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Monthly ArchiveDecember 2005

The Night I Played Link Wray’s Guitar

Last month guitar legend Link Wray passed away at his Copenhagen home at the age of seventy-six. A master of raw tone and minimalist riffs, Link Wray was the great grandfather of the power chord.

Slinky: Link Wray & the Wraymen

Slinky: Link Wray & the Wraymen

Link learned the guitar at the age of nine from a carnie named Hambone, in town with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. They began their friendship when Hambone noticed Link strumming an old acoustic on his parents’ front porch. As an army brat, Link was used to a nomadic lifestyle. By the age of fifteen he was paying twenty dollars a night to sit in with country-great Tex Ritter, so he could continue to learn his craft.

Lacking the technical know-how of the jazz luminaries of the day, TalFarlow and Django Reinhardt being his favorites, and unable to sing due to the loss of a lung to childhood tuberculosis, Link began to experiment with his sound. He tried such original ideas as poking holes in his amplifier speakers to get a new kind of distortion. Teaming with his brother Doug and first cousin Shorty, The Wraymenwere born. Prestigious venues and Top 20 success followed in 1958, when Rumble (actually titled Oddball by Link) made the Charts.

Link Wray

Link Wray

This ushered in the era of the guitar instrumental, and Link stayed ahead of the pack by using unique guitars and the electronics of the day, creating probably one of the first home studios. He called it the Three Track Shack because it was housed in a shed and had only one three-track tape recorder, ;state of the art for the time. By merging chugging blues, surf twang, and psychedelia into a sound that was soulful, irreverent, and individual, Link Wray created a new music. Some people call it Rock and Roll.

A friend of mine had every Link Wray album. My education began by playing each of these albums over and over. So when Link came to town, it was the show I had been waiting. We plotted and planned, bought tickets and then lost them, bought them again. Two nights later we were ready to go. I slicked up my shoes and slimed up my hair in true Rockabilly fashion, donning a western shirt embossed with tigers. My friend was dressed to dazzle in a late 50s ruby red velvet dress and a pair of knee-high stiletto boots.

Link Wray with a Supro Dual Tone Guitar

Link Wray with a Supro Dual Tone Guitar

We arrived as Link roared into Rumble. The thrust and the volume of the song was even more powerful live. Link stood firm and anchored the band with ultra-fuzz arpeggio riffs, keeping the trio in tow. With his lanky lumbering frame, a fierce ponytail, and motorcycle jacket, he hunched into his guitar. It was incredible that the man producing this wall of brute sonic strength was in his seventies. As he roared along, I realized that this timeless music has never been more alive. After Jack the Ripper, Rawhide, and Ace of Spades (some were played twice during the evening), he launched into one of his more way-out songs. He cranked it all the way up and I realized this was probably the last song of the night.

Link Wray concert ticket (October 2000)

Link Wray concert ticket (October 2000)

My friend and I rushed forward to witness the rollicking rave-up. We slid in next to the stage, and with a wail of his guitar he seemed to play off of us alone, looking our way with an expression of childlike wonder. I figured he had his eye on my lady friend. Then something remarkable occurred. He walked over to face me, continuing to play. As the eyes of a shaman stared into mine, he strummed with his right hand and motioned for me to play the neck. And there I was, dear reader, simultaneously reaping the riffage with the legend himself. As tom toms rolled and cymbals crashed and the electric bass pounded to a climax, Link looked directly at me and nodded as though we had shared an intimate secret. In the next moment he was center stage again, commanding the final surge of power and sound to ecstatic applause. My friend also reveled in the moment, a firsthand witness to a dream come true.

Link Wray on stage

Link Wray on stage

All the greats have come across Link at one point in their musical development. He didn’t live to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but was inducted into its Rockabilly counterpart. Bob Dylan, hearing of Link’s death, covered Rumble last week. Neil Young once said, if he could see any band in the world, he would chose Link Wray and The Wraymen. Simply put, the king is gone, but he is not forgotten.

Post by: Devin Patrick

Rhythm & Lead Guitar

I did my monthly gig in Sydney on the weekend with The Train. A long way to go for one gig, but I do it anyway. I leave home at 3 pm, drive an hour to the airport, wait for the flight, fly for an hour and a half, drive to the gig and set up, play til 1:30 am, get to my friend’s place by 3 am to crash til 8 am, wake up, shower, and taxi to the airport for the 9:30 am flight back to the Gold Coast, and drive an hour to get home by noon. Why do I do it? Because I love playing those two sets. It sure ain’t for the money. By the time all the expenses are paid, it works out to about $13 an hour!

One thing I discovered though: The new soft case I bought for my Strat fits into the overhead locker of the 767 so I don’t have check it in as baggage. I’ve always hated to see my old Fender disappear down the conveyor belt. You’re never quite sure that you’ll ever see it again. Now, I don’t have to part with it. I did however get asked the question.

Why is it that so many people think that there are two kinds of guitar player — rhythm and lead? I’ve been asked the question a million times in my playing career, mostly by beginners and non players. “What do you play? Rhythm or lead?” like they were two different instruments. I like to say I play music.

If you want to call yourself a guitarist, you must of course be able to do both, and for me the distinction between the two becomes more and more blurred as the years go by. A simple muted single note melodic line can become a great rhythm part conversely, a sequence of chords can easily be heard as the ‘lead’ part if approached with that in mind. Both are music.

