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The 10 Most Important Electric Basses in Rock & Roll History

Hello fans of all things strings, I hope you are all playing and learning and most of all enjoying your guitar experiences. The marriage of the electric guitar and electric bass has always been an integral part of the fabric that is rock and roll. I believe that the model and subsequent sound of the bass of choice for a group is actually more important then the guitar and its sound. Case in point could you picture James Jameson playing an Alembic bass, or Chris Squire playing an EB0? Me neither. So lets get into this, and I will give you my opinion on in what I believe to be THE 10 MOST IMPORTANT BASSES IN ROCK & ROLL HISTORY!!!

Joe Cocker at Woodstock (Fender Precision Bass Guitar in background)

Joe Cocker at Woodstock (Fender Precision Bass Guitar in background)

1. Fender Precision Bass
This is the bass that started it all. And all through its many incarnations the P-Bass is, and will always be the industry standard and the safe choice for any application. The bass was so damn popular that you would see ads that read “Band Looking for Fender Bass Player”. It was a distinction that grew out of a way for band leaders to let the bass player know that he could leave his upright at home. It also denoted a preconceived style of music that the bandleader or producer wanted. The “Precision’’ had one pickup and basically one sound, but that sound kicked ass! If you want to hear a few of the P-Basses signature sounds check out James Jamerson’s Motown recordings, and the edgy Precision bass sound on Joe Cocker live at Woodstock’s “With a Little Help from Me Friends.” Even in today’s world of 5, 6 and 7 string basses the P Bass makes a statement when it is produced at a gig or an audition. It says “I understand and respect the roots of bass playing.”If you’re a bass player of any serious stature and you don’t have a Precision Bass, then you better have a Jazz Bass.

1964 Rickenbacker 4001S Bass Guitar

1964 Rickenbacker 4001S Bass Guitar

2. Rickenbacker 4001 Bass
Rickenbacker instruments have been paired with Vox amps over the years, evidenced by the Beatles, Tom Petty (Mike Campbell), and REM to name a few. Interestingly I believe that Ricks are to Fender and Gibson guitars what Vox is to Marshall and Fender amplifiers. Okay point made, now onto the 4001. The first time I saw the Rick 4001 was on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour. There it was, right next to George holding an early rosewood Strat. I listened closely to the record that was included with the cover and could hear a discernable difference in tone from Paul’s previous bass sound. Actually it wasn’t that different because again Paul’s Rick was strung with flatwound bass strings. But unlike the Hofner bass the Rickenbacker’s fate did not lie solely in the hands of the man from Liverpool. Chris Squire armed with a Ricky and some roundwound Rotosounds quickly became the captain of the good ship 4001. His playing on Fragile is mindblowing, and I know it is safe to say that his playing influenced players like Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious, as well as a generation of checkerboard wielding Rickophiles. Again the bass was equipped with two single coils and a very cool pickup cover over the back pickup reminiscent of the old Rickenbacker “Frying Pan” lap steel. Even the great Lemmy from Motorhead played a 4001, adding another sound to the palette offered by the great bass from Cali.

1977 Fender Jazz Bass Guitar

1977 Fender Jazz Bass Guitar

3. Fender Jazz Bass
Leo sure must have loved jazz and as any of us in the guitar business know, you ain’t gonna make a million dollars selling instruments made for jazz. But, Leo’s second offering in the world of basses was sure a home run. Unlike his Jazzmaster which was as unjazzy an instrument as you can possibly imagine, the Jazz Bass actually sounded great playing jazz. Legendary jazz player Ron carter played a JB with great style and dignity, but it was Jaco Pastorius that brought the Jazz Bass to another level. Jaco utilizing the back pickup on his defretted JB created a lyrical smooth sound that was truly magical. Years later another bass master the great Marcus Miller played the Jazz Bass with great distinction. Rock players as well enjoy the J Bass, like Geddy Lee, Dave Brown (Santana) and John Paul Jones.

Mike Watt with his 1963 Gibson EB3 Bass Guitar

Mike Watt with his 1963 Gibson EB3 Bass Guitar

4. Gibson EB3 Bass
The bass that Jack Bruce played, and played so well, was an also ran in the bass race of the rock and roll era. I personally believe that the EB3 was destined to die a fiery death if not for the great Jack. In reality the EB3 was a victim of the amplifiers of the era. The high output of the massive neck humbuckers over drove the preamp section of most of the era’s Neanderthal bass rigs. It never sounded clean, but it was Jack Bruce that went with it, and played with the back pickup, which is a smaller mini humbuckers design. This growl became Jack’s signature sound. Any of you who want to hear Jack and his EB3 at their best you must go out and get his first solo album after Cream called “Songs for a Tailor”

Jack Casady with his Guild Starfire Bass Guitar

Jack Casady with his Guild Starfire Bass Guitar

5. Guild Starfire Bass
Often copied but never improved upon, the semi-hollow Starfire bass was to my ears the best sounding semi of them all. Guild instruments are and always will be underrated and a best buy for the buck. This bass, made famous by Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane had two versions, the first produced from 1965 to 1969 sported a single coil pickup, and the latter featured humbucking pickups. The one Jack used was the single coil version, and it sounded chunky and percussive. I am sure Jack’s technique had something to do with it, but it was an awesome sound. This is one bass that begs for round wound strings, to enhance the bite of the single coils. The Gibson EB1 was a muddy version of the Starfire basses.

Steinberger XL-2 Bass Guitar

Steinberger XL-2 Bass Guitar

6. Steinberger XL-2 Bass
I gotta tell you, when I saw this monstrosity for the first time I thought that’s it the world as we know it has changed, and not for the better. Then one day my bass player Ted Silverstein came to rehearsal with Ned’s evil spawn. I said okay plug that sh*t in, he did and it sounded smooth. It was fat and clean, and when we recorded with it, oh boy it was even better. I had never heard a bass that sounded so good in the mix next to multitracked guitars. It sounded so much like itself and clashed not with any of the other instruments I was converted to the dark side. I said let me try that bass, it felt weird in my hand, and it didn’t sound right, especially when I realized I was playing in A when the tune was in G!

Paul McCartney with his 1963 Hofner Model 500/1 Bass Guitar

Paul McCartney with his 1963 Hofner Model 500/1 Bass Guitar

7. Hofner Model 500/1 Beatle Bass
Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney. What the hell was this guy doin’? What was he playing through? What kinda strings was he using? Now I think Paul would have sounded great if he was playing a cigar box strung up with rubber bands played through a transistor radio but that’s my hang up. Paul was the man, and that little bass sounded great in his capable hands. The 500/1 premiered in 1956 and it featured a set of mini humbuckers and a spruce top. That combination would usually spell disaster especially at higher volumes, but it didn’t. And by the way I’ll finish like I started, all you aspiring Paulie Mac’s use flatwounds, use flatwounds, use flatwounds.

