Email Specials from May 2003

Sat 5/3/2003


Down at the end of the South Side, across the street from where the steel mills used to be, is a bar called Excuses. (That's how you give directions in Pittsburgh: "...turn left where the PharMor used to be, then go straight, till you pass where the G.C. Murphy's was....) For the last 15 years, every Thursday has been "Blues Jam " night at Excuses. Just for fun I occasionally put together a band on Monday and play two songs on Thursday at the Jam. The band operates under the semi-accurate name "The Out-Of-Tuners" and though we don't play blues, our songs are only 2 minutes long, so both of them take less time than your average blues solo.

We played last night and did "Fever" by that classic blues band The McCoys, and "Somebody To Love" by that classic stoned band The Jefferson Airplane. (Sure, sure... Peggy Lee may have done a version of "Fever", but hers didn't sound anything like "Hang On Sloopy." )

(For the younger people in the audience I'll explain: In the old days, if you had a hit record, "You Really Got Me" for example, you sometimes followed it with a second song that sounded remarkably like the first, i.e. "All Day And All Of The Night." The McCoys followed their hit "Hang On Sloopy" with a very similar version of "Fever." I think this approach is still being used today.... I seem to recall Oscar-winner Eminem following his classic, "Just Don't Give A F***" with the timeless, "Still Don't Give A F***." ) (PS: I didn't make up those titles...)

Anyway, back to last night at Excuses... our guitar cables worked perfectly. Why? Because they were Pittsburgh Guitars Talent Booster Cables. Guaranteed free of Quarflenectrons, those invisible particles that prevent your talent from getting from your guitar to your amp!


See you soon,

PPS: This week's Customer web site:
Phat Man Dee

Sat 5/10/2003


This week I changed the display case in the back of the store. I should have changed it sooner, but I loved looking at those old Gretsches. (In fact, it took me two hours to put them away, because I had to stop and play each one before putting it in it's case...)

The new group: Martins!

Now, like me, you may have looked at the first Gretsch in the display case, the 1954 Duo Jet, and said, "Man, that's old!" And, yeah, 49 is pretty old, either for a guitar, or the person you're dating... But wait `til you check out the Martin collection. We have a Martin Style 1-21 that's 129 years old! That's even older than the girls Scott goes out with. That guitar was made right here in Pennsylvania only 9 years after the end of the Civil War. We also have Martins made in 1875, 1889, and 1891. Imagine what they'd say if they could talk. (Besides, "Owww, my aching Brazilian Rosewood back!") (And, "Those horseless carriages are never gonna catch on.") (Or, "What's that young whippersnapper from 1959 doing in this display case with me?")

Stop in and check out the Martin collection. It's impressive to see that these guitars play as well today as the day they were made. I guess that's a sign that you can be old and still work well.

For this week's special I thought I'd feature the oldest item in the store... And it occurred to me that the first strings I ever carried were Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys. Back in 1979, when we opened Pittsburgh Guitars, they were $4. Today they're still only $5. For this week's special they'll be even cheaper than 1979's prices:


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
Shadow Jones

PPS: This week's contest: That's not the way I originally finished the last sentence in paragraph 4, above, but at the last minute I changed it to, "...and still work well." Send in your best ending to the sentence: "I guess that's a sign that you can be old and..." We'll pick the funniest one, and present the winner with a semi-fabulous prize that we'll think of later...

Sat 5/17/2003


I got a call from one of Pittsburgh's pawn shops yesterday. There are only two that I know of in our fair city; one run by nice guys, one run by mean guys. It was the nice guys who called.

We've known each other for 20 years, and they had a question about a strange Stratocaster. Apparently someone came in with an `83 Strat, and, as I'm sure you know, there ARE some strange things about that model.

1981 and `82 were tough years for Fender. They were on the brink of going out of business, and needed some quick cost-cutting moves. So in 1983 they released a two-knob Strat with a newly designed vibrato. The new model did away with the counter-sunk input cup; the jack was put in the pickguard in place of the second tone control. The new bridge system was totally top-mounted, saving Fender the time and expense of routing the back of the guitar for the traditional vibrato.

Unfortunately, even these changes didn't help the bottom line. Sales were dismal and in 1984, CBS, Fender's parent company, shut down the factory. In 1985 CBS sold Fender to a group of investors headed by Bill Shultz, who's from right here in Pittsburgh! Most people don't realize that through most of 1985 no Fender guitars were made in the U.S.

Anyway... getting back to the `83 Strat... you'd think that it would be a quite valuable guitar, from a historical perspective. Here's a unique version of the Stratocaster with features that were only used for one year... a pivotal year in the history of the company. And yet...

This week's special is on this very model, the unusual 1983 Strat! We have one in black, and, though the going national price is $895, we have it on the wall at the Pittsburgh-price: $795. For this week's email special we're offering this potential collector's item for an additional $200 dollars off... With the coupon below it's only $595!

It's really hard to predict the future... I tried it once and it didn't work... but I really think this model will someday be valuable... years from now... someday... maybe.... I think....


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
The Stickers

PPS: Congratulations to "Billy O," the winner from last week's Finish-This-Sentence Contest. We sent Billy a $25 gift certificate to Pittsburgh Guitars.

Sat 5/24/2003


Many, many years ago, a friend of mine, Maggie Stewart, got a job in an off-Broadway show and she didn't want to move to New York by herself. Since I had already lived there, working with a `50s parody band, Zit Blemish & The Hot Rods, I volunteered to move too, and help her with the dangers of the big city. While she was in the show I hung around with an old friend and guitarist in the aforementioned band, Mitch Weissman. Mitch and I were on 48th Street one day when we saw an ad for Beatle look-alikes. Back then I looked like Ozzy Ozbourne, but Mitch looked and sounded exactly like Paul McCartney, so we went over to SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals) to check things out. Mitch got the gig, and what was originally going to be a small band in Greenwich Village, blossomed into a large-scale Broadway show, "Beatlemania." I started making regular trips across the state, buying instruments for the show. I remember on one visit, Mitch had just returned from a recording studio with a test pressing of a new LP. He said, "These guys are gonna be big," and when I heard the album I agreed. They were called Boston, and it turns out they did hit it big.

Mitch only used nickel-wound strings on his guitars. For this week's special we're featuring the new nickel strings from Electro-Harmonix. They sent us a couple of sets a few months ago, and we tried them and liked them. We ordered more...for you.

We also have two sets of tickets to Boston at the Post Gazette Pavilion on June 11th. If you're interested, write back. We'll randomly pick two winners next Wednesday (May 28th) (PS: they're Lawn Seating tickets.)


See you soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
The Blu Razor Band

Sat 5/31/2003


Last weekend I went to Washington DC for my brother's 50th birthday party.

When we asked him what he wanted, besides a Rolex and a 1966 Epiphone Casino, he said that he'd really love to reunite the band he and I played in 26 years ago. So we called Tom, Bill and Debbie, and they could all come to the party! (Actually, Debbie was coming anyway, since she and John have been married for the last 24 years...)

Tom, Bill and John all had newer instruments, but I'm still playing the same set of drums (I bought `em used in New York in 1975) so I went out to the garage and found the original drum head, I switched the head from "The Flashcats" to "Fragile" and it was like I stepped into a time warp! (Except it's the really bad kind of time warp where your equipment is the same but you are older...)

Since the audience was friends and family we didn't bother rehearsing. Besides, once you've played a Fleetwood Mac song at two hundred weddings and high school proms, you can mostly remember it 26 years later. It was loads of fun. We played for hours and sounded great.

A lot of things go through your mind in that sort of situation. First I thought, "It's surprising how familiar this feels," then I thought, "I'm glad I spent so much of my youth playing in bands. I'm gonna recommend that to the next youth I see," then I thought, "Those darn youths probably don't wanna hear some old guy's opinion..." then I thought, "Hey, I sure got my money's worth out of these drums..." and then I thought, "Why is Tom thinner now than in the old days?" and then I thought, "Boy, I wish I had another Bacardi and Coke," and then I thought, "I don't think John should have his Casino just leaning up against the front of his Super Reverb like that..."

In the way-back days the only guitar stand available was a wobbly, flimsy Hamilton stand, that leaned way back. It was actually safer to lean your guitar against your amp. Nowadays there are better options. Our favorite here at Pittsburgh Guitars is the Gruven Stand. It's stable, easy to use, and there are no parts to lose. We like it. I'm gonna send one to my brother.


See you soon,


PS: Congratulations to Ben, Bryan and Donna, last week's Boston tickets contest winners. If any other concert tickets come our way I'll put `em in the email special.

PPS: Here's a picture of Fragile.

PPPS: This week's Customer web site:
Collapse Into Reason

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