Saturday, February 27, 2021

 It's been many years since I posted here, but I wanted to let anyone who comes here looking for a particular story know that I am slowly but surely moving all of these stories over to my personal website. So, if the link you clicked for a particular amp or guitar didn't work, you might try my website. You can read many of the stories that have already been moved here:

Mostly I have been worried that they will eventually shut down this Blogger format and these stories will simply disappear. So...thanks for enjoying them through the years and be sure to click that link and visit the new The Ones That Got Away. 



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Sunday, December 21, 2008

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.

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.

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.

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.