1959 Danelectro Longhorn Bass Guitar

1959 Danelectro Longhorn Bass Guitar

8. Danelectro Longhorn Bass
No matter how cheap you think this bass was, it was a killer sounding low frequency machine for sure. Those anemic “lipstick” bass pickups sounded so good, whether coming through an amp (preferably a big one) or through the console in a recording studio. Legend has it that the bass part for “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” was recorded with a Longhorn by 60’s electronic wiz Dan Armstrong. (his son Kent told me). The Danny was light weight, and as sexy looking as Phoebe Cates getting out of the pool in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. And great news is that the reissue ones sound as good as the originals.

1977 Music Man Stingray Bass Guitar

1977 Music Man Stingray Bass Guitar

9. Music Man Sting Ray Bass
Well Leo you did it again! This bass was the first mass produced active electronic bass. It was made available in the summer of 1976, to rave reviews. The massive pickup produced a sound never heard before, and the pole pieces were the size of a dime. The Sting Ray had a volume control and a bass and treble control as well. This way you could add or cut bass and treble separately, way snappy. You could for the first time get a sound that wasn’t a Fender or Gibson sound. This bass became synonymous with cats like Bernard Edwards of Chic and Tony Levin (of everybody).

1970s Acoustic Black Widow Bass Guitar

1970s Acoustic Black Widow Bass Guitar

10. Acoustic Black Widow Bass
This weird bird was initially made available through dealers who carried the popular Acoustic line of high powered solid state amps. The Black Widow was released in 1969 as a semi-hollowbody with a fretted and fretless version, the fretless IMHO was a slam dunk great bass. The “Widow” was made up of a lot of Mosrite parts, and was reminiscent of a Rickenbacker bass as well. I saw the bass player for Doc Watson play a fretless version on a video of Doc and Merle Watson playing in the 70’s. The early versions had an “Ebonite” fretboard, the same material that bowling balls were made of. The pickups were also very cool single coils with adjustable pole pieces. The BW is still available at a reasonable price.

Joey Leone

Getting Your Own Sound with Guitars & Amps

Hello my friends in guitar land. The most frequent question I receive from my fellow guitar players is how do I get my own sound. First, I would like to say that in my opinion a signature sound comes from your hands not from your gear. And also from a picture you have in your mind of what you want your “voice” to convey. But the idea that certain equipment will help reproduce the sound you have worked so long and hard to achieve is relevant. So I will give you an idea of what I think is a good set-up for certain types of music and specific roles being played in a musical setting. Please remember that I humbly submit these opinions in good fun and are based on over 30+ years of playing live and in the studio, as well a collecting guitars and amps during those years. I know there are plenty of guitar players out there who know a helluva lot more then I do about guitaring.

First some quickie suggestions right off the bat for you guys and gals.

Phase 1

  1. When using a wah wah and a distortion always have the wah wah before the fuzz box (how’s that for old school?) in your chain. You want to effect your guitar signal before you distort it. When using a clean boost that should be last in your chain right after your distortion units.
  2. Use as few pedals as you can. The more effects you use the more your sound suffers. If you are using more than 5 or 6 pedals try using an A/B switch and set up two loops to keep the chain as short as possible.
  3. If you like a tight sound, ceramic speakers are a good way to go. In general AlNiCo speakers tend to be a bit more saggy. But there are some Alnico speakers that are clean too, these tend to be the higher quality ones. And as they break in the ceramics tend to be tighter and cleaner.
  4. Lower output pickups tend to be thinner eq wise, and subsequently a hotter pickup tends to be darker sounding. If you want to use a lower output pickup for the reason that they reproduce your playing dynamics better, you must use a higher output amp. Again, if your guitar is a high output axe you can use a smaller amp, and still achieve a nice fat sound.
  5. Shorter scale guitars make light gauge strings feel extra light, and consequently longer scale guitars make light gauge strings feel a bit heavier. This is why back in the day when light gauge strings were not readily available, guitar players preferred Gibson guitars over Fender.
1962 Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar (Vintage)

1962 Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar (Vintage)

Phase 2
Next on the cavalcade of hits, I will give you some examples of typical setups for certain types of music. Remember you can mix and match these suggestions for your signature sound.

Clean Country Sound:
This is a sound made popular by country pickers since the 1960’s. It’s a clean sound, very little if no distortion at all.

  • Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, the bridge pickup for a bright twang with a bit less output and fatness then the Tele bridge p/u. You can also get a great albeit a more modern country sound using the between the pickups sounds (2nd and 4th) on the Strat. For all you Eastwood fans check out the Wandre and the Joey Leone Signature Models for a great bunch of aforementioned country sounds.
  • Gretsch models w/ DeArmond Dynasonic pickups give you a great country sound with alot of dynamic range for subtle to ear splitting tones. For those of you who want to dabble in some cool country tones try the Eastwood Classic 6 for a very reasonable starter country axe.
  • A Gibson thin line arch top like a Byrdland is also a great clean country axe, don’t believe me? Ask Roy Clark and Hank Garland (Mr. Sugarfoot Rag). One of my idols Scotty Moore (of Elvis fame) played an L5 and an ES-295 during his years with the King.
  • Amps: The cleaner the amp the better, period. A Twin Reverb comes to mind immediately as well the solid state high wattage steel guitar offerings from Peavey like the Nashville and Session 400. Amps with at least a 12-inch speaker will help you get that twang. If you are the only guitar player in the band consider using an amp with a 15-inch speaker. You can also use a smaller amp at a lower volume with a mike on it.

Gritty Country Sound:
Same guitars choice as above, just crank your amp up. 10 inch speakers are okay for this application. The Marshall TSL Series, Fender Deluxe. Vibrolux, and Super Reverb will make you smile.

Heavy Rock Sound:
Again I remind you I am an old school guy so I say….

  • Guitars: Gibson SG w/ humbuckers is my choice for ultimate heavy rock guitar. It cuts and yet is still as fat as your fifth grade Home Ec. teacher. Tony Iommi, Angus Young, and Glen Buxton (the most underrated heavy rock guitar player) are shining examples of what an SG in the hands of a capable axe murderer can do. Gibson Les Paul Customs like Steve Jones and Mick Ronson used to play also kill.
  • Those pointy guitars from the 80’s, Jackson, Charvel, Ibanex JEM and ESP’s are all a bit more edgy and hotter then a stock SG or Les Paul.
  • I also love the sound of P90 equipped solid body axes for a great crunch sound, maybe a more punky sound is a better explanation. Les Paul Jr.’s ala Johnny Thunders and Leslie West are prime examples of this guitars sound when cranked. I am sure these guys influenced Billy Joe Armstrong in his choice de axe. Again, Eastwood offers some great single coil guitars of this ilk, the P90 Special, Stormbird and JR Elite just to name a few.
    1962 Fender Telecaster Guitar – Sunburst
  • Amps: Marshall, Marshall and more Marshall. The JTM 800 is numero uno in my book, as well as the JCM 900 for a more modern shred vibe. I was also impressed with the Carvin stack offerings back in the day. THD, Randall, and Peavey also have really good sounding shred generators in many configurations.
Marshall Guitar Amps

Marshall Guitar Amps

Rock and Alternative Sound:
This is a potpourri of suggestions, please take one and pass the rest back.