The song should dictate what’s required. Obviously, when the singer is singing, the spotlight should be on him or her. To be riffing away would be distracting if not downright rude. This is when you should be thinking ‘rhythm’. This is when you should be listening to the singer, the lyrics, and asking yourself “What’s the least I can do here to help give the singer and the song their best shot”, and by least I mean “minimum amount of playing”. You will never go wrong thinking small, especially if you play with others in a band. This is very difficult to do, by the way, as some of you may already know. It’s much easier to play a continuous, mechanical strumming part than to break it up into little pieces and throw three quarters of them away. The first first technique is robot-like, the latter requires thought, consideration and taste.

As for ‘lead guitar’, even after thirty nine years now of playing guitar, I still don’t really know what it is, but I think it has a lot to do with what George used to do with The Beatles: playing the intro themes, filling the gaps between the vocals with riffs, either improvised or written into the song, and of course, taking the solos, again, either improvised or set in concrete. I must say though, that after all these years of playing and hanging out with players, I’ve never met a ‘lead guitarist’, a guy who just plays themes, riffs and solos. Before you can do that, you must first know about chords (rhythm) so that you know where to find your riffs, licks and solos. They are born from chords.

Again, when playing ‘lead’, less is best, and again, much harder to do. Running mechanically up and down scales at breakneck speed is not really making music. Killer melodies come from the heart, not the fingers, not the scale, as I’ve stressed over and over in these columns.

I used to see music as a building process — adding this element to that, collecting riffs and licks, connecting bits of information. Now that I know, I see playing music as a process of subtraction. I ask myself questions like: How few notes can I use out of all the possibilities to covey what I want? What’s the smallest way of stating (for example) Am7, and how big can the holes be between plucks or strums without losing the feel of the song. The challenge of deciding what NOT to play is much greater than collecting all the bits and pieces in the first place. As I’ve mentioned before, this is where taste comes in.

That’s it for now. Gotta go do some pickin’.


Kirk Lorange is one of Australia’s best know slide guitarists. He is also the author of PlaneTalk guitar method. Check out his sites: www.KirkLorange.com and www.ThatllTeachYou.com

Mama’s Got a Squeezebox (1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar)

Accordions. If you play guitar, you probably don’t think much about them. But from several perspectives they played an important role in giving the guitar a boost to prominence that it now enjoys. A role that is nicely evidenced by this very swell c. 1967 Galanti Grand Prix electric guitar.

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

Accordions were actually pretty popular in the US from the 1920’s on, probably due to their popularity in Vaudeville acts. They were heavily associated with Italians, which is no surprise since the center of accordion-making then and to this day is focused on the area of Castelfidardo on the northeast central Italian coast. The entertainment industry was one avenue open to many Italian immigrants, and by the early 20th Century there were a lot of Italian acts working the Vaudeville circuits, often playing to ethnic stereotypes. Accordions began showing up in Sears catalogs in the 1920s and accordion orchestras for kids began appearing. A number of mostly Italian virtuoso accordionists became popular in the 1930s, although the rise of Polish polka music (with accordions) also had influence in certain areas of the U.S.

But the real rage for accordions came in the mid-1950s with the early Post-War Baby Boom. Suddenly accordions proliferated. Companies built up large chains of music studios and imported and distributed Italian accordions bearing their name. One such was a company out of Chicago run by Frank Galanti.

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

Galanti was a well-known Chi-town accordionist, but he was probably also a relative of the firm that made the accordions he imported. Galanti accordions were invented by Antonio Galanti in a small village called Mondaino near Romagna in 1890. Production began in 1917 and, indeed, the company is still in operation.

Unfortunately for all these squeezeboxers, by the mid-1950s the accordion craze had run out of air. Accordions were no longer hip. Then, after some floundering, the salvation arrived in the hands of the Kingston Trio. Significantly, in around 1959 the publication Accordion World changed its name to Accordion and Guitar World! Virtually all the accordion manufacturers added guitars to their lines. The fabled Guitar Boom had begun!

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 Electric Guitar

Few of the early acoustic guitars built by the accordionistas were particularly notable, but especially after the Beatles, they produced some of the classic electrics. This c. 1967 Galanti Grand Prix 3003 (#2843) is a real sweatheart. It’s made out of mahogany and sports a lot of typically European appointments, including nice Van Ghent tuners and three nice clean single-coil pickups. As on many guitars made by the accordion guys, the electronics are inspired by the push-buttons on squeeboxes, so here you get buttons for (in order): O (off, my fave), 2 (middle), 1+3, 3, 1, and M (all three pickups). As on a lot of Italian guitars, there’s not a great deal of tonal subtlety between positions.

Actually, Galanti guitars, mostly finished in subdued sunbursts, were pretty restrained for an accordionista guitar, which typically favored plastic coverings, sparkle, or at least bold color schemes like black-green sunburst. IMHO Galantis were among the best made at the time. They got pretty wide distribution during their day, but drop from sight by 1968. Accordions did rebound a bit in popularity, though never as much as in their heyday. But at least we have them to thanks for cool artifacts like Galanti guitars!

Bands On Tour with Eastwood Guitars

The Gathering (from Holland)

The Gathering (from Holland)

Holland’s The Gathering are in the studio working on their new album this month and sporting a rack full of new Eastwood Guitars. Also, fellow Torontonians Stars, Broken Social Scene and Metric are wrapping up their tours this month featuring their new Eastwood Airline Guitars, as is Maximo Park with Eastwood Airline and Ichiban guitars. Get out there and support live music!