Archive for October, 2016

Rickenbacker’s 12-String Guitars

Posted: October 30, 2016 in Guitars
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February 8th, 1964 was a fortuitous day for Rickenbacker guitars. That’s when Francis C. Hall, the owner and president of the company, connected with the Beatles in New York City. In his suite at the Savoy Hilton, Hall unveiled for the group Rickenbacker’s latest offering: the electric 12-string guitar, the shimmering sound of which would help define an era.

John Lennon was the first of the Fab Four to audition the 12-string, but he thought it might be a better instrument for George Harrison, who had stayed behind in his hotel due to illness. Indeed Harrison gravitated to the guitar and became an early adapter. Harrison’s first 360/12, with its gorgeous Fireglo finish, was the second one ever made. An interesting feature of this—and all Rickenbacker 12-strings—is that the lower-pitched string is the first one in each course, the opposite of the traditional 12-string.

Right away, Harrison exploited his 360/12’s chiming sound to excellent effect with the Beatles. He first used it on I Call Your Name (1964) and played it all over the place on the 1964 album A Hard Day’s Night and on other songs like Ticket to Ride, from 1965’s Help! Clearly excited about the 12-string, George Harrison got a second 360/12, which he used on If I Needed Someone, off of Rubber Soul (1965).

The Rickenbacker 12-string got even greater exposure through Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. When McGuinn and his bandmates saw A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, he became taken with the 360/12 Harrison plays in the movie, and unable to find the exact same model, he bought a blonde 360/12 for himself the following year.

McGuinn wasn’t quite satisfied by his Rickenbacker, so he sent it to the factory to add a pickup as well as an onboard compressor—an essential effect for the electric 12-string—and a mini switch for controlling it. The guitar was stolen in 1966 when the Byrds were playing in New York, so McGuinn replaced with the 370/12 in Mapleglo (natural). The Rickenbacker 12-string became McGuinn’s main instrument and he used it most memorably on the main riffs of Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! and the psychedelic soloing on Eight Miles High.

The Who’s Pete Townshend wasn’t quite the 12-string devotee as McGuinn, but Townshend also scored a 360/12 early on and used it brilliantly in the studio on songs like I Can’t Explain, Pictures of Lily, and Substitute, as well as onstage. And of course, a few of Townshend’s Rickenbackers were among the victims of his smashing antics in concert.

Tom Petty is another guitarist known to work the Rickenbacker 12-string. Petty is pictured on the cover of his landmark 1979 album Damn the Torpedoes with a 625/12, and the 12-string features prominently into songs like Listen to Her Heart and American Girl. In the early 1990s, Petty was even honored with a signature model—the 660/12TP (which now fetches around $3,000 in the used market).

The Rickenbacker 12-string has also made notable appearances in alternative and rock songs. It’s responsible for the shimmering textures on Echo & the Bunnymen’s Silver, The Smiths’s This Charming Man, The Church’s Under the Milky Way, and R.E.M.’s So. Central Rain —just a few examples that speak to the instrument’s brilliant adaptability.

While many of these artists have used vintage Rickenbacker 12-strings, the company has maintained a comprehensive selection in its catalog. Models like the 330/12, 360/12W, 620/12, and the 381/12V69, all made in the United States, share the same specs that made the earliest Ric 12s so brilliant-sounding. But the newer models are easier to string up, thanks to their fully slotted headstocks.

If you’re in the market for an electric 12-string, whether you’re intending to channel British Invasion rock or venture into more obscure territory, a Rickenbacker is a no-brainer and an essential tool.

From his beat-up Les Paul to his battered amps and vintage effect pedals, Neil Young’s stage rig is a road-worn tribute to his timeless sounds. “When it comes to equipment, the idea with Neil is that you don’t change anything,” says guitar tech Larry Cragg. “You don’t even think about it.”

Cragg is himself among the many constants in Neil Young’s gear universe, having worked for the musician since 1973. A respected guitar repairman—he’s been Carlos Santana’s go-to guy for 40 years—who also owns his own vintage instrument rental company, Cragg first met Young while at Prune Music, a guitar shop in Mill Valley, California.

“At first I was just fixing his guitars,” says Cragg. “But a few years in, he was on the road in Japan when I got a call from his people saying, ‘Get on an airplane!’ And I’ve done every tour since.”

Neil Young brought his standard rig out on the road for his 2009 tour, a mostly electric guitar-dominated jaunt. True to Cragg’s word, his setup has remained largely the same over the years. But if Young is consistent in the equipment he uses to create his sound, the various pieces of gear also tend to be as idiosyncratic and susceptible to change as the man himself.

