Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Comment Round-Up

Because of the nature of this blog, lots of people find it for the first time because they are Google searching for a particular guitar or amp. Lots of comments get left on past stories that probably don't get seen by regular readers. So, I thought maybe I'd start a new thing from time to time and round up the latest comments about archived stories. Here goes:

Regarding the story about the Gibson MK-35: "I bought my MK-35 in 1977, still have it, play it daily and it sounds better with each passing year. Had some issues with it way back when, bridge lifted and I sent it back to Gibson for repair. When it came back they had refinished it in Sunburst, it was originally natural. took a little getting used to but I came to like it after a while. It is a different looking beast for sure but mine plays well and sounds good. Came new with three different bridge saddles so that you could do your set up, just loosen the strings as slide one out and another in. I did put the pickguard on after much deliberation, sometimes wish that I hadn't but probably would have worn the finish off if it hadn't been installed. It's a good old guitar now, wouldn't trade it for the world!" -- Anonymous

Regarding the story about the Fender Flame...I received an email from the current owner of the guitar who wanted to contact the person who contributed the story to see if he wanted it back. Here is what resulted: "I just heard back from the current owner of this guitar. I don't think I can afford to buy it back. So it goes." -- Alex

Regarding the Cort Jim Triggs model: "I just bought this exact guitar. It's beautiful and has amazing tone. Thanks for the story." -- Ed

Regarding the the Music Man RD 112 One Hundred amp: "About 15 years ago, I was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and there was a 210HD at a local music store for $200. I loved it and was THIS close to buying it, but as I was playing primarily hard rock, I finally decided against it (not without agony). Now, older and wiser, how I wish I could go back. And here's one that somehow didn't get away. As a 16-year-old metalhead in the mid-80s lusting after a modified Marshall stack, I wasn't too impressed with the tiny tweed Fender practice amp given to me by my aunt, after my uncle passed away. He had MS, and I never knew he played guitar until she gave me the amp. For some reason, I held onto the amp, because of sentimental value I guess. And now that I'm a 39-year-old playing everything from rock to blues to jazz and even metal, I've grown to understand just how awesome that 1955 Fender Champ sounds!" -- Chaotic Smelt

Regarding the Alvarez Yairi DY58 9-string acoustic: "I read and loved your piece on the DY58 9 string Yairi. I found mine in a similar manner at a pawn shop around 1985. The guy at the couonter didn't know what he had (for that much neither did I at the time). I played it once and then immediately knew I had to have it (I spent my Rent Check). I'll never forget the guy at the pawn shop saying "I recon it was a 6 string before,but it looks like somebody added some tuning pegs to it....I'll let it go for for $300.00...I'll through in the hard shell case just to get it out of here". SWEEEEEEET...I still have it but I don't anything technical about it. Like what wood did they use on the fret board, sides, back and top? What inspired them to make it and is it true that John Paul Jones of Led Zep may have used one?" -- Michael Perea

Regarding the Guyatone Bass: "I ever seen Guyatone Bass '70s at a second hand music instrumental shop. The body is like Yamaha Guitar '70s. The weird thing is that it has switch up-down to switch the pick up, just like guitar. So I wonder if it is really a bass, I thought it's a guitar that had been modified into bass. The sound is very very mellow when the switch turned to UP. It's brighter and harder when turned to DOWN." -- Erlangga

Regaring the Princeton Reverb amp: "Hi, I'm from Switzerland. I'm a percussionist. My son Simon loves playing guitar and he's very good at it. Now, for business reasons I met a customer in his office, and there, in the corner, I saw this cute amp with blue writing "Princeton Reverb." Later I found out it's a Fender 1977. I asked the owner if he's still playing. He said "No, and I have also an Electric Guitar." It was a Fender Mustang 1978. I told him that I would like to buy it for my son and asked him how much it would cost. "$400" he said "both!" Well, guess what I did...They look brand new and sound awesome! " -- Anonymous

And also this: "Good call on the pawn shops. I remember going to them and always seeing junk that was overpriced to boot. I specifically remember a highlighter-colored Charvette hanging in one." -- Alex

Regarding the story of the Epiphone Crestwood I used to own with the name 'Johnny Ruddy' scratched into the back of the headstock: "I bought the 'johnny ruddy' crestwood recently on eBay for $450 and shipping...I love it!" -- Anonymous

Thursday, December 25, 2008

1994 Rickebacker Jetglo 360

Submitted by Ellen Rugowski

Let me introduce myself. My name's Ellen. I'm a Gen Xer. I've been playing guitar for just shy of 30 years—part of that time as a lead guitarist in semi-pro rock bands. I come from a guitaring family. My grampa was an acoustic guitar luthier [(he made me my first guitar, when I was little) who also played jazz guitar in Big Bands; my uncle (my Dad's youngest brother) still plays off and on in pickup bands.

During the 1990s, I was a Gibson Girl big time. But, I decided that I'd like to have a Ric as a second guitar. In the early '90s, I never seemed to find one I liked or could afford. But, in February 1995, the opportunity occurred for me to buy a Ric at a Milwaukee area music store (Cascio Music) that I could just afford. The guitar in question was a 1994 Jetglo 360. It was originally ordered by a guy in 1994 who refused it (according to what I was told at the music store) due to a minor finish blemish. The guitar sat in the music store collecting dust until I bought it, making me the original owner of the guitar. I grew to like my Ric 360 to the point where my main guitar (a 1980 tobacco sunburst Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion) was basically collecting dust (a tall order, considering I play a lot of heavy rock - but the Ric was better than it at clean stuff, and could still sound surprisingly good, playing the heavy stuff). I ended up selling the Howard Roberts Fusion, and my Ric 360 became my main guitar. I called my 360 "Baby" (because I often used to say to myself, "come to mama baby, it's time to play").

In August of 1999 I was between bands. I hit a money crunch.

I'd sold off my good amps (Mesa Boogies), and was feeling that I needed a change in sound. I could not justify economically at the time having 2 guitars, so I traded my Ric 360 for a Fender Toronado at Mars Music (remember that chain of music stores?—its been out of business for years). Within two months of doing this trade, I realized just how much of a fool I'd been for getting rid of my Ric 360 and wound up regretting my decision. But, I'd pretty much written off ever seeing Baby again, and I was so broke that a Rick was financially out of reach for me anyway.

I am a regular on the Harmony Central Electric Guitar Forum. When many of the members get a new guitar, they will often post an NGD (New Guitar Day) thread. On Nov. 1, I read an NGD post from a member, who'd gotten a Ric 650 Atlantis (I remember posting on the thread, congratulating the guy, and telling him that I used to have a Ric 360 that I missed and wished I had back). After reading this NGD Ric 650 thread, I decided out of curiosity to take a look online to see what was available in Rics. Those I saw on eBay were a bit pricey for me (I'm still paying off bills from the same hard times when I sold off Baby). Just for a laugh, I decided to look on the Music Go Round website for Rics. I just about had a heart attack! A Music Go Round store about 35 miles away from me had listed (with a photo), a 1994 Jetglo 360 for sale! Not many Rick 360s were sold in Wisconsin (where I live) back in 1994 or 1995. All I could think was "ohmigod! is that Baby?" The next day I drove to the Music Go Round to check out the 360.

