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Monthly ArchiveDecember 2008

Hey Man, What’s That Sound? (1966 Standel 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar)

Back in the late 1960s—Jimi notwithstanding—the cat’s pajamas of amplifiers were solid-state. Tube amps were heavy and prone to feedback. Solid-state amps were clean, big, and loud. I ran a whole band off a humongous 350-watt Mosrite amp. The mix sucked, but we were loud! The most desirable amps at that time were made by Standel and, to a lesser extent, Kustom (depended on your kind of music). It was only later that I learned that both companies also made guitars, like this ca. 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Solid Body Guitar. Heavy!

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

Fast forward to the go-go ‘80s. Not about stocks or dancing. Go-go because I was buying guitars hand over fist. Weird guitars. Mystery guitars. One of those guitars snared in my trap was this Standel. I held back at first because there was some damage to the pickguard near the jack and I had no idea what this thing was. But plastic can be fixed, right? Once I started looking into this guitar, I was glad I didn’t pass.

Roll the tape further forward and I still don’t know much definitively about this particular guitar. Standel was begun as a tube amp company by Bob Crooks in Temple City, California, near Los Angeles, in 1953. The solid-state amps came in around 1965. As indicated, he was pretty successful, so it was a logical next step to cash in on the guitar boom and introduce a line of guitars. In around 1961 or 1962 Crooks approached a young Semie Moseley, who’d been making waves hot-rodding the guitars of local Country-Western stars, and asked him to design a guitar that was “as close to being a Fender as possible without being a Fender.” Moseley said sure, grabbed a Strat, flipped it over and traced the outline upside down. Voila, the first Standel guitar! Moseley build about 25 of these guitars for Standel, but the project languished for reasons unknown. It was this design that became the legendary Mosrite Ventures guitars of 1963.

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

Following the brief association with Moseley, Crooks began selling Dobros made in El Monte, California, by Emil and Rudy Dopyera, who came out of retirement to revive Dobro brand resonator guitars. That lasted until 1965 when Semie Moseley purchased Dobro. That same year saw Standel’s association with former Mosrite employee Joe Hall, the man who made the famous Hallmark guitars. These were pretty much Mosrite knock-offs. It is entirely possible this guitar is one of those; the CTS pot code is 137 6532, dating it to August of ’65. Some reports have Crooks getting some guitars from another guitarmaker named Bill Gruggett of Bakersfield, California.

After the brief stint with Hall, Crooks turned eastward to the Harptone Manufacturing Corporation in Newark, New Jersey. Harptone is still known today as a manufacturer of high-quality hardshell cases, but during the ‘60s they also did some guitarmaking (they’d done some before World War II, as well). Their chief luthier was the somewhat eccentric Sam Koontz. Koontz built custom-made archtops and ran the set-up and repair functions at Philadelphia Music Company, the principal importer of German-made Framus guitars. From around 1966 until around 1969 Harptone/Koontz built a variety of interesting, mainly thinline hollowbodies carrying the Standel brand.

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Standel Model 101 Custom Deluxe Electric Guitar

But this is not about them. It’s about this odd guitar. Obviously, this is kind of a cross between a Burns Bison and a Mosrite Ventures. A lot of features are clearly Mosrite, including the German carve top and zero fret, though Koontz used these, too. This is a heavy guitar, probably made of mahogany, though it could be maple. The single-coil pickups look a lot like those made by Micro-Frets, but there’s no reason to think there’s a connection. They are pretty good pickups, with 3.88 kO of output. But check this out. They are epoxy potted. Now, who did that? Another fellow with New York/New Jersey connections, Dan Armstrong. Could he have done these? Dunno. These are replacement knobs, by the way, though everything else is original.

Other curious characteristic include a neck-tilt adjustment and two sets of volume/tone controls. The red switch lets you toggle between them. I guess that’s so you can pre-set them for lead/rhythm. The neck is nice and thin, but with a round profile that gives it a feeling of heft. The tuners are actually Grovers.

So, made by Moseley? Timing wrong. By John Hall? Bill Gruggett? Who knows? But probably not. By Sam Koontz? Most likely, though he didn’t do much with solids. Help from Dan Armstrong? Tantalizing, but unknown. In any case, despite its goofy looks, this is actually a pretty good quality guitar. Definitely a middle-level-plus axe with some professional features. Perfect for “Walk, Don’t Run” and “Pipeline.” Through solid-state or tubes, your choice! And even with the spotty pedigree a way cool blast from the past! Glad I grabbed it when I had the chance…

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar from Liquid Metal Guitars

Phil Cook, Owner of Liquid Metal Guitars talks about his guitars and company.