At the center of it all is the volatile 1953 Gibson Les Paul goldtop Young calls Old Black. A brutal and battered beast, the guitar is responsible for the legendary gritty tones heard on countless Young classics, including “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down By the River” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”

The Les Paul, which features a Bigsby tremolo and a P90 pickup in the neck position, received the black paint job that inspired its nickname prior to being acquired by Young. Since then, it’s undergone several further modifications, including the addition of a “chrome-on-brass” pickguard and back plates, a bridge-position Firebird pickup and a toggle switch, installed between the two volume and two tone knobs, that acts as a bypass. “You flip that,” says Cragg, “and the Firebird goes straight to the amp.”

Cragg installed the Firebird pickup back in 1973. “Originally there was a P90 in there,” he explains. “But in the early Seventies the guitar was lost, and when Neil recovered it a few years later the bridge pickup was gone. He put a Gretsch DeArmond in there for a while, but when I came onboard I replaced that with the Firebird, which has been there ever since. Everyone calls it a mini humbucker, but it’s not. It’s a humbucker, and it’s very microphonic—you can speak into it. It’s really piercing and high and a big part of his sound.”

Old Black remains Young’s primary electric for both studio and live work, but he has also of late been making ample use of his 1961 Gretsch White Falcon onstage. Cragg says, “That’s the real deal. Neil’s had it forever. It’s kind of green-looking and really stunning. There’s probably only 10 or 11 of those around.” The guitar, a stereo, single-cutaway model, figured prominently in Young’s work with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, as well as on solo songs like “Words (Between the Lines of Age).”

Other electric guitars used by Young on his recent tour include a 1956 Les Paul Junior of Cragg’s that he calls a “really rude, in-your-face killer,” and a second ’53 goldtop that the tech assembled as a stand-in for Old Black.

Cragg says, “I put that together around the time of [1990’s] Ragged Glory, and Neil used it on about half that album. It’s not black, but it’s got the metal pickguard and covers, the Firebird pickup, everything. It feels different, but it still kicks butt. It’s a little more powerful and a little less piercing than the original.”

For his touring acoustics, Young has been relying on a trio of Martins, all equipped with Cragg’s stereo FRAP (Flat Audio Response Pickup) transducers: the 1968 D-45 used to record much of 1972’s Harvest; “Hank,” an early Forties D-28 formerly owned by Hank Williams; and a second D-28 that Cragg tunes to what Young calls “A# modal” [low to high: A# F A# D# G A#].

“That one’s a ’62,” Cragg says of the detuned guitar. “It’s also been shot. There’s a mark on the bottom where the bullet went in.”

Neil Young: Ragged Glory

Cragg uses D’Angelico 80/20 Brass strings (.012–.054) on Young’s acoustics, and Dean Markley Super V’s (.010–.046) on his electrics. Picks are nylon Herco Gold Flex 50s. “Neil used those when I first started working for him, and he still does today.”

At the core of Young’s amplifier setup is a piece of gear as essential to his sound as Old Black: the 1959 tweed Fender Deluxe he’s used since the late Sixties. A small, 15-watt unit, with just two volume knobs and a shared tone control, this amp, says Cragg, “makes all the sound. Onstage, as loud as everything gets, that’s what you hear. And it’s totally stock except for two 6L6’s in place of the original tubes. That boosts the output from 15 to 19 watts, and it kills.” An added consequence of this rebiasing is that the amp runs extremely hot; Cragg has high-powered fans trained on the back of the Deluxe to “keep it from blowing up.”

Young derives his distortion entirely from the Deluxe’s output-tube saturation. He coaxes various gain stages from the amp using a device called the Whizzer, a custom-made switching system he and his late amp tech, Sal Trentino, developed around the time of the Rust Never Sleeps tour in 1978. A high-tech concept housed in a rudimentary box, the Whizzer boasts four preset buttons, each corresponding to one volume/tone configuration on the Deluxe. Young accesses the presets through footswitches on his pedal board, which, in turn, command the Whizzer to mechanically twist the Deluxe’s tone and volume controls to the programmed positions.

All four of the Whizzer’s presets dial in distorted tones on the Deluxe. “The first one,” says Cragg, “is still clean enough that Neil can get really nice dynamics, depending on the way he picks. The second setting is the one he uses on songs like ‘Hey Hey, My My,’ and the third one is really distorted.” The final setting, which moves the Deluxe’s main volume and tone knobs to 12 and the second volume control to roughly 9.9, produces a sound that, says Cragg, “is basically a woooaaarrr type of thing.”