I took a look at the guitar. Sure enough, it was Baby. I found the minor head stock rash I'd put on Baby back in 1998, when I didn't watch where I was going, and bumped the headstock into a wall. To say I was floored is putting it mildly. I asked if I could play Baby (I even brought a guitar strap with me). As soon as I strapped Baby on and started playing it was like meeting an old friend again. I started ripping off licks as though I'd never quit playing Baby 9 years ago. Baby seemed a bit thinner sounding than I'd remembered it sounding in the past. I wondered if it was the JCM2000 I was using at the Music Go Round, especially since a guy near me was getting a nice thick sound out of a Strat with single coils from a Peavey Valve King. I plugged into the Valve King and started playing again. Yep, it was the amp. Baby sounded nice, rich, and full, both clean, and at full on grind through the Valve King.

Then and there I decided that I had to get Baby back. But it's price of $1300 was more than I really could afford (I even grumped to the salesman that the price was $400 more than I originally paid for the Ric 360 when it was new). But I wanted Baby back. So I adopted a "whatever it takes" attitude. So I wouldn't lose Baby again, I ended up having to trade in the three mid- and low-priced guitars I had, just to put Baby on layaway (it's a good thing I did so— while the sale was being written up, a guy called asking about Baby). Two weeks later, with a bonus from work, some of my paycheck, and the sale of a ham radio on eBay (I've had a ham radio license for almost 31 years) I scraped together the rest of the money to finish paying for my Ric 360 and I took it home for good.

The more I play Baby the more I'm reminded as to why I basically moved heaven and earth financially to get it back almost 2 months ago after so foolishly letting it go nine years ago. Two nights ago I was given a profound reminder of my Ric 360's value to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I like to play heavy rock (metal, thrash metal, hard, rock Stoner Rock , Doom, etc.). I also like using my Ric 360 for the heavy stuff. Many players don't realize that the Rickenbacker Hi-Gain single coils and the Rickenbacker humbuckers have just as much output (in some cases more) as your typical humbucker. While playing two nights ago, my Jetglo 360 proceeded to floor me by sounding both brutal and beautiful in equal measures. The clarity and the crunch, with that wonderful Ric high end shimmer (but NO shrillness) made me want to keep playing and playing. I didn't even consider plugging in my other guitar (a Danelectro Hodad). I can't wait to play out live with Baby! My Ric 360 is NOT for sale! I will NEVER make that mistake again!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for a great first year! I have enjoyed all the stories that have been sent in and love all the feedback to my own stories. I hope you all get all the cool guitar gear you want for Christmas! My new Jodi Head custom guitar strap just arrived in the mail and I'm pretty pleased. Be safe!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Les Paul Special and Fender Strat

Submitted by Wade Tam

I’ve got a story about my first two real electric guitars whose stories are intertwined, so here goes it. A few years ago, I was living and teaching in New York City and, during one of my free summers, I was hit by the music bug to join a band and start playing guitar. I had always toiled a bit with an old acoustic that my godmother had given to me as a gift, but, being a piano player, I never truly mastered the instrument. Well, this time around I walked into the famed Manny’s Music on 48th Street and was simply amazed by the stunning array of guitars adorning their walls.

There were hundreds of shiny, beautiful Fenders, Gibsons, Ibanezes, Rickenbackers, and everything else that just shouted, “BUY ME, NOW!” to an unassuming young teacher like me. I had come in a few days before and had purchased a Squier Affinity Strat, but, dissatisfied with my choice, I came back to find a better guitar. With a friend in tow (who I had dragged out with me . . . and he was on vacation), I finally decided on a MIM Fender Satin Stratocaster. It was an absolutely stunning guitar—gunmetal blue satin finish, rosewood fretboard, black pickguard, and the reassuring “Fender” logo on the headstock. The guitar looked mean, but played like a dream . . . even my impatient friend commented, “That guitar is just bad-ass.” Well, I took that guitar home proudly and played it every night through a Fender 85 and BOSS DS-1 pedal (with a few complaints from my neighbors . . . they would return the favor with God-awful gangsta rap).

A year after I purchased my Fender, I was venturing downtown when I stumbled into 30th Street Guitars, a little hole in the wall that is stocked with an awesome collection of vintage guitars and gear (if you’re ever in New York, check this place out . . . the owner is pretty damn cool and has the best prices around) [ed.note: WILL DO!]. I didn’t mean to buy anything that day until a 1996 Gibson Les Paul Special in cherry red stared straight at me and begged me to be played.

Well, I took it off the wall, plugged in, and lo and behold, we had a winner.

The guitar played amazingly, had a fantastic punch for rock and a glassy tone for jazz from its P-100s (wannabe P-90s that are configured like humbuckers), and looked like Bob Marley’s Les Paul Special. I was hooked and the price was right . . . $600. I put a down payment on the guitar and did some research at home; many people disliked the P-100s, but I found an endearing, warm, and diverse quality about them . . . you could play almost anything with that guitar.

A few days later, I made the decision to buy the guitar, but unfortunately at the sacrifice of my beloved Fender Satin Strat. I walked into the store with my Strat in one hand and my tax refund in the other and bought the Les Paul. I would play that Les Paul until I moved back to the Bay Area and JetBlue (damn those guys) refused to allow me to take my Les Paul as a carry-on and checked it into baggage claim. You can guess what happened . . . they snapped the headstock clean off the guitar. I eventually had it repaired, but the guitar never played or sounded the same, and I sold it some country picker in Berkeley for $350.

Man, those were two fantastic guitars I wish I had back . . . . I guess we live and learn as now I have a nice 2008 Tele, a Gibson Advanced Jumbo, and a Seagull S6 that I won’t give up.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Story Update

Back in February, I told a story of a Taka J-200 copy acoustic that included some fairly disparaging remarks about the store I bought it in. Not too terribly long after I wrote and posted the story I got an email from the owner of King's Pawn, the store in question. She had come across my story and was horrified that my experience in her store was less than fantastic. She apologized and, to make it up to me, let me know that, if I was still interested in the Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve amp they had (you'll have to read the story), she would give me a ridiculous deal on it. Today, months later, I walked into King's Pawn in Escondido, CA and, even though it was super pre-Christmas busy, got a nice "hello" and another employee offered her help if needed. I asked for the owner and introduced myself as the jerk who complained about her store online. The Rivera amp I was in love with was still there and, true to her word, the owner hooked me up with the most smokin' deal in history. I just got finished plugging it in and jamming on it and it's an amazing amp.

So, thanks to Heidi and everyone at King's Pawn...I truly do appreciate that she took the time to correct a situation in this world where customer service is dwindling and stores put customers last instead of first. You can bet I'll be poking around King's Pawn (the friendliest store in town) again regularly.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gibson Firebird III 1965

Story submitted by Dan Brinkmeier

In 1973 I was barely out of high school and I bought a ’65 Gibson Firebird III from an older hippie-type college student who lived in an old farmhouse outside of my hometown of Mount Carroll, Illinois. I had been playing bass a bit and had just started getting into guitar. One time when I was there he offered to sell me one of two guitars he had leaning up against the wall, the Firebird and an old Telecaster; he wanted $125 for each, which was a lot of money for me at the time. I chose the Firebird because it was so odd looking, and it had three pickups, not just one pickup like the Telecaster.

He warned me that it didn’t stand up very well against the wall but fell over a lot.

I learned how to play guitar on that Firebird. It was completely stock when I got it, with a dark-reddish Mahogany finish, and it had a whammy bar. The sliding pickup switch on it eventually stopped working and I put in a toggle switch, and also replaced the original white plastic tuning pegs with nice Schallers because the original pegs wouldn’t work anymore...the guitar had fallen over so much while leaning against the wall. I bought a 50-watt Fender bass amp head with a huge bottom and I played the Firebird through that for many years.

I lived on a small farm and would just leave the amp and the guitar (in it’s beat up old case) sitting on a hay rack out in the machine shed, and walk out and plug in, turn the amp up all the way and just play. The thing really echoed through the shed and out into the countryside. Later, when I would come home from college in the summer, I rented a nearby abandoned farmhouse from a neighbor to use as a painting studio and kept the amp and Firebird there all the time so that I could play when I wanted with friends. I can’t believe I just left the guitar there sitting in its case on the floor. The house wasn’t locked, so anybody could have come along and just taken it when I wasn’t there.

Later on, when I went to grad school at Iowa State University in Ames in 1983, I found that I just didn’t play the Firebird anymore, So, one day I just got up and took it to a tiny guitar shop on Main Street in Ames and sold it to the guy there for $250, which I thought was a lot of money. I went down to a small town south of Ames and used the $250 to buy myself a used acoustic guitar from a guy in a wheelchair—a Guild D35NT. I still have that Guild, and when I play it I often think of that Firebird and wonder where it is and whether it is still out in Central Iowa someplace. I recently bought myself an Epiphone Firebird copy. I really like it and play it all the time.

Danelectro Nifty-50 Guitar Amp

A few years ago I went to Charleston, SC with my wife to visit family. We were there for a week and I was getting antsy. I wanted to go look around at some pawn shops and thrift stores in a new never know what you are going to find. My wife and mother-in-law were doing their best to accomodate me but were getting a little over it. As we drove past downtown I spied one last pawn shop and asked them to pull over. Sitting on the shelf was this slightly dirty Danelectro Nifty-50 guitar amp. I was in a big hurry, so I just asked the guy how much and if it worked correctly. He said he'd take $35 for it and it worked perfectly. Deal. I didn't even test it.

As Scooby Doo would say, "Rut ro."

So, later in the day I get it home and clean it all up. It looks pretty nice but I do notice that one of the knobs didn't turn all that easily. We were flying home to SoCal that night, so I wrapped it up in a layer of bubble wrap and a few of my dirty t-shirts and underwear and put it in my big suitcase. It's not a large amp and this worked perfectly. It's solid state, so no worries about tubes. The next day I pulled it out and plugged 'er in for the first time. Hmmm. The volume control doesn't work correctly. Well, not at all actually. It's just on. At least it was on. The only way to control the volume was to adjust the tone controls. And the headphone jack didn't work.

Yeah, works perfectly.

Needless to say this amp didn't get a lot of use and I had a friend who was wanting to learn to play guitar. So, I gave him the amp to mess around with. I guess it's a good thing it was so cheap, but I have learned my lesson about testing stuff in pawn shops. I get the feeling that they aren't very thorough when taking items into the shop, so it's got to be on me to make sure it works. I wouldn't mind having another one of these one fact there is one on Craig's List today and that's what spurred my brain to remember this one. Of course, the headphone jack on it doesn't work. Figures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Story submitted by Bill Bielby

It was my first electric guitar, an 8th grade graduation gift in 1961. In early April, my Dad and I went to Zordan's Music on South Michigan Ave in the Roseland area of Chicago, and Al Zordan was showing us new guitars in the $100 range. Even in those days, before Japanese imports, $100 didn't buy much of an electric guitar.

So, Al says, "Wait a minute."

He goes in the back room and brings out this beat up hard shell Les Paul case. He opens it up and framed in the pink lining is a '53 Gold Top with P-90s, except it isn't gold but midnight blue, almost black...what is sometimes called "oxblood." The pearl inlays had aged considerably and it was obvious it was a guitar with miles on it. But, apart from cosmetic wear, it played perfectly. So, we agree to buy it on layaway and every week for 10 weeks we headed for Roseland and gave Al another $10. Al also explained that the previous owner was a South Side blues artist known as Guitar Red.

Guitar Red (Paul Johnson) was a bit of a legend to aspiring guitarists on the South Side in those days. He recorded for Excello, Checker and Chess, and was known for his flamboyant playing style -- over his head, behind his back, even played the thing with his feet. Anyway, in June of 2002 I had tracked down Al Zordan to interview him for my book project on the early rock scene in the South Suburbs of Chicago. I hadn't seen him 35 years. We of course talked about my first guitar, and he mentioned that he had seen Red perform in a suburban club recently, and eventually I was able to track down Red and interview him in his home on the South Side. Red entertained me for hours with stories (including the one about playing that Les Paul with his feet) and with songs ranging from "Moonlight in Vermont" to "Little Wing."

In '63, my band, The Newports, needed a bass player. So, I traded that Les Paul in at Zordan's for a Hagstrom bass.

I'm guessing that guitar would be worth about $20K now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fender Lead II

I was racking my brain trying to think of other guitars that I used to have and, DOH!, how about the very first electric guitar I ever owned? In the early '80s I lived in the small town of Enid, OK for a couple of years. I have documented this previously a number of time (most lovingly here), so I'll spare you the details of most of it. However, the important thing is that my good friend Russ tells me one day that he's got an electric guitar and amp that he'd like to sell and, hey, would I be interested? I had only owned an acoustic up to that point and thought that sounded like a darn fine idea. I will tell the story of the amp next time, but just to whet your whistle, it was a Hiwatt head with a very cool Musicman cabinet. I had NO idea what I had.

Anyway, the guitar turned out to be a Fender Lead II. This was the late '70s, early '80s student model put out by Fender at that time and was very much in the image of a Strat. The one I had was all black with a black pickguard, had two single coils, a fixed bridge, and was maybe ever so slightly smaller than a regular Strat. The guitar actually played really well from what I remember and was a sweet guitar. I looked them up on eBay today to see what was for sale and there is one pretty much just like it for $350. I checked the items already sold and they seem to sell for $250-350 for the most part. People have them advertised for more, but that doesn't mean a whole hill of beans.

As my Great Uncle Willie used to say, "It ain't what it's worth, it's what it brings."

By the way, that old redneck saying is included in my book...yes I'm sort of an author..."Redneck Words Of Wisdom," a collection of real redneck sayings that real rednecks really say. How do I know? My wife is from South Carolina. 'Nuff said. Anyway, click here to check it out and maybe even get a copy for someone for Christmas. Or just to read on the toilet.

Back to the guitar. This is the official description: Lead II, 1979-1982: Two specially designed X-1 single coil pickups, one at the neck, and the other at the bridge. The X-1 pickup was also used in the bridge position on the "Strat" and the "Dan Smith Stratocaster" models. 3 position pickup selector switch (neck, neck and bridge, bridge), 2 position phase shift switch (in phase, out of phase) which operates only when both pickups are selected (middle position). Master Volume and Tone Control.

So what the heck happened to the Lead II? If you are old, like me, you might just remember when Fostex came out with the very first 4-track cassette recorder. I remember seeing an ad in a guitar magazine for one and I couldn't believe it. How was I going to get one? HAD TO HAVE IT. I drove on over to Stillwater, OK (home of the Oklahoma State Cowboys) to a music store that had one. These Fostex recorders were expensive. The X-15 if I remember correctly. I told the guy I had to get one and asked if they took trade-ins. He said they did and I carted in the Hiwatt head, the Musicman cabinet and the Fender Lead II in it's original black tolex case and asked if they would trade straight up. The guy knew a sucker when he saw one and told me I'd have to pay the tax. I did and walked out with a little box that fit in the front seat rather than a carload of gear that I'd arrived with.

