A few weeks ago my brother Ed
told me that his 12 year-old son wanted to play drums. Since
drums are my main instrument, Ed asked if I could help out. I
went to Drum World, in Castle Shannon, and picked out a Pearl
set and the kid loves them. It was an easy choice, because if
you hit a drum and it makes a noise, then, success, it's a drum.
This set isn't exactly from High-Qualityville... I'm sure that
the hardware won't last 20 years (or ten)... but everyone's happy.
(Aside: When I was in high school
my Mother took me to Art's Drum Shop, above Lomakin's, on Liberty
Avenue, downtown. She bought me a new Ludwig set, that I still
have. I haven't used it lately, but I've been using the high-hat
and cymbal stands for 25 years! They work as well today as the
day we bought them. It's one of those "they-made-stuff-better-in-the-old-days"
things...) (And when I say, "we bought them" I mean,
"She bought them.") (Good old Mom!) (And good old Ludwig!)
Anyway, though Ed's kid's hardware
probably won't last until he's celebrating his 25th Anniversary,
the set was decent enough to get him started. He's formed a little
band with his friends and he's becoming a much more self-assured
person. (Lesson: music = good for you)
So OK, the drums make noise,
and the kid is encouraged. Why do I mention this? Because there
are some fields in life where you can start out super "cheap."
A super cheap computer could inspire a young kid to choose computers
as a possible career. I don't play keyboards, but I imagine a
super cheap keyboard could still get you started.
BUT last week a guy came into
the store with an Esteban guitar.
You may have seen Esteban on
TV. He wears all-black, with a black hat and sunglasses. He has
long fingernails and is mysterious. Sometimes he has his own
infomercials. Sometimes he's on Home Shopping Network. He sits
on a stool and plays and sells his Esteban "all-wood",
"handmade" guitar, for three easy payments of $59.
(I'm guessing on the price.) He can clearly play guitar (although
when they cut to a video, he's using his nylon string rather
than the steel string that he's selling...)
Now, I'm all for encouraging
people to play the guitar, and that's what the E man is doing.
But I would hate to think that a potential future-guitar player
would attempt to play something that has high action and won't
tune... and then be so discouraged that they'd give up. The aforementioned
guy asked if we could set-up his Esteban, but it was such a P.O.S.
that we couldn't do anything to help it. We suggested that he
should try to get his money back.
Don't get me wrong, it's fine
to start with a cheap guitar. But please go to a guitar store
(it doesn't have to be us...) and get a decent instrument. If
you recall my last email, things have come a long way in inexpensive
musical instrument manufacturing. These days any reputable guitar
store can sell you a guitar for under $150 that plays great.
One that won't hold you back from getting started on the instrument.
And won't hurt your fingers, or more importantly, break your
I'm glad that at 2AM someone
who never thought about learning guitar might stumble upon an
infomercial and say "I want to be like that mysterious man!"
If you meet one of these people, please encourage them to go
to an actual guitar store. I thank you. And they'll thank you.
Right now we have a good selection
of both new and used acoustic guitars in the $125 to $150 range.
This week's email special coupon is good for $25 off any acoustic
guitar in the store. (Just think, on a $125 guitar, that's 20%
off!) (Of course, on a $150 guitar it's only 16.66% off... but
hey, that's still a lot!)
See you soon,
PS: If you want to use your $25
off coupon on a much more expensive guitar, we just got a new
Martin 000-28EC Eric Clapton and a super beautiful Martin D-41.
PPS: As long as I'm mentioning
new arrivals, we're happy to have received one of the first new
Gretsch `57 Duo Jet Specials. It's exactly like the one George
played in the early Beatle days.
PPPS: Thanks to everyone for
helping us celebrate our 25th Anniversary! The show at The Rex was great. (The video
will be ready in a week or so.) Congratulations to Robert Rodriguez
who was the grand prize winner in our Guitar Give-Away Contest!
PPPPS: This week's ticket give-away
We have tickets to Huey Lewis & The News, THIS Sunday, August
8th, at the tent at Station Square (The Chevrolet Amphitheatre).
To win them, answer this question: What big lawsuit was Huey
Lewis involved in, and why? (Hint: He won. It WAS a rip-off.)
First five correct answers win a pair of tickets.
Last week's 25th
Anniversary Party at the Rex was a blast!
The highlights for me were the
folks who played on stage for the first time ever. I was so proud
of them. It's so easy to let worry and nervousness overtake you,
and hold you back from life. The fear of rejection (or, in this
case, the fear of playing the wrong chord) is a powerful force...
but as with most worries, the power of this fear is all in your
head. So you have to say to yourself, "Who's in charge here?
Is it me... or is it me?" You can't let you hold you back
from doing something that You want to do. Life's too short to
let you do that to you. You're more important to you than that.
So these guys and gals overcame
their fear, went up on stage, and played! And it was tons of
fun. We had a rockin' house band to back them up. Some folks
just played rhythm, some sang, a couple even took a solo. Several
people told me that we should do it on a regular basis.... maybe
Since everyone only did one or
two songs, it reminded me of the bus tours that Dick Clark used
to do with his "Caravan Of Stars" in the `60s. Eight
or ten acts would perform a couple of songs each at one two-hour
show. So, for your $1.50 ticket you could see lots of your favorite
stars at one time. (And let's face it, even though they're tired
of playing it, when you go to see your favorite star you want
to hear their latest hit.)
Speaking of Dick Clark and the
`60s, last Saturday I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
in Cleveland. It's very very impressive. You should go there
sometime. In addition to really cool costumes, posters, films,
and lots of memorabilia, it's worth the trip just to see the
guitars. There must be 100 guitars on display, and unlike most
of the Hard Rock Cafe stuff, these are the ones actually used
by the stars. Like the Flying V used by Wally Bryson in The Rasberries,
and the Guild Starfire Bass that Jack Cassidy heavily modified
in The Jefferson Airplane, and the Les Paul Sunburst that Duane
Allman used, and... Well, you get the idea. So go there. And
plan on spending a lot of time... three hours at least... `cause
there's a lot to see. I half expected to see the cryogenically
frozen head of Jim Morrison (hey, Ted Williams and Walt Disney
Speaking of cryogenically frozen,
this week's email special is Dean Markley Blue Steel Strings.
These are the strings that they freeze as they're making them...with
the theory that it strengthens the string and makes them last
longer. You be the judge...
See you soon,
PS: This week's ticket give-away:
We have tickets to THIS SUNDAY'S Byran Adams Show at the Station
Square Tent. A pair of tickets go to the first 5 people who write
back. Note: You'll have to come to the store today, Friday, or
tomorrow, Saturday, to pick `em up. Hours: 11AM - 5PM Showtime:
7:30PM, Sunday, August 15, Chevrolet Amphitheater, Station Square
Note #2: Yes, it's "Bryan" not "Ryan."
PPS: Customer web site:
Nat Daniels wasn't a guitar player...
However, he was clever. He felt he could make a durable, good-sounding,
yet inexpensive, guitar. And he did. And he sold a hundred thousand
guitars, under both his brand, Danelectro, and through Sears
& Roebuck under the Silvertone brand. The pickups he designed
and manufactured had a distinctive sound on his guitars (example:
Jimmy Page on Led Zepplin's "Kashmir") and a very distinctive
sound on his basses (example: John Entwistle's bass solo in of
The Who's "My Generation"). In 1956 Nat decided to
take his bright and punchy sounding bass one step further and
he added two more strings (a high "B" and high "E").
The high "E" was tuned the same as a low "E"
on a regular guitar. This allowed for some interesting bass solo
options: higher and easier to hear than on a normal bass, and
lower and thicker sounding than on a guitar. (Example: the solo
on George Jones' "The Race Is On.")
As is usually the case in the
business world, it wasn't long before the big companies caught
on, and in 1961 Fender debuted their six-string bass, the Bass
All of this ran through my mind
last night as I was scanning the TV channels and stumbled on
an Elvis movie. Elvis was a race car driver, or a surfer, or
a priest or something, and naturally at one point there was a
big song and dance number. The very attractive crowd, led by
Ann Margaret, danced up a storm, backed by a generic house-band
pretending to play (in much the same was Elvis was pretending
to act.) Faced with watching Ann Margaret dance, or watching
the house-band, I, of course, focused in on the instruments.
It was an all-Fender band. The lead player had a beautiful, late
`50s, sunburst maple neck Strat. The rhythm player had an equally
beautiful, sunburst Coronado II. The bass player had a super-cool
pre-CBS Charcoal Frost P-Bass. And the fourth guy, doing the
same dance steps as the rest of the band, yet not exactly sure
of his role musically... was playing chords on a Bass VI!! And
not just a Bass VI, but a custom color, Sea Foam Green Bass VI.
I was impressed. I wished someone was there with me, on my living
room couch at 1 AM, so I could say, "Hey, look that guy's
pretending to play rhythm guitar on a really rare custom color
Fender six-string bass!"
In honor of Elvis and the unknown
Bass VI player, this week's email special is on basses. Last
week's "$25 Dollar Off" coupon was a big hit, so I'm
continuing the concept, and elaborating, on basses!
See you soon,
PS: The Bass VI was not particularly
successful. It didn't have a lot of low end, and didn't have
the bright bite of a Danelectro six-string bass.
PPS: The highest profile use
of a Bass VI was in the Let It Be movie. In 1968 Fender sent
The Beatles a whole pile of new stuff. George Harrison played
a Bass VI on the song "Let It Be" while Paul played
piano. John used it on "Hey Jude" while Paul was again
PPPS: Second highest profile:
Jack Bruce used one briefly in Cream. He even painted it psychedelic
colors when Eric Clapton painted his SG.
PPPPS: Other innovative ideas
by Nat Daniels: the neck-tilt adjustment, later used by Fender;
the electric 12-string, later used by everybody, the first amp
with built-in vibrato. the first shielded control cavity on an
electric guitar, the amp-built-in-the-guitar-case.... (OK, they
all weren't great ideas....)
PPPPPS: This week's ticket give-away.
We have 3 pairs of tickets to Friday night's Donnie Iris concert
at Station Square. A pair of tickets to the first three people
who write back and tell me Donnie's first big hit.
PPPPPPS: This week's customer web site:
Science Fiction Idols
Yesterday we bought a Washburn
"Dimebag Darrell" guitar. (Dimebag was lead guitarist
for the now-defunct band, Pantera. The nickname "Dimebag"
no doubt refers to the bags of penny candy he used to buy for
his aging grandmother...)
It got me thinkin' about other
artist "signature" guitars... most of which were not
A great example was one made
by Gretsch in 1967...
But first, of course, background!
In the 1940s Gretsch was located
in Brooklyn, NY. And they made drums. Their drum customers in
New York City complained that they were having trouble getting
their 28" bass drums into taxi cabs. ("Huge" was
the average size of a bass drum in those days. And, like today,
people in NYC traveled primarily in taxis.) Gretsch responded
with the first small, 20" bass drum, which quickly became
the standard of the industry. Because of their success with drums
Gretsch became heavily involved in the jazz musical community
of the time. In the 1950s, they struck a deal with country player,
Chet Atkins, to help design and market their electric guitar
line. This put them in tight with the Nashville country music
community. So, by the early 1960s, jazz and country were their
bread and butter.
With that in mind: What were
Gretsch's thoughts on February 9, 1964, when a 20 year old George
Harrison showed up on Ed Sullivan, playing one of their guitars?
"We really didn't think this rock and roll thing was going
to last..." (Duke Kramer of Gretsch, to me, March 2002)
(Rickenbacker, meanwhile, rushed
to The Beatles, giving George their new 12-string, which he immediately
used in front of millions and millions of potential customers.)
By 1966 it was obvious that rock
and roll did have some staying power, and Gretsch realized that
they missed a big opportunity. So when they were approached by
Screen Gems about a TV show... and four Beatle-ish kind of guys...
and a Gretsch endorsement... they said "Yeah." ("Yeah.
The Monkees hit the big time
fast. Their first single, "Last Train To Clarksville,"
was released in August 1966, and a Number One hit before the
show even aired in September. Mike Nesmith used a beautiful,
custom-made, natural Gretsch 12-string every week on the popular
TV show. Gretsch quickly planned a Monkees model guitar. It made
it to the stores in early 1967.
But, you know, even plans that
look good on paper don't always work out... Gretsch guitars have
always (even now) been expensive. A thirteen year old Monkees
fan could afford a Monkees lunch box, but a professional guitar
was a little out of allowance-range. And professional musicians
weren't sure they wanted to be associated with a band that, by
1967, was suffering the backlash of "not playing their own
instruments." (Even though that was, and is, standard in
the music biz...)
Furthermore, by the summer of
1967, everything changed with the release of Sgt. Pepper. Music
was getting heavier, more spiritual, more drug related, more
and more away from the 1964 Beatles that The Monkees were emulating.
"Light My Fire" (The Doors), "Somebody To Love"
(Jefferson Airplane), "For What It's Worth" (Buffalo
Springfield), are not songs you'd play with a guitar that says
"The Monkees" on it.
So, like so many other "signature"
guitars, the Gretsch Monkees model did not live up to expectations.
I think players would always
rather buy a stock model... like the one used by their musical
hero... rather than one that has the hero's name on it. We have
sold many, many more Fender Mustangs, like the one used by Kurt
Cobain, than the Fender Jagstang that has his name on it.
As a matter of fact, I have two
Jagstangs left... so they'll be the email special this week.
Unfortunately, because of Fender's "Minimum Advertised Price"
policies, I can't tell you what the price is...give us a call...
See You Soon,
PS: It also didn't help that
The Monkees model was nothing like the one Mike Nesmith played
on the show. His was a 17" body, in natural, and a 12-string.
The Monkees model was a 16" body, in red, and a 6-string.
PPS: My favorite Micky Dolenz
(The Monkees' drummer/lead vocalist) quote: "The Monkees
was not a band, it was a television show about a band. The Monkees
has nothing to do with the Beatles. The Monkees has to do with
PPPS: This week's customer web site:
HEY! Watch The Clarks on David Letterman on Tuesday night!!! (August