Cragg pads down the output from the Deluxe and feeds it into a Magnatone 280 with stereo vibrato combo amp, and a Mesa/Boogie Bass 400 head with the highs EQ’d out. The latter amplifier is run through a massive Magnatone speaker cabinet that sports “eight horns, four 10-inch speakers, four 15-inch speakers and two 15-inch passive radiators.” The stage rig is rounded out by a 25-watt tweed Fender Tremolux of Cragg’s that the tech rebiased to run at 40 watts, as well as a “high-powered, four-6L6” tweed Fender Twin. Cragg uses a combination of Sennheiser 409 and Shure SM57 microphones on the amps. Young’s reverb unit, a stock, brown-tolex-covered Fender model, is stationed behind the wall of amplifiers. “We have three plates for that,” says Cragg. “We only use one at a time, but they all sound different.”

Young controls everything from an oversized, red wood pedalboard at the front of the stage. The slanted portion features five buttons: one for each of the four Whizzer presets, as well as a reverb kill. Across the top panel are switches for, variously, a Mu-Tron octave divider; an old, AC-powered MXR analog delay; a Boss Flanger in a “blue, cast-metal box”; and an Echoplex. All are housed inside the board. There is also an effect-loop bypass and mute/tune option, as well as a switch that Cragg refers to as the “ugly button.”

“That’s a very strange thing, and Neil only hits it when he wants to go to the next level,” he says. “It activates a unit that’s just totally freaked out.” Cragg laughs. “It’s adjusted how it definitely should not be adjusted. But Neil seems to like that.”

On page 185 of his new memoir, Bruce Springsteen pays brief but heartfelt homage to his oldest musical collaborator: his old Fender electric guitar. “I strapped on my new guitar, a 1950s mutt with a Telecaster body and an Esquire neck, I’d purchased at Phil Petillo’s guitar shop for one hundred and eighty five dollars. With its wood body worn in like the piece of the cross that it was, it became the guitar that I’d play for the next 40 years. It was the best deal of my life.
Unlike most rock stars who go through instruments as quickly as they do groupies, Springsteen has been a monogamist in this area. He bought the guitar in 1973, around the time he released his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park.

That same guitar was featured prominently the cover of Born to Run in 1975 Also on the cover Live 1975-1985 and on 2012’s Wrecking Ball.

Wreckingball.jpg

“When he sings ‘I’ve got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk’ on ‘Thunder Road,‘ this is the guitar he’s talking about,”

With its swamp ash body, maple neck, and black pickguard, the guitar is not only iconic, it’s also unique. Like Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster “Blackie,” Springsteen’s favorite guitar is a composite assembled from parts from at least two other Fender guitars. The bolt-on neck seems to date from 1957, according to David Eichelbaum, a California luthier and Fender expert who has studied the guitar for decades.

The axe in question is a well-worn 1952 Fender Esquire, which is basically a single-pickup Telecaster. There is some debate as to the year of this guitar. Articles on the subject state that the guitar may have been a 1953 or 1954 model. A close inspection of the guitar reveals that the back of the body is heavily worn from years of playing, making it look like a piece of driftwood.

born-to-run-pickguard

Among Bruce’s stage secrets is the application of household sealants over all the guitar’s cavities (including the gaps between the pickups and the body) to make it waterproof. This is due to the fact that, during a performance, ‘the Boss’ contently likes to dip his head in a full water butt (located at the back of the stage) to cool down, saturating his entire upper body. The sealant protects the pickups and wiring from any subsequent water damage. Interestingly, Bruce likes to ‘seal’ all of his new guitars and tests out their resilience by pouring a two litre bottle of Evian all over the instrument and then plugging it in! The sealant is changed frequently on each guitar, including his trusty Esquire .

An image inlaid in the leather pickguard on the guitar Bruce is holding in the legendary photo: a man standing under a streetlight, being watched from a nearby window.

A leathersmith embedded the depiction into the pickguard and the image eventually wore away.
The guitar has been used on the majority of Bruce’s famous recordings and tours and it is unlikely that he will ever part company with it.

springsteen-pickguard

The Esquire decal on the headstock indicates that the neck came from the single-pickup variant of Fender’s more-popular two-pickup Telecaster.
The heavily modified Telecaster body? That’s another story entirely. According to Petillo, who passed away in 2010, the guitar had been originally owned by a record company and was part of the payola scams of the 1960s. It was jury-rigged with four pickups wired into extra jacks that would each plug into a separate channel on the recording console. With the Fender modded this way, the session player could collect four times union scale for playing four slightly different versions of the same guitar solo.
A huge area under the black pickguard was routed out to make room for those extra electronics, which were removed before Petillo sold the guitar to Springsteen. This missing wood had the unintended side effect of making an already lightweight guitar truly gossamer — and thus perfectly suited to three-hour marathon concerts. “It’s one of the lightest Teles I’ve ever played” says Eichelbaum, who played it at Petillo’s shop. “And it sounded almost like an acoustic because of the big hole in it.”