Now he may have gotten the better of the deal in retrospect, but that little 4-track recorder put me on a path of songwriting and home recording that I continue on today. In the meantime I've bought and sold dozens of guitars and amps. So, I'd have to say it was well worth the trade in terms of what was right for me. HOWEVER, now that I look at these photos of the Lead II, I really want one. Quite a bit. Very cool guitar. I just got my Christmas bonus at work and depending on how I ration it out, I might just have to consider a Lead II.
Hey, one more thing...I got the photos of the Fender Lead II at this fan site. There is a TON of information about the Lead series guitars there and you should check it out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nice Write-up in Premier Guitar Magazine

Just thought I would share that the fine folks at Premier Guitar magazine wrote a nice review of this blog. I'm especially grateful because they have a great magazine, so to be recognized by them is a nice honor. THANKS GUYS!

Be sure to check out their website as's pretty darn chock full of content. I found out from their news section the Reverend Guitars is making a Pete Anderson model that looks really cool, so it was well worth the perusal.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fender Musicmaster 1973

Story submitted by Darren Ewing

The short version of how I came to acquire the Fender Musicmaster in 1978 goes like this; I had a pool table, he had a guitar. A trade, straight-across, and a backbreaking trip up the stairs to deliver the pool table, left me the proud owner of my first electric guitar. I had taken lessons for a few months with a cheap classical guitar, but I was young and full of angst, and the Raffi twanger just wasn't fulfilling my dreams of metal health. So when the opportunity arose, I went for it.

I needed the room for my drums anyway, so getting rid of the pool table was a relief. The trouble is, the drums called to me louder and stronger than did the guitar. So, for the next 30 years, the Fender sat, largely unused in the original case.

Occasionally I would take it out and strum the strings, but it became clear to me as the years rolled on that I wanted to be Neil Peart more than I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen.

A guitarist friend of mine nicknamed the guitar: The Banana. It's odd, off-yellow coloring puzzled me. I found out later that the original color of the instrument was actually white. Being that the Fender Musicmaster line came along in the late '50s in order to create an affordable line of student sized electrics, apparently the choice of paint was one of the cost cutting measures employed to ensure affordability. I'm not aware of any white Musicmaster's that haven't turned yellow, though I'm sure they exist.

I tried several times to ascertain the year of origin of the guitar, though I'll admit, at first, I only made a half-assed attempt. Unable to determine what year it was manufactured, I chose to hang on to the guitar, thinking maybe I had stumbled across the deal of the century. Last year I decided the guitar needed to get used, so I took it to a professional for a setup and a nut replacement. He determined, from looking at the serial numbers on the original pots, that it was made in 1973. Hmmm. Not exactly pre-CBS, but not exactly uncool either. With a new nut, strings and intonation in place I took the guitar home...where it sat yet again. I didn't really need the room and I didn't really need the money, so I just left it in the closet where it had always been.

I suppose it was my tendency toward sentimentality that made me feel sorry for the old girl. She was something of a classic, and she was not being appreciated. I took her out one last time, plugged her into my practice amp (I'm still something of a guitar hobbyist) and realized that this relationship just wasn't going to happen.

I placed the guitar on eBay, and I'm confident that she has gone to a place where she will get the love and attention that she never got from me. It's been only a few weeks since she left the familiar confines of my bedroom closet, so I still don't know if I'm going through separation anxiety or not. I only hope that wherever The Banana resides, she remains a-peeling.

Sorry. No really...I...I just couldn't resist.

Monday, November 17, 2008

1973 Fender Twin Reverb

Story submitted by Alex

Ever had a "too good to be true" moment? The story of this amp is one of those. At some point I got the "vintage Fender amps are so cool" bug, and knew I wasn't going to afford anything but a silverface Fender, if that. I once played a silverface Twin and a Fernandes Tele at Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto, CA, and my recollection was that I couldn't hit a bad note. Fast forward ten or so years.

I found the pictured Twin in a small music store among a lot of new, cheapo stuff. It sure wasn't new, but it was kind of cheap at $450. I could tell that the tolex and grill cloth had been replaced, but I figured that was about it. Oh, maybe the speakers too.

It came with a nifty story about being the house amp at a bar in the Caribbean, where the sea air ruined the original tolex and so forth, necessitating a costume change into the Nudie suit of blonde all around. Still, it was a good deal.

It sounded pretty much what you'd want a Twin to sound like. It had the master volume, but not the pull boost on the knob. Being that I used it as a practice amp, it soon became clear that this massively heavy, loud amp was not the ideal choice for that. I decided to sell it and took it to a local vintage shop, where the guy started to poke around in it. I guess the transformers and the worn tubes were original, and I don't think the scratched and dented faceplate could be anything but original. Just about everything else wasn't, down to the masonite replacement back panels under the tolex. I thought they seemed awfully flexible when I bumped them.

The cabinet itself elicited the comment "well, somebody got an A in wood shop."

I guess the tube chart was missing for a reason. My ears burned, but I stuck around waiting to see if they'd buy it. No dice. Turned out it had a bad master volume pot to boot, which prevented the other store I took it to from buying it. A couple hundred bucks in repairs later, it was the perfect player's amp--running and sounding fine, but far from original and fairly homely, unless your tastes run to not-really-professionally-applied faux-early-60's blonde tolex on a very '70s-era amp. It also ended up with mismatched speakers after one of the magnets fell of—I still don't understand how that happened—one of its unmarked aftermarket speakers, and I replaced it with a newer Fender blue-label one. In the end, I sold it to a nice guy who didn't care about anything but the sound. That's really the way it should be, even though I know I can't ignore aesthetics myself.

I don't really miss that amp, but I'd like to have another silverface Fender one day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Send In Your Story!

Hey, things have been a little slow here and that's because I've just about run out of my own stories. I know every single one of you who reads this blog...and there are actually a lot of you believe it or not...has a story to tell. Send it in!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gibson GA-19RVT Falcon Amplifier

Today at work I received an email from one of the guys I play music with in The Small Pox Mountain Boys. Oliver is also the singer/guitarist in a great band that deserves some recognition called Deliverance Machine. Okay, now that I've gotten the "props" out of the way, the reason he emailed me was to let me know there was a cool vintage Gibson amp on Craig's List. I clicked on the link and, lo and behold, it was exactly like an old amp I'd found at the swap meet and completely forgotten about. Well, you know that means there's a new story to tell on the ol' blog.

The Gibson Falcon I used to own pretty much sucked.

There, I said it. Start with the truth. I found it at the local swap meet, back on the back row. Some guy had quite a few guitar related items including this amp. They don't just have power cords running all over the place, so I asked the guy how much it was and if it worked properly. He said $50 and yes, it worked perfectly. I decided to take him at his word and not try to lug the thing around to some outlet and to see if it came on. He didn't really have a guitar to plug into it for testing, so the best I could have done was plug in and see if the light came on. I got it home and it did all that just fine.

What it didn't do was sound good. I think if I were an amp tech I could have tweaked on it, changed out some amp parts stuff (whatever that is in there) and probably ended up with a pretty sweet little amp. I've often heard that many older Gibson amps are underrated and pretty nice. These Falcons were made from '62 to '67 and pumped out 15 watts. They had one 12" speaker and reverb and tremolo according to this website. The one I had came with the original footswitch, just like the one pictured (I stole the photos from the listing on Craig's List). I checked out the reviews on Harmony Central and there were some "sounds awesome" type reviews, so mine probably just needed some TLC.

