Email Specials from April 2003

Sat 4/5/2003


I saw the coolest band this week. They were not only witty, charismatic and clever (characteristics missing in a lot of bands), but they were also ALL acoustic. And by "all acoustic" I don't mean in the MTV Unplugged way, where you still plug in, you just sit down... I mean that they didn't use amps, mics or even a PA! It was seven guys and one girl, playing guitar, banjo, dobro, uke, tenor guitar, mandolin, upright bass, kazoo and clarinet. (Somehow the clarinet fit in well...) Whoever's turn it was to sing lead, or play a solo, would just walk out to the end of the stage, closer to the audience, and that would give them the additional volume they needed.

It's hard to describe the style of music... kinda swing/blues/jazz/mixed with beer. They're called The Asylum Street Spankers and if you get a chance you should go see `em. Besides the entertaining material, I enjoyed the show because it was an opportunity to hear the natural sound of acoustic instruments. No matter how good your pickup system is, by the time you run something through a PA, the sound is colored by the amps. With the Spankers you get to hear the instruments the way they were meant to sound. And it's hard to get more "natural" than someone standing in front of you singing a song while playing ukulele, and backed by a guitar, a washboard player, and two guys on kazoo.

In honor of a band that's not afraid to not be too loud, this week's special is some acoustic stuff.


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
Jill West And Blues Attack

PPS: If you're in New York go to see the Asylum Street Spankers tomorrow (Saturday, April 5) at Joe's Pub (212)239-6200

Sat 4/12/2003


Let's face it.... there aren't that many "classic" amps in the history of Rock & Roll. There are really only three: The Marshall Stack, 80% of the amps made by Leo Fender, and the Vox AC-30. The AC-30 gained its classic status in 1962 because it was simply the loudest amp made in England. As The Beatles started to play bigger halls to bigger crowds of screaming girls, they needed the best, so they bought AC-30s. When other British bands saw the screaming girls, they bought AC-30s too. (See the PS below for the post-1962 Vox Story...)

The AC-30 is a fabulous sounding amp. It has a distinctive, loud, fat, Rock & Roll sound. And it looks really cool. The downsides are: it's heavy, it's expensive, and it doesn't have a Master Volume or Reverb.

As an alternative to the AC-30, the current owner of the Vox name, Korg (the folks who also own Marshall) has now introduced the Vox Valvetronix. It looks just like an AC-30, but it's lighter (mostly Solid State), it's cheaper (half as much), and it features the current "modeling" technology that's cropping up everywhere. (In other words, it has lots of knobs and switches, and can sound like lots of other amps.)

We just got three different versions and we're still messing around with them. So far they seem like a lot of fun. There are a lot of different sounds, including the vintage AC-30, plus lots of distortion, etc. And here's why I'm mentioning all of this to you: Vox is so anxious to have you try the Valvetronix that they'll GIVE you a Vox leather strap just for plugging into the amp.

Since we like free stuff, we think you should try the amp. And get free stuff.


See you soon,

PS: To continue the Vox story: Since massive PA systems hadn't been invented yet, mid-60s bands needed louder and louder amps. The technology of the AC-30 transferred well to the 50 watt AC-50, but got a little questionable with the 100 watt AC-100. Furthermore, Thomas Jennings, Vox's owner, felt that the new concept of Solid State amps was the way of the future. He was right, but he was ahead of his time. His early solid state stuff was unreliable, and sometimes caught on fire. When Jim Marshall came on the scene with his giant, powerful Marshall stacks, Vox's days were numbered. Tom Jennings sold the business and by the early 1970s Vox was gone. In the 1980s, the name and the AC-30 were resurrected by The Rose-Morris company. Pittsburgh Guitars was one of the first stores in the country to import the '80s Rose-Morris AC-30s. (I even had to drive to the airport to pick them up from England.) Unfortunately, the lack of a Master Volume, and therefore lack of distortion at a non-ear-shattering-volumes, once again hurt the classic AC-30. In the mid-1990s Korg took over, and that leads us to where we are today.

(I know, at this point, you're probably asking: What about the late `60s Thomas Organ Voxes?? Well, when the Beatles hit the USA, every kid in America wanted a Vox amp. Jenning's little English factory couldn't possibly satisfy the demand from the US.... As you have probably noticed, this is one darn BIG country! So Vox licensed the name to the California-based Thomas Organ Company to make Vox Amps for America. Tom Jennings recommended that Thomas Organ follow his dream into the transistor world, so the American-made Voxes are all Solid-State. Since this technology was still in its infancy, they sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. Though I do have one in my basement that's worked perfectly for 32 years now!)

PPS: This week's Customer web site:
Mystic Knights Band

Sat 4/19/2003

Oh, it's soooo nice outside. I just walked to the Post Office and it felt so good to be out in the summer air. (Is it my imagination, or was this winter annoyingly long?) It's time to go to the attic and get out your summer clothes. (And I HOPE your guitar isn't up there... Attic = bad, for guitars.)

And speaking of summer clothes, that hardshell case for your guitar is perfect for the snow and slush and ice of winter... but now that summer is here you need an easy-to-carry, lightweight gig bag. You have to be ready for the "Grab-your-guitar-we're goin'-to-a-picnic" situation... Or the old, "Hey, ten of us are going to the drive-in to see The Sound Of Music, bring your guitar so we can sing along with Julie Andrews, but don't bring your hard case `cause it won't fit in the Vista Cruiser with all eleven of us!"

And let's face it, it's really hard to carry a hardshell case AND a set of golf clubs. If you have a gig bag you can just throw it over the other shoulder.

We just happen to have an assortment of interesting gig bags in stock now. This week's special is some of the more colorful summer bags.


See you soon,

PS: This Saturday April 19, 2003 at The Rex Theatre
**A Benefit for Slacker's Legal Defense Fund**

All ages show- 2-5 pm featuring:
Chai Baba, Selena Catalina, Ritual Space Travel Agency, The Bull Seal! Collective, & Phat Man Dee as emcee.

Over 21 show- 8 pm -2 am featuring:
Bingo Quixote, Chai Baba, Ouve, Selena Catalina, Ritual Space Travel Agency, Master Mechanic, Creta Bourzia, Strawman, & Gab Bennesso as emcee.

Sat 4/26/2003


Well, I was up until 2:30 AM again last night... in the attic. Now that April 15th is done I have two more boxes of tax stuff to go up there. And since there's already 24 years of Pittsburgh Guitars paperwork in the attic, I had to do a little re-arranging... (I guess I could throw away the phone bills from 1981...)

And as long as I was moving boxes, I dragged the vacuum up there and did some cleaning. (I like my Panasonic vacuum... It really sucks!) Putting the tax stuff away every spring puts me on a cleaning kick. I wonder if there's a name for that?

Speaking of cleaning, it's a good time to clean your guitar.


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:

Carl's Guitar Corner Archives

Copyright © Pittsburgh Guitars