That sound clearly connected with Springsteen at a crucial moment in his career. In the early 1970s he had been playing a Gibson Les Paul in hard rock bands like Steel Mill, Child and the Bruce Springsteen Band. In explaining its attraction, Bruce cites a number of influential Telecaster players, from Stax-Volt soul legend Steve Cropper to country twanging Elvis sideman James Burton to rock guitar icons Jeff Beck and Pete Townsend. The tone of the the guitar dovetailed with the increasingly eclectic sound of the E-Street Band. “It was a versatile instrument,” he said, in an interview with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I was playing something that was tilting more to soul music, and so I wanted a guitar that could handle the funk and that feeling.”
Over the years, Petillo modified the guitar quite extensively in his basement shop in Neptune, New Jersey, adding his patented triangular Precision Frets, changing out the pickups and waterproofing the guitar with stainless steel and titanium hardware and silicone gaskets for reliability in the sweat-soaked environment that is a Bruce Springsteen show. “You could play [it] underwater,” Petillo explained in a 1984 interview.
Bruce has played the guitar in virtually every live show until around 2005 when it became clear that the guitar was deteriorating so badly it could no longer withstand the abuse of touring. Because of its provenance, the guitar also became seriously valuable, with reported insurance estimates ranging from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.
“It still is unique amongst all my guitars the way it sounds,” Springsteen said in that Hall of Fame interview. “For me, when I put it on, I don’t feel like I have a guitar on. It’s such an integral part of me.”
Despite his affection for his number one, Springsteen has never been one to baby it. “He treats it like a tool,” Eichelbaum explains. For example, during his rendition of “Promised Land” on the 2002 Live From Barcelona video, you can see Springsteen toss what is arguably the World’s Most Valuable Guitar across the stage to longtime guitar tech Kevin Buell. On the other hand, when the guitar did break on tour in Germany in the early 1980s, then–guitar tech Mike Batlan hopped on a plane, couriered the guitar to Petillo’s shop in the middle of the night, and flew it right back to Europe for the next show. “As a little kid, when my brothers and I would be awakened by the bedroom phone ringing in the middle of the night, it was usually a call for help with Bruce’s guitar,” recalls Phil Petillo’s son David, himself now an accomplished luthier. “We would refer to my mom’s bedroom phone as the Bat Phone.”
With the Esquire retired from road warrior status, these days Springsteen, who once told the Los Angeles Times he would “be buried with [his] Tele on,” plays the next best thing: clones. On any given night he’ll cycle through a battery of heavily-modified Fender Telecasters with replaced pickups and v-necks carved to mimic the shape of the original. Some of them even feature a “relic” finish meant to mimic the abuse heaped on the original. Bruce still records with the original, and he takes his old friend out onstage for special occasions like the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
“I’ve held it aloft to the audience on thousands and thousands and thousands of nights,” he explains. “I suppose with the idea that it says something about the power of rock & roll, and the power of us.”

Image result for terry kath

Legendary rock band Chicago are a staple in the rock community. Their music and stage persona have transcended generation after generation. Though they have had a fluctuation of members throughout the years, they have still proven they their music is as consistently good as ever. But many could argue that they sounded their best back in 1970, and though it is debatable, it’s certainly hard to argue against it. But anyway, let’s get to the point of the video.

Back in 1970, Chicago took to the stage to perform their hit song 25 Or 6 To 4 live, but the truly amazing part about this video is what lead guitarist Terry Kath proceeds to do during the instrumental. Keep your eye on him throughout the entire video.

Chicago – “25 or 6 to 4”
Recorded Live: 7/21/1970 – Tanglewood – Lenox, MA

Personnel:
Robert Lamm – keyboards, lead vocals
Terry Kath – guitar, lead vocals
Peter Cetera – bass, lead vocals
James Pankow – trombone, percussion
Lee Loughnane – trumpet, percussio, background vocals
Walter Parazaider – woodwinds, percussion, background vocals
Daniel Seraphine – drums

10.4 guitarlington

The world’s largest consumer guitar trade show being held Oct. 15th & 16th at the Arlington Convention Center. Buy, sell or trade new and vintage guitars, amps, banjos, mandolins, memorabilia, sound gear, records, drum kits, accessories and lots more from over 100 different vendors