I eventually traded it in on a Strat at Guitars West and everybody was happy. Even the douche at the swap meet who sold me an iffy amp under false description.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Update on Epiphone Crestwood

Hey, a kind of cool thing happened today...someone left a comment on a story that was posted earlier this year about an Epiphone Crestwood I once had: click here to link to original story. Evidently a reader of ours recently bought this very guitar on eBay for $450. Very cool to hear about one of my old guitars...if for any reason you have come across one of the guitars on this site be sure to drop me a line!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

1961 Harmony Rocket

Story submitted by Alex

Besides the fact that I can't afford a Gibson or a "real" vintage guitar, I actually always liked the old Harmonys. I remember seeing a kid in high school's Harmony Meteor, and maybe I had that image stuck in my head when I bought this one. I was in Yellow Springs, Ohio one day and saw a little shop that had a bunch of older-lady-looking crafts in the front room, but...some guitars were peeking out from the back. I got this one for the tag price plus tax, which made it $106. The neck pickup didn't work, it was missing half of the original white pickguard, and a couple knobs were mismatched.

Otherwise, it was pretty cool. Great sunburst finish, quite playable action, and a good sound out of the remaining DeArmond-Rowe pickup. I had no idea they would be more collectable down the road, so I installed Ping tuners on it, since I really wanted it to stay in tune more than anything. I also found a sort-of-replacement tortoiseshell pickguard to replace the broken white one, which helped the looks a lot. I strung it up with heavier strings to get a little more acoustic volume, but it was definitely a garage-a-billy guitar more than a jazzer, which was fine with me. After being pretty happy with it for a while, I decided to try to fix the silent neck pickup.

That became one of those "can't leave well enough alone" events.

The inside didn't look like other guitars with the wires inside these coiled metal shields. To make a long story short, I never got the pickup working, but did manage to unground it in a howling, buzzing kind of way. Since I couldn't figure out how to undo that, I took it to a vintage-oriented store, and got $150 back on my $106 investment. I've tried owning some other cheaper hollowbody guitars before and since, but none that I actually missed playing. Maybe one day I'll buy another one when I really need to dispose of some disposable income.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Magnatone High Fidelity Custom 480

This one will make you feel like throwing up in your mouth just a little. There is an Amvets thrift store somewhat near my house that used to always have pretty good stuff (not so much any more). Weird swirly bowling balls and cool vintage bags, interesting furniture, cool western shirts before everyone including surf companies started making western shirts, and I even found a couple of lap steels here. One day I walked in and sitting in the middle of some dog cages and fake plants and old people's walkers was a Magnatone Custom 480. I walked over to it very quickly so as not to draw attention to myself, but not let anyone else get there though that was going to happen.

To be honest, from a distance I wasn't 100% sure it was an amp at all. I thought maybe it was one of those old style console stereos or something. But as I got closer I knew it was an amp. I didn't know much about Magnatones, but in the back of my mind I sort of remembered something about Robert Cray playing one. I plugged it in and got nothing. I noticed that the fuse was missing. This would be obvious to anyone with some amp knowledge because it was right there on the control panel. I went over and sweet talked my way down to $25 for the amp and it was a done deal. I picked it up...I should say I tried to pick it up...and, man, it was heavy. Finally lugged it out to the car and headed to Moonlight Music, which was a local guitar store. He actually had the correct fuse with the screw on cap built in, which was a very lucky score.

We turned it on and, SWEET. It worked!

It had inputs for guitar and accordion and maybe something else. For you geeks I found this info and the photos at (a very cool amp site): The Custom 480 originally sold for $499.95. It has 13 tubes, 1 transistor. The 2 input channels (each with high & low gain) are preamp'd by 6EU7's. Each has a Loudness, Bass, and Treble control. There is also a stereo input. Stereo vibrato is handled by 6CG7's and a 12BH7 to amplify the oscillator. A 6DR7 drives the input to the reverb pan, and a 2N306 transistor takes care of the return. Phase inversion is acomplished with twin 12AU7's. Four 6973's drive the stereo transformers along with two 12" Oxfords. It had approximately 50 watts.

Anyway, I kept the Magnatone for awhile but didn't feel comfortable gigging with it. Plus, it was just too heavy to drag around. I eventually traded it in at a guitar store and now can't remember what I traded it for. I do remember getting $250 in value for it. Not bad for a $25 thrift store find. I'm sure Robert Cray would have wanted this one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fender Princeton Reverb Silverface

I'm pretty sure everyone should own a Princeton Reverb. I've owned at least two and maybe three...I've lost count. There is a good and a bad side to these amps though...they're really not loud enough to gig with, but they sound absolutely fantastic. I'd love to have one again just for recording purposes and I'll probably keep hoping that one day I'll come across one at the Swap Meet or at a Pawn Shop somewhere and the owner won't know how much it's worth. "What? That old '70s amp in the corner? Heck, I'd take $30 for it I guess." We can all dream can't we?

And what's the deal with pawn shops these days?

Do they all think that they can charge more for a guitar than it's worth? What happened? Pawn shops used to be places that you could find a good deal on a guitar for the simple reason that when you go pawn a guitar in the first place they give you about four nickels and a couple of dimes for it and act like they've done you a favor. So, they could sell them for a good price and still come out way ahead. At some point in about the late '80s all pawn shops decided that they were retail shops and started jacking up prices on crappy Squiers and Johnsons and other weird brands from Pakistan or somewhere. They've all got those little Gorilla practice amps too, don't they? I digress.

The last Princeton Reverb that I had, I traded away exactly because it just wasn't loud enough. I was in a band that was rehearsing in a small little rehearsal spot and I could just never hear myself over the Carvin half stack our other guitarist cranked through. And by the way, while I'm digressing, why won't people admit that Carvin makes some pretty darn good sounding gear for the money? Their amps have always sounded really good...they make a tweed called (I think) the Bel Air that sounds nice and their stacks always sound very crunchy...I'd rather have a Carvin half stack than a lot of those other non-Marshall brands that try to pull it off. And I will go on the record that their PA gear is unbeatable for gigging folks like you and I and extremely cost effective. This sounds like one of those sneaky blog ads or something but it's not. I just believe that Carvin should get some credit and I don't think you're going to find many folks willing to say it. Especially when they're supposed to be writing about Fender Princetons.

Okay, no more digressing. Fender made the Princeton way back in the '40s, but the Silverface version I have owned were made from '68 to '82 when Paul Rivera released the Princeton Reverb II. From what I remember and have barely researched just now, these put out about 12 watts, which is perfect for recording and fine if you don't mind micing the amp and not being able to hear yourself, but not really practical for most guitarists on stage. Over the years of this model they had lots of different specs and small variations on features. The last one I owned had a pull pot, amazing clean tone and beautiful reverb. Man, I'm talking myself into wanting another one even more as I write this.

The best part of this story though is how I eventually ended up trading it. There is a fairly well known guy in vintage circles named J.R. who owns Sunset Music in Idaho. However, before he moved to Idaho he ran a small guitar store in Encinitas, CA called Blue Ridge Guitars. He was always fair with me, so one day I decided I really wanted a Gibson ES-125 Cutaway he had that had suffered the classic neck/headstock repair, which dropped it's value but didn't change the way it sounded...amazing. He had been sitting on this guitar for awhile and it was worth approximately the same as my Princeton Reverb. I walked in with my amp and just said, "Hey, no one is buying that 125 and I don't have any extra cash to sweeten the deal...why don't we just trade straight up fair and square and you'll have an amp you can more easily sell and I'll have a guitar I want." This kind of bargaining never works. But for some reason J.R. saw the logic in my deal and shook his head and said, "Okay, let's do it." He asked if the amp worked fine and I said it did. We didn't even write up a receipt...the whole thing took less than 5 minutes and I was out the door with a pretty cool guitar.

