Friday, October 22, 2010

Unknown Vintage Lap Steel


This is a really cool vintage lap steel guitar that looks to be home made...in every single aspect. Not only is every part of the body hand made, but even the pickup and pickup cover were probably put together from scratch in someone's garage a long time ago. Oh, and the case is also home made with some really nice hand painted flower motifs. Yep, this is one very cool instrument.

Much like the pedal steel guitar I most recently wrote about, I found this instrument in a pawn shop while I was driving across the country on vacation. My goal was to find a few instruments along the way that I could bring home and sell for a profit. I really thought this one was going to be more profitable than it turned out to be, but you can't win them all. I did turn a profit, but not a huge one.

I found this lap steel as I was driving down Main Street in Henryetta, Oklahoma...which also happens to be my parents' old hometown.

I was headed to the home of an old friend of my father's and missed the turn. Glad I did. As I was craning my neck, trying to read the street signs I passed the pawn shop. Looked almost empty to be honest. But right there in the window was this lap steel. Seven string lap steel to be exact. I went inside and inquired about the $175 price tag and the haggling began. We ended up at $120 and were both happy with that. I pulled out my credit card and was told "cash only." Luckily I had a few bucks on me and the deal was done. As we chatted about how unique this lap steel was we discovered that the owner of the shop knew my parents from way back when. How cool is that? He showed me another lap steel that was still in pawn that was really cool as well but just not for sale yet. Wish I could go back for that one.

So as far as I can tell, this lap steel is made of solid mahogany, has seven strings, all the parts are hand carved or cut, and the designs on the lap steel itself are old water decals. There is a 1/4" jack on the very end and no volume or tone knobs. I guess you just have to use a volume pedal. The case was also hand made and the artwork on the case was all hand painted. Very nice slice of Americana really. The old Stevens slide bar and metal fingerpicks were also included.

I put it up for sale on eBay and it sold for only $175. I have to admit I was a little disappointed...almost wish for that price I had kept it. But that's not why I bought it in the first place...I have learned my lesson about lap steels. I always think I want one and then, once I buy one, I realize I have no business trying to play it. I'm glad someone got such a cool instrument for their collection. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did in the short time I had it.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beck Musical Instruments Pedal Steel Guitar


Hey, it's been awhile but I've got some new stuff to write about. This first one is actually still in my possession (but it's for sale...let me know if you are interested). I decided awhile back that I would love to just hop in the car and go on vacation and stop where I pleased, sleep wherever I ended up, and of course, look for stray guitars that need a new home. Somehow I talked my employer into letting me take two weeks off all together and I made arrangements for the kids with the ex and all that stuff. Finally the day came and off I headed in my mini-van...headed towards the midwest to meet up with old friends and have some fun along the way. I live in the San Diego area, so anywhere is a long drive. I played a breast cancer benefit show on Sunday afternoon and then hit the road on Sunday evening, driving until 3:00 AM. I pulled into a truck stop and climbed into the back of my van with a pillow and sleeping bag and got some sleep.

When I woke up it was around 8:00 AM and quickly got it together and hit the road again. The first town I came to was Las Cruces, NM. I drove around looking for a pawn shop or music store and finally came across a pawn shop on the corner. I went in and there wasn't much to look at. I asked the guy if there was another pawn shop in town and he pointed me in the right direction, saying that they owned the other too. I kind of figured that meant they wouldn't have much there either, but I was mistaken. As I walked through the door in pawn shop number two, the very first thing I spied was a dirty, dusty pedal steel guitar. They didn't have it put together correctly, but it appeared to all be there. I looked at the price sticker and it said, "Mexican Fender Telecaster $999."

Hmmmm. They didn't even really know what they had. I played dumb too.

"Hey, what's this thing with 10 strings?" The guy said it was a pedal steel and I sort of pretended to maybe kind of know what that was. I told him it looked interesting to mess around with but not for a thousand bucks. He asked how much I'd be interested in paying. "Oh, maybe more like $300." I figured he'd say no way and I'd be on my way. I only had about $500 to spend on fun stuff on this trip and $300 would take up a big chunk on day one. He hollered back, "Okay, we can do $300."

