One of my students was around the other night and pointed out that even when I was playing his guitar (a beautiful Strat), I still sounded like me. It’s true – no matter what guitar or amp I plug into, I always sound like me. After 38 years of playing, it would be impossible for me not to. For a long time this bugged me. I guess because I was so used to “my sound”, I started to think it was pretty ordinary, and over the years I’ve made the odd attempt to change it. I can’t anymore.
Possibly no other single event inspired the creation of more garage bands than the first Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles. And likewise, probably no single company furnished more of the guitars and amps for young musicians than the Sears & Roebuck Company. While most of us would rather have started out with the Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Hofner, Vox and Ludwig gear we saw the Fab Four using, due to price and availability, it was the Sears catalog that supplied our first six-string.
Most guitar aficionados know the story of Les Paul’s “log”. Remember, back in the ’40s, Les figured all he needed for the perfect electric guitar was a neck attached to a chunk of wood with some pickups on it. He built his log and it worked. But his audiences were disturbed by its look, so he cut up an Epiphone archtop and attached the sides to his log, satisfying his fans. Whether or not a guitar teacher in Green Bay, WI, named Dave Helland knew about Les’ log, he too arrived at a similar conclusion. “Heck”, thought Dave, “You could put a neck on a 2-by-4 and have a guitar.” And when one day he met up with the folks from the Holman-Woodell guitar factory in Neodesha, KS, that’s just what he did. The La Baye 2×4 Six, Four and Twelve were born. La Baye because, if you know your geography, his hometown sits on a – well, look at a map!
Our pal, our drummer had The Beatles in his house!! His Pool! His room! And he could’nt tell a soul!! Our lives were changed that weekend. We were already Fanatics and had all the records and had already cut back on the surf music! The show was awesome, you saw it too! I buzzed on this for years! That Life magazine cover story was shot in the Shindler’s pool, on their diving board! In 51 years of living that weekend of laying around totally bummed out and dejected is one of the best couple of days I ever had!
When I first learned of this guitar, it was known among cognoscenti as the State of Ohio guitar. I once wrote and essay in which I dubbed it The Ugliest Guitar In The World. All of us had a point. The real name, however, is the Kay Solo King K4102, and it dates to that heady period just before guitars really took off in 1960. Clearly somebody was hung over at Kay that day! When I got a chance to actually have one, how could I pass it up?
This is not an article about why you shouldn’t drink. It is, however, probably one about why I shouldn’t drink. Many musicians, maybe even most, can drink and keep their equipment. Me? No dice. I lost really cool guitars, amps, effects – you name it, I had a knack for losing it.
After his 9 month bid in the clink for selling bongs, Tommy Chong was released from prison and began his comedy tour. When I heard that he would be performing in my home town (London, Ontario) on Jan 28th, 2005, I was like “No way man! I can not miss out on the chance to see Tommy Chong do stand up at Yuk Yuk’s!” Luckily I was able to get tickets for this event; for he was scheduled to do 4 shows in 2 days and all were sold out.
Who among us doesn’t relate to Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap when he tried to explain to “Meathead” that having an 11 on his amp made it louder than – and hence superior to – one having a mere 10? That’s just how I felt back in the day when, after nearly two decades of owning one – that’s only one – guitar, a classical, I decided I ought to get an electric guitar again. Who could have known how slippery that slope would turn out to be?!
For the past few years I had been looking for a really nice Mosrite Ventures Model Vintage guitar. Prices ranged from $1,500 to $4,000 depending on the year and the condition. Last year an angel descended on eBay with 35 NOS Mosrite guitars that were built in 1987. These guitars were all brand new and were never sold. They were stored in a warehouse for 14 years. Unbelievable! They were auctioned off one by one, week after week, until they were all gone. I bought the 13th one that sold. I was not disappointed.
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