Monday, May 23, 2016

Fender Blues Junior FSR in Cream Tolex

Who knows how many thousands of Fender Blues Juniors have been sold over the years now? Great smaller size combo amp with really nice sound that won't break your back getting in and out of the gig. Plus, it's not too big for around the house. They have that great "Fender" sound and they also won't break the bank. Well, I guess that about sums this one up. Well...except for the extra story that goes along with this one.

Seriously though, I have owned a couple of Blues Juniors in the past, and both have been excellent, trouble-free, great sounding amps. In another story on this here blog, I chronicled the story of a little Fender Bronco practice amp that looks a bit like a Blues Junior, but is solid state and nowhere the same amp. I kind of denigrated those amps and claimed you can find Blues Juniors for $250 on Craigslist, so why bother with the Bronco. Well, holy crap, not everyone (hardly anyone) agreed with me (I still stand by my opinion on that one), and I got ridiculed for saying you can find Blues Juniors for $250. Well, guess what mothereffers, I got this one for $250. And not only is it a Blues Junior for only $250, it's a Fender Special Run model in blonde or cream or tan (whatever you want to call it) tolex with the oxblood grill. In doing very unofficial research, this color combo of the Juniors seems to be the rarest of the classic Fender amp styles. I love the lacquered tweed buddy Rob has one and I've used it on a couple of recordings. And the regular tweed models are fine too, though not nearly as good looking in my humble opinion as the lacquered tweed. I've seen Sonic Blue and Seafoam Green and Red Sparkle and two-tone tolex, but those all seem to be some sort of special editions. And to be honest, even though Sonic Blue is my favorite Fender GUITAR color, it looks a little cheap to me on an amp. That's just me.

So, I'm browsing Craigslist one day, and there it was. I recently had a little change in job status, so while things are working themselves out, I shouldn't be spending extra money on guitar stuff at the moment. Unless, of course, the goal is to make some money from it. I saw this Blues Junior advertised for $275 or best offer. Wow, already a bargain at $275, but best offer?? Maybe I could get it for $250? I made the offer and he accepted. Boom! I knew that I could get more for it and make a little extra cash...but I also knew I would NOT want to give this amp up once I got it. I have a great Vox AC15CC1 that I really love...great tremolo and nice tone...the best model of all the Vox AC15 reissues by the way...and I knew I wasn't giving up the Vox. It has a road case and no issues and it's a keeper. But the Blues Junior at my buddy's house was speaking to me, and I knew once I got this Junior home, it would take some discipline to let it go.

Now here's the messed up part of the story and I am to blame for it. I met up with the guy selling the amp. He let me know that it worked perfectly and I could come in and play it. I had read that there were a couple of runs of FSR Blues Juniors that had had some issues with static and that it was a big problem. I very specifically asked the seller if there were any issues like this and he assured me this amp was perfect. I go to get the amp, we plugged it in very briefly to make sure it came on and that the knobs spun and that kind of stuff, but I did not sit with it for any extended period of time. I really just wanted to buy the amp at that price before he changed his mind. Got the amp home, plugged it in, and started jamming for a little bit. About ten minutes into said jam, it starts with some horrible static noises. Very obvious and unavoidably noticeable. I was mad. I knee-jerk reacted. I didn't test the amp in another outlet or give it another shot. I immediately fired off a text message to the seller and let him know there were issues that we talked about and I wanted a refund, no questions asked...I just didn't want to be stuck with a broken amp that was going to cost as much to fix as I was going to be profiting when I sold it. No answer from the seller. I tried again. No answer. My texts got more intense as a few days went by and he was ignoring me...I wouldn't say I was an absolute asshole but I was getting pissed off and I thought I had been ripped off. Finally I hear back and he lets me know that he plans to do nothing, claiming he has no idea what the problem is and it worked just fine.