We build exceptional guitars. We build metal bodied guitars, that are either chrome, machined etched surface treatment or Harley Davidson candy paints for a look that is brilliant and bright and unique and cool. The one you are looking at now is our chromed beauty, the M1 T.V. Jones Premium.

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

And on top of the look the sound is exceptional. We have found ways to make absolutely incredible sound. Nothing you have to get used to, just better cleaner, clearer sound. In all of our guitars we use custom pickup sets designed for us by T.V. Jones, Lindy Fralin and soon Joe Barden, some of the highest regarded boutique pick up designers in the business. They have taken their skill and built pickups sets exclusively for the qualities and dynamics of our metal bodies. And we can put it all in the hands of a player at the same price as most custom guitars.

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

Over the years, we have figured out what works best for sound in the body of the guitar, we have come up with a proprietary widths and thicknesses, that has the best sustainability and dynamics. We have learned how to cut the body to the approximate shape and weight we needed, at a cost that is acceptable, we learned a ton of tricks.

The hand polishing and smoothing is still one man, one wheel and time, the aluminum smoothed, sanded to a 1200 finish for chrome or gold but worth it in the end. The surfaces are smooth and glossy, just like liquid metal. That’s what I kept telling everyone, remember, we are liquid metal, that is what we are after, liquid metal. The by-line is that we do things exclusive to metal not something you can duplicate in wood.

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar (Liquid Metal Guitars)

When we started years back I went out to look and see if there was anyone doing this same thing, no there wasn’t, not out of a solid block of aluminum. ( Interestingly, Apple in their new notebook is using clamshells made the same way as what we do, machined out of a single block of aircraft aluminum, Apple Design, because of the integrity of metal.)

I was really encouraged when I found some serious instrument makers in the past had done cellos and violins out of aluminum and had excellent results. that told me there had to be some great sound qualities.

I read about John Veleno and how he had made an aluminum guitar that really caught the attention of marquis players in the late 60’s and 70’s. What really set me off was this Harley Davidson Strat, chromed Strat, at the big music store here. Loved the chrome look, that just nailed it for us, it was breathtakingly cool and they had a price tag on it of $45,000 , no kidding, $45,000. We knew we could do it for just a bit less, just a bit.

More info about the M1 TV Jones Premium Guitar:

  • BODY: A solid block of aluminum alloy is machined to our proprietary thickness. This is the thickness that we found in our researching and prototyping to have the best qualities for sound. The guitar is hollowed out, but plays as a solid body guitar.The chromed body is 17 ” long from the tip of the top horn to the back, 13 1/2 ” at the widest body point, with a 7 3/4″ waist. The guitar weighs 9.75 lbs.
  • NECK: Ebony fingerboard with 22 frets and 25 1/2″ scale, 1.71″ wide @ nut, 2.22″ wide @ 22nd fret. Graphite nut which incorporates Teflon and match the grooves to each guitar’s intonation. This makes the guitar exceptionable playable. A diamond ground fingerboard is accurate to within one thousandth of an inch for super low string action. Hard alloy precision medium jumbo frets are .103 wide and .048 tall. The neck is painted black, with three coats of black paint then seven thin coats of clear, that is wet sanded and buffed after each coat. Tuners Gotoh’s six in line mini – tuners, are beautiful to look at and a dream to use, with an 18:1 ratio. The tuners have unique permanent Lubri-Plateâ„¢ coating on the gears assures consistent lubrication without grease, for smoother tuning. Gotoh’s new Rock-Solid string posts eliminate looseness for better tuning stability, they stay in tune.
  • PICKUPS: TV Jones LMG powertrons. Tom used a thicker, higher pole piece to take advantage of the sustaining qualities of our metal.
  • PRICE: $3600 USA. Includes deluxe hardshell case.
  • Shipping to North America and most European countries is FREE. $50 extra for others. Please email first for a quote.

Dealer Profile: Guitars & Amps (The Netherlands)

Guitars & Amps was founded by Matthijs Gaspar and René Rutten, both seasoned and passionate guitar players. Together we have a history of over 30 years in the music industry: 13 years in the musical instrument retail, wholesale and import business (Matthijs) and 18 years as performing artist (The Gathering), producer and record label owner (René). Thanks to this long experience we know the back and front of the industry, so we can provide you with detailed information and expert technical advice. We understand the needs, wants and problems of guitar players, also when it comes to live performances, tours, recordings etc. From one guitar player to another, we promise you quality, know-how, honest advice and value for money. Come and see for yourself: one handshake is worth a thousand words!

