Email Specials from April 2005

Friday 4/1/2005 ~ Guitars on VH-1


I'm now addicted to VH1-Classic.

Every morning when my alarm goes off, I roll over and turn on Channel 143 to wake myself up. (That's Channel 143 on the super over-priced Comcast digital network.) The cool guitars on these "vintage" videos immediately get my eyes open. (This works so much better than the throwing-a-glass-of-ice-water-in-my-face approach that I used to use...)

Yesterday morning I saw the Go-Gos' video for "Our Lips Are Sealed." Charlotte Caffey was using a great looking blonde Tele and Jane Weidlin was playing an early `60s SG Jr. Immediately after that was The Hooter's*(see PPPS). The video was for a song I've never heard of, but it was apparently the follow-up to their one hit, that I can't remember. (To recap, The Hooter's were a local Philadelphia band that suddenly (to the rest of the country) had a big hit song (that I can't remember). They were so big, for this brief period of time, that they were the opening act on the giant, worldwide Live-Aid broadcast. I do remember that their hit had mandolin in it... and one of those plastic keyboards that you blow into...) Anyway, in the video, The Hooter's lead singer was playing a red`59 Les Paul Junior.

Then, this morning, the first video I saw was Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation." Coincidentally, her guitar player was also using a red `59 Les Paul Junior. (Joan, of course, was using her white, refinished, 1965-ish Melody Maker, with the changed pickups. This guitar, if you recall, was previously owned by Eric Carmen, lead singer of The Raspberries. He did the modifications.) (And then he quit The Raspberries to become a middle-of-the-road, slow-song-singer... and made millions of dollars...) (Hey, at least his guitar is still rockin'!)

After Joan Jett was James Brown's smokin' video for "Livin' In America." James has always had a super-powerful, super-tight band. When I saw how great they were in the video it reminded me of that time in 1965 when James made an endorsement deal with Vox. It's hard to imagine... but lots of photos were taken featuring James' band all playing Vox guitars, with Vox Super Beatle amps behind them. I can't believe that they ever really used the stuff, but they even released an album with these photos on both the front and back covers!

(Of course, I'm a big fan of Vox amps, and I've always been entertained by their guitars, but you could hardly call them "funk-machine" instruments!)

As my mind was amusing itself picturing the James Brown band using weirdly shaped guitars, on came "Refugee" by Tom Petty, with him using his familiar five-sided Vox Phantom 12-string. I figured it was time to get up.

If you have an odd-shaped guitar, you might not be able to use many of the guitar stands on the market. You'll need one with a swivel base, like the traditional tubular stands. Those are our special this week.


See you soon,


PS: I once saw Joan Jett at the Butler County Fair. It was a strange location, what with the cows and everything, but she was great.

PPS: I've seen James Brown several times, and he was wonderful. He had a massive band, with two drummers, two bass players, two guitarists, four backup singers, and a bunch of horns. And every one of them was following his every move. He'd put his hand up and they'd start playing, he'd put his hand down and they'd stop on a dime and give you four cents change. It was an impressive show.

PPPS: Yes, I realize that "The Hooter's" doesn't really have an apostrophe in it, but when I spelled it correctly my email program lit it up, as if it were a bad word. I didn't want any of your work email filters to reject this as an evil email.

PPPPS: Customer web site:
The Go-Go's

Friday 4/15/2005 ~ Contract riders


On Tuesday I got a call about a Hofner Club Bass. (That's the single cutaway model. Same pickups, etc., as the "Beatle Bass," but not violin shaped.) We're one of the few stores in the world who have this model in stock. He asked if I could ship it to Germany right away. I said, "No problemo." (Foreign languages were never my strong suit...) We made the deal; FedEx came to get it; and last night I got an email from Germany saying, "I'm about to walk on stage with my new Bass! Thank you thank you thank you!" It's nice to make people happy! The bass player's name is Marc St. Louis, and he's on tour with Seal.

Speaking of touring, there's a web page I read regularly that's pretty entertaining. It's called The Smoking Gun, and they show arrest reports, mug shots and court records of celebrities. (It's amazing how many celebrities have been arrested...) The section I like, though, is where they print contract riders for touring rock acts. They don't show the actual financial contracts, probably because we'd feel bad to see how much money was being made (although I guess that's how they can afford to be arrested so often...). They print the extra part of the contract that lists the backstage amenities needed by the stars.