I just let the amp sit for a week or two and then one day decided to try it out again, this time in a different part of the house. Plug it issues whatsoever. Oops. Now I feel bad. I take it to my buddy's house and try it issues. All good. I text the seller and apologize profusely, tail between my legs. He, rightfully so, never answered back. But the good news was, amp was fine and sounded great. I absolutely forced myself to list it on Craigslist with a price of $400. That's how much the cream tolex models have been going for on and Ebay, so I figured it was a safe number. And I wasn't going to just let it go for cheap...too nice an amp. Sure enough, after a day or two on Craigslist, I got a note from a guy wanting the amp. We hooked up, he Paypalled me the money on the spot and this cream tolex Blues Junior has a new home. The End.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Fender Acoustasonic DSP 30

Here's one that I recently let "get away" that am pretty ambivalent about. It's a Fender Acoustasonic DSP 30 acoustic guitar amplifier. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing exciting or stand-out about it either. Works just fine for what it's supposed to do, though I would say the sound quality was just marginal and it wasn't very loud for a 30-watt solid state amp. These have one input for an instrument and one input for a microphone, with the thought being that they would be great for small acoustic coffee house gigs or for band practice. To be honest, I don't think it would get loud enough for band practice if you have a drummer in the band. And the sound quality isn't going to make any true acoustic musician too excited. They look kind of cool with that vintage Fender brown tolex and the wheat colored grill. They have sort of an angled backside, like a floor monitor, so that you can set it down next to you and the sound will project out to your coffeehouse audience. Or I suppose you could use the amp as a personal acoustic guitar monitor on-stage. Again, not sure about the volume. It has some effects built-in...the standard reverbs and delays and chorus. They were fine. Everything about this amp is just "fine."

I've been playing a lot of acoustic gigs lately, and I have an Acoustic brand amp/PA that I use for the main sound source. I think Guitar Center bought the brand name Acoustic and put out some pretty useful little acoustic amps. One day they had some sort of crazy deal of the day for the 120-watt unit for $199 shipped. That's seriously insane in the membrane. I bought it...I wish I had bought two. Works perfectly, lots of power, clean and clear and I'm really happy. I think it's the AG-120 model. Well, the only thing that it lacks is more only has four. So, if you are playing with an acoustic trio, you probably run out of inputs. That's what happened to me. So, even though you'd think maybe someone else in our trio would get another amp for themselves or something, that never seems to be the case. So I found this Fender Acoustasonic on Craigslist and talked the guy down to $185. One of the guys in our trio only plays I figured he could plug into this and it would solve our problems. Unfortunately, it just never sounded that great.

So, I've got a kid who plays soccer and he wants to go on this big trip with his soccer club to England. Not a cheap trip. I started figuring out if I had any gear I could do without and this made the list. It would have been fine to keep it, but it's just not that amazing a piece of gear. I'm sure there are those of you out there who have one and like it and that's cool. Nothing wrong with them. Then again, just not that amazing either. I put mine back on Craigslist and tried to get what I paid for it. I'm usually pretty good at flipping gear for a profit, but I knew this one might be tough. Even at $185 I got no interest for quite awhile. I had offers for $100 and $125, but I just couldn't do it. Finally I told someone I'd meet them halfway at $150. They said take it or leave it at $135 and I figured I'd better take it. Take it in the shorts. Oh well, you can't win 'em all. So, if you are looking for a thumbs up or thumbs down on this piece of gear, I'd have to go "thumbs sideways." You're welcome.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Taylor 214CE Custom Tony Hawk

My son is going on a trip to England with his soccer club. That's really all you need to know about this post. I'm sure many of you have been in this position...just about the time you think to yourself, "Okay, from now on I don't sell any of my guitars...I only add to the collection," something comes up and everything is negotiable.

I've known about this trip for about 6 months and I've been paying for it a little at a time, but it became obvious I was going to need some big chunks of cash to get this thing done. I won't lie...I'm going on the trip with him and his club, so I benefit from this as well. And it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip for a kid who lives and breathes soccer the way my son does...and hey, I get to go to Liverpool and maybe even see where the Beatles played their first gigs. But you hate to have to sell a guitar or two to make it happen.

It really came down to "which guitar that I swore I would never sell am I going to sell?" I have a couple that are simply Do Not Touch. I'm lucky to have them. But this one was a keeper for a whole different reason...I actually worked with the design team at Taylor and helped design this guitar. I designed four custom guitars (I have since designed a few more), for a charity auction to benefit the Tony Hawk Foundation. It was when Taylor was first developing their latest technology to print full color graphics onto a guitar top and they hadn't had the opportunity to do something as wild as using Tony Hawk skateboard graphics in full color. The guitars came out great, we raised a lot of money for the Foundation, and when it was all done, the guys at Taylor surprised me with this guitar. They had made one extra of this design to say thank you. Holy cow, who gets to own a guitar that they had a hand in designing? Not too many people, other than when you go directly through a luthier and spec some things out, or work with someone like the Fender Custom Shop to craft your perfect Tele. But to actually create the graphics and have a custom guitar built by the custom crew at Taylor is an honor. This is a guitar I should hang on to forever...right?

And then England. Something's got to give. And, unfortunately, it's this guitar. I came to the conclusion that I wasn't really using it to play live. And I am actually a believer in owning guitars that you use. You don't have to necessarily play them every day, but this one was literally hanging on the wall in my office, looking pretty, but never getting played. It deserves better. It's a great sounding guitar, I might add. It's a Taylor 214CE, which means it is a cutaway with electronics. The guys at Taylor picked out a stunning walnut veneer for the back and sides. Above and beyond the stock wood for this model. I never really plugged it in, so I don't know how the electronics sounded live. And then the topper...not only is it a Tony Hawk custom model, but I had Tony Hawk himself hand sign the headstock of the guitar. I know that some "autographed" guitars are kind of cheesy or sometimes they even ruin a good guitar. I see stuff on Craigslist sometimes listed as Fender Stratocaster signed by Brett Michaels and Flock of Seagulls and I think, "I wonder if you could just wipe those names off and fix the guitar?" But when you have a special, custom Tony Hawk model guitar, 1 of only 2 made, having it signed by the man himself only seems to make sense. Especially since it's on the headstock where it doesn't get in the way of arms or hands that would smear the signature. It's appropriate.

I reluctantly put the guitar up for sale on the Ebay and, first time around, got no response. I lowered the price a little and got quite a few people "watching" the auction. As the last day of the auction arrived, I started getting messages from someone who had questions. A lot of questions. One at a time. I was trying to get them answered in time for the end of the auction, as it was winding down quickly. I noticed that the person asking the questions was local, so I made sure he could pick it up locally and avoid shipping charges. All seemed to be on track and then...the auction ended with no bids. Huh?

I messaged the guy back one last time..."No bid? What's up?" He had just missed getting his bid in before it ended. Since he was local, we ended up working out a deal that would have been the auction price minus the fees. Win win. I delivered the guitar later that evening and saw that it was going to a good home. A real guitar lover. And it was local. I could always track it back down somehow if I really had to. And that's the story of how a guitar that you never thought you'd sell ends up in someone else's collection. Never look back, right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fender Sidekick Reverb 25 Amp

Okay, here's a great little amp for an absolute steal that can be used in so many ways. Although we all (most?) long for that great tube sound, sometimes a little solid state practice amp will save the day. Or at least give you a lightweight alternative for band practice. Back in the 1980s, when Fender amps had taken a hit for being pretty marginal after the CBS years, Paul Rivera came in and designed some fantastic amps, from top to bottom. My favorite of all of these was the 1983 Concert amp he designed. But some of the most overlooked was the line of Sidekick amps that Fender introduced for the budget conscious musician. There was the Sidekick Reverb 25, the Sidekick Reverb 35 and there was the Sidekick Switcher (another excellent amp!) and there were a few more. There were some Sidekick bass amps as well, though I have not heard good things about those like I have the guitar amps.

A friend of mine owns a Fender Sidekick Switcher, and I found one just like it on Craigslist for a great price...I think I paid $80 or something. Somehow due to finances, I had ended up without a good, gig-worthy amp...or so I thought. I got asked to play in a friend's wedding band one weekend, so I took a chance and just brought the Sidekick Switcher. It was fantastic. Pulled through like a champ. Plenty loud, great reverb, handled pedals well, and I loved the fact that it didn't break my back setting up for the gig. I kind of got on the bandwagon of the Sidekick amps at this point and decided to keep an eye out for a good deal on any of the others.