So, thanks J.R. for a cool deal. Wish I had that amp back though.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

I think it's about time to run through a few amps again. I did a whole week of amps here on the site and it seemed to get quite a few responses, so, since no one else is sending me stories, and I've told most of my guitar stories, we'll go with amps.

I saw this one listed on Craig's List and I was jonesin' for a new amp. It's a pretty standard Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and it was made in the USA the first year of production. A guy had bought it in 1996 (I believe that's the correct year) and put it in his living room and played it about once a month. He had a cover for it and it basically looked brand new. I went over to check it out and he couldn't turn it up much because he had a toddler asleep. So, not only did he not play it much, he didn't play it over about volume level .5 or so. It had the original footswitch and was just a really sweet amp.

These Hot Rod amps from Fender are great sounding stock amps in my opinion and I'm sure you can download about a gazillion mods and tweaks from the internets and I'm sure you could upgrade the speaker(s) and the tubes and you could even hire a cool guy with a Stevie Ray Vaughn hat on to make it sound just like Texas. But you know what? It sounds pretty darn good just how it is and, for the money, that's a good deal.

Not everyone can spend an extra $600 on a used $350 amp.

Now the downside of this amp, and the reason the guy who originally owned it sold it, and the reason I eventually sold it is that they are just too much amp for most of us home guitarists. I don't gig electrically any more (though I do play lots of acoustic gigs...who woulda thought?), so I don't need a whole heck of a lot of amp. I've got my Blues Junior which is really a scaled back version of this Hot Rod Deluxe when it comes down to it. That's pretty much what I did...I sold the Hot Rod Deluxe and downsized to the Blues Junior. I'm pretty sure that if I had an electric gig I could actually do the gig with the Junior mic'd in the PA. I've got some friends that tour and they have three guitarists in the band and they each tour with Blues Juniors and their own distinct pedal boards and they save a ton of room in the van, they save their backs each night hauling gear, and they sound great.

Anyway, the Hot Rod Deluxe is a great amp if you need lots of power and have a strong back. Cranked up to 11 it sounds fantastic.

You can hear this amp on my MySpace page, click on the song Gone Long Gone and (after the intro) all the lead guitar work was done by the great Dave Quillen using this amp and a Nash Telecaster I have profiled elsewhere here on the ol' blog. One take Dave.

Monday, October 13, 2008

1969 Martin D-41 with Custom Inlay (maybe 1970)

I've been holding out on this story simply because I don't have actual photos of this guitar...and to properly tell the story it would really help to see the inlay on the neck. But, since I'm running out of my own stories, and you folks are starting to send in a few...but not many...of your own, I decided to go ahead and write this one up.

As previously noted, I moved to California in 1987 and, at the time, I had an Ovation 1984 Collector's Series guitar (story here) and a 1974 Fender Telecaster (story here). I was pretty happy with my guitars at the time, but one day I walked into Guitar Center down in San Diego (the old one down on El Cajon Blvd. for you San Diegans) and saw a guitar I just had to have. It was a 1969 (if I remember correctly) Martin D-41 and, in addition to the standard fancy inlay on the body, it had a sort of non-standard vine inlay down the neck that was really intricate and I later found out was added to the guitar after it left the factory. It was just stunning and it caught my eye from all the way across the store. It was far from perfect though...whoever had owned it previously either played it very roughly or had flipped it at some point and played it left handed. There was quite a bit of abnormal wear around the top of the soundhole and a fair amount beyond the edges of the pickguard.

I decided that I had to figure out a way to get this guitar even before I knew how much it was. I asked the guy to get it down for me and I'm fairly certain it was the first really nice, expensive guitar I ever had my hands on. He told me it was $2000 (I think) and gave me the line about having a couple of other people very interested in it. I inquired if they took trade-ins and he said they did. I went home and got my Tele and my Ovation and set out to come as close as possible to trading even. Of course that never works out and, although I don't remember how much additional money I had to come up with, I do remember that it was more than I could afford at the moment. I had only been at a new job for a short time and wasn't making all that much. But I knew I had to have this guitar and somehow, some way, I made it work.

I was only slightly sad to see the Ovation go. I take that back...I wasn't really sad to see it go at all.

But I was sad to see the '74 Tele go. It was sweet and definitely one of those ones you wish you could have back. I think the word for it would be "pristine."

I played the Martin with great pride for a number of years. At that time there weren't a lot of acoustic gigs around and almost no coffeehouses...this was pre-Starbucks, etc. But there was a small coffeehouse down by San Diego State University that had an open mic night every Tuesday and I would drive 40 minutes down there every Tuesday to play my three songs. Eventually I became the host of the open mic night and I'm pretty sure I was sort of known as "that guy with the really fancy Martin." Probably no mention of how awesome a guitarist I was.

You can read about how I ended up selling the Martin here...I was finally joining my very first band and needed an amp. The short version is that I traded the Martin for a Gibson Dove and an amp so I could rock the house. The Dove was actually a much better sounding and playing guitar to be quite honest. Although the D-41 was an awesome guitar in many ways, it was never the best sounding guitar I have owned. Now that I know more about these things I could probably take the time to get it dialed in better. But at the time, not so much. I could barely afford strings let alone the money to have someone spend time adjusting the guitar.

One other note about this guitar: One day I was at work and thinking about the Martin and wondering if the inlay had been done at the factory or afterwards. There is a label inside the guitar from McCabe's Guitar Shop, which is a very well known store that hosts really cool acoustic shows and sells some darn fine instruments. I actually called the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA and it was after hours. A gentleman named Mike Longworth answered the phone and spoke to me at length about my guitar, pretty much assuring me that the inlay was done post-factory. What I now know is that Mike Longworth is one of the most historical figures in the history of Martin and I now feel honored to have spoken with him about my guitar.

No matter what, this is one of the guitars that probably inspired this blog in the first place..."man, I wish I had that one back!"

As noted, the photos shown are of a D-41 from the same year, but the inlay on mine was so fancy and intricate that I have simply blurred out the neck in the photo so as not to cause confusion.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Walnut Gibson SG

Submitted by Matthew Malin

I had an Alamo Fiesta that my parents had bought me for Xmas of 1977. My buddy and I were going to bust out of this small Iowa town and be the next band to be bigger than KISS! For that we needed some real equipment. The Alamo just wasn't cutting it so I decided I needed to get a 'real' guitar. The summer of 1979 I detassled corn for eight solid weeks. I was able to make a whopping $370. After I got all my checks from the seed corn company, my dad and I headed off for the 'big' music stores in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Iowa. This was a major shopping trip.

We went to a few stores in Iowa City and really nothing caught my eye. Finally we went to Carma Lou's House of Music in Cedar Rapids. Hanging on the wall was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. It was a solid walnut SG. Satin finish and open pickups. It was pretty cool to me. I was about $30 short on the price so my dad kicked in the rest. I walked out of that store on Cloud 9. That guitar was my lifeline. I played in my band on theweekends. Played in high school jazz band and swing choir with it during the week and just played the hell out of it.

After HS I took off and bummed around Iowa dragging my SG and silver face Deluxe Reverb with me. About 1987 I was in a real bind. I had no money for rent and I was paying for college. I found a sympathetic house mate that bought my guitar only as a 'bridge' loan. Well I never really got back into the black for about 10 more years. By then I'd lost touch with the house mate and that guitar was long gone. I've thought about calling the guy up but there are about 50 people in the US with that name.

Also, I don't want to hear some horror story about how they traded it for a dog or something.