Coldplay, for example, needs 1 bottle of Vodka, 2 bottles of red wine, 2 bottles of white wine (NOT Chardonnay), 48 cold strong lagers ("Becks" etc, NOT U.S. beers), 8 pairs of dark cotton socks, size 9-11, and 8 local, stamped postcards. Sheryl Crow's contract requires different bottles of booze depending on the day of the week: Monday: Maker's Mark Bourbon, Tuesday: Bombay Gin, Wednesday: Courvoisier Cognac, etc. Joe Cocker needs "One serving of traditional Shepherds Pie, with a side of baked beans" ten minutes after the end of each show.

Don't you wish we all had riders in our lives? I'd like a steak, with a side of mashed potatoes, and a glass of Cabernet at the end of each email special...


Oh yeah, and I'd like a small distortion pedal that's so cheap I could leave it behind at the gig.


See you soon,


PS: Speaking of contracts, when I was digging through my file cabinet this week to do my taxes, I found an old contract for The Beatles appearance in Portland, Oregon on April 11, 1965. The entire contract is shorter than Christina Aguilera's dressing room requirements. The Beatles needed "Clean and adequate dressing room facilities...(with) four cots, mirrors, an ice cooler, a portable TV set and clean towels."

PPS: The Beatles contract also required "a high-fidelity sound system" with 4 microphones! And that was for a stadium!

PPPS: Sorry I missed last week's email. I actually wrote one, but since I was doing my taxes at the time, the whole email had a sense of "Ow, my head hurts!" about it. I cancelled it. (Let me put it this way... it mentioned Moby...)

PPPPS: Speaking of The Beatles, new this week at Pittsburgh Guitars: The brand new Vox AC30 Custom Classic. Vox's updated version of the AC30. Also: the new Vox VR15, a 15 watt tube amp.

PPPPPS: Also, though not related to Vox or The Beatles, we just got Digitech's new "Jimi Hendrix Experience" Pedal, with seven signature Hendrix tones built in! Do you know what food he had in his contract rider? Voodoo chile.

PPPPPPS: Customer web site:

Friday 4/22/2005 ~ Email recaps, Danelectro, Steppenwolf, Hofner


1) Last week, in the 4/15/05 email, I mentioned a Hofner Bass that we shipped to Germany for Seal. This week was even more fun. A lefty Hofner from good ol' Pittsburgh Guitars was sent to New York City to be played, and signed, by Paul McCartney. Last night Julia Roberts and Paul Newman hosted a charity event featuring McCartney, Robin Williams and Tony Bennett. Previews were shown on Entertainment Tonight last night... and they said they'd have footage from the event on this evening (Friday). Maybe they'll show Paul and the bass! (I wanted to go... tickets were only $2500.) (Unfortunately, my private jet is in the shop.) Record Producer Lou Adler bought the bass from us, to be auctioned at the event.

2) In the 4/1/05 email I talked about a Hooter's video I saw on VH1-Classic, and their I-couldn't-remember-the-name-of hit song. Many people wrote to say that the big Hooter hits were "And We Danced" and "All You Zombies." As soon as I heard the titles, the songs easily came to mind... (Though the aforementioned-video wasn't for either of those. I suspect it was from their next album, since it was a touring-the-USA-on-a-bus video...) And it turns out that Hooter's keyboard player, Rob Hyman, and guitarist, Eric Bazilian, also wrote and recorded with Cyndi Lauper. Hyman wrote her hit "Time After Time" and Bazilian was the arranger on "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." In recent years they have been working with Joan Osbourne, and Bazilian wrote her smash hit "(What If God Was) One Of Us."

3) On 3/25/05 I mentioned Steppenwolf. Like me, you've probably always wondered about the guy who wrote "Born To Be Wild": Mars Bonfire. First of all, why did he pick a stage name that is so difficult to say? (Go ahead, try it... Mars Bonfire Mars Bonfire Mars Bonfire) And secondly, what was his relationship to Steppenwolf? Well, it turns out that he's the brother of the drummer, Jerry Edmonton. Except Edmonton isn't their real name either, it's McCrohan. Those wacky Canadians!

4) On 1/28/05 I said that the new Danelectro guitars would be coming soon. They just called, and they're shipping me six next Monday. The new Danelectro company hasn't made a guitar in three years... it will be interesting to see how they turn out. I'll let you know. Last week I mentioned the three new Danelectro distortion pedals. We hadn't tried them when I wrote the email... but now that we have, we really like them! I think they are going to have an impact on the world of pedal pricing...

5) Speaking of Danelectro, on 1/7/05 I wrote about the early 1960s Danelectro-made Silvertone guitars. ("Silvertone" was a brand name used by Sears.) One of the cool ones was the famous "amp-in-the-case" model. It's a wallpaper-sided, single-pickup, black sparkle guitar that came in a hard case containing a small built-in amp. Well, last weekend Beck was on Saturday Night Live, and he played that very guitar! He wasn't using the amp-case, but he was playing through a Danelectro/Silvertone "Twin Twelve," the grey, 50-watt, two-twelve amp!! I was so impressed I almost dropped my glass of Bin 555 Cabernet! (On a side note, he also had two Vox AC-30s.)

6) If you recall, from way back in 1996, a line in Beck's first hit, "Where It's At," was "I got two turntables and a microphone..." This week's email special: Microphones.


See You Soon,


PS: Mars Bonfire-Edmonton-McCrohan's real first name: Dennis

PPS: Beck's real name: Beck Hansen

PPPS: Paul McCartney's real first name: James

PPPPS: Hundreds more!

PPPPP: Customer web site:
Ford Thurston

Real name: Jeffrey Ford Thurston

Friday 4/29/2005 ~ Times have changed


I spent several days this week in the attic. (No, not visiting Grandpa!) Now that the dreaded April 15th has come and gone, it's time to take this year's boxes of files upstairs... But when I went to find a spot, I noticed that the attic was a bit jammed... with the other 26 years worth of boxes. (Yep, coming up, May 22nd: Pittsburgh Guitars' 26th Birthday! We can now legally rent a vacation home in Florida!! Or get Classic Car Insurance for our old jalopy!!! Although now we're too old to stay at a Youth Hostel in Bavaria...)

Looking at the crowded attic, I figured the only sensible plan was to start throwing stuff out. I probably don't need my phone bills from 1991 anyway. So, I spent hours this week going through hundreds and hundreds of old papers, tossing and shredding. I've only done 1988 thru 1994 so far, but I noticed a few things.


* Techno advances

In 1988 I paid $995 for my first computer. And it was so prehistoric that it didn't come with a hard drive! Every day we'd put one of those big floppy discs in to load the store sales program, and then we'd take it out and put another one in to keep track of the inventory. When we turned it off at the end of the day, it forgot everything! (It was still better than writing things down in a notebook.)

I found the application for my first cell phone, and the top of the order sheet says "Cellular Radio Service Order." (And that thing sure wouldn't fit in your pocket! I think it even had a shoulder-strap purse to carry it in...)

And I found a flier that I picked up at a guitar show, and the store's ad said, "Soon we will be available on the World Wide Web!" I had no idea what they were talking about!


* Invoices

It's fun to see how invoices have changed. I found lots that were typewritten, and even some that were hand-written. They all had more of a personal touch. And carbon paper was certainly involved.


* Pricing

I guess my biggest surprise was how little some prices have gone up in the last ten or fifteen years. Rickenbacker guitars, for example, aren't significantly higher now than when I started selling them. (In 1994 a 360 sold for $925. Today we sell it for $1084. Only a $159 increase in eleven years!) Accessories, like chipboard cases, are only a few dollars higher now. And many string brands have barely gone up at all. (Ernie Ball Slinkys- 1992: $5; 2005: $5.) It's shocking, compared to other things... like our store employee health insurance, which has doubled in the last year and a half. Of course there are exceptions... new Gibson Les Pauls now have a retail price of $4000... and certain vintage guitars have skyrocketed. But a surprising number of things haven't.


In honor of the past, this week's special will be Ernie Ball strings, cheaper than even 1992 prices!!!


See you soon,


PS: Please note! Next Thursday, May 5th, we will close at 7PM instead of 8PM!!!! Sorry about this one-time schedule change.

PPS: My good friend, and computer-guru, Skip Fischer eventually put a hard drive in that first computer. It was physically big... but I think it was only 40 megabites... about 1/1000th the size of the drive in the computer I'm typing this on... Hmmmmm, with all of this power at my fingertips, I wonder if I'm a 1000 times smarter...

PPPS: Customer web site:
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