Sure enough, not too long afterwards, this Fender Sidekick Reverb 25 shows up on Craigslist for a great deal...the guy was literally moving the next day and needed a few extra bucks. It was actually kind of late at night, but when I emailed him, he said come on over. He dug around through his packing boxes and there was the amp, in great shape, with original footswitch and everything. I gave him some cash and headed home. Once I got home, I plugged it in and checked it out. There was a little bit of a rattle noise and I thought maybe the speaker needed to be tightened down.

I looked in the back and there was just some stuff inside...a cheap tuner, a small chord, some random pieces of metal, and a pick holder. After removing the "extras," I gave it another try and it was great. No rattle. Nice clean sound, with a Gain and a Master Volume to go along with the regular Volume you can dial up a pretty convincing crunch sound. I've even heard of metal guys using these amps in the studio for the crunchy sound...I'm sure they tell everyone they're playing through giant Marshall stacks, but I've heard over and over about guys using small practice amps in the studio with great results.

One of the differences between the Sidekick Reverb 25 and the Sidekick Switcher I mentioned is that that the Switcher has a 12" speaker and the Reverb 25 has a 10" speaker. So it's even slightly smaller in size by comparison...but still with plenty of good sound. Super easy to throw in the back seat of the car and head to band practice. It's also got a headphone jack on the back for playing around the house, and a speaker out as well. This little amp can get pretty loud on its own, so I'm curious how it would sound out to a cabinet. Never tried it.

I just put both my Sidekick Switcher and the Reverb 25 up on Craigslist, and we'll see if anyone is as excited about these as I am. I can see having something like this if you are a full-time gigging musician as an emergency back-up and it wouldn't take up much space at all.

Great sound for the money, excellent little amp. Thanks Fender!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fender Telecaster FSR and Yamaha FG-300

This is a great story in a few different ways. First of all, I'll tell you that this guitar is an early 2000's Made in Mexico Fender Telecaster that, from what I can tell, was sold at Guitar Center as what is known as FSR...Fender Special Run. I think Guitar Center gets Fender to make them a certain number of guitars in a color they aren't making in their standard line-up for the year, and that way they have something special they can sell. It's got what I like to call that Springsteen vibe. Natural wood with the 3-ply black pickguard, just like The Boss. When I got mine, it had a white pickguard on it, but that came off before I even plugged it in for the first time.

I bought it from a guy on Craigslist for a mere $275...if you are patient and diligent, these things do happen. You can't even get a Squier Classic Vibe or whatever they are called for that kind of deal. So get your cash together, be patient, and the deals will appear in time. The input jack on this one, like plenty of Teles I've owned, was a little janky, so I got one of those round electro input jacks and screwed it in. Done. The guitar looked great and the deal was good and I had just what I wanted. Until I got antsy and started looking around again. I always do. In this case, I was checking out a Squier Cabronita with a Bigsby and, after watching a video review of it on Premiere Guitar's website, I decided I had to have it. I've always wanted a Bigsby and this guitar has just the right vibe.

I had noticed that the guy selling the Cabronita had listed it many times at $275 and wasn't getting it sold. I figured the Telecaster could easily be sold for $350, but just didn't feel like going through the hassle of listing it myself. So, I contacted the guy with the Cabronita and offered to trade him straight up for my more valuable (and sellable) real Fender. He replied emphatically that he wasn't interested in trading. I pointed out that he could make more money with my guitar, but he wasn't having it. So, the next morning I listed my guitar on Craigslist and sold it within 4 hours. I noticed that the Cabronita guy had lowered his price to $260, so by simply posting a quick photo and description, I actually came out $90 ahead on the deal. Cabronita guy COULD have done the same. I got ready to contact him to buy it (laughing all the while), and when I started to look for his listing on Craigslist, I shockingly came across a vintage Yamaha FG-300 acoustic guitar...a guitar that I had been keeping an eye out for a decade.

I LOVE the old Yamaha FG series guitars...there are stories of a couple of them here on the site. But the FG-300 is arguably the holy grail of those guitars and I absolutely LOVE the western-style pickguard. Very reminiscent of an old Gibson Hummingbird, but better. I'm a sucker for cool pickguards like the Epiphone Frontier and and the Gibson Dove, and the Yamaha FG-300 is right up there with them all.