Guitars & Amps store (The Netherlands)

Guitars & Amps store (The Netherlands)

Whether you are an absolute beginner or a professional artist, you will find our shop packed with high-value musical instruments and accessories, carefully chosen from the worlds leading suppliers and manufacturers.

Of course we have the big names in store like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, PRS, Ovation, Takamine and Taylor. We also stock guitars from quality brands like Larrivée, Furch, Jackson, Schecter, Framus, Duesenberg and the one and only Nik Huber. In addition, we keep an eye on new and interesting developments on our visits to international trade shows (Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt). There, for instance, we spotted up-and-coming brand Eastwood from Canada: professional quality guitars at a very affordable price. Another brand we took on board is Spear Guitars, who also absolutely amazed us with their great value for money.

We also stock the best in amplifiers, effects and audio solutions. You will find a great selection of Koch, Marshall, Vox, Bogner, Mesa Boogie, Brunetti, Orange, Hiwatt, Fender and Blackstar amps, to name a few, and cool effect pedals from brands like Dunlop, Vox, Ernie Ball, Fender, RMC, Fulltone, Voodoo Lab, Z-Vex, T-Rex, MI Audio, Visual Sound, Emma, Toadworks, Blackstar, Maxon, Lehle, Love Pedal, Menatone, Mad Professor etc. You’re welcome to take your time and test anything and everything in our separate test rooms. After all, nothing is more personal than tone.

Guitars & Amps
van Berchenstraat 3-B
6511 BA Nijmegen
the Netherlands
+31 (0)24-3604582

Joey Leone & Wendell Ferguson at NAMM 2009

Well folks, if you have not made plans to attend NAMM 2009 this year, it’s not too late. Eastwood Guitars will be exibiting at booth #1155 again this year. BUT! For the first time, Joey Leone and Wendell Ferguson with be at the booth, at the same time, Friday Jan 16th. No promises, but maybe we can talk them into one of these jams:

Top 10 Things I Listened To/Am Listening To In 2008

No rare guitars or wacky amps in this month’s column, as I haven’t bought anything in a while. I’m still waiting for my own bailout for the bailout we’ve paid for a few times over before I can resume buying strange amps and guitars again. So, without further delay, the obligatory TOP 10 list for the end of the year. You’ll note that most of these things were not released in 2008, nor are there only 10 of them. There are 4 extra and the price is right. Peace, all.

1. Voices in my head.
This is not an album, but actual, annoying, mostly dissonant, sometimes resolving to melody and harmony, but mostly the clang of plates and the murmurs of distant conversations in my head. Mostly medicated, most recently, professionally (and with un-fun and responsible medicines…self-medicating is so much better, buzz-wise, except you could end up homeless, in jail, suicidal and welcoming death…otherwise, it’s the way to go) so. NOT RECOMMENDED. One star out of ten. For “Roberge complete-ists” only, of which there are, at last count and including me, exactly none on the planet. (Note that all of the following were listened to with #1 going on in the background, so your mileage may vary).

2. South San Gabriel’s WELCOME CONVALESCENCE (2003)
This has been in constant rotation since the year of its release. The quieter cousin to the other Will Johnson fronted Denton TX band, Centro-Matic, SSG is an incredible band. There’s not a dud on this album, and most are classics. The kind of album you start making a mixed CD for someone and you realized you, one-by-one, selected the whole damn record. 10 stars out of ten. Go buy it.

3. Arnold Schoenberg: Piano Music.
Paul Jacobs, piano. Zionks, Scoob! This is great.

4. Jay Bennett’s THE MAGNIFICENT DEFEAT (2007)
Bennett shows his studio wizardry that made 1996-2001 Wilco so interesting, while supplying his own beautiful husky voice to a bunch of hook-laden wonderful songs that should please any fan who wants to hear what the bastard child of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits might sound like, given plenty of studio time and a Melotron and a rare dose of melodic genius. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

5. The Gamble’s Quail
I feed outside my back door every morning and sundown. Only for those in the Southwestern US desert. The rest of you, I’ll have to send you a field recording. They sound great.