Oh shit. I asked if that could include tax and everything. $300 out the door? "Sure." Well, now I better figure out if this thing is worth it. I told him I needed to go outside and call my wife and see if I could spend that much. I don't have a wife by the way. I started frantically looking on my phone internet for Beck Musical Instruments. I'd never heard of that brand before. I found their website and sure enough, the cheapest instrument they make sells for $2875 and another $350 for the case. I'd say this thing is a bargain and although it's the first day of the trip, I should go ahead and get it.

I walked back in and said, "Well, the wife won't really go for $300 but I talked her into $250. Any chance we could do it for that?" Nope. He won't go that low. As I'm negotiating I look over and on the pawn shop TV is that show, American Pickers. Guys literally doing exactly what I'm doing right at that moment. I was inspired and I said I guess I'd just have to pass at $300. He told me to come back if I changed my mind. I told him I was on the road and wasn't planning to be back in Las Cruces in my lifetime. To my surprise he said, "Awww, okay. We'll do it for $250 plus tax." Sweet. We basically met in the middle once the tax was added up. I took the thing apart and put it in the case before he had time to actually look the thing up and figure out how much it's worth.

I headed out the door and struggled to get it in the back of the van. Damn, those things are heavy. If you play pedal steel I admire you my friend. Carrying a pedal steel AND an amp and whatever else you need to a gig has got to be puttin' muscles on you. After my trip was over I headed on over to the world famous Buffalo Brothers Guitars and had my friends take a look at it. We got it all put together and their resident pedal steel guru Rick put it through it's paces. Very nice! So these things are heavy and incredibly complicated to play. He gave me the scoop on it, telling me I had found a really nice single neck, 10-string pedal steel made by Beck Musical Instruments, which was originally founded by pedal steel Hall of Famer Zane Beck. Zane was the first to incorporate knee levers into his instruments and now they are pretty standard issue. This particular steel has 3 pedals and 4 knee levers. What we couldn't decide was whether it had started life as a double neck or a single neck. It has the padded arm rest where a second neck might be, but I believe this came from the factory this way. The pickup sounded great and was clean...no scratchiness...especially for how dusty it was when I found it.

So, it's currently sitting in my living room and I suppose I could hang on to it just to mess around with. But I think I am going to sell it for a fraction of what it's worth, but still a profit to me. Someone is going to want this nice pedal steel at a great price. It just might not be right away. San Diego isn't exactly a pedal steel capital. If you are interested let me know.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

1964 Epiphone Frontier Rope & Cactus FT110


It is with GREAT sadness that I report the departure of this guitar. A lot of guitars are pretty or cool or have expensive features or parts. This guitar had SOUL. It had MOJO. I got it through eBay a couple of years ago and loved it the minute I came across it up for auction. It wasn't mint condition...nope, far from it. You could say it was beat to hell. But functionally it was perfection. It just had that certain something that you can't put a price on. It is a 1964 (or possibly '63) Epiphone Frontier dreadnought acoustic guitar. It's the one that's got the coolest pickguard in history: the rope and cactus tortoise shell pickguard. This was Graham Parson's guitar of choice and a lot of Graham disciples have to have one. That wasn't my case, but certainly is true for many. This thing has scrapes and dings and nicks and the finish is checked and then checked some more. There is play wear in places I didn't know you could play.

If it were a Fender Relic you'd be paying an extra $2000 for this kind of a relic job. But this one is real. This one is earned.

It had that sound. Magic. And as a songwriter, this guitar just seemed to have songs in it. I'd say that 9 times out of 10 when I picked up this guitar I was inspired to come up with something new or the spark of an idea for a song. From speaking to the original owner, I don't believe it was previously owned by a songwriter. I believe it did it's time playing covers in the bars and around the house. When I got it, the first thing I did was write about 4 new songs. They were just busting out of this guitar. Maybe it's the folk art portrait of Hank Williams in the soundhole...maybe it was channeling Hank. I don't know. All I can say is that I have never finally made up my mind to sell a guitar and then nearly reneged on the deal more than once.