I flipped out because I really had absolutely no need for another acoustic. I have plenty. And I just sold the only electric guitar I currently owned. But this was a chance I couldn't pass up. The guy listed it for only $450 and said he was open to partial trades. I had an excellent condition Yamaha FG-160 from 1974 that was a beautiful sounding guitar, but I was willing to put it into a trade (partially because I own a second FG-160) and the guy accepted my offer. Sweet! But I still have no electric guitar. The FG-300 sounds fantastic, though if you know much about these guitars, the bridge is a bit adjustable bridge that should just not be made that way. Some people replace them with a standard bridge, but I think I'll keep mine stock. The guitar itself was worn and used and feels like an old friend. Getting a brand new guitar is exciting and cool, but finding one that has been broken in just right for 40 years can have its own advantages. And for whatever reason, these old Yamahas just always seem to have songs in them if you're a songwriter. This one is no different...owned it less than a week and already written one good song.

Now for the other half of this story: the Telecaster that I sold. When I met the prospective buyer at lunchtime by my office, we started talking guitars and music and it was obvious we were both on the same page. He is a musician that is moving to Ireland and needed a good, solid Telecaster to take with him. The more we talked, the more we had in common musically, and so I invited him to come sit in with my trio on our Sunday night gig. He brought the guitar I had just sold him and I provided him with a little Fender amp to play through for the night. It quickly became clear that he was very talented and fit right in with what we were doing. Not stepping on toes, but finding his own space and shining on solos when he got the chance. Exactly the style of guitar player I've been interested in forming a band with for years, but never had exactly found. And he's moving to Ireland in a few weeks. Just my luck. He's actually going to come sit in with us once more before he goes, and I wish him all the luck in the world. But if he ever comes back to the states, I hope he gives me a call and still has that Telecaster!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buffalo Brothers and James Hood Guitar Repair

If you've read a lot of the stories on this blog, you may have heard me mention Buffalo Brothers Guitars in Carlsbad, California. Conveniently for me, it was located just down the road from my house. But it was an internationally known and respected guitar store. That's right..."was." Unfortunately, Buffalo Brothers just didn't survive through the economic downturn, though a valiant effort was made to keep the store alive by James Hood, who had been running the repair shop at Buffalo Brothers for many years.

James is not only a top notch repair guy, but an awesome person on top of that. Like many of the loyal customers over the years, James loved Buffalo Brothers and the world class level of instruments they stocked and sold over a few decades. I bought my first high-end guitar there, talked into a gorgeous handmade Ehlers guitar by their fine instruments salesperson Kevin Kinnear. Not long after, Kevin introduced me to Mike Franks, who was new to the world of high end guitars at the time, but is now an established and respected luthier, selling amazing guitars all over the world. I've now owned a few M.J. Franks guitars and couldn't possibly speak more highly of them.

James took over Buffalo Brothers for the last year of so and continued developing the loyal clientele that the shop was known for, all the while continuing his repair business in the back. When Buffalo Brothers finally took its last breath, James regrouped to the back once more and continued doing what he does best...repairing and revitalizing electric and acoustic instruments for the region's discriminating guitar owners. I've been to see James many times over the years and, if you are in the Southern California area, I can't recommend him highly enough. Although James still owns the Buffalo Brothers name, he's not quite sure what to do with it at the moment. It's a name that reaches far and wide into the guitar community. I wouldn't think it will go away forever. And as they say, nothing dies completely until the last person who knows about it is gone.

You can talk to James about your guitar via his website, and be sure to sign up for his newsletter while you are there.

- -

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fender Excelsior Amplifier #2

A couple of years ago I got one of these Fender Pawn Shop series amps called the Excelsior and I loved it. In fact, I wrote a whole story about it, which you can read here. Ever since I sold the other one, I have wanted one again. And right after Christmas, I saw one on Craigslist and bought it. It was in perfect condition, never left the house, and it sounded just like I remembered. However, that's not the story here.

I'm posting about this because of the story when I sold it. A classic example of how you never know what you are getting into on Craigslist.

I am usually the first person to say that I have had really great experiences on Craigslist and I've had a small number of weird episodes that seemed like a scene from a movie. If you want to read a good one, click here about the Music Man 112RD I once bought. But on to the new story at hand...

