Archive for the ‘Guitars’ Category

This year, The Fender Custom Shop turns 30.

To celebrate the legendary shop that has built guitars for the likes of Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, The Stones, Jimmy Page and Bob Dylan, director Ross Haines has made a short documentary dedicated to the ‘nirvana for guitar lovers’.

The Dream Factory was born after Ross entered the Fender shop for the first time while scouting for another shoot. “When we walked in we were blown away. It’s just an incredible wonderland of vintage machines and hard-working craftsman doing what they’ve been doing for decades. Any photographer or filmmaker would have a field day in that place. After seeing the Custom Shop, the elite shop within Fender which is pretty much the Holy Grail of guitar making, I was super inspired to tell a deeper story about some aspect of the space. From there, the creative director, Nate Morley, and I brainstormed this concept and as timing would have it, it just so happened to be the 30th Anniversary of the Custom Shop.”

To tell the tale, Ross mixed previously unseen VHS archival footage from the early days and recent conversations with the eight original master builders. Though the film covers a lot in ten minutes, surely there were some wild stories that didn’t make the cut. Ross confirms there were plenty, but Michael Steven’s story takes the cake. “One of the best stories belongs to Michael Stevens, the very first employee of the Custom Shop. He was working on a new project for Eric Clapton. Michael is a real cowboy, Texas bred, and no bullshit dude. Both were getting a bit frustrated because a detail of the neck wasn’t quite perfect and they were having trouble getting in touch with each other to figure out why—this is pre-internet or cell phones, obviously.

So eventually Clapton sent his guitar to the custom shop. This is not just any guitar, this is the famous “Blackie” a priceless piece of rock history. Clapton played “Blackie” almost exclusively on stage and in the studio from 1974-1985, recording songs like “Cocaine” and “Layla”. So for two weeks, Michael slept with Blackie under his bed and a gun under his pillow. In his words, “I didn’t want my tombstone to read, ‘Here lies the man who lost Blackie’.” Luckily no one tried to steal Blackie and Clapton loved the guitar they made for him.

Guitars are pretty personal things, and everyone has their favourites. For Ross, his all time favourite is guitar 001, Fender’s first double neck, which you can see in all its glory in the film.

GREAT GUITARISTS Marc Bolan

Posted: March 25, 2017 in Guitars
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With his glam-rock looks and pop-metal hooks, Marc Bolan led his band T. Rex into the stratosphere in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and his customized Gibson Les Paul was the fuel that propelled it all skyward. Dressed in a simplicity that gave them a broad and infectious appeal, songs like “Ride a White Swan,” “Get It On (Bang a Gong),” “Jeepster,” “Metal Guru,” “Children of the Revolution” and “20th Century Boy” were laced through with addictive riffs and crunching rhythm guitar that sounded consistently massive—and hooked burgeoning metal-heads and teeny-boppers alike. Bolan’s star burned out far too soon when he died in a car accident in Southwest London in 1977 shortly before his 30th birthday, but his music and its influence have remained strong over the intervening decades.

The flamboyant Glam Rock hero Marc Bolan certainly fueled his playing more with passion than technical ability, though he was never shy about letting his Les Paul roar—witness the brazen, beefy saturation pouring out of his Orange half-stack here in this 1973 live clip of the tune “Buick McKane”, (originally from 1972’s studio album The Slider ).

Ironically, given the raw energy meted out here, Bolan’s song-supportive passing figures and chunky rhythm figures on record are surprisingly tasteful and tight; listen to the studio versions of The Slider and “Mambo Sun” for a sample of his ability to orchestrate lines around the rhythm section. Still, it’s no wonder that Bolan was one of the few early ’70s rock gods that the punk generation worshipped: the sheer joy and abandon, and fat sonics, of his live guitar playing wouldn’t be out of place on a Sex Pistols album.

Those who know about Sister Rosetta Tharpe celebrate her legacy like a wondrous secret. She is remembered today not only as the Godmother of Rock and Roll but also as a guitar force to be reckoned with.

The gospel singer captured the hearts of many with a flamboyant personality that radiated on stage as she sang and her distinctively quick fingerpicking style that would influence guitar legends like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, and Elvis Presley.

But Sister Rosetta Tharpe wasn’t only about the stage show. She aimed to challenge her fan base by using both suggestive lyrical content in the context of gospel songs and by using religious lyrics in the context of rock and roll. Straddling the line between secular clubs on Saturday nights and church services on Sunday mornings, she managed to be an inspiration to both the sinners and the saints.

Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915 and picked up the guitar for the very first time four years later. She toured with her mother in a gospel troupe around the country until eventually settling in Chicago, where her talents were praised and treasured by the church community.

When she recorded her first smash hit “Rock Me” for Decca Records in 1938, the religious fans were appalled by the sexually suggestive lyrics. It was the first song ever described by a music journalist as being a “rock and roll” song, and her 1944 album Strange Things Happening Everyday is often credited as the first rock and roll record.

Tharpe’s playing showcased the guitar as an extension of herself. The jangly licks acted as a call and response to her singing. She used passionate variation in a way that seemed almost instinctive, though every note was packed with purpose. She would hover her arms in the air as if possessed by a higher power before returning to her guitar, bending her strings with melody-driven, pulsating riffs that left listeners in awe. Sister Rosetta Tharpe would wail, and her guitar would wail right behind her.