6. Mike Martt TOMORROW SHINES BRIGHT (2003)
Full disclosure, he’s a pal. But I don’t hit the “repeat” button just because I love someone—they have to write damn good songs, too, and this little-known gem deserves a wider audience. Martt was the main songwriter in LA’s famous cow punks Tex & the Horseheads along with fronting the criminally under-known Low & Sweet Orchestra, along with handling guitar duties at various times for Thelonious Monster and The Gun Club. TSB is a beautiful record—from the opening Americana of “Fading out of Sight” to the rocking “That’s All Mine” to the beautiful and heartbreakingly honest “Wash”, this album should be on your shelf. Or in your PC. Or your I-pod, or wherever the hell it is you kids keep your music these days.

7. A mix of Roky Erickson
Plucked from various albums from the former front man of the legendary 13th Floor Elevators…While maybe too many of the solo-period originals (“Starry Eyes” “You Don’t Love Me Yet” and “For You” to name but a few) use and re-use the classic doo-wop I-VI-IV-V progression, Roky Erickson’s singling and phrasing makes each of them sound new and different. David Lodge says the job of the writer (and I would extend this to any artist) is to make “the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” Not many (Tom Waits?) can sit alone with an acoustic guitar and make you think you’ve never heard anything like it before. Listen to the phrasing on “For You” for instance and fall in love with the human voice as not just the thing that makes the words in pop music, but as an instrument. The man’s a genius singer.

8. Elliot Smith: “The Ballad of Big Nothing.”
A desert-island track for me, for sure. And while I could name most of his catalog for songs I’d want to keep, this one has all of it—the hooks, the wistful, heart-wrenching vocal phrasing, the off-beat catching up with the rhythm of the lyrics, and the lovely jangle of the droning, melodic guitar. What a song & performance.

9. Some new stuff
John Paul Keith and the 1, 4, 5’s “Looking for a Thrill.” Just a great single. I hit their myspace page once a day to hear that tune. It’s like the Replacements if Dave Edmunds produced them with Nick Lowe smoking behind the board. Check it out!

10. SOME more new music: The Mannequin Men’s FLESH ROT.
The Urinals played a show with these guys at the Bottom of the Hill and they BROUGHT it. One of the best young bands I’ve seen/heard in ages. Bring them to your town…and if they happen to be there, you should check them out. Snotty, tuneful, melodic and aggressive. The way rock should be, or at least one glorious facet of rock, which these guys bring in spades.

11. Why stop at ten?
I’ve been re-visiting Bob Dylan’s best (for me—my Bob Dylan is not your Bob Dylan, after all) period—spanning perhaps the most creative and mind-blowing two years in rick history by a recording artist—where from late 1964 (BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME), early 65 (HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED) to 1966 (BLONDE ON BLONDE), the man was on fire. The outtakes from this period (“Please Crawl Out Your Window”, “Positively 4th Street” and various alternate takes from album cuts) would be better than most people’s albums of that or any time. From the half acoustic/electric of BRINGING IT, to the blistering and sublime high-water mark of HIGHWAY 61, to the mercury tingle of BLONDE, the man did no wrong for a sustained period of creativity and greatness unmatched (even by the Beatles and Stones) in the history of rock. And, shit, “Desolation Row” alone is worth ten desert island discs. Wow.

12. Steve Turner and His Bad Ideas: “A Beautiful Winter.”
File this in the “songs I wish I’d written” category. Just a lovely duet by Turner (of Mudhoney fame) with Holly Golightly…great lyric, melancholy vocal performance and a killer melody. Can’t be beat.

13. The Handsome Family: LIVE AT SCHUBA’S TAVERN
This is, criminally, (and I hope temporarily) out of print, but it’s one of the greatest live albums ever recorded by one of the best bands you’ll ever hear. Husband-wife team Brent and Rennie Sparks have produced some of the most incredible music of the last 15 years and you owe it to yourself to track this (and their other releases) down. Rennie Sparks may be the most creative and interesting lyricist working today (check any number of tracks for astounding evidence, but for starters, “Amelia Earhart Versus the Dancing Bear” “Winnebago Skeletons” “Drunk by Noon” or “Weightless Again”), and the songs are masterfully put together and anchored by Brent’s multi-instrument abilities and lovely deep voice. Imagine if Flannery O’Connor and John Ashbury started a band after listening to the Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams, but got even depressed and more tunefully southern Americana gothic. Actually, you CAN’T imagine how these two sound—go buy some. It’s music so good, you’ll want to annoy strangers on the subway, taking out your earphones and saying, “Damn, listen to this!”

Which seems like a good place to stop—damn, listen to this. Happy 2009, everyone.

Rob Roberge: Looking Busy in 2008

Rob Roberge: Looking Busy in 2008