I bought this amp out of weakness. It was a good price at $225, as I've seen these climbing back up to their original retail price of $300 and more lately. But you can still find them for a deal. I bought this one, played it a few times to enjoy that amazing tremolo sound that I love, and then it was just sitting there.

My sister called from Boulder, CO and said that she had just bought VIP tickets to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks Amphitheater and, if I wanted to go, get a plane ticket and get to Boulder. 

I live in San Diego, so round trip tickets on Southwest can be pretty reasonable. As luck would have it, they were right around $225, the same amount I had recently spent on my Excelsior amp. So I bought the plane tickets and promptly put the amp back up for sale on Craigslist, fully confident that I could even make a few bucks profit.

I listed the amp at $260 and didn't get any bites. Turns out, in a stroke of bad luck, there were 2 other Excelsiors on Craigslist at the same time. WTF? So, I dropped my price down to $225 and got an email from a guy named Ace. He "really, really, really wanted the amp" and wanted to meet a couple of days later on a Saturday morning. He was knowledgeable about the amp and you could tell he wasn't a scammer. We set it all up and then, the night before we were to meet, he emailed and claimed he had an emergency and was going to be gone for a few days and would still be happy to buy it when he got back, if it was still available. With no other inquiries, I decided to hang on to it for Ace until he got back. Then nothing. After a few additional emails, it became obvious Ace needed to be discarded (get it?) and I relisted the amp. A two week waste of time.

Got an email from a new guy. Wanted to know how soon we could meet up and he could buy the amp. I write back and give him options and details. No response. Two days later he writes again, I write back to set something up, no response. Get a new email from a guy who gives me his phone number and wants to talk about the amp. I call and he asks some questions, is satisfied that the amp is good, and then says, "So I'm really calling on behalf of my friend John who wants the amp, but he keeps emailing you and you don't answer him back." Actually, I tell him, I have answered John back twice and John doesn't get back to me. "OH!," he says, "John doesn't have email! You have to call or text him." Interesting, since John emailed me about the listing and never game me his number.

Through all of this nonsense, the guy sounds very sincere and John really wants the amp. So, at his insistence, I try to text John. No answer. Wait a day and try again. No response. After another two days, I try one last time: "Hey John, I have emailed you twice, I have texted you twice, and you never respond. Your buddy swears you want this amp, but I'm tired of trying. Last chance...if you want the amp call me." Phone rings immediately. John wants the amp. Can you bring it by my house to try out? Yes, I am headed that way later this evening and I can bring it by. This is a long story, huh?

John tells me his house is very near mine, but it turns out his skills in estimating distance are not good. His house is many miles further than his estimate. I would soon figure why. I get to his neighborhood and it's SKETCHY. One of the worst neighborhoods in the area. I finally find his address and go knock on the door. John opens the door and about 4000 cubic feet of weed smoke comes billowing out of the door. "C'mon in!" As a sufferer of severe asthma, this is the opposite of fun. I walk in and we head to his bedroom where he has maybe seven other guitar amps set up, about 12 guitars hanging on the wall, a huge display of stomp boxes hooked together on the floor and a girl sitting on his bed...or should I say mattress on the floor with a dirty sheet on it...with her boobs literally pouring out of her corset-like shirt. Probably no less than eight bongs sitting around the room in all shapes and sizes. Jars and jars of weed lined up next to the bed...I mean mattress. She looks up at me and says, "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey." Then never spoke again.

John plugs the amp in and gives it a test. He plays extremely well, I might add. I was surprised. He played it with his Ibanez. He played it with his Strat. He plugged this pedal in, then that pedal in. I thought he was going to try out every item he owned through my amp. Finally I couldn't handle the smoke any more. " you want the amp?" "Heck yeah! Here you go!" He hands me $225 in small, unmarked bills. I stuff them into my pocket without even counting them, nod good-bye to stoner renaissance chick, and stumble out the door. I get in my car and head down the road, quickly realizing that I wreak so much, I'm going to have to do laundry when I get home. I hop on the freeway and roll down all the windows to blast some air through the vehicle. I was wondering if any right-minded police officer would buy my true story about why I smelled like a Phish concert in the event I got pulled over.

It took all that to sell an amp that I would have preferred to keep, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks. There aren't many things that take priority over my guitars, but this was one of them and I couldn't miss it.