The guy who bought it turned out to be a great owner of this guitar...very respectful of the magic it contains. He owns quite a few gems already and was looking for something not like anything else out there. Yes, he came across it because he was looking for a Frontier, but he bought it because it was different...imperfect...soulful. He came by my office today and took it out of it's case and strummed a few tasteful chords. He smiled and knew it was what he was looking for. He immediately took the money out of his pocket and handed it to me, as though maybe in this last second, this one last chance to bail out, I would change my mind if he didn't get it over with. And he was right. It's a good thing the wad of hundreds was thick and my need for new transportation outweighed logic. Because if you've read everything I just wrote, there is no logic in selling this guitar.

It makes no sense. But it's done and the Frontier has a new home. A good one I think. And my faith was restored when the new owner looked at me as he was leaving and said, "If you ever change your mind and want it back, let me know. I have a lot of guitars and I understand. We'll work it out."

Man...that's too good to be true. I hope he meant it because there will come day when I will be calling him. As the guy in the Men's Warehouse commercial says, "I guarantee it."
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fender Concert Amplifier


Story submitted by John Shields


Back in 1982 I was in a working band playing 6-7 night a week. I was using a Peavey Renown amp with two EV Force speakers that weighed 2 or 3 tons. My sound man dragged me to a place called Music Museum in Pitman, NJ, and told me to get an amp with tubes. Out I walked with a new Fender Concert. It was great and I used it for a couple of years.

We started playing bigger rooms and I traded it in on a Marshall half stack. Years went by and I thought about it from time to time like a favorite old girlfriend. I even started looking for one a couple of years ago but the prices scared me off. While searching Craigslist a month ago, I was logging off for the night and caught site of an ad for a Fender amp out of the corner of my eye. I opened up the ad and there was a Fender Concert looking back at me. It had no Fender logo, changed jewel pilot light and replaced speaker. When I bought mine back in '82, I took off the logo, changed the pilot light (don't ask why because I have no idea) and replaced the speaker.

I quickly called the gent and arranged a meeting to see the amp. As I looked at it, I knew this was my old amp. He said it had been in a music store for three years before he bought it. He was asking $600. I offered him $475.

He looked at me with vigor in his eyes and defiantly said to me, "I won't take anything less than $450.....!?" I said, "SOLD!"

All cleaned up and sporting a new Vintage 30 Celestion speaker, I've got my girl back! Boy I missed her.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Hey, We're Featured in Guitar Edge Magazine


Well, you are definitely going to want to pick up the new issue of Guitar Edge magazine. Articles about Nels Cline of Wilco, the Way Huge Aqua-Puss reissue (of which I already got one 'cause I'm cool) and, let's see...oh yeah, a feature about this here ol' blog.

If you are already a regular reader of Guitar Edge then start looking for it now. If you are new to Guitar Edge, be sure to click here to check out the story about this blog and check out the rest of the digital online version of the mag too. Great stuff.

And by the way, stay tuned this week for a couple of new gear stories that will be posted as well as a story and photos about some Fender history that is really cool.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fender Stratocaster Tom Delonge Model


I'll make this one quick because I really just bought this guitar to resell. I found it in a pawn shop near my house that was having a half off sale for the last week of the year. I haven't made my way into too many pawn shops lately because A) they mostly just have a bunch of second rate crap these days, and B) they want MORE than retail for the decent stuff they do have. For the life of me I don't understand where they get their pricing. I have ranted about pawn shops on this blog before and got quite a few comments supporting my view. So, I'll leave it at that for now. This time I guess I got lucky.

When I walked in I spotted the Daphne Blue Strat hanging amongst the usual crap. It stood out. I immediately noticed it was a Tom Delonge model. These are easy to spot because they have one pickup and one knob. That's it. Blink-182 style all the way. Now most people would say that this is a lame concept. But I actually like the idea. I'm not the most amazing lead player in the world, though I'm not a bad rhythm player. I usually find one pickup setting on a guitar that I like and pretty much stick with it. That's just me. So, if I could design my own guitar, I'd probably do the same thing...find a pickup I like and connect it to a volume knob and be done with it. BLASPHEMY! Whatever.

So, I asked the lady how much the guitar was and she said it was $700...but they were having a 50% off sale. So, $350 (duh).