  • Guitars: Well take your pick, I am just gonna rattle em off….first the off the wall ones. These are the “next big things.” Maybe? Remember Cobain’s JagStang? Gretsch solid bodies from the 70’s and 80’s ugly as your neighbors AMC Gremlin. Silvertone’s and Danelectro’s from the 60’s. Link Wray, Jimmy Page, duh! Kramer’s from the 80’s, Eddie something or other played one of these. Carvin solidbodies from the 80’s. Still a great deal on Ebay. Ovation guitars form the late 60’s and 70’s (the Deacon, the Breadwinner, and Tornado.) The pickups were nasty sounding, but oh so cool. Legit ones. Fender Telecaster, Rickenbacker solid and semi-solid guitars, Gretsch arch tops, Mosrite solidbodies, and Gibson solidbodies guitars w/ P90’s.
  • Amps: The Vox AC-30 is a seriously important amp in the history of rock and roll, for a very good reason, it’s an original. History tells us that early Marshall’s are in essence copies of a Fender Tweed Bassman. So the Vox is the only original amp design of the “Big Three”. Best news about that is that it sounds great! The Vox AC-15 is also a slammin’ amp. Portable, strong and ballsy just like my first wife.
  • Fender Deluxe Reverb, crank it up and feel the magic. The singularly most versatile amplifier in the history of guitardom. This little dynamo is IMHO the best sounding amp ever made (Blackface models produced from 1964 to 1967).
  • The Silvertone/Danelectro Twin Twelve. What a great/cheap amplifier should be. Two twelve inch speakers (usually Jensen’s) a killer tremolo and reverb. Most models I have seen run four 6L6’s in the output section. Although I own an early Danelectro Twin Twelve which runs a duet of 6L6’s that is a great amp. Also any of the Valco made amps will do the trick (Supro, National, Airline, Montgomery Ward).
  • There are so many great boutique amps out there that are really well built and versatile. They are expensive, usually very expensive. Also they are tough to try out as many of these amps are not in music stores. Making it hard to test drive them . And if they do have one, that’s the problem they only have one, so you can’t a/b them with your favorite guitar plugged into them. Some of the ones I have either owned or played are Victoria (a tweed Fender vibe), Matchless (some Vox like models). I also really liked the early Bedrock amps that were basically JTM 45 clones.
Joey Leone

I’m a Guitar Player, Now What?

The days, weeks, months, and years of shedding and learning your craft are behind you. You are a guitar player, capable of making a living at this noble craft, but now what? Here is what, I think, are some tasks that will take you to the next level.

Pete Townshend (The Who)

Pete Townshend (The Who)

#1. Being seen.

There are several ways to go when getting your name out there. Many musicians think it’s a good idea to move to a big city and play gigs for no money just to be “seen”. In my estimation, through years of experience, this is a total waste of time and effort. Take it from me, if you think your talent is worth not being paid for, it’s a guarantee no one will either. Being a good guitar player in a live setting is a good idea to showcase your skills, but if a guitar player plays well in the forest and nobody hears him (her)… well you get the idea.

My solution to this scenario is to fine tune your skills, find a high profile band and get the gig playing in that band. How do you do this? Take a page out of Keith Moon’s book. Walk right up to the bandleader during a break and introduce yourself. Shake hands, compliment the band and quickly present your card. At that point, you say “if you ever need a guitar player please give me a call I think I can do a good job for you.” Do your research and meet as many bandleaders as you can until you get the gig you want. I can tell you that bandleaders are always on the lookout for players, always! And if they don’t need one at that moment they soon might or might know someone else who does. There is no such thing as a wasted contact.

When I say high profile, I mean a cover band with a full schedule of well paying gigs. But if it is an original band you seek, this will be harder, but not impossible. Remember, you must prepare yourself for other then musical parameters to get the gig. Stuff like image fit and age specifics. Be real and reasonable. These days image is 90% of what original bands look for when filling positions. You may even have to switch over to a more “video friendly” axe. Also, a good tip for auditioning for an original band is to have songwriting ideas on your guitar. This is where a guitar education comes into play. If the songwriter has a three chord formula going, your alternative voicing on your guitar will quickly enamor you to the band and its producer.

#2. The Demo.

Oh yes, the old demo, the most underrated tool for gig attainment. I cannot tell you how many musicians I have auditioned in the past 5 years who do not have a decent/relative demo. You would think in the age of affordable digital home studios some one out there would be focused enough to have a relevant demo for a gig they are applying for. I recently ran an ad for a friend who owns a piano bar looking for an entertainer. The ad specifically said “piano player/singer.” I cannot tell you how many responses I got from solo piano players and from singers who did not play piano, and from people who sent demos without singing on them. Be focused enough to send a demo that is appropriate. Why in God’s name would I hire a guitar player for an R&B gig if his demo is a country demo. That to me means he’s trying to stretch or did not feel the R&’B enough to include it on the demo. No dice!

#3. Be professional.

I have alluded to this in other columns, but it bears repeating and in a bit more depth.

My motto is ABP, Always Be Playing. Study, study, study, take as many lessons as you can afford in as many types of music as you can. I believe that a classical guitar lesson will probably not transform you to becoming the next “maestro” but some classical ideas, or fingerings may make their way into your style. This will help you get a signature sound and feel. That is a very marketable commodity in the cookie cutter world of guitar players. Same can be said for country or jazz guitar disciplines, as they all add to the gumbo of what is to be “you.” Aside from your gear this is what you bring to every gig you do, and is a lot more valuable.

I played with a guy years ago named Lou Korosi from Glen Cove, NY who could play some mean jazz on his Telecaster as well as play rock, reggae and fusion. And Lou could move seamlessly from one to another. His rig was a Tele w/a bumbucker in front, a Twin Reverb and a MXR Phase 90. That’s it.

Once you get your gig, show up on time, with dependable, appropriate gear. Be prepared and relaxed. Remember you are a guitar player! A most noble of trades.

Now get to work!

Eastwood Guitars & Friends

Eastwood Guitars & Friends

Joey Leone

My 5 Most Influential Bass Guitar Players

Hello fellow guitar nuts, I just returned from the Eastwood guitar complex in Toronto. While sunning myself in the Great North I performed some tasks for Eastwood, some of those tasks were the video clips of some of Eastwood’s basses. I actually was a bass player for many years before switching over to guitar. As I was playing the basses, I thought back to the guys that influenced me and some of my friends in the bass genre. So…this months column will focus on the electric bass and some of its most influential players.

Sir Paul McCartney: Bass Player for the Beatles

Sir Paul McCartney: Bass Player for the Beatles

#1. Paul McCartney [The Beatles]

Main bass: Hofner violin bass, Rickenbacker bass

Sir Paul was and will forever be the first rock bass player who stepped outside the realm of covering the roots or arpeggiating the chords in the traditional intervals. Paul played what we used to refer to as “piano bass”. His use of the thumpyHofner violin bass was a two-fold application, as he covered the bass frequencies, never leaving John and George hanging out there without the low end support. But, he did this while creating counter melodies and tension and release within the music, a technique you find in more complex musical forms like jazz and classical music. And of course he did this while singing his ass off!. Check out Pauls playing on “Lucy in the Sky”, “Old Brown Shoe” and “Fixing a Hole” just to name a few. Bass players study Paul’s playing closely and learn from the master of tasty, yet up front bass execution.