So listen up, if you get a good guitar and you get in a bind, don't sell your guitar! Good times and money come and go but you're guitar is a part of you and you should always keep them!
Note: photo is not of actual guitar in the story.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Romanian A-style Mandolin

Story submitted by Karl Catteeuw

I've been to Romania quite often, and in spite of two decades of Mariah Carey tapes, stringed music is still hot there. Anyway, for the abundance of fiddles, mandolins and guitars at every party, there's really only one big place where they make them. And miraculously Reghin's also the brewery capital of the country. Here's something few people know: the Hora factory, the main manufacturer, originally made boats, which wasn't a great idea given the fact that it sits 500 km from the Black Sea. So in the 1950s they switched to musical instruments, which also involved bending woods, but they held onto the sloop logo until the 1990s.

Anyway, there I was, wandering through the town and walking into a record shop, and behind the counter full of CDs and cassettes they had all kinds of musical instruments. Behind the counter, mind you, so you had to ask to be served. Some cheap looking guitars, harps, recorders, and an odd A-shaped mandolin with a guitar pickup on it. Factory installed. I got away with it. Since it was the mid-nineties, it was dirt-cheap for me.

It was surprisingly loud, and an uncle who plays bowl-back in a mandolin orchestra actually liked this flat-back. It wasn't a pretty mandolin, with a varnished fretboard and stamped-in frets, but it sounded good. The pickup worked, but the pots quickly went bad - with some soldering, that's an easy replacement. I even sanded off the original sunburst, installed strap buttons, got it a plaid gig bag and put on a Gibson volume knob. Everything you'd do to an instrument you intend to keep.

And still it got away.

Too many instruments, too little time to play them all. The buyer got it dirt cheap as well, and complained about my postage rates. If not for the mandolin itself, I'd undo the selling because of the buyer. Until I opened up the latest Fretboard Journal, and lo and behold, what was David Lindley toying with?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gibson MK-35

I feel horrible telling this story. I've always felt like I did something wrong and wish I could fix it. Back in about 1983 I lived in the little town of Enid, OK, having just flunked out of Phillips University and not yet ready to move back to reality. They just opened a real live honest to goodness mall out on the edge of town and everyone was buzzing. I got a job at Hastings Records and thought I was pretty cool. I was the guy at the record store in the mall. Our regional manager was a pretty cool guy named Jerry from Dallas, TX and he would come check on our store quite often. We had an issue with an employee that was stealing out of the register (as it turns out) and they were trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I got along with Jerry really well...we both had a pretty sarcastic sense of humor and really loved music and knowing about music and all that geeky stuff that makes someone a good record store person.

I played guitar at the time, but was still in my very beginning stages. I had a pretty cheap Fender acoustic and didn't know much about quality instruments. One day Jerry walks into the store carrying a guitar case and says that he has this interesting Gibson that I could use if I wanted to. It was unlike any other guitar I'd played and, to be honest, didn't sound that good or play that well. What I now know is that it probably just needed some new strings and a set-up. I had the guitar for quite awhile and Jerry never really asked about it.

I guess I kind of figured it was pretty much mine, but in the back of my mind I knew it was still Jerry's guitar.

As it turns out, the guitar was a Gibson MK-35, or Mark 35, and was part of a new series that very much departed from traditional designs. The bridge was very different and modern looking and the soundhole had a sort of plastic ridge around it. From doing a little research I now also know that it had a completely different bracking system and, although pretty much a failure with the public, it gained quite a following with the Nashville picking community at the time for it's sound. They only made the Mark series from '75-78 from what I can tell. There were a few other Mark series models as well, featuring nicer woods and more elaborate features as you went up the scale.

So, fast forward a short period of time and I happen to walk into a little guitar store in Enid and fall in love with a 1984 Ovation Collector's Series guitar...what did I know? Although I'm not much of an Ovation fan now, I sure fell head over heals for it at the time. Blame it on Glen Campbell probably. You can read the story of this guitar here. So I start figuring out how I'm going to come up with the money for it and decide maybe I can trade in the Gibson. I guess I must have talked myself into believing Jerry wouldn't want it back. I just wanted that damn Ovation. Now fast forward again another short period of time and Jerry asks me about the Gibson. I didn't know what to say, but finally stammered something about it being gone and sold and I didn't know he wanted it back and whatever else came out of my mouth. Jerry looked bummed. Super bummed. I guess he also didn't know what to say and for whatever reason just let it go. Not much else we could do at that point.

So for all these years I have felt like I owe Jerry a Gibson MK-35. I came across the one shown in the pictures at my local guitar store, Buffalo Brothers, and it reminded me of the whole thing. I may have been subconsciously blocking it all these years. So Jerry, if you're out there, shoot me an email so I can properly apologize. I was young. I was dumb. I still feel bad.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sho-Bud Heart Model Acoustic Guitar

This story is not about "one that got away," but was left as a comment today on the entry about the
Sho-Bud Club Model. It was such a great story that I thought I'd post it as an entry to make sure it doesn't get passed over. So, without further ado...

Submitted by Gary

Love to hear that there are others who know about the Sho-Bud acoustics first hand! I bought my Heart Model brand new at The House of Guitars in Phoenix, AZ on 5/22/80. I still have the receipt and price tag that was dangling from the machine head. I was about 17 and we didn't have much money. I had to buy all my gear, and the Italian restaurant I worked at didn't pay much...I would ride the bus down and play the 100's of guitars on hangers. The guy was really cool, knew everything about guitars.

From the first time I picked it up I fell in love with it.

The sound was unlike anything else in the shop, and the inlay was just breathtaking. I was pretty sure I would never get to play that guitar anywhere but in the store, and each time I went there, I went right to it, surprised that somebody (!!!) hadn't bought it yet.

My grandmother died and left my mom a pretty decent chunk of change, and I asked my mom if she would buy a replacement for my Ross distortion box (I fried mine, and electric guitars just aren't the same without that option...). It was the first time she had ever been with me in there and, after we got the distortion box out of the case, I said "Hey mom, come here, you've got to hear this guitar." I played a little ditty and she fell in love with it. I said, "Before we go on vacation, ( which was rare ) would you buy it for me?" She said, "I'll buy it right now if you really want it." I was nearly in tears. The clerk said that for a guitar like that we'd better buy a real nice case too. It was easy to see that a guitar this special deserved a nice case, so we were pretty easily talked into getting a really plush case for it, where it has spent much of it's time when not on a stand.

It has brought me more joy than any of the guitars I've owned over the 30 years I have been involved in music. I have gotten so many sincere compliments on it and several envious looks. I had a high dollar pickup installed under the bridge quite a few years back, and to play it through a Boss chorus and then a Boss analog delay creates a rich, lush sound that has to be heard to be appreciated.

Mom's gone now, but I'll never be able to play that beautiful instrument without her in mind. I have another story about something just unexplainably unique involving this guitar, but I've gone a bit long here as it is. Perhaps another time, as I rarely get sick of recounting so many years of just pure joy that this sweet guitar has given me. She has been my best friend and truest love. Got a Sho-Bud story? Drop me a line: Gary's Email

Friday, September 19, 2008

1983 Fender Concert Amplifier

This was definitely one of my favorite amps I've ever owned. At one point I even bought a second one and ran them in stereo. How cool am I? This was a 1983 Fender Concert amp that was part of the series of amps that were designed by Paul Rivera. In 1982 Paul basically saved the Fender amp line that was floundering and getting off-track back in the early eighties...he also came up with the Champ II, the Super Champ (one of the most coveted modern era amps of all time), Princeton Reverb II, Deluxe II, and the Twin Reverb II. Maybe more. 