While shredding in front of clapping choirs, her tone went from clean and twangy to distorted and full. She was most often seen playing a White Gibson SG in later years but used a variety of archtops and acoustics earlier in her career. She pushed her volume as loud as possible and rarely sang while playing, so that her guitar and voice would be distinguished on their own.

From her expressive hand motions unapologetically interrupting her guitar playing to her honest, exuberant and direct facial expressions, Tharpe had a knack for captivating an audience with animated onstage performances. She often sang directly up at the sky, her shoulders lifting as if with goosebumps from conversing with a higher power, before returning to dazzle the crowd with her fast-paced, blues-inspired lead lines.

Tharpe quickly became the nation’s first commercially successful – albeit controversial – gospel singer. It wasn’t just that most gospel singers at that time would never windmill their guitars. Her life offstage also didn’t always adhere to the norms of her church. Tharpe toured around the world until her later life when she suffered two strokes, ultimately passing away in Philadelphia at only 58 years old.

Her line-walking lyricism helped her to bridge the gap between gospel music and rock and roll decades ago, and her following remains spread out between fans of both genres.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s headstone now reads, “She would sing until you cried, then she would sing until you danced for joy,” acclaim that transcends any barrier-breaking or amount of influence.

Through 10 studio albums and 23 years of world-spanning tours, Wilco has always been a band that’s covered a lot of musical ground. The Chicago outfit’s output has touched everything from country to noise rock, earning them a diverse legion of fans along the way.

Next Thursday, you’ll have the chance to buy some of Wilco’s gear. Jeff Tweedy and company will be opening up a shop on Reverb.com called “The Wilco Loft Shop,” named after their Chicago studio/”safe haven for making music” where much of the gear currently resides, and selling off various items from their collections.

The instruments range from insanely valuable, including a 1958 Gretsch 6021 and two 1940’s Gibson flattop acoustics, all owned by Tweedy, to more collector-focused, like an assortment of guest passes from past Wilco tours. Tweedy discusses the decision to open up the online shop, stating, “Every once in a while we look around the loft and say ‘Geez, there’s just too much stuff up here,’” adding, “We hate to see it go, but we’re sure you’ll put it to good use!”.

A canon this versatile requires an extensive collection of gear. On Thursday, March 16th, the sextet is set to release some of their arsenal back into the wild of Reverb as part of the official Wilco Loft Shop.

This latest batch of Wilco gear reflects the particular tastes of each member of the band. Nels Cline is parting with an experimental offset from Bilt Guitars, while the always eclectic Glenn Kotche has bundled together various lots of percussive odds and ends from his personal stash. Keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen is selling a couple of analog synths, while multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone is passing along a pair of road-tested Telecasters.

The lion’s share of the sale comes from noted gear shepherd, Jeff Tweedy. Choice pieces include a pristine 1958 Gretsch 6120 hollowbody, a modified ’70s Gibson Explorer, a Bigsby-loaded ’67 Tele, and two original banner-era Gibson flattops.

It’s not all collector-grade fodder, though. Also included in this sale are historical oddballs, like a set of Czech-made Jolana guitars from the ’60s, as well as instruments from Harmony, Ovation, and Burns, among many others.

The Wilco Loft Shop will be live on Thursday, March 16th on Reverb.com All items have been used by members of the band on tour and in the studio, and each item will ship with signed certificates of authenticity..

David Gilmour’s Acoustic Take On This Pink Floyd Classic Is So Gorgeous, You Might Forget To “Breathe” | Society Of Rock Videos

It’s no secret that Pink Floyd’s 1973 epic Dark Side of the Moon is one of the greatest rock albums ever written. A sonic landscape that found band members David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright plumbing the depths of their artistic abilities to fearlessly explore the topics of conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, Dark Side of the Moon is an album that when stripped down to its bare bones still remains an absolute wonder to behold – so it’s not much of a surprise that David Gilmour’s choice to go unplugged for one of the album’s key tracks yielded a gorgeous, fresh take.

The second track off of Dark Side of the Moon, “Breathe” gets an acoustic update from Gilmour and thanks to the audio located just below this article, we finally get to hear it all; Gilmour’s complex chord progressions, the little nuances that give it its atmospheric qualities – we even get to fully concentrate on “Breathe” as a living, breathing story as opposed to solely appreciating it as a song. Any musician can transpose their own work into an acoustic piece, but it takes an artist to reinvent it and find new and exciting ways to bring their work to you in a way that’s every bit as exciting the second time around as it was the first, and Gilmour succeeds in spades.

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.”

“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,” says Christopher Phillips, editor of the Springsteen fanzine Backstreets.

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 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.#

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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 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.”

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Kurt Cobain’s left-handed Hagstrom Blue Sparkle Deluxe guitar is up for grabs, via an eBay auction.

The guitar is the real deal, with Nirvana’s former guitar tech Earnie Bailey reassuring confirmation that he “hand-delivered the 1958-era instrument to Cobain in Seattle in 1992 at the musician’s request.”

10% of  the sales will go to Transition Project Inc., a Portland charity which assists homeless people find housing – a worthy and relevant cause, considering Cobain often bounced around from house to house during his teenage years. No idea what kinda cash you need to fork out for such a rare piece of rock memorabilia (remember, each time he smashed the bejesus out of a guitar, the ones he didn’t smash became that much more valuable), as you need to pre-quality just to bid.

If you’re interested, check out the auction here, or the guitar below.