Email Specials from July 2005

Friday 7/1/2005 ~ Song lyrics, Dave Clark Five, Kinks Van Hallen, quiz



Yesterday I drove to Canonsburg to help Billy O'Connor move.

Near the Kirwan Heights exit, I heard a news report that two different movie studios were re-making "The Poseidon Adventure." Since music is always on my mind, I immediately started to think of instances when two artists released the same song at roughly the same time. For no particular reason, the first one that came to me was "Land Of 1,000 Dances." When I was a child it was on the charts twice within a year. First by a Mexican-American band from East L.A. called Cannibal & The Headhunters and then by Wilson Pickett. (Mr. Pickett, of course, is the source of the phrase musicians sometimes yell on stage, as their guitarist breaks into a solo, "Pick it, Wilson!")

The funny thing about that song is that its signature lyric, "Na... na,na,na,na... na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na... na, na ,na, na" is not in the original version, written and recorded by Chris Kenner. Cannibal (real name: Frankie Garcia) forgot the words and ad libbed the "na's." Wilson Pickett, who heard The Headhunters' version on a Motown Revue Tour, then fine-tuned the "na's" and had the bigger hit.

As I avoided the speed trap at the Bridgeville exit, I remembered that though Chris Kenner missed the Top 40 with "1000 Dances," he did have a hit in 1961 with another song he wrote, "I Like It Like That." And that tune struck again in 1965 when it was recorded by the British band, The Dave Clark Five.

That reminded me of another cover song recorded by the Dave Clark Five in 1965, "Over And Over." (Originally recorded in 1958 by Bobby Day.) I've always been amused by the lyric change in the Dave Clark Five's version. The first line of "Over And Over" is: "I went to a dance just the other night, everyone there was stag..." Dave Clark must have been unfamiliar with the American term for a man going to a party without a date, and changed it to "...everyone there was there..." Even as a kid I thought, "what the???"

Although Dave Clark was confused by "stag" I was mystified by English phrases that I heard. In "Well Respected Man" by The Kinks, Ray Davies sang, "...and he goes to the Regatta..." and I didn't know WHAT he meant. (He pronounced the second syllable as "at." The rhyming line was "...and he's dying to get at her...") Now, of course, we even have a Regatta here in Pittsburgh... though pronounced differently.

The thought of the Kinks reminded me how happy I was about a recent purchase. A few weeks ago I was finally able to find a natural Harmony Meteor exactly like the one Dave Davies used in the solo on "You Really Got Me." That made me wonder if anyone ever had a hit covering a Kinks' song... Of course, two seconds later I said to myself: Well, yes!!!... Van Halen's first hit, "You Really Got Me." Oddly enough, I thought, as I was passing the Southpointe exit, both Van Halen AND the Kinks covered the Motown hit, "Dancing In The Street."


And that's what was going through my mind yesterday on I-79.

Speaking of Dancing In The Street, if you're going to do that, you'll need a small battery powered amp. This week's email special features Fender's small, clip on your belt, battery powered, dancing in the street amps.


See you soon,


PS: Let's have a connection contest. Fill in the blanks.

Hint: It might help if you jump ahead and backtrack on some of the blanks.

Next week we'll randomly pick one of the correct replies, and the winner will get one of the Fender Mini Amps on this weeks email special!


First we'll try to get from Van Halen to Van Halen, the long way:

1) Van Halen recorded "Dancing In The Street"
2) "Dancing In The Street" was originally recorded by __________________
3) #2 also had a hit with _____________
4) #3 was covered by former rocker, now opera singer_____________
5) #4 also had a hit cover song with _________________
6) #5 was originally recorded by __________________
7) #6's biggest hit was _______________________
8) #7 was covered by Van Halen!


Now can you get from Van Halen to Mary Wells and The Beatles?

1) Van Halen recorded "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks
2) _____________ was BIG Kinks fan, especially when you factor in the baby
3) #2's band ______________ recorded several Kinks songs
4) #3's late guitar player played an unusual metal faced guitar: ____________
5) _______________ also played that type of guitar
6) #5's band recorded ___________________, a cover of a Motown hit
7) #6 was originally recorded by ________________
8) #7 also had a hit called __________________
9) #8 was written by _____________________
10) #9 also wrote an "answer song" for #8 called ____________________
11) #10 was recorded by Mary Wells
12) In 1964, when #10 was #1 on the charts, The Beatles called Mary Wells "their favorite American singer" and invited her to tour England with them.
13) Extra credit:
The Beatles also recorded a song written by #9. It was_________________

PPS: Customer web site:
The Legendary Hucklebucks

Friday 7/8/2005 ~ Martins from the 1800s, quiz answer


Last week I changed the display in the back of the store. I was in an acoustic mood, so I picked a few old Martins.

The oldest is a Model 1-21 from 1874. I've owned this guitar for years and years.... but as I picked it up this time, I was struck by its past. Obviously, everyone associated with its construction and original sale are now long gone, but there are certain things about those events that we can picture.

The Martin factory in 1874 was a small building at 10 North Street in Nazareth, PA.
Here's a picture of me in front of it in 2004.

In the 1870s Martin was making approximately three guitars a week. There was no electricity and so no light bulbs; everything on this 1-21 was made by gas light. With no electric saws, the spruce top and sound-hole were hand cut. The Brazilian rosewood sides were bent over hot molds that were heated in a coal oven. The wooden case that came with the guitar is so well made that it's still solid and secure; the hinges work perfectly even today.

I don't know who originally bought the guitar... but I know they didn't phone the factory to place the order. Alexander Graham Bell didn't make his first call to Watson until two years later, in 1876. The purchaser must have written to Martin requesting this model. And it probably wasn't a typed letter, since the first practical typewriter, invented by Christopher Soles had only just been put on the market a few months earlier. And it was decades before the first automobile, so this guitar was delivered by horse drawn wagon. (Which explains the high quality case...)


(I can picture a UPS man on a brown horse coming up to the door: "Anything going out today, Mr. Martin?")


Of course, we all know that life existed before cars, telephones, electric light... and us. But when I look at this guitar, and the others in the display that were made, sold and played long before our parents were born, I get a sentimental feeling. The goal of these early luthiers was the same as (some of) today's guitar companies: to make a good sounding guitar that will be played and enjoyed and loved for years to come. I think Martin's factory staff of 1874 would be happy to know that their time and effort was worth it, and that 131 years later their craftsmanship is still appreciated.

Wouldn't it make you feel good to know that you made something today.... and it was still around in 2136?

(All I did was write this email...)


This week's email special, our best selling acoustic string, the Martin M140, in 80/20 Bronze or Phosphor Bronze.


See you soon,


PS: Imagine trying to explain the internet to someone in 1874. Even in 1974, people would have had a hard time grasping how it would change our lives. Imagine (except we can't) how different things will be in 2074!

PPS: Here are the answers to last week's "connections" quiz. Congratulations to our winner, Ray from East Liverpool, OH.

Part 1:
Can you get from Van Halen to Van Halen the long way?

1) Van Halen recorded "Dancing In The Street"
2) "Dancing In The Street" was originally recorded by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
3) Martha & The Vandellas also had a hit with "Heat Wave"
4) "Heat Wave" was covered by former rocker, now opera singer Linda Ronstadt
5) Linda Ronstadt also had a hit cover song with "Blue Bayou"
6) "Blue Bayou" was originally recorded by Roy Orbison
7) Roy Orbison biggest hit was "Pretty Woman"
8) