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Winter NAMM 2011 Recap

Another wild and wacky NAMM show has come and gone. Good to see a lot of you out there this year and thanks for your continued support. Special thanks to Scott Hager, Wendell Ferguson, Carl Cook, Rob Roberge and Dave Robinson for their help at the booth. They also helped devour a good weeks worth of food and booze! Another successful NAMM Show. Here are a couple of picture and videos.

Airline Guitars: Winter NAMM Booth 2011

The Airline Guitars Booth at Winter NAMM 2011

The Airline Guitars Booth at Winter NAMM 2011

Twin Peaks Moment

You talkin' to me?

Guitar.com Interview

Strange Alien Visit

An Alien Stops by the Airline Guitars Booth at Winter NAMM 2011

An Alien Stops by the Airline Guitars Booth at Winter NAMM 2011

Guitar Geek Festival on MSNBC

A Nice WANDRE Comes Home

Me & My Wandre Guitar!

Me & My Wandre Guitar!

Musicians Network Interview

Report from NAMM 2010

So, once again, I got to hang out at the EASTWOOD booth at this year’s NAMM 2010 show. I wrote a report for these pages on my first trip, but haven’t done one since mostly because the show is pretty much the same every year.

  • Some very cool products come out.
  • Some slimy companies try to sell their (generally) useless products with scantily clad women (and, hey, I’m all for scantily clad women, but it seems out of place, silly and kind of skanky in a bad way at a trade show).
  • There are rooms and rooms of guitars and amps and pedals to check out.
  • And there is what seems like a whole floor of drummers and drum products to avoid. (Only the most aurally masochistic of us should ever have to endure the “World’s Fastest Drummer” competition.)
  • A surprisingly large amount of guys (most in their 40’s, but some younger, however this is an offense that even youth offers no excuse for) walk around with sunglasses inside and look pretty much like their trying to win a “look like a pathetic moron” contest.
  • And so on.

But, it’s still a blast and a half to go—largely because the Eastwood crew (Mike Robinson, et al) are some of the greatest people to hang with. So, what happened this year at NAMM? What follows are some random notes and observations, things I saw and heard, from the NAMM show, this year’s model.

  • One of the things about booth placement at NAMM, is that you’re pretty much at the mercy of the gods…or, at the very least, whomever it is who decides what booths go where. The Eastwood booth was in the company of several very cool booths. It was, however, maddeningly placed kitty-corner to some “carry it in a bag” acoustic amplifier. The theory behind this gizmo seemed to be that any singer-songwriter could carry this tall thin speaker and amp and play a gig anywhere without back strain. Unfortunately, the makers didn’t seem to consider ear strain when making this. The sound quality was not helped by the fact that everyone who demo’d the thing seemed to be the first handful of people they could find off the street who knew a G C and D chord and who promised to howl out of tune at any public opportunity. But the amplification system itself sounded so bad that I don’t think Bob Dylan himself could have sounded good through it. As the great and funny Peter Robinson said at one point, “That thing sounds like someone strumming a screen door.”
  • The booth directly behind us seemed to be for some brand of bass. However this wasn’t some company trying to take business from, say, people who play Fender Precisions. People who play, you know, actual bass. No, this bass was for guys who thought holding down the bottom and playing tastefully and melodically were archaic notions and quaint ideas of the past. Not for them subtlety or musicality…bass is made for playing as fast as possible. And it gets even better if you can tap and snap as often as possible. Spend four eight hour days with this tuneless rumble directly behind your booth, and you will go insane. You’ve been warned.
  • Relic guitars are, inexplicably, as popular as ever. I may get some flak for this but, damn it people, if you want a beat-up looking guitar, beat up your own damn guitar. For one thing, there’s something truly disingenuous about having a fake cluster of wear on your guitar. Do it yourself! Play the hell out of it. It’s not hard to beat a guitar up—I’ve done it to several. However, the worst thing about these “relics” is that they LOOK fake as all hell (including the ones that cost about as much as a car coming out of various custom shops in, not to name names or anything, places like Corona, CA). I have a 1969 Telecaster I’ve had since 1982. It was beat up when I got it. In the twenty-eight years I’ve had it, I’ve played it more than any other of my guitars. It’s been on several tours. It’s been through THREE sets of frets. It has acquired beer and sweat and blood (all, literally) in its electronics. It’s been banged around by luggage carriers, band-mates, tour vans with crappy suspension and questionable brakes and played night after night for years by yours truly. It’s full of dings, scratches, wear marks and a couple of cigarette burns. Why do I tell you all this? Because, as beat up as my Tele is (and I’ve hardly taken great care of it, physically) is has NOWHERE near the “wear” of the average “relic” guitar. I checked out several “relics” (from several well known brands—all the big players) and they, without exception, looked extreme, ridiculous and phony. I can see the logic of wanting to feel a worn-in neck, but these relic bodies are goofy. Most look like a stoned teenager took a belt sander and mallet to them in shop class.
  • Boy, are there a LOT of pedals for guitar players available. Many of them seem to have so much gain, it has NO importance what amp you put behind it. It kind of cracks me up that people will buy a three thousand dollar amp and then put a pedal in front of it that so blocks the tone and personality, they might as well be playing guitar through a Radio Shack PA.
  • There are, and this is an estimate, about five thousand guitar players at NAMM better than me (I say this estimating the number of guitar plays at NAMM at about five thousand). Somewhat reassuring in this estimate, however, is that fewer than a hundred of them play anything I’d want to play. There’s an astounding amount of truly stunning, and truly awful, noodling out there.
  • Based on the purely anecdotal evidence of walking around the NAMM show, I would say that there are a LOT of bass players who don’t know what a bass player’s job is. Yes, Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clark may have been geniuses, but I think they may have ruined a generation or two of bass players. I’m not saying you have to play Nashville bass and just sit on the root, or that you can’t play it as a lead instrument at time—hell, I love Mingus, for instance, or Entwistle, and they didn’t play “traditional” bass. But, damn, I heard so many profoundly AWFUL bass players just cramming a bunch of notes and slapping and pulling and not seeming to know a thing about the bottom or the melody. It’s an epidemic, people. If you have a bass player like this in your family or band, it might be time for a thud staff intervention. This “style” of playing needs a drastic reaction. Say, public shunning, or something.
  • I had to listen to a guy, some “artist” at a pedal booth demo (wearing a purple suit and purple fedora and more makeup than Tammy Faye Baker) play “Pride and Joy” and (yes, really) “Mustang Sally” several times in four days. He was, sadly, on the way to the bathroom, the food and the beer. He was also, sadly, on the way BACK from the bathroom, food and the beer. He played a Strat through a Tubescreamer and a Wah and he sounded exactly like Stevie Ray Vaughan, except for those ever so subtle little things we like to call originality and genius.
  • A lot of guys (the ones not shredding like someone named Blackie, or Sinister, or Diabolical Jones or Really Scary Larry or whatever their mascara-stained faces are) play “Pride and Joy” when they sit to test a guitar.
  • An otherwise stunningly attractive woman in her mid 40’s with a “SCORPIONS” tattoo tramp stamped at the small of her back. Just sad.
  • Along with the bozos who wear sunglasses indoors (and NO, I will never let up on you clowns until you’re swept from the Earth), there were plenty of guys trying to dress like rock stars—long coats, silly boots, one Goth guy trying to look all scary with those weird “look! My eyes are red! Ooooh, scary,” contact lenses, and so on. Really, NAMM is an interesting place to go to see how pathetically some men handle middle age. Guys, the pencil-thin mustaches, the pancake makeup, the black wigs…it would be funny if it weren’t so obvious and so naked in its Peter Pan desperation.
  • I checked out the Peavey booth, thinking I’d been unfair a couple years back saying everything they made was ugly. But, no, I was right. They make fine, dependable, at times first-rate products. But they slap that hideous early 80’s ‘lightening bolt’ Peavey logo on everything and they seem to have the worst aesthetic sense in the business. Obviously they’re doing something right, having been in the biz since 1965, but boy, their stuff is tough on the eyes.
  • What else? Well, lots of cool guitars. Some fine looking amps (it’s hard as all hell to tell if they’re good sounding at NAMM, since you can’t turn the volume up, which is good, in the long run). More Ukuleles than I’ve ever seen in one place. A Paul McCartney impersonator at the Hofner booth who didn’t look much like Paul McCartney. And, perhaps much sadder, a Catwoman impersonator at the Hallmark booth who didn’t look nearly enough like Julie Newmar. But, then, not enough people in this world look enough like Julie Newmar, so what’s one to do?
  • I’d be remiss not to mention National Treasure Deke Dickerson and his annual Guitar Geek Festival. The man knows how to put on a show and this year was no exception.

So, that’s something of a wrap on this year’s NAMM show. In between all the guitars, the amps, the goofy guys with sunglasses indoors were many hours spent laughing and hanging out with the guys from Eastwood (and I would quote some of the jokes and conversations, but none of them approached anything like a G-rating, so you’ll have to be out of that vulgar loop, my friends)—truly some of the greatest guys I know and people who make even a casual gathering in a hotel room better than most parties. Even though I’m still hearing really bad folksingers and slappy bass bozos as I try to sleep at night, I can’t wait until next year.

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:

Report from NAMM 2007: Wow! What a Trip!

Like a tornado ripping through town, the 2007 NAMM show came and went. For Eastwood Guitars, it was our first – and what an eye-opening experience it was. Although exhibiting in the 4-day event cost as much as buying a first home in Winnipeg, in hindsight, it was worth every penny. What a trip! Here are some observations from the helm of Eastwood.

Peter McCracken and me after the booth setup

Peter McCracken and me after the booth setup

Dumb Luck Wins in the End – for our first 5 years we decided not to exibit in the NAMM show. Most companies would think this was a mistake – a new product, a new audience – damn, you have to get out there and tell the world!! But for five years we stayed at home and just serviced our customers on-line. In hindsight, (dumb luck) I think we were right to do so. By the time we hit the NAMM show last week, we had an army of friends and followers that were beating down the door to meet and greet us! It was a genuine Eastwood love-in. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to finally meet face-to-face with so many customers that have supported us through the first few years.

We were espeically happy to expand the dealer network in USA and Europe with some of my favorite guitar stores picking up the Eastwood line. Although the list is too long, some of those new dealers include Rudy’s in New York City, True Tone in Santa Monica and McKenzie River Music in Oregon. Check the Eastwood Website for a full listing of new dealers in the next two weeks. Thanks to all the new dealers for joining us, and we look forward to a fun and profitable 2007!

I was fortunate to enlist the help of some friends and customers at NAMM to work the booth with us, we all had a blast! Thanks again to Pete McCracken, Don Mackrill, Phil Meyrick, Rob Roberge and my brother Peter for his on-booth Surf Cinema entertainment.

Who has more fun than Eastwood?

Peter Robinson from Surf Cinema entertains on the MAP guitar:

Peter Robinson from Surf Cinema

Peter Robinson from Surf Cinema

Danny Amis from Los Straitjackets takes an AIRLINE 3P DLX for a test drive:

Danny Amis from Los Straitjackets

Danny Amis from Los Straitjackets

Not sure who this guy is, but he dropped by the booth and posed for some pictures with our new AIRLINE MAP BASS prototype:

Our new AIRLINE MAP BASS prototype

Our new AIRLINE MAP BASS prototype

This is a 30″ scale model that will be available in April.

Before heading home we did the Hollywood tourist trek. Here I am having a quick snooze beside Clint EASTWOOD mark:

Hollywood tourist trek: Here I am having a quick snooze beside Clint EASTWOOD mark

Hollywood tourist trek: Here I am having a quick snooze beside Clint EASTWOOD mark

What I Learned at My First NAMM Show

What I learned at my first NAMM show:

  • The NAMM show is incredibly HUGE. It’s fitting that it’s across the street from Disneyland, as you end up walking just as much as you would at the self-proclaimed happiest place on earth (not when there’s a million guitars across the street, Walt). On a further plus, there’s a lot less puke and fewer children at the NAMM show.
  • Parking is a slice of hell. Maybe two slices. And that’s with Disney running the parking, and Disney does parking with an efficiency that rivals the train schedules of Fascist Governments.
  • NAMM is, however, one of the most incredibly organized colossal endeavors I’ve ever seen. We’re not just talking about hundreds upon hundreds of booths with guitars and amps and accordions and ukuleles, but full rooms of grand pianos and other enormous instruments. Add to this the complexity of visitor lists, vendors, exhibitors, performers, and so on, and it’s just incredible that the whole thing comes off without a train wreck of disasters.
  • People who wear sunglasses indoors look like idiots. The NAMM show is no exception. Knock it off, people. If you don’t have some eye condition and you’re wearing sunglasses inside during the day, you look stupid. You do not look like a rock star. You look like a guy trying to look like a rock star. Which is really not an admirable goal for anyone over 14.
  • The guys at the Eastwood booth were a kick and a half to hang out with for four days. Many laughs, much guitar geek love and a cool surf guitar show for the first two days by fellow Buster Keaton fan Peter Robinson of the CA surf band Surf Cinema. Thanks for the great time, guys!
  • Metal and shredding are with us to stay. As is guitar-face. And sunglasses inside. And men in their fifties in leather pants. We can ask why, or we can accept it and move on.

I also learned there were a lot of guitars I wanted. The short list:

  • A radical Fritz Bros Jimmy Reed Thin Twin model (high end…got a spare four grand for a fellow down on his luck?)
  • A cheapie (retail under three bills) Dano Pro (in Aqua, and several colors that were not Aqua…which is what happens to me when a guitar is offered in Aqua and/or Sea Foam Green…I know only that it is offered in other, non-essential colors. Aqua, people!). It played really well, and it had an improved bridge over the last re-issues. And it comes in Aqua.
  • Some very cool Italia models, including an absolutely stunning twelve string electric with a beautiful headstock. Why aren’t there more sparkly guitars in the world? Well, Italia is doing their part to right that wrong. A big sparkly thanks, folks!
  • See-through Ampeg Dan Armstrong. I didn’t play it, but it’s see-through. That’s enough cool factor.
  • SEVERAL Eastwood models released at NAMM, but there were also a couple of others that will be ready in April – the AIRLINE Tuxedo “Kay Barney Kessel” Model and the Map Shaped Bass. The Saturn (man, that’s a fun guitar to play…and I got one!), The Town & Country (ditto), but the big hit was the Map Shaped Guitars. I’m guessing EASTWOOD sold out of those at the show. All great lookers and players.

And a bunch more. What else did I learn?

  • Peavey continues to make solid, well-made really ugly stuff. 40 years and counting of truly aesthetically challenged design. You would think they might have accidentally made a cool looking guitar by now, but nope, you’d be wrong.
  • There was a guy who always dressed in camouflage and sold machine-gun shaped electric guitars. I kept my distance.
  • In a world of large booths, Fender and Gibson have REALLY large booths. No stunner there, but the Fender booth did have some cool historic guitars. They also had a new Eddie Van Halen model that costs a lot of money for something that looks like it was made in a high school shop class by a stoner in 1982.
  • Randy Bachman seems like a nice guy in addition to being a legend who has played on lots of great tunes.
  • I learned there were a lot of amps I wanted.

Again, the short list:

  • The new. Which isn’t really a re-issue, as I don’t think they ever did a Jet with 6V6 output tubes (a early Reverberocket, yes, maybe a Jet, but I don’t remember that…I’m pretty sure they all had 7591’s). But, anyway, it sounded great, and had only Volume, Tone and Tremolo Speed and Intensity knobs. Cool. Low wattage, few knobs. Gotta love that.
  • Our very own Don Mackrill’s Airline 18 Watt amplifier. Just a great looking and sounding amplifier. Hand made, with style and care and great tone. What’s not to love? Don, I want one in Sea Foam Green! (Everything should come in Sea Foam Green with a Bigsby option. I’d put a Bigsby on my Sea Foam kitchen table if I could).
  • Ben Fargen’s 4x6V6 amp. Yummy. Four 6V6’s, which is such a cool way to get to your 30-40 watts, rather than the more conventional two 6L6’s.

What else?

  • Joel Weaver of Home Brew Electronics, in addition to making my favorite overdrive pedal (The Power Screamer), is a nice guy. Check out his pedals. Great stuff.
  • I begged Groove Tubes…I cajoled JJ Tubes…Nobody is going to make a new 7189A tube. Argh. This is sad news to a Magnatone M10 lover. They just don’t run on EL84’s, no matter how rugged, and there is an ever-dwindling (and ever-expensive) supply of 7189A’s. As my niece likes to say, this news is “poopy.” Poopy, indeed.
  • A lot more people that I might have expected wanted Paul Stanley’s autograph. But, hey, it’s a big world. More power to him, I suppose.
  • There’s one very cranky and not incredibly competent woman who checks your bags on the way out. There may be more than her, but I kept running into the same one. She would demand I open my bag, not really look in, and then bark at me to move on. I could have had a severed head in that bag for all she knew. (I did NOT have a severed head, for those wondering at home).
  • There are a LOT of people who play guitar better than me. That’s not a huge surprise to me, but when they’re all in the same room with you (albeit a VERY LARGE room), it’s pretty humbling. A lot of people who can play out there in the world. Pretty cool.
  • I learned that I had to sell some stuff to make some room for what I carried out of there. NAMM is a heady experience, a gear freak’s nirvana (or close…maybe it would be nirvana with vintage axes, too), and a tiring sensory overload that’s a ball.

There’s nothing quite like it, and I can’t wait until next year to see what’s new.

See you in next month’s newsletter.

Preview of NAMM 2007 in Anaheim, California

Looking back over the past 4 years – especially 2006 – I am amazed at the growth of Eastwood Guitars. We have doubled in size every year since the first Eastwood Guitar was shipped. Most of this growth has come by word-of-mouth – empowered by the Internet. In fact, only a small percentage of our sales are from our loyal dealers throughout the world. That is about to change!

We will be exhibiting at the 2007 NAMM show in Anaheim California

We will be exhibiting at the 2007 NAMM show in Anaheim California

For the first time since we started Eastwood Guitars in 2002, we will be exhibiting at the NAMM show in Anaheim California. For those who don’t know, NAMM is the National Assc. of Music Makers. This trade show is a once a year event where music industry people meet to share their knowledge and check out “what’s new” in the world of music.

NAMM 2007 in Anaheim, CA

NAMM 2007 in Anaheim, CA

For many store owners and guitar dealers, this is their once-a-year trip to stock up their shelves for the coming year with some new and improved goodies. Although predominately a North American event, dealers come from all over the world to this 4-day convention. Since we have never exhibited at the show, this will be the first opportunity for most dealers to check out EASTWOOD. We will have most of our 30+ models at the show, including some new releases. Here are some sneak peaks at the new stuff:

Eastwood EEB-1 Bass (like the Ampeg AEB-1)

Eastwood EEB-1 Bass (like the Ampeg AEB-1)

Full 34″ scale tribute to the AMPEG AEB-1 from the late 1960’s. Yes, those F-holes go right through the body! Available this month. Black or Sunburst.

Eastwood Red Special: our tribute to the beautiful Brian May model

Eastwood Red Special: our tribute to the beautiful Brian May model

Here is our tribute to the beautiful Brian May model. Set mahogany neck, bound mahogany body, replica switching system. Red or Sunburst. Available this month.

Nice huh? We also have a few other goodies up our sleeves for NAMM. We finally gave in to the pressure, and have created a “correct” 30 1/2″ scale model of the Hi-Flyer BASS. This might be the most powerful short scale bass on the market. Also, we are ready to release the production model of the MAP guitar. It will have all the standard components of the other AIRLINE models in that family, and will be available in Black, White, Red or SEAFOAM Green. $799. We will have the pictures ready in 2 weeks. Here is a picture of the LIMITED EDITION version that SOLD OUT last year:

Eastwood Airline Map Guitar (Surf Green)

Eastwood Airline Map Guitar (Surf Green)

NOTE: The new MAP production model will NOT include the case or the upgraded VVSC pickups.

So, if your are planning to attend the NAMM show this year, please send us an EMAIL to schedule an appointment or just drop by booth #`1151 to say hello and to test out some of these new beauties!

See you at NAMM!