The specs I found on the 'net include: 1-12" speaker - 60 watts, all tube with 2 channel w/switching, point to point wiring - bright push-pull on clean channel, mid-boost push-pull on gain channel - gain channel has gain/vol/master for fine adjust of distortion level - effects loop has return send trim pots. 

The best part about this particular amp is that I found it over in the dirty, dusty corner of a pawn shop in San Clemente, CA that just had the word "GUNS" real big on it's sign out front. 

Lots of surf boards and other crap and one dirty, dusty Fender Concert amp. I talked him down to $200 and loaded it in the car. Got it home and took the better part of a Friday night cleaning the whole thing up. Getting the dirt out of the inside of a combo amp always seems like the biggest pain in the ass, but once you get it all looking nice you feel pretty good about taking the extra time to do it right. The older style blackface look to this amp is really nice and, once I got the tolex all ArmourAll'ed up and shiny, it was looking sweet. 

I plugged it in and, man, this thing sounded great. The sixty watts were more than enough and it really had a sweet spot that you rarely get to crank up to unless you are gigging in a large club. I remember it being fairly heavy for a 12" combo and, now that I think about it, right about the time that I was lugging this thing to gigs I ended up getting a hernia. Now I'm not blaming Paul Rivera or Fender for the fact that I eventually had to have surgery, but I'm pretty sure that pulling that thing in and out of the truck didn't help. 

Anyway, great amp and I would highly recommend grabbing one if it wanders too close to you and no one is watching. The only reason I let mine go was because I hit a point where I wasn't playing live and I finally talked myself into believing that the space it was taking up (c'mon, it's only a 12" combo amp...not a stack) could be better used by a plant or something. My bad.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Humo Cigar Box Ukelele

Story Submitted by Karl Catteeuw

The trouble with ukuleles is that they are so small you lose track. In fifteen years of guitar playing I only bought four and sold two. In four years of ukulele playing I truly lost count. I even lost two by misplacing them somewhere. Try that with a double bass.

This one is one I’d like back though. It’s made by a luthier called Terry Horvath, presumably from Indiana, but was at one time owned by Dave Talsma, a luthier I admire very much. In fact, I bought it from Godfrey Daniels because we both presumed Talsma made it. If you think it looks crudely made, well… we thought that was done on purpose. A rough and tumble, distressed metal cigar box ukulele with a pickup literally glued on top. How much down-home sophistication do you wish for?

The other reason was that, although Humo cigars did truly exist, Humo is also a very popular weekly magazine here in Flanders, kind of a cross between Mad and Rolling Stone. So I dreamt about showing off this cool and odd looking cigar box with a pickup, and everyone would ask where I got it. Sure.

Rule number one: it’s the sound that counts. Not coolness.

Not eponymity. Not the maker. And this one sounded, well, like a tin box strung with metal (!) ukulele strings (which is not really good). The plugged sound was slightly better, but still… I tried turning it into a four-string mandolin, tried the best ukulele strings in town (worth browns and Aquila nylguts, in the odd case you were asking), but the sound never caught on. I happened to have another Terry Horvath cigar box ukulele (ukuleles breed, remember?), so, the minute I received it, I recognized the style and found the signature. Out went one reason to hang on.

So I put it on eBay and along came another reason to hang onto the Humo ukulele. Among the bidders was one ‘musicomic’ guy probably born in ’53, whom I immediately recognised as my musical hero, Jan De Smet of De Nieuwe Snaar, an exceptionally fine musician, clown, singer and collector of records and instruments. And he was outbid.

The Humo ukulele is now somewhere in France, but if I’d love to have it back, and then I’d give it straight away…”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Okatava MK-319 Microphone

Once again, not a guitar story, but since the last Guitar Center fiasco went over so well, I thought I'd share another one. The Oktava MK-319 condenser microphone is kind of one of those cult following kind of things It's a GREAT recording mic for a very good price and, a few years ago, Guitar Center made some sort of deal to be the exclusive dealer for some period of time. They must have ordered a gazillion of them or something and they had them on sale for $99 most of the time. I had read that they were good, so when I saw an extra special sale where you could get TWO of them for $99, I called up my friend Rob and asked if he wanted to go in on a pair...$50 a piece. He said yes and I headed down there to buy our mics.

I picked them up and dropped one at Rob's house on my way home. He checked his out and it was in excellent working condition. Sounded great. There are websites that do mods to these mics that make them sound even better...some people say that with the mods they rival some of the top mics. I got mine home and...dud. Something wrong with it. So I saved the receipt and a couple of days later head back to Guitar Center to exchange it. Uh oh. Houston we have a problem. They don't have any more in stock. These were the last ones they had. They call around Southern California and can't find one anywhere. The guy that helped me out was actually a big jerk about it and said he'd try to figure something out. Never heard from him. I finally call back after a few days and the guy has an attitude again. I decide it's time to talk to the manager.

Here I am...trying to be nice when the product I bought doesn't work and they are being rude about it.

I talk to the manager and he is very apologetic and gets on the phone himself to try to track one down. He finally finds one somewhere in the USA and does the request to get it sent to my store. Not only does he do that, he decides to give me 50% off for my trouble. So now I'm getting TWO Oktava mics for only $50. For you math geniuses, that's only $25 a piece and that's one heck of a deal. Now, a few years later, they are selling used for anywhere between $100 to $150 and I'm not sure how much they are new.

I actually have this one on eBay at the moment for $125 with a shock mount and case. It's a great mic and a great deal, even though I only paid $25. You should buy it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hartke 4-10 Bass Cabinet

I'm really only writing about this because it's got a funny story. It's not an amazing item or anything and hardly worthy of the original thought behind this blog: "Man, I wish I had that one back!" I could care less about this one. But on to the story...

One time when I went to Guitar Center to buy something and after I left I cruised back to the back of the store to look in the dumpster for a box to ship a guitar in. When I looked down into the dumpster I found a whole bunch of electronic drum parts, some booms for mic stands and a few guitar stands. At first I thought they must be all broken or something, but not so. I grabbed them all and eventually sold the drum parts on eBay for over $200. I'm still using the boom stands and gave the guitar stands to friends.

So, the next time I went to Guitar Center I couldn't help but cruise back to the dumpster for a look see. This time I found some new cables and an Ortofon backpack for a DJ. Kept the cables, gave away the backpack.

Next time I go the Guitar Center I go straight to the dumpster and, sure enough, find two brand spankin' new padded drum gig bags, still in the box. Kept those. So, now I'm obsessed. Now I'm finding reasons to head down the freeway towards Guitar Center just to look in the dumpster. I have a couple of visits without any freebies and I'm kind of thinking my luck has run dry.

Then one day I actually needed to go to GC and I go inside and buy some stuff. I decide to give it another try and cruise around the back and about crapped the front seat. Sitting right next to the dumpster is a pretty decent condition, vintage Hartke 4-10 bass cabinet.

I pull up and take a look I on Candid Camera or something? Am I about to get punked?

I opened up the front seat and put the cab in the car and headed down the road. I kind of figured it didn't work or something. Surely it's not a perfectly fine speaker cab. I head straight to my buddy's house and we plug 'er in. Works perfectly! Yet I have no need for a bass cabinet.

I took this photo and put it on Craig's List and by the next day had it sold for about $225. Just for checking the dumpster. I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that the next time YOU go to Guitar Center you just happen to mozy on back and check the dumpster. Let me know what you find.