Jack Bruce: Bass Player for Cream

Jack Bruce: Bass Player for Cream

#2. Jack Bruce [Cream]

Main bass: Gibson EB-3, Wal bass

When I came up back in the late sixties and early seventies Jack Bruce was the default choice when asked “so who’s your favorite bass player”. Jack was an outstanding instrumentalist and singer, but his bass playing was so groundbreaking that he intimidated the great Eric Clapton and frequently blew him off the stage during some of Cream’s extended jams. Unlike McCartney’s clean sound, Jack’s sound was distorted and barky. He accomplished this by using Marshall amps for his amplification, and utilizing the bridge pickup on his bass of choice the Gibson EB-3.

Obviously, Jacks playing on the Cream records are the ones people go to immediately when looking for Jack Bruce virtuosity, but you must check out his playing on his first solo album after Cream called ‘”Songs for a Tailor”.. Check out “The Clearout”, To Isengard” and “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune”, truly amazing!

Chris Squire: Bass Player for Yes

Chris Squire: Bass Player for Yes

#3. Chris Squire [Yes]

Main bass: Rickenbacker 4001

Chris Squire played bass for the great progressive British band Yes. He along with guitar player par excellence Steve Howe was as formidable a pair in the history of rock ever to share a stage. Chris’ cutting tone on his Rickenbacker bass was a benchmark for all future bassmen. “Long Distance Runaround” form Yes’s first album called Yes Album still impresses after 30+ years of being in the dictionary of rock instrumental hooks. Chris continued to blast away and the foundation of what a bass player could and should play for many years after Yes’ first records.

Jack Casady: Bass Player for Jefferson Airplane

Jack Casady: Bass Player for Jefferson Airplane

#4. Jack Casady [Jefferson Airplane]

Main Bass: Epiphone semi-hollow, Fender Jazz bass

Playing bass in 60’s bands was not really a safe place for cats trying to make a name for themselves based on their playing and not their hair. Although Jack Casady had some great hair, his percussive, thumpy sound was break from the mostly low-endy studio recordings heard in the mid sixties. Jack played a melodic, linear style that helped to define the style that was to be called “lead bass”. I am sure the likes of Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius were influenced by Jack. If you want to hear Jack at his best listen to his playing on “The Other Side of This Life” from the live Airplane offering called “Bless its Pointed Head”.

Jack also showed great diversity while playing in Hot Tuna with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. Hot Tuna played electric and acoustic blues as well as some of its own music, and Jack always was solid and interesting. Many imitators have been out there, but none can compare to the original California bass rebel Jack Casady. By the way he was never married to Shirley Jones and was not the father of David Cassidy.

Tim Bogert: Bass Player for Vanilla Fudge & Cactus

Tim Bogert: Bass Player for Vanilla Fudge & Cactus

#5. Tim Bogart [Vanilla Fudge, Cactus]

Main Bass: Fender Precision Bass (50’s Model)

Tim’s style although great has been controversial at times. While playing in the Vanilla Fudge Tim alongside drummer extraordinaire Carmine Appice layed down some very solid bass lines, while also stretching outside the realm of what a bass played had played up to that point. After leaving the Fudge Tim and Carmine was the rhythm section in Cactus a much underrated band. Cactus recorded some very heavy records in the early 70’s and Timmy’s playing was distorted and atypical. Cactus was a departure from the Vanilla Fudge in that Cactus boasted a very strong guitar player in former Detroit Wheels axeman Jim McCarty. The chemistry between Bogart and McCarty was strained, as neither one was used to the role each other was playing, but as frequently happens the music thrived under adverse conditions.

Timmy went on to play with Jeff Beck in the short-lived Beck, Bogart, and Appice. They only released one album, although there was a second LP in the can that was never released. If you can get your hands on it, there is a “live” album recorded in Japan that is a very good record, showing BBA at there live best.

Although Tim Bogart’s playing is controversial there is no doubt he is one of the most influential bass players of rock and roll.

That’s it for now y’all – now slap that bass!!!

Joey Leone

Legends of Rock & Roll: Guitarist Johnny Winter

Greetings to all who love rock and roll, and thank you all for your comments and encouragements on this column.

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

When you talk about great authentic white blues guitar players, you are surely talking about some rarified company. The key word being authentic, and in my estimation authentic white blues guitar player means that when you listen to this person playing you think it’s a black man playing. Stevie Ray Vaughn a great blues guitar player always tried to get that real blues sound. When I saw Stevie Ray for the last time a few months before his death we spoke backstage at one of his shows and I told him “man you sounded like Albert King”, Stevie smiled and said that was the biggest compliment I could have ever given him. That is what we who strum the strings in the blues strive for, to sound like our idols, the great bluesmen. Johnny Winter did this as well as anyone, and proof of this is that he was accepted amongst the great bluesman as an equal, and shared the stage with many of them with great dignity and restraint.

Johnny was born John Dawson Winter in Beaumont Texas on February 23rd 1944. Johnny (as well as his brother Edgar) were born with albinism, and being an albino made Johnny stand out, but that did not stop him from playing music with his brother Edgar. His first record was recorded when Johnny was only 15 with his band Johnny and the Jammers, but it was Johnny’s self-titled first album on Columbia that established Johnny Winter as an A-List 60’s rock icon. His second album titled Second Winter was a three sided album (a double album with a blank forth side) that further marked Johnny as a guitar hero right up there with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Mike Bloomfield.

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny’s next few albums were also fantastic albums, Johnny Winter And (1970), and Johnny Winter And Live (1971) were big sellers and were just ass-kickin’ rock and roll records. Those two albums contained great tunes such as “Rock and Roll HootchieKoo” (penned by Johnny Winter And guitarist Rick Derringer) and “Mean Town Blues”.

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter’s years of drug addiction caught up to him in 1972 and after a hospital stay (no ‘rehab in the pre Betty Ford era) he released “Still Alive and Well” in 1973, this was to be Johnny’s last decent selling release.

Even though Johnny’s days of gold records were behind him his name alone could sell out any club, or 3000 seat venue. Johnny always delivered at a live show; his fiery approach to guitar playing was eaten up by audiences all over the world.

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

As a slide guitar player (playing guitar using a glass bottle-neck or copper tube) Johnny was unparalleled in his day, just check his slide work on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” from Johnny’s album “Second Winter”. And when you talk about sheer rock and roll guitar, Johnny Winter can stand up with any rock guitarist. His vibrato (the bending of notes on the guitar) which is the signature of any rock and blues guitarist is unmistakable.

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny Winter: Guitar God, Rock & Roll Legend

Johnny kept it real for the blues crowd as well, and in 1983 he produced a great record for blues legend Muddy Waters called “Hard Again”. Reticent of Muddy’s age Johnny laid back on his playing on the record and let Muddy control the dynamic range of the record, a great tribute to Muddy and Johnny as well.

To this day Johnny still can bring it live, even though he sometimes has to be led to the bandstand, which is no surprise when you understand that his lifestyle over the past 40 years makes Keith Richards look like Bruce Jenner.

Johnny Winter Guitar God, Rock and Roll Survivor, and most importantly, Legend of Rock and Roll.

Joey Leone

Joey Leone Signature RBC Eastwood Guitar (Rock, Blues & Country)

I have always dreamed of a guitar that would combine the features of my favorite guitars, yet be able to get many sounds from it, all of which would be useable sounds. This guitar would have to be functional, beautiful, easy to play, and affordable – the Joey Leone Signature Model Guitar for Eastwood.

Headstock: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Headstock: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Eastwood CEO Mike Robinson and I have been working together for years – improvements on existing designs, new ideas and alike. Mike has always encouraged me to think outside the box, and in turn I have given him many ideas and concepts, some discussed and put aside, but this Signature Moded was a concept we both loved. This guitar was to be a players guitar – one that offered an opportunity for guitar players to have a wide palette of sounds to draw from – yet did not look like a crowded subway car.

OK Joey, “what does this guitar do that is so special?” Here’s where the fun begins…. First I thought about some of my favorite guitar players and the guitars they played. I tend to think of guitars and players in groups, organized by styles and tones. Hmmm? Matt Guitar Murphy played an ES 345, T-Bone Walker played an ES-5 Switchmaster, Mark Knopfler a Strat, Roy Buchanan a Tele, double hmmm? Pickups?A triple hmmmm?

Pickups: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Pickups: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

I knew I wanted my first design to be a versatile guitar that would be a clean, and clear voiced guitar that could be played at a low volume and still be strong sounding, but also one that would sing and sustain at higher volumes. I wanted the guitar to cut through with a high mid voice that would be there even when mixed at lower volumes. Here’s how I did it!

First I decided to go with a semi-hollow archtop design like a 335, but use P90 pickups. I knew that there were very few if any semi-hollows with P90 pickups. Next I wanted to have the scale length be longer then the standard Gibson, so I created a Fender scale (25 ½ inch) on a Gibson style frame. This would afford the player the opportunity to use heavier gauge strings without the hand fatigue that we incessant pickers tend to experience. Also this would make bending strings more pleasurable.

Flamed Finish: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Flamed Finish: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

I also asked the builders to make the neck a bit wider (2 mm’s) so the strings would not feel crowded. This is the feel you get when you play an L5 or any high end archtop, again wanting to give the player a really fine guitar for his or her money. I also asked them to make me a one piece mahogany neck; this design in my opinion gives the guitar a more consistent transfer of vibrations throughout the guitar. I have always felt that multi-laminated maple necks were strong and stiff to a fault as the glue joints make the neck dead. I also never liked the idea of guitar builders gluing together piece of wood that did not have consistent grain and or density. Yes, more expensive, but Mike said, “Let’s design the guitar FIRST, and worry about cost SECOND.”

I insisted that this guitar have a book matched flamed maple top and back of similar grain and density for the same reasons mentioned above. I also added flamed maple sides as well for aesthetics mostly. And speaking of aesthetics I also wanted real mother of pearl instead of “pearloid” or some other faux material. Tell me that never drove you crazy, over $3,000 for a guitar and when you friends say, “is that real mother of pearl?” you have to say… ahhh.. kinda…..no!!!

Switches: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Switches: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Now onto the electronics, an aspect of which I am most proud. I went to pickup visionary Kent Armstrong (son of Dan) and told him I wanted P90 pickups that would also be able to get a Strat sound as well as the standard P90 voicing. Through many, many hours of work in Kent’s workshop we came up with a hot P90 pickup with a coil tap that would yield the signature Strat sound. This is not one of those stacked humbuckers that I have always thought to be okay at best, but not having a single coil sound at all. These pickups sound great and they are potted with wax to avoid almost all microphonics. Then, three pickups like T-Bone’s ES-5 with the middle pickup reverse wound to get the humbucking sound when combined with any of the other pickups, this we did – but again through many hours of skull sessions – we made the middle pickup not only a coil tapped single coil but used AlNiCO 5 magnets like on the old 55 Les Paul Custom – but really closer to the McCarty Pickups found on the old L7 “pickups in the pickguard” design. These can be adjusted by simply pushing the pole piece up through the bottom of the pickup with a small screwdriver. This pickup when coil tapped sounds very similar to a Jazzmaster pickup but with a bit more balls. All these custom creations add expense? You bet it does, but when you play this guitar and start to explore the tonal palette, it will blow you away….

What we end up with is a guitar with 27 useable sounds – no throw away “excuse” sounds – with 9 humbucking combinations. All of this is easily accomplished by using the three full size toggles located between the master volume and master tome pots.

You will see some pictures here is this article of the first two prototypes. Production models will be available in April 2007. I’ve asked Mike to do two colors – Natural (pictured here to the left) and an Antique Sunburst (the Cherryburst will not be in production until later next year).

Natural Finish: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Natural Finish: Joey Leone RBC Guitar from Eastwood Guitars

Now onto some of the other design ideas that went into the RBC model. Medium jumbo frets on a slightly curved fretboard, this will make this guitar an axe blues players as well as shred guys who are used to flat fingerboards feel at home. Add some Grover Imperial Tuners, a tunematic bridge, and trapeze tailpiece to the design of the Joey Leone Signature RBC Model, and you have a guitar designed by a player for players. No B.S.

One more thing my friends, my buddy Mike Robinson at Eastwood Guitars has been behind this guitar from the beginning and will deliver this guitar to you with his usual rock hard, unsurpassed customer service that has helped make Eastwood the up and coming guitar company out there today. This guitar will be of the highest quality and be affordable. No B.S. there either!

Joey Leone

A Baker’s Dozen Tips: Recording Guitars & Basses (Part 1)

I have been recording since 1980, mostly in home studios. And just for the record I will give you an idea of what was in my first few home studios, it was no digital 8 track the size of a paperback novel.

My first home recording set up was an Akai ¼ inch 2 track and a Harmon Kardon cassette deck, no EQ, the only effects I had were a few effects pedals. I would program one of my primitive drum machines or use a factory preset non-programmable rhythm machine while I was recording that I would usually add my bass or rhythm guitar. And after a suitable take I would ping pong the tracks back and forth from the 2 track to the cassette, adding effects on the fly.

My next home recording rig was a Teac 3340 4 track with a Biamp 6 channel board with internal spring reverb and a stereo 10 band graphic equalizer. Boy that was the real deal.

I did learn a lot about recording guitars and basses from my home recoding experience and also from listening to my favorite records too. So here is my top ten tips on recording guitars and basses.

BTW please send me some of your first home recording Frankenstein laboratory creations, I would love to hear them.

#1: Use chord fragments instead of whole chords

Like a good B-3 player who uses two or three fingers, your chords and their voicings should be well thought out and economical. Try not to use roots or fifths unless the fifth is an altered fifth like a flat 5 or augmented 5th. Analyze the melody notes and try not to crowd them with notes that proximate in the same octave i.e. if your melody note is a root middle C and you want to use the 9th in the chord use one either an octave higher or lower..