I knew this guitar HAD to be worth more than that. She told me that they had actually sold it on eBay the week before and then the guy that won it emailed them asking if he could make payments for 6 months. Who does that?? So, they just wanted it sold. I came home quickly and looked up previously sold Tom Delonge models and figured out that I could make a few bucks by buying it and posting it on eBay. I actually tried to get the lady to come down to $300 but she was a tough cookie. She knew she had me by the balls and she ran with it. I finally agreed to pay the full $350. I asked what kind of case it had and she gave me that typical pawn shop answer..."oh, there's no case with it." Right.

There's never a case that comes with a guitar at a pawn shop, yet miraculously there are tons of cases sitting around in plain sight.

I knew I had a nice spare Fender gig bag at home, so I didn't even get into it. I brought it home and cleaned it up. Amazingly they were trying to sell guitars at this shop, but just left them dirty and sticky and very unappealing. They actually had a decent black MIM Telecaster I could have picked up for $200 but it had sticker residue all over it and the tuning pegs were coated in grime and knobs were missing...it was just too easy to see that this guitar had not been cared for in the least. Once I got the Tom Delonge all cleaned up and looking good I posted it on eBay and put a very reasonable (but still nicely profitable) price on it. I think it turned into a great deal for everyone. The guy who bought it today is a big Blink-182 fan and also owns one of the Gibson Tom Delonge hollowbody models as well. So, he's happy. I'm happy. We're all freakin' happy! And now I can try to buy that blonde Fender Blues Junior on Craigslist I saw this afternoon.

It's always something!
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One Comes Home


Well, if this isn't the most heartwarming story on this old blog, I don't know what is. Let's go backwards in the wayback machine to the early '90s. My daughter (who is now 20) was just a little tyke and for her 4th or 5th Christmas I wanted to get her something to keep forever. I happened to walk into Moonlight Music in Encinitas, CA and there, hanging on the wall, was a reissue of the Fender Telecaster pink paisley guitar. It was made in the late '80s and I know it had not been in this store for the whole time, so maybe he picked it up NOS from another store or something. I decided that I would get it for my daughter and it could be something she kept forever and hopefully learned to play when she was older.

It's really a cool guitar. Some of you might have man issues with a guitar like this, being pink paisley and all, but keep in mind that it was made famous by James Burton who played with none other than the king of rock n roll himself, Elvis Presley. The original models from the late '60s now command huge dollars...tens of thousands of dollars. (Here is a great link about Paisley Teles). I am not positive, but I believe these reissues from the late '80s may have been the first time these were reissued. The quality is fantastic...they were Made In Japan at a time when the Japan factories ruled. I'm still a fan of the Japanese Fenders and actually prefer them over the USA models. The paisleys have since been reissued a couple of additional times, but the vibe is just not the same as these first reissues. In fact, they have started to command quite a bit of money themselves.

So, sadly my daughter never really took up the guitar. I say sadly mostly because she really has a knack for it and just never wanted to put any time into it. She could accomplish more in 20 minutes of learning than I could in days and days of practice. As she got older the guitar sat in its case in the closet. When she was almost 18 she moved out of the house. She was a tough one. After being out on her own for a year or so I figured she could probably use the money, and a friend of mine had become a huge fan of country star Brad Paisley. I guess if they made a guitar with my last name on it I would probably play one too, much as Brad Paisley had become known for playing original Fender Paisley Telecasters.

So I suggested to my friend that he see if my daughter would be interested in selling the Tele. I gave her my blessing and the deal was done.

I was happy that it had at least gone to a friend of mine and "stayed in the family" so to speak. My friend Rob is a guitar player, but his first instrument is drums. Amazing drummer actually. He loved the paisley Tele and did maintenance on it and kept it sounding fantastic. It's a really great sounding and playing guitar just straight up stock from the factory. So a couple of years has gone by and I have always told Rob that if he should want to sell it to call me first. Yesterday I got the call. Rob needed to unload a guitar and hounded him to sell me the Paisley...bring it back into the fold. After an evening of anguish he finally agreed. I drove over to his house tonight and picked it up and he practically cried handing it over.

The news was leaked to my daughter who is ecstatic that I have managed to bring it back home. I think she may be slightly mistaken though...it's MINE now. I guess she can have it when I'm dead and gone, but until then...