Email Specials from October 2004

Fri 10/1/2004 ~ Bud Ross and Kustom amps


Yesterday we bought a used Fender Blues DeVille amp. After lots of bar gigs the previous owner thought that it looked too ragged... he recovered it in red tolex. It's not the best recovering job, so even though it's a great amp we'll be selling it for $200 less than normal.

The recovering concept made me think of Bud Ross. In 1959 he was playing in a band in Chanute, Kansas. His bass player was using an mid-1950s 4X10 Fender Bassman. As was often the case with `50s tweed-covered Fender amps, the Bassman was ragged from regular use. One night, with the bass player's blessing, Bud decided to recover the amp.

As you probably remember from "Happy Days," a lot of kids in the late 1950s were really into cars. Bud was no exception; and he especially liked the tuck-and-roll upholstery used in hot rods of that era. He recovered his friend's amp in a tuck-and-roll vinyl called Naugahyde. It was a tremendous hit with both the audiences and other musicians in town. Soon he was recovering other bands' stuff. Eventually Bud decided to start manufacturing his own amps featuring this distinctive new look. Since he was making the amps one at a time in his garage, on a custom order basis, he called his new company "Kustom."

Over the next few years Bud designed an entire line of amps, and in 1965 he was ready to go big time. He set up a booth at the summer NAMM show, took a ton of orders, and by 1966 Kustom tuck-and-roll amps were everywhere! They came in a variety of great colors: red sparkle, blue sparkle, gold sparkle, white sparkle, silver sparkle and, of course, black. A very popular model was the Kustom PA, a four channel high impedance head, with two 4X12 columns. (I still have a blue one in my basement as a reminder of the good old days...)

Unfortunately, a few years later in the early 1970s, music took a distorted turn. Guitarists started cranking up their amps to get a much heavier, more distorted sound. As a child of the 1950s, Bud had designed his amps for pure, clean sound. You simply couldn't play "Iron Man" on a Kustom. And if you were going to play "Iron Man" you certainly wouldn't look "evil" enough with a colorful padded amp! Furthermore, as band's amps got louder and louder, PA systems needed to get larger and larger. Low impedance mics, and snake, and a mixing board out-in-the-audience became the standard. The small Kustom PA was an instant technological relic. (Although, I still have one in my...)

By the mid-1970s Kustom was gone...and all we have now are fond memories of an amp you could walk into in the middle of the the night and not hurt yourself. (Oh, and we have the "Naugas," those strange little animals used as Naugahyde promotional items. There are several at the store, up above the Martin guitars.)

In honor of the sparkle of Kustom amps, this week's email special is the Fender Sparkle-Tone Guitar Tuner. It's a nice little guitar tuner with both blinking lights and a moving needle. And it comes in red or blue sparkle!! This week at more than half off!


See you soon,


PS: Kustom made some interesting pieces. They were the only company to make a 3X15" bass cabinet. And it was three 15s vertically! THAT was a hard cabinet to lift by yourself! They also made cabinet with two 12" speakers and a 15" metal horn. THAT had a piercing tone! And then there was the padded-Naugahyde organ with a 100 watt amp and four 12s built in! THAT hurt your back just to look at it!!

PPS: A few years ago we sold a silver sparkle Kustom amp to Stone Temple Pilots and they used it in the "Big Bang Baby" video.

PPPS: Speaking of strange things, at the last NAMM show I couldn't help myself and I ordered a "FlipOut" guitar. It's hard to describe...but it's a Strat-style body with the neck coming out of the other end.... If you'd like something that's truly weird, come down and check it out. (I'd also like to mention that Pittsburgh Guitars was the FIRST store in THE ENTIRE WORLD to order one!! I was the first person there when they opened their booth... and I said "I'll take one!" and they said "Yea!")

PPPPS: Thanks to everyone who entered last week's T-Shirt Contest, and congratulations to our winners, Doug, Rockin' Ronnie, Jennifer, Ed and Jim.

PPPPPS: This week's customer web site:
Mojo Filter

Fri 10/8/2004 ~ Album artwork, the EB-2


I spent some time in the attic this week looking though my album collection. I was digging out songs to do at this year's Halloween Show, "Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XII." (By the way, we still need a good male singer to do Johnny Cash, and a good female singer to do the Disco song "It's Raining Men." Give me a call if you can do either of those.) (Or both...)

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed looking at my old LPs. I had forgotten what fun it is to see big artwork and cool pictures. I'm a fan of new technology like CDs, but there was a certain magic in LP cover art. Just holding the cover in your hands gave you a sense of what the band was about, and added to the experience of listening to the record.

I particularly liked the covers featuring instruments. Look at this cover by The Astronauts.

There are two Fender Jaguars, a Jazzmaster and a Jazz Bass, all in white! And matching white Fender amps! Three guitarists, and not a Strat among `em! Why, you can hear the surf music before even putting the record on!


Another favorite cover of mine is "Having A Rave Up!" by The Yardbirds (this record I actually listened to).

Of course, when I bought this LP I had that same question that all young kids have: "Why does the Epiphone Rivoli Bass that Paul Samwell-Smith is holding look just like a Gibson EB-2??"

Ah... the innocence of youth! That was before I learned that after Gibson bought Epiphone they started using the same bodies and parts to make both Epiphone and Gibson instruments. The Rivoli *IS* an EB-2 with a different headstock!

(And for some strange reason 99% of the British bands who played this hollow body bass in the 1960s used the Epiphone version, rather than the Gibson. There must have been a big Epiphone dealer in the UK...)

The most notable example of this Gibson/Epiphone model similarity, of course, is the Epiphone Casino. On The Beatles last tour John and George both had Casinos (and Paul used one extensively in the studio). Except for the headstock and pickguard, the Casino is a Gibson ES-330.

Speaking of 330, this week's email special is Ernie Ball Electric Guitar Strings for $3.30. Nine different gauges available.


See You Soon,


PS: The Yardbirds have the distinction of having three guitar superstars as members of their band. At one time or another, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all played in The Yardbirds. In fact, in 1968, when everyone else decided to quit, Jimmy Page added new members and continued on as The New Yardbirds. After their first tour they changed their name to Led Zeppelin, and I believe were relatively successful...

PPS: Some friends of ours are doing a charity "Tribute To Elvis Costello" show this Saturday, October 9th, at The Rex Theatre. All of the proceeds from the show will go to the Surgical Breast Disease Program at West Penn Hospital. More info.

PPPS: There actually was someone named Ernie Ball. He recently passed away at the age of 74. Ernie started out as a guitar store owner. He wanted thinner strings than were available in 1962, so he repackaged string sets, throwing away the heavy low "E" and adding a .010 gauge banjo string as the high "E". He called the new gauged sets "Slinkys." Eventually all other string manufacturers followed his lead and made sets starting with a .010.

PPPS: Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XII - October 30th!!
This Halloween extravaganza is now in its 19th year (we skipped a year here and there). A musical/comedy featuring Rock Stars who have gone to that great stage in the sky!

Fri 10/15/2004 ~ Changes


I was out shopping yesterday and I saw a sign in a clothing store window that said "Nicole Miller Introduces All New Designs For Her Fall Line!"

You often see ads like this in the fashion world. Every season brings new designs. Yet here we are, at Pittsburgh Guitars, selling Strats and Teles that have remained basically unchanged in 50 years! And our biggest selling Martin is the D-28... a design that's 70 years old!

Speaking of Martins, it has occurred to me that occasional customers might think that our giant wall-o'-Martins never changes... After all, if you see a new D-28 on the wall and then come back six months later and see a new D-28 on the wall you might think it's the same one. Though the used guitars change daily, the new ones are often replaced as soon as they sell. When we find a product that we really like, like the D-28, I want to have it in stock at all times. Does that make it seem like things never change? Is there not enough change in the store?

Although, now that I think about it, we did change our computer monitor to a flat screen. And we did hire John, the new guy, two years ago. And soon Mark will go from his short sleeve summer t-shirts to his long sleeve winter sweatshirts... So there's *some* change...

Oh, and since Fender changes it's amp designs every year we do have the newest amp models from Fender. The old Champion 30, the Princeton 65, the Deluxe 90 and the Stage 100 have been replaced by the Champion 300, the Princeton 650, the Deluxe 900 and the Stage 1000. They have not only beefed up the built-in digital effects, they've also added a "0" !!

This week's special will be an extra discount on last year's models, the ones without the extra "0"... We have one left of each. They're brand new with Fender's Five-Year Warranty.


See You Soon,


PS: Although I'm calling them "Last Year's Models" they're really "Earlier This Year's Models." The new amps just arrived last week.

PPS: Customer Web Site:
The Povertyneck Hillbillies

PPS: Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XII - October 30th!!
Starring Steve Hansen, Larry Richert, Monty & Zeke from Y108, Susie Barbour, Rob Rogers, Miss Cindy from The Flashcats, and many more!!
The Rex Theatre, Saturday, October 30th, 9PM

Fri 10/22/2004 ~ Mysterious coincidences


Have you ever experienced something that wasn't easy to explain?

Last week I went on a mini-vacation. Friday was the Friars Club Roast in New York City, and since I'm a member, and they were roasting Donald Trump, I figured it was worth the trip. One thing led to another, and I made plans to spend the early part of the week in Cape May (the southernmost point in New Jersey). I then scheduled a visit to Cindy, the lead singer of my once-a-year band, The Flashcats. She lives in Farmingdale, New Jersey, right on my way to NYC.

I had a very relaxing time at a Bed & Breakfast in Cape May. It's a seven hour drive from Pittsburgh, but worth the trip. While I was there I did a bunch of stuff, and had normal everyday life experiences. You know, the kind of things that sort of register in your brain, but you don't really pay much attention unless it's something important. A hundred things happen to us every day that we accept as unimportant typical life experiences.

On Wednesday I drove to Cindy's house. She said, "What do you wanna do?" I said, "I don't care. Let's look for some guitar stores." We got in her car and she randomly drove through some small New Jersey towns. (By the way, in three different stores I did not see one used American-made guitar. It made me feel pretty good about the selection we have here at Pittsburgh Guitars.) Eventually we ended up in the really cute town of Red Bank, New Jersey. It looks like the South Side, with lots of cool shops. We drove around the block a few times and finally found a parking spot. We visited some antique stores and toy stores and found their one guitar store (all new stuff). As we were getting back into the car to head home I looked up and noticed that we were parked right in front of a CD/DVD store. I said, "Hold on a second. Lemme just pop in here." (At this point, I'd like to mention that earlier that morning I had talked Cindy into coming back to Pittsburgh on October 30th, to be in our Halloween show, Night Of The Singing Dead. One of the roles she agreed to play was Marilyn Monroe, singing "Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend.") I walked over to the DVD section and right in front of me was the DVD of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," the movie that features Marilyn singing that very song! I was surprised. Naturally, I bought it, took it back to the car and gave it to Cindy and said, "Now we can learn the dance steps!"

Then, as we were pulling out of the parking space, I looked down at the bag from the store. It had orange and white stripes and pictures of playing cards, along with the store's name, Jack's Music. I couldn't believe it!! Two days earlier, in a randomly chosen room, in a randomly chosen Bed & Breakfast, in a city two and a half hours away I had randomly opened the room's chest of drawers, even though I had no intention of putting anything in there. That chest of drawers in Cape May was completely empty... except for an orange and white striped bag from Jack's Music in Red Bank, New Jersey!! I initially picked up the empty bag because I thought it might be from a guitar store in Cape May. When it wasn't, I put the bag back in the drawer, and completely forgot about it until two days later when we were pulling out of that parking space.

Now, you might say, "Hey, it's the same state. And you have an interest in music, so it's not that unusual that you'd go into a CD/DVD store called Jack's Music..."

But what are the odds that a very clean Bed & Breakfast would accidentally leave an empty bag in their chest of drawers, and that I'd find it (after I drove there with no reservations and picked that B&B at random), and then Cindy would randomly drive to Red Bank, and pull over in the only parking space we could find, and I'd decide at the last minute to stop into a store where I found a DVD that I needed but didn't even know to look for, and then I would be handed a bag exactly like the one I previously found????

It's a mystery to me. And there doesn't seem to be anything profound about it. It's just a mystery.

If you have any insight into this, please let me know.


Speaking of DVDs this week's email special is Fender's "Getting Started on Guitar" DVD series. We have "Getting Started on Acoustic Guitar" and "Getting Started on Electric Guitar." They're over three hours long and feature rhythm techniques, soloing techniques, practice tips, 3-D fretboard graphics, essential chords and scales, as well as play-along tracks.


See You Soon,


PS: Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XII - October 30th!!
** Yes, we will predict the outcome of the Presidential Election four days early! At Night Of The Singing Dead's "Election Fright Coverage." Late-Great Rockers, representing different areas of the USA, will appear as Republicans or Democrats, and their performances will predict the election results!!! New to the show this year: Ray Charles, Rick James, Marlon Brando, Julia Child, and many more!
** Starring KDKA's Steve Hansen, Larry Richert, John Shumway, and Susie Barbour; plus Monty & Zeke from Y108; plus Rob Rogers, Miss Cindy from The Flashcats, Ron Moondog, Chuck Beatty, John McDonald, Joey Murphy, Deanna Dean, "Mayor Maggie" Stewart, Kerry Kost, Rich Dugan, Dave Romesberg, and many more!!
** The Rex Theatre, Saturday, October 30th, 9PM
Tickets available at Pittsburgh Guitars and The Rex.
More info: 412-381-9200

PPS: Pictures from previous shows....

Fri 10/29/2004 ~ What's my guitar worth?


You may have heard me on Susie Barbour's Show on KDKA radio last Sunday discussing guitars. It's always fun talking to the phone-in callers about something they have in the attic or under the bed. (The first thing I tell them is, "Don't keep your guitar in the attic!")

One caller had an old P-Bass that he used in a big band in the 1950s. Another guy had an old Vox Teardrop solid-body. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking! We mostly see the hollow-body teardrop... You know, the one that always has big finish checks in it `cause they put the lacquer finish on too thick, and with any sort of a quick temperature change it cracks... The solid-body is far cooler.)

Folks always ask what their guitar is worth, but I try to be as general as possible. There are so many things that can happen to a guitar in 40 years that it's tough to evaluate one over the phone.

For example a guy called on Sunday about his 1962 EB-0. The EB-0, of course, is the Barry White of bass guitars. With that big ol' pickup all the way up next to the fingerboard, you get nuthin' but low end. It's great in a Polka Band, but doesn't have enough punch for most rockers. Because of the serious lack of high end, the EB-0 has never been a particularly valuable guitar. For years and years we sold them for $250 - $350-ish. Lately, however, they've been going up in value. Maybe it's because bass amps are so elaborate and powerful these days. Maybe it's because people are now used to the low rumble of a 5-string bass. Maybe it's because everything else from the 60s has appreciated so much in value that the EB-0 has been dragged along...

Anyway, I told the caller that we've seen higher and higher prices on basses like his, and we recently sold one for $895. He said, "Great!"

Then, yesterday, he brought it in... It *IS* a `62 EB-0. Yep, that part is correct. But... all of the finish has been stripped off. And the pickguard and backplate have been replaced with homemade versions. And even the front of the headstock was stripped!

Needless to say, the collectors value of this bass has been seriously impacted. It still works, and it's not broken, so it has that goin' for it... But this is a perfect example of why you have to actually see something to even come close to gauging it's value.

If this bass DID have the original finish, and I wanted to wipe it off, I'd ask John-the-new-guy what he'd use. And he'd tell me about his favorite polish cloth, the Dean Markley Micro Fiber Cloth. John uses these all the time to shine the guitars hanging on our walls. The micro fiber cloth is safe for all finishes, and it's a great way to wipe off fingerprints or smudges on any color guitar, even black ones. Unlike your basic cotton sock, this cloth is extremely smooth... you could clean your glasses, or shine up your diamond ring, or wipe your fingerprints off your guitarist's Les Paul that he left at your house after rehearsal and you were jammin' on it while he was gone.... It's our email special this week....


See You soon,


PS: We call this bass the "Eee- Bee- Oh" but actually it's the "Eee- Bee- Zero." Gibson's first electric bass was 1954's violin shaped EB-1 (EB = "Electric Bass"). When they introduced the six string, hollow-body ES-335 in 1958, Gibson put a bass neck on a 335 body and called it the EB-2. In 1959, when the single cutaway Les Paul Juniors and Specials became double cutaway models, Gibson gave up on the unpopular violin shape, and put a bass neck on the new double cutaway solid-body. And rather than go on to "EB-3" they back-tracked to EB-0.

In 1961, when they discontinued the Les Paul, and introduced the SG line, they put a bass neck on an SG body, and that became the new version EB-0.

Oddly enough, when they realized that their basses needed some high end and they added a second pickup near the bridge, the two pickup EB-2 became the EB-2D, but the two pickup EB-0 was called an EB-3! Go figure!

PPS: Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XII - this Saturday October 30th!!
** Yes, we will predict the outcome of the Presidential Election three days early! At Night Of The Singing Dead's "Election Fright Coverage." Late-Great Rockers, representing different areas of the USA, will appear as Republicans or Democrats, and their performances will predict the election results!!! New to the show this year: Ray Charles, Rick James, Marlon Brando, Julia Child, and many more!
** Starring KDKA's Steve Hansen, Larry Richert, John Shumway, and Susie Barbour; plus Monty & Zeke from Y108; plus Rob Rogers, Miss Cindy from The Flashcats, Ron Moondog, Chuck Beatty, Joey Murphy, Deanna Dean, "Mayor Maggie" Stewart, Kerry Kost, Rich Dugan, Dave Romesberg, and many more!!
** The Rex Theatre, Saturday, October 30th, 9PM
Tickets available at Pittsburgh Guitars and The Rex.
More info: 412-381-9200

PPPS: Customer web site:
Joe Bonamassa

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