The whole idea here is to give room for the other instruments or just to open up the music and let the notes you leave out be implied as opposed to being heard, it’s an interesting concept check it out!

#2: Utilize ghost tracks when recording bass guitar

This is a very useful technique when you want to change the texture of your bass track, without changing the integrity of the original. First you will need to clone the track, once you have done that clone it a second time. Now you should have three tracks, eq the first clone track very bassy and cut all the highs. Now do the opposite to the second clone track, eq it high and cut the lows. Now instead of changing the original track you can just add the clones to your taste.

A few pointers on this technique, first I think you should electronically clone the tracks and not shadow them by recording another bass track (that is an entire different idea). Now when eq-ing your clones try to do it while playing it alongside your original track, that will give you a better picture of where to go with the eq.

#3: Have a guitar strung up to Nashville tuning.

Nashville tuning for those not familiar with it is a six string guitar tuned with standard first three strings and the next three tuned up an octave. It’s like a twelve string without the low strings, pretty cool idea. They call it Nashville tuning because that’s where it started in the studios in Nashville. You can’t play lead with it, or accompany with it alone, but where it comes into play is adding it to a track where you want to add a highlight to your track. A twelve string will sound a bit muddy in comparison. Try some alternative voicings, and work it in and out of the mix.

Prepare yourself to adjust the truss rod as this tuning puts almost no tension on the neck.

#4: Use stereo delays to fatten up rhythm guitar parts.

This is a method I have used for years, I especially like using the stereo delays on funky or single note rhythm parts. I will usually use a delay of 75ms to 150ms, panned hard left or right. The dry guitar panned one way the wet guitar panned the other way. This effect also works well on ½ note and ¼ note parts, like reggae-type feels.

You can also open up the delays for melody parts. What I like to do is set my time delays immediately when I record. I do this by counting the beats per minute and setting the delays accordingly. So if yourBPM’s are 105 I would set my delays at 210ms, 420ms and 840ms and use and combine them to taste.

One suggestion is to get a feel for it when you bring up your tracks, but I really start to get creative when it comes to the mix. Make it sound big, and don’t be afraid to get buck wild!

#5: Bass players use those flatwounds dammit!!!

Yes Mr. Bassman start recording with flatwounds and hear the magic. Don’t forget that drums record better when they are muffled (ask Ringo) and don’t decay, well boys sorry to tell you that unless you are playing Stanley Clarke style fusion your bass should not be sustaining all over the place. All it does is make the track feel real loose. Studio bass legend Joe Osborne recorded hundreds of sessions in the 60’s with the same set of “dead” strings for over four years! And when he did change them, he had to fish the dead ones out of the trash.

All your favorite James Jameson / Jerry Jemmot records of the 60’s were also recorded with flatwounds. Just try it!

#6: Always record a direct sound on a separate track

Whether you are recording through a POD or miking up your favorite amp, having the track recorded along side direct will always be a plus. You may never use it or just bleed it in, but you will feel better just knowing its there. The other plus is you can always “reamp” it by feeding the dry track through any device or by using a device such as a Reamp which allows you to run a recorded track back through an amp after the fact.

That’s the first part of this column – and remember, that you do not need a 24 track studio to create great music, you need go concise ideas and tons of overdubs and other filler. Reminder, Sgt Pepper recorded on a four track, Blizzard of Oz, 8 track, Uncle Meat a 3 track, all the early Motown hits two 2 tracks in sync, Dark Side of the Moon, 8 track – ..see a pattern developing?…..Part 2 next month.

Peace,

Joey Leone

P.S. Mike Robinson and I have been working on some custom designs – the first is the Joey Leone Signature Model – for the past 18 months. We are getting close to the release date and will have some information available in the next newsletter. In the meantime, drop me an EMAIL and I can fill you in on some preliminary information. Here are some sneak peaks at the prototype.

Joey Leone Signature Guitar Prototype from Eastwood Guitars

Joey Leone Signature Guitar Prototype from Eastwood Guitars

Joey Leone Signature Guitar Prototype from Eastwood Guitars

Joey Leone Signature Guitar Prototype from Eastwood Guitars

Joey Leone

That Is Not My Guitar Until It Is Setup To My Specifications

Hello there in guitar land, thank you all for your comments and feedback to my column and to the WEBCAST hosted by Eastwood guitars.

This month I will be discussing a much overlooked aspect of guitar playing and appreciation, the professional setup. As I always say – this is not MY Guitar until it is setup to my specifications. I think perhaps 90% of today’s guitar players do NOT have a personal guitar repair technician that they work with. People have a favorite video / music store with a favorite clerk that helps them with selections, a tailor, a banker, a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer… yet they don’t have a favorite guitar tech. Why? Here are three scenarios that will exemplify this point.

Scenario #1: My Seagull sounds better then my Martin!

How many times have I heard this story, “I bought this cheap guitar at a local music store for $200 bucks, and it really needed a good setup and strings, and afterwards it sounded amazing!” The truth is that this is no urban legend – the professional setup is the real deal – and can make a decent guitar play and sound very good and sometimes even great. This is true for electrics and acoustics equally, although the most obvious is the acoustic as they are usually more prone to neck and body adjustments due to heat and humidity (or lack thereof). But, the electric guitar also needs a good setup as well.

Scenario #2: Music store guitars.

In my 30+ years of perusing music stores I have rarely entered a music store where the guitars were maintained w/ fresh strings and a good setup. As a matter of fact they are rarely even in tune to concert pitch (A440). I know – the profit margin, the man hours, blah, blah, blah – the truth is Mr. Music Store owner you will sell more guitars if they are maintained. Truth be told unless you are talking about a high end guitar shop where they have to sell guitars to pay the rent, guitars are usually hung up on the wall and expected to sell themselves.

So if you are really interested in buying a guitar in a music store, ask them to restring it and set it up for you. I mean don’t be an idiot and jerk the guy around for no reason, but you should know what it sounds like before you buy it. For a guitar under $1,000? Probably not. But for something more expensive, you bet.

For all you vintage guys out there how many times have you picked up that prehistoric Strat and were disappointed with how it played, knowing full well that it probably has been sitting for a long time without the benefit of some needed tweaking. Most dealers will say, “dude I left it as I found it” like that is a favor to you, how convenient! It’s really a disservice to those who’ll plunk down 20 G’s for a piece of guitar history, because these fellas know as well as we know, that just because it was made 50 years ago don’t mean it’s a good guitar, and the only way to know is? You guessed it, if it’s setup professionally.

Scenario #3: Online Purchases.

Online mega stores, Ebay auctions, direct sales, mom and pop sellers, third party sellers, yes my friends this is where a majority of guitar and guitar related commerce is done, online.

I must confess that I was one of those “I ain’t buying what I can’t play” guys. The idea of paying for a guitar that I had not seen gave me chills, and even more frightening to this paranoid guitar buyer was the fact that I was buying one of many guitars in that model that they had in stock. Who was going to pick the one I was getting? Beavis or Butthead? Or what does “very good condition” mean? Now we deal with words like “vibe” “correct” and “players” guitar – and are supposed to know what that means. I know what new means, it means new! I know what a demo is, it’s a demo! Alas, now I have learned how to buy guitars that I cannot play, one way is to buy from someone who is reputable and has a track record. Another is to buy what you know, a 1970 ES 335 (if it has no issues) is a 1970 ES 335, you will pay for it, and 99 times out of 100 get what you expect (from a reputable dealer or seller).

BUT… Now please my friends, pay attention here because this is the gospel as I know it. Never take a guitar out of a box after it has been shipped to you, and expect it to play right. To me that’s an unreasonable expectation. You buy a guitar on the merit of its sound, playability and pedigree (where and who it comes from). Like I said earlier, you can’t expect the store owner to take a lower cost guitar, re-string it and setup to your specifications, just for you to try it out. All players have different ideas about string gauges and low action etc, etc. That is why you need to find your own local technician, who will begin to understand your personal preferences and expectations. These guys can make a $500 guitar play like a $5000 guitar, and the more they know about you the better a job they can do for you. So, as soon as you get your guitar, inspect it for shipping damage and for flaws. As far as flaws are concerned, be reasonable, as far as I am concerned my expectations on a guitars fit and finish are directly related to its price.

Here is what I believe are the necessary parts of a good setup:

  • A neck adjustment (if needed)
  • Intonation
  • Action adjustment
  • Fret work (leveling if needed)
  • Pickup balancing
  • Nut filing (a way underrated aspect of tuning issues)
  • New strings
  • Cleaning scratchy pots (used guitars)

These tasks should be done by a qualified guitar repairman. You should have a local guy who knows your likes and dislikes. I personally like a flat neck adjustment with almost no bow and a higher action then most would like. You have your own expectations for a setup, communicate these to your local repairman and than enjoy your guitar.

Guitar Tech Setting Up a Guitar

Guitar Tech Setting Up a Guitar

I will say again – any guitar I own is not truly mine until it is setup to my specifications.

So in closing my friends I respectfully say don’t decide whether a guitar is a good guitar or not until it is setup professionally.

So many guitars, so little time.

Joey Leone

Famous Guitarists & Their Guitars

Greetings my friend and fellow strummers in this month’s column I will discuss that in my opinion that Artist recognition is one of the most important aspect of guitar marketing. That is a statement I truly believe, and in this column I will trace the popularity of certain guitars and the artists that I believe are responsible for their success. I will also list some guitar players and the guitars I found to be intriguing. I will list the guitars first and the artists that were associated with it.

Remember my friends knowing what guitars your favorite players play is part of getting a sound similar to them, but it is only a small part of it.

Gibson SG Electric Guitar

Gibson SG Electric Guitar

Gibson SG: Tony Iommi, Angus Young, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton

Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar

Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar

Fender Telecaster (stock): Roy Buchanan, James Burton, Steve Cropper, Muddy Waters, Joe Messina

Telecaster (modified): Mike Stern, Keith Richards, Danny Gatton, Clarence White

Gibson ES-335 Electric Guitar

Gibson ES-335 Electric Guitar

Gibson ES-335: Larry Carlton, Dave Edmunds, Johnny “Guitar” Watson

Gibson ES-345: Freddie King, Alvin Lee, Elvin Bishop

Gibson ES-355: Chuck Berry, B.B. Kink, Keith Richards

Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Fender Stratocaster (stock): Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Mark Knophler, David Gilmour

Fender Stratocaster (modified): Hiram Bullock, Robbie Robertson, Adrian Belew, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Gretsch 6120 Archtop Electric Guitar

Gretsch 6120 Archtop Electric Guitar

Gretsch 6120: Brian Setzer, Chet Atkins, Eddie Cochran

Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar

Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar

Gibson Les Paul: Mike Bloomfield, Slash, Joe Perry, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page

Gibson Firebird Electric Guitar

Gibson Firebird Electric Guitar

Gibson Firebird: Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Howlin’ Wolf, Stevie Winwood, Pat Hare, Clarence Gatemouth Brown

Gibson Flying V: Albert King: Jimi Hendrix

Gibson Melody Maker: Joan Jett

Gibson Byrdland: Ted Nugent, Roy Clark, Eric Clapton

Gibson Les Paul Junior Electric Guitar

Gibson Les Paul Junior Electric Guitar

Gibson Les Paul Junior: Lesley West, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Johnny Thunders

Fender Jazzmaster Electric Guitar

Fender Jazzmaster Electric Guitar

Fender Jazzmaster: Elvis Costello, Fender Jazzmaster Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string Electric Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string Electric Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string: George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn

Airline H44 Electric Guitar

Airline H44 Electric Guitar

Airline Resoglas Electric Guitar

Airline Resoglas Electric Guitar

Airline/Supro Resoglas: J.B. Hutto, Jack White

Epiphone Sheraton Electric Guitar

Epiphone Sheraton Electric Guitar

Epiphone Riviera/Sheraton: John Lennon, Otis Rush, George Harrison, John Lee Hooker

Gibson L5-CES Archtop Electric Guitar

Gibson L5-CES Archtop Electric Guitar

Gibson L5-CES: Wes Montgomery, Scotty Moore, Paul Simon (L5S)

Other Notables:

  • Gretsch Country Gentleman: George Harrison, Steven Stills, David Crosby
  • Mosrite (several models): The Ventures, Joe Maphis, Rick Wilson (B-52’s), Johnny Ramone
  • Silvertone/Danelectro: Jimmy Page, Link Wray, Hubert Sumlin, Elmore James, R.L. Burnside
  • Kay Electrics: Jimmy Reed, Howlin Wolf, Lonnie Johnson

So if you are interested in getting a sound similar to any of these artists, a good place to start is with their guitar choices. I would say that may be 20% of it, the amplifier would be another 20% and the rest is technique, approach, and attitude.

There are some other aspects that would affect your sound, the type of picks you use, the gauge of your strings, and any effects you might use.

In my world I would say use as few effects as you can, I know they are part of the song, blah,blah blah. If you need a harmonic effect like a chorus but feel you need to flange at some point in the show get one of those multi units like the Line 6. And remember the more pedals you use the farther away are you from the sound of your guitar.

Now as far as the amps go, those of you who are familiar with my column know I am a traditionalist. As far as I can see there are three categories of amplifiers.

Clean Amps:
These amps are clean sounding, with plenty of headroom and eq to pick from. Twin Reverbs, Ampeg, and Lab Series amps are a few. Also some of the older Peavey solid state amps are real clean amps. You can always get a dirty sound with your favorite pedal if you need it.

Dirty Amps:
Marshall JCM 800 and 900 Series amps, many tweed Fenders, the 100 watt army of amps like Crate, Krank, Soldano, and Randall. These amps will give you the sound you are looking for, if that sound is a crunchy compressed full sound.

Channel switching amps:
These amps are for cats that need both clean and dirty and like the idea of the two sounds coming from the same amp. These amps are personified by Mesa Boogies, Rivera era Fenders, and combos like the Marshall TCM Series.

And remember folks – “got and questions?”..”go lean on Shell’s Answer Man”.

Joey Leone

Secrets of the Great Guitar Players

Hello to all out there in guitar dominion, this month’s column will I hope reveal some of the great secrets of some of our favorite guitar players as well as dispel some common misunderstandings.

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

One of the greatest musicians of the 20th century was also a damn good guitar player, he stands alone as a composer, instrumentalist and satirist beyond compare. His name was Frank Zappa. Frank is still IMHO the most underrated musician in the rock and roll era.

Frank was a master at the use of wahwah (check out his early wah solo on Orange County Lumber Truck from the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh), one of his techniques was using the wah as an EQ boost. His feel for the wah was so good he could feel the notch in the pedals throw that would give him (for most part) that growling round sound that Frank was known for during the 70’s. Try it yourself plug in your SG (or any humbucking solidbody guitar) and get your favorite distortion sound. Now go to the neck pickup crank it up but do not roll off the treble as you would if you were trying to cop the Clapton ‘Woman tone’, leave it up full and roll off the highs using the wah. This will give the wah a full spectrum signal for it to work with.

Another Zappa secret was his uncanny ability to combine exotic scales with the pentatonic blues scale. If you watch any videos of Frank playing you will notice he is not in the “normal guitar boxes”. Viva la Frank!!!

Speaking of Frank Zappa, it is well documented that growing up two of his favorite guitarists were Guitar Slim and Johnny Guitar Watson. Frank in a Guitar Player magazine interview said that his favorite guitar solo of all time was Guitar Slims Story of my life. This solo has a tone and approach that is very Zappaesque.

Guitar Slim

Guitar Slim

One of the secrets of Guitar Slims sound was the fact that he preferred to plug his guitar into a PA amp as opposed to a guitar amp. This was probably a Bogen or Premier. What Slim liked about these amps I am sure was the loudness (I have seen p.a. amps from the early 40’s using 2 6L6’s way before Fender used these tubes for his amps) their high end, and most important their reaction to the signal of his guitar (Slim was reported to be using a Strat and a 52 Les Paul) which gave out more signal than the microphones of that era. End result? Distortion mmmm yummy yummy!!!

Jimmy Page with his Fender Telecaster

Jimmy Page with his Fender Telecaster

How come I don’t sound like Jimmy Page when I play the intro to Heartbreaker when I use my Les Paul? Is it because I don’t own a 59 Burst? What can I do to make my Les Paul sound like Jimmy’s? Well first of all you would have to transform it into a Telecaster. That’s right a Telecaster. Now let me explain how this happened.

A young Jimmy Page was the protégé of British studio legend Big Jim Sullivan. Jim was a member of an elite group of cats who like their American counterparts the “Wrecking Crew” played on most of the hit records of the 60’s recorded in England. The fact is that 95% of the records we grew up listening to in the 60’s were made by the same two dozen or so musicians. The truth is no producer (the music industries version of a movies director) would put his reputation on the line using some prettyboys who were signed because of the haircuts or their trousers. (Rutles 101). This fact by itself is what separates the Beatles, the Stones from everyone else, they were the first truly self contained band.

Now back to Sully, Page and the Tele. Sullivan could be seen weekly in the UK and US as a featured player on the Tom Jones Show. Sullivan was known for his swarthy good looks and his White Telecaster. Being a studio player Jim knew the merits of the Tele, how it cut through the mix and was a safe bet at sessions as far as its versatility. (A side note; there was a guitarist across the pond making ground breaking records with his Telecaster, his name was Joe Messina one of the house guitarists of Motown’s Funk brothers).

When Jimmy took his formidable talent and studio experience to the studio to produce the first Led Zeppelin record Jimmy had an early 60’s rosewood board white Tele in tow just like Big Jims.

Jimmy had already toured with the Yardbirds using the Tele as well as the first go round with Zeppelin in the UK (check out Zep on the DVD Supershow). But Page felt that the Tele was not fat enough sounding for a power trio setup, Jimmy soon switched to the Les Paul for good.

Jimi Hendrix in Studio

Jimi Hendrix in Studio

Jimi’s tone using the Fuzz boxes of the 60’s. We all know how thin sounding the fuzz boxes of the 60’s were. Whether it’s a Big Muff, an Octavia,or a Tonebender, they were all pretty thin sounding. Jimi Hendrix used all of these at one time or another, yet his tone was mostly pretty fat and round sounding (unless he was looking for a special effect) This leads us to Jimi’s secret tone maneuver.

It’s a really simple one. We all know now that Jimi used Marshall’s most of his career and we also know that Jimi made use of the channel jumper cable (as seen in many of Jimi’s live video’s) Jimi’s trick was to boost the bass sounding channel to even out the thin sound of the fuzz box. This gave Jimi the desired fat tone he was accustomed to when he came up using Fenders and Ampegs. The other benefit was that when Jimi would simply turn down his volume for his rhythm sound it was still quite big sounding. Rarely in the videos I have seen (many) did Jimi ever step on a fuzztone for a lead, when you have seen him go to a pedal for a lead it was to a wah for the tone boost.

Surf guys outboard reverb unit trick. Boy did the surf records of the early to mid 60’s blow my mind. Imagine guitar records with no singing, simple melodies that almost everyone could cop, and tons of self important guitar slinger attitude. I ran into a surf guitar legend years ago and I asked him how he ran his reverb, because I could see that he had something funky going on there as I saw that his guitar was plugged directly into the amp.

He smiled and told me that he and some of the other cats of that era were using a primitive effects loop so to speak. Here’s how they did it.

He ran the guitar into input one of his Showman and then ran a cable from input two to the input of his Fender reverb unit and ran the output of the reverb to the input of channel two (or normal channel). This way he could not only tailor the sound of the unit with the onboard controls he could also utilize the second channels volume and tone controls.

One benefit he did not realize too, was that the guitar running direct into the first channel did not have its dry input signal colored by the reverb unit! This setup is also called the poor mans effects loop.

Adrian Belew - The Twang Bar King

Adrian Belew - The Twang Bar King

What the hell is all that duct tape doing on the stage? Did you ever notice that when you have a single coil guitar plugged in that the amount of noise changes as you turn or move around? Yeah me too! Did you also ever notice that there were certain spots on the stage that you could get really good feedback if you turned a certain way? Yeah me too!

Over the years I have heard stories about how Hendrix would spend over an hour at his sound check finding those hot spots on the stage. Legend has it that Twang Bar King Adrian Belew took it to a new level by incorporating this feedback and sustain into his tunes as part of the melody and arrangement. This made it necessary to make these markings on the stage part of his setup. No room for spontaneity for Mr. Belew, he needed what he needed when he needed it.

So here’s the trick after the band sound checks bring out the tape and find your hot spots, even if you don’t utilize feedback you will still benefit from knowing where on the stage your guitar will be most responsive.

Joey Leone with his amps

Joey Leone with his amps

That’s it for now my friends so, “keep those cards and letters coming in.”

Joey Leone