Email Specials from May 2005

Friday 5/20/2005 ~ Math question: What happened to the extra $1?


It was late and the club was hot, but so was the band, as Eric, Jack and Ginger finished their 1AM set at the 31st Street Pub. Twenty minutes and a free IC Light later, Ginger talked to a few of the remaining die-hard fans as he loaded his drums into the group's 1971 Ford Econoline van. As usual someone asked about his name. Though a bit odd here in America, it was a highly respected name passed on for generations in the Snapp family, back home in his native Formby-on-Heath in England. He still wasn't sure if he liked the way Eric and Jack alluded to it in the band's name, "The Movie Star And The Rest." But he was at least happy that they referenced the rare First-Season lyrics of the Gilligan's Island Theme, before it was decided that the other two characters were worthy of mention and the lyrics changed to "...the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann..."


The Movie Star And The Rest played a great set, eight originals and two covers, but as the last band in a four-band evening, their pay didn't amount to much. Thirty Dollars, to be exact. But they were happy that Joel made it look better than it was, as he reached into the tip jar, and paid them in ones. They each jammed ten one dollar bills into their pockets, asked directions to 279 North, and headed for Cleveland.

An hour out of Pittsburgh, near Boardman, Ohio, they decided to find a cheap place to stop for the night. Impressed by the honesty of its name, Eric pulled the van into the parking lot of "Bob's Flea Bag." As they checked in they were happy to find that the motel rooms were only $30 a night. They each pulled out their $10, paid the quiet yet interesting man at the desk, and headed to their room.

They were having the nightly discussion about who's turn it was to sleep in the van to guard the equipment when there was a knock on the door.


The desk clerk, Norman, apologized for the interruption. After they had signed in, he realized that he had forgotten to give them the Travelling-Rock-Band discount. The charge for their room was only $25. He held out his hand, with five one dollar bills.


It was now nearing 3AM, and math was never a strong point for any of the band members. Rather than trying to figure out how to divide the $5 refund among the three of them, Eric said to Norman, "Give us each a dollar back, and keep the other two bucks as a tip." Norman was grateful, as he hurried off to share his good fortune with his mother, who waited for him by the third story window of their nearby house.

The next night, setting up at The Agora in Cleveland, Ginger pondered the previous night's experience. Typically, as the drummer, he handled the bands financial record keeping. He remembered that they each got a dollar back from Norman. That meant that they had collectively paid $27 for the room. After all, they started with $10 each, they had one left, so they had paid $9 each. $9 times 3 band members equals $27. Meanwhile, they had given a $2 tip to Norman the desk clerk. It all seemed simple enough.

But then he realized that their $27 and Norman's $2 adds up to $29!

What happened to the extra dollar??


See you soon,


PS: This week's customer web site:

Friday 5/27/2005 ~ Should we buy a Martin archtop?


We get email every day from folks who want to sell their guitar. Most of them are easy yes-or-no decisions. There's one from earlier this week, though, that has me on the fence. A lady sent pictures of her 1934 Martin R-18... a spruce top, mahogany sides-and-back, archtop, f-hole guitar...

Stepping back in time briefly, to those fun-filled, yet noticeably quieter, pre-electric days: Guitar manufacturers tried for years to make their guitars louder. Orville Gibson, in a effort to get a little more projection, made some round-hole arch topped guitars as early as the late 1890s. In 1916 C.F. Martin designed what was at the time world's largest commercially manufactured guitar and, as a tribute to its size, named it the "Dreadnought" after the world's largest battleship. (Now, of course, this is the most common sized guitar.) The dreadnought shape added more bass to the sound.

But as we entered the 1920s and the "Big band" era, guitarists found themselves at a disadvantage. I don't know if you've ever been in the same room with a trumpet player, but those guys are loud! With a handful of horns blasting away, even a dreadnought guitar will get lost in the mix. To cut through the swingin' sound of a gaggle of brass players Gibsons ace R&D man Lloyd Loar developed the L-5, which was introduced in 1923. This model not only had an arched top, it also mimicked the design of a violin or cello with "f-holes." The bright, loud, piercing sound of an L-5 cut through the horns and helped justify the guitar player's existence in a big band.

And, of course, when an idea catches on, other companies jump on the bandwagon. The aforementioned R-18 was one of Martin's f-hole guitars.

But here's the rub: If you're NOT playing with a bunch of other, louder instruments... but just sitting there strumming your guitar, an f-hole guitar doesn't have nearly the rich bass resonance of a round-hole flat-top. Archtop guitars certainly have their place, especially from an historical perspective, but they are not widely desired for solo acoustic uses.


So.... getting back to our original issue... this lady has a old Martin. She's asking $1250 for it. On the one hand: if it was a 1934 flat-top it would be worth thousands. But on the other hand: it's an archtop. But on hand one: it's still a 71 year old vintage guitar. But on hand two: $1250 is a lot of money. But hand one: we have 25 guitars here in the store now that sell for more than that. Hand two: there's not any demand for vintage Martin archtops. One: if you tried to have that guitar made today it would cost three times that much. Two: what would I ever do with it? The basic question: don't you think that for what it is: an old, quality-made, famous-manufacturer, nearly three-quarters-of-a-century-old, works-as-well-today-as-the-day-it-was-made, musical instrument, it should be worth a mere $1250? Answer: "Yes, but..."


OK, well, thanks for letting me ramble and talk it out. Now that I've said all of this I guess I'll pass on it...

(Although I'm going to regret it if some famous musical star starts using an old archtop next week and the market skyrockets... Lemme check Billboard.... Hmmmmmm #1 Mariah Carey, #2 Gwen Stefani, #3 Ciaro with Ludacris, #4 50 Cent... OK, I guess we're safe...)


In case you have an archtop that you'd like to electrify, this week's special is Bill Lawrence Archtop pickups.


See You Soon,


PS: Congratulations to Mark here at the store! Last week his band, Jill West and Blues Attack, won first place in the Western Pennsylvania Blues Society Challenge. They'll be heading to Memphis early next year for the International Blues Challenge.

PPS: Thanks to all of you who wrote about last week's mathematical riddle. If you recall, Eric, Jack and Ginger started with $30. They each paid $9 for the room, for a total of $27. They also gave the motel desk clerk a $2 tip. $27 and $2 equals $29. What happened to the other dollar? The solution: The $27 that they paid was $25 for the room and $2 for the tip. So the tip has already been counted. The calculations in the riddle add the tip twice. The real question is: They paid $27, what happened to the other three dollars? ($30 - $27) And the answer is in their pockets. They each got a dollar back in change.
The funniest reply came from Joyce who wrote:
"The proper question should be 'What happened to the $30?' The answer would be that the hotel got $25, each musician got $1, the drummer got $1 and the desk clerk got $2, for a total of $30."

PPPS: Customer Web Site:
Jill West and Blues Attack

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