don't know if they still do. And yes, the folks at Martin had Sigma. Note that I said "had" Sigma. In one of those "uh oh somebody's gonna get fired" moments, someone at Martin forgot to renew the trademark on the Sigma brand, and sure enough, one of those crafty overseas companies jumped on it and now own the Sigma brand. But, up until the last few years, Martin used the Sigma brand name from 1970 until 2007. They were made in Japan from '70 until 1983, then moved to Korea. From what I understand, the company that now owns the Sigma brand has been making guitars since 2011, but they have nothing to do with Martin.

Okay, so now we've established a little history. If you want the whole Wikipedia version, click here. However, the Wikipedia version completely leaves out this late '90s time frame. Not sure why, but I have not been able to find out a ton of info other than digging deep in some forums. If you need more in-depth info, you'll need to get familiar with Google.

Now on to this guitar. This is the DR1ST model, made in Korea in about 1998. Could be '99. I have referenced the serial number on the Martin website and that's what I get. I think it's nice that Martin included the Sigmas in their regular serial number runs, rather than treat the brand like an outcast. I think it shows that they were proud enough of their overseas manufactured guitars to claim them as part of the family. There seems to be a lot more documentation on some of the other model numbers. The new company that makes Sigma now uses this model number in their current line-up, but don't be confused by that. This is definitely one of the older models and you can tell right off the bat by looking at the headstock. During this time period, they actually had "Sigma Guitars by Martin & Co." on the headstock. Not much confusion there.

The DR1ST was modeled after the Martin D-16 from what I could find. It's a nice standard dreadnought guitar with a solid top. I think. I've owned quite a few nicely made Asian factory Yamahas and Brunos and others that have been pretty tricky to figure out. I've been fooled a couple of times. So take a good close look if you have one and decide for yourself. I've even heard that, on some of the '70s Yamaha FG models, they would make some solid and some laminate. So, you have to look at the guitar...get a close look right on the edge of the soundhole. This guitar was really nice sounding and had a very clear, rich tone for a guitar in this price range. Those guys at Martin know how to spec out a guitar. I found this one at the Oceanside CA Swap Meet and picked it up for a mere $75. It had some old loose strings on it, so I couldn't get a good read on the neck. Didn't look warped or anything so I took a chance. I got home and got the swap meet layer of funk off of it easily...just a little dust and the smell of breakfast burritos. I put a set of brand new Martin SP Bronze medium strings on it, and...hmmmm. I little buzzing on a couple of frets.

I don't know about you, but I am just always hesitant to break out the allen wrench and start cranking on the truss rod. I've heard horror stories about snapped truss rods and popped necks and it makes me nervous. I made sure everything else was looking good...all polished and clean, and I listed it on Craigslist with a description of what nice condition the guitar was in, but it needed a set-up and a little tweaking due to the fret buzz. I guess that tends to scare people away and no one was biting on my original asking price of a very reasonable $235. I've seen these listed on eBay for a lot more, but they tend to sell for anywhere from $225 to $400. One was even more. But, Craigslist can be fickle and I wasn't getting any interest at all. I dropped the price to $200 and got an offer. A local guy who fixes guitars was looking for a little project to flip and offered $125. I decided that it would be best to get this guitar fixed up the right way and put it in the hands of someone who could really enjoy it. The guy showed up to buy it and explained that he actually used to work in the Taylor Guitars factory. This guitar was going to get a new life, and that's a good thing.

Overall I'd say that the vintage Sigma Guitars are pretty underrated, even though they have the Martin brand behind them. I do see them for sale from time to time on my local Craigslist and they are usually in the $225-275 range. I think if you are looking for an excellent guitar in an affordable price range, you can't go wrong with a vintage Sigma.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Randall RG80-112SC Amplifier

Here is one that I thought would never get away. And not because it's not a good is. In fact it's a great amp that should be getting more respect out there in the vintage market. But sometimes it's just time to move something don't have room or you need the money for a different purchase or whatever it may be. I put this one up for sale on Craigslist and thought I'd have no problem finding a buyer...I put a very affordable price on it at $150. And I got responses. So I lowered the price, lowered it again, lowered it again, and finally asked if anyone wanted to make a trade. And that's how I finally moved it. But let's talk about the amp for a second.

I've always been a Fender amp guy over the years, and now I've become a Vox AC15 guy. Love that amp. On my second one. Well, sort of third...I bought one of them twice. But somewhere in the back of my peripheral amp vision, I have always thought there was something cool about those old early '80s Randall combo amps. You know the or gray strip of color across the front. Mostly I noticed the 1-12" combo amps and I can't really explain it, but I always wanted one. I'm more of a tube amp snob in some ways, and these Randalls are solid state. But I'd always heard good things about them and that they sounded as close to a tube amp as you could get. I've since read that this vintage RG80 is the gold standard among solid state amps and that a lot of manufacturers still use the same basic circuitry or electrical layout or whatever you call it for many amps today. I know nothing about it, so I have no idea. But I can tell you that this amp does sound really good and, although not quite as tasty as good tube amp of the same size, it's not a bad option if you happen to run across one. They are more famously used by The Edge of U2, George Lynch, Def Leppard and Dimebag Darrell.

Randall made a lot of different models in this era, but the RG80 seems to be the one that gets the most attention. It's got one 12" speaker...a Celestion G12-80...and it's got 80 watts of power at 8 ohms, 100 watts at 4 ohms. There is a speaker out, an effects send and return, and if you're lucky, it will still have the original footswitch with the funky 6-prong connector. The one I bought didn't have the original footswitch, but they are not too hard to find on the ebay for around $40. You can also buy nice repro footswitches for around $65. The reverb in these amps is really excellent and sounds just like an old Fender amp. As I've mentioned in previous stories, I'm a Tele guy and play fairly clean and this amp pulls that sounds off very well. With lots and lots of power. You'll need the footswitch to be able to channel switch, and I didn't have the footswitch with I really only got to check out channel one. But, for me, I'm really just going to kick in a Tube Screamer or something similar to get my dirty sound anyway, so it worked out very well. I've also read that you can run a speaker out to a bigger cabinet and this thing will blow your doors off. I've always liked my doors right where they are, so I didn't try that option. But it's there. If you don't need doors.

Since this blog is about the stories of how they got away, the quick version of how I came to own this amp, and then eventually sell it, goes something like this. Not too long ago I hit one of those patches where I just decided that I didn't need electric gear. I've done this once before and didn't learn from my mistake. I sold my Vox AC15, sold my Teles, and sold my pedals. Just took it all down to acoustic gear only. I play singer/songwriter gigs occasionally and I've been the acoustic music guy at a few weddings and charity events lately...but I am not in a band and haven't been playing live with an electric guitar in a long time. So, I sold my stuff. Dumb. After only a couple of months, the opportunity to get back together with some old bandmates arose...and I had nothing to play with. I did one rehearsal with my acoustic gear, but it just wasn't going to cut it. With very limited funds, I set out to find an amp and a guitar as cheaply as possible. I found a really cool (really) Xaviere telecaster copy for under $100. It's an inexpensive copy and I'll eventually replace it, but it's seriously a pretty cool guitar. More on that another time. Then I hit Craigslist for an amp. That's when I saw this Randall for sale and I knew I was finally going to get my hands on one of these things.

The guy wanted $125, but it had been for sale for a little while and I figured I could offer him $100. I got there to check out the amp and it was a little dirtier than you'd hope for and had obviously just been sitting around for a long time. I plugged into input #2 and it was super scratchy. Made a lot of noise. We all recoiled in horror. But when I plugged into input #1, all was fine. Sounded great and no problems. You only need one input anyway, right? Reverb sounded good, everything else worked fine....I shook my head a few times, hemmed and hawed, and finally offered the guy $80. Surprisingly he took it with no hesitation. I had an amp. Got it home and it sounded great. I cleaned it all up and took it to the next band rehearsal. Still sounded good, but I guess I'm just used to tubes and if I'm 100% honest, as much as this amp sounds good for solid state, it's just not a tube amp. And there IS a difference. I knew I was going to need tubes. The following week I got paid for a freelance job and had a few extra bucks. I looked on Craigslist again and, lo and behold, a guy was selling a Vox AC15 for $300. I talked him down to $275 and I was back in business with my favorite amp. I immediately listed the Randall on Craigslist and...well, you read the intro...had a bit of a tough time selling. I won't go back through all the markdowns again, but the bottom line is I ended up trading the amp for a nice Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-9DX. Since I paid $80 for the amp and really only had to put a little cleaning work into it, the trade worked out okay financially. Similar value I suppose. But mostly I was just really disappointed that no one recognized what a great deal the Randall would have been, even at my first price of $150. Would I buy another one of these amps? I don't know...I guess the answer is "maybe." Just depending on the circumstances and price. I'd definitely recommend it to someone looking to get a whole lot of amp for the price and looking for something that is going to be reliable for gigging. No doubt about it. But I think I'm always going to want tubes. That's just me.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Aloha Magnatone Lap Steel Guitar

Here's yet another in a long line of lap steels that I thought I wanted...but then realize I just can't seem to figure out how to play one of these well enough to keep it. I've said the same thing before in other posts...I always think I want a lap steel for recording purposes. And I do manage to get a few usable sounds out of them if I record and re-record a million times. But when it comes right down to it, I just can't get the hang of it enough to justify keeping one around. I will learn a lesson about this someday. Maybe.

The interesting part of the story about this lap steel is that I was looking on Ebay for an inexpensive lap steel and I noticed one for sale by a guy in my town. I emailed him and asked if I could just pick it up at his house instead of having him ship it, since that wouldn't make a lot of sense and would save time and money. He said SURE! So, long story short, that's what happened. I got the lap steel I won on Ebay home and there was a problem with it. So I took it back to his house and he had a few others that he was also selling. He exchanged mine for this Aloha and everyone was happy. It all worked out great and this was actually a little nicer than the one I had paid for.

I looked it up online and, lo and behold, the only documentation I could find had two photos of an Aloha exactly like mine, case and all. The closer I looked, it turns out it was actually the same exact lap steel! What are the chances? The instrument itself is nothing special really. It's your standard late '40s gray mother-of-toilet-seat lap steel that I've seen a hundred times by other brands like Dickerson and Magnatone and Supro, etc. Turns out this Aloha brand was actually made by Magnatone, as evidenced by the serial number plate on the back. The headstock decal says ALOHA Music Company, Corpus Christie, Texas. It was probably just a local company that contracted with Magnatone to make a generic lap steel and put the Aloha brand on it. It has Kluson tuners, a volume, a tone and a pickup. What else do you need?

After owning it for about a year, I turned it around on the Ebay and I think actually took a loss on it. Which is rare for me. I almost always make at least a little profit on things or break even. But that's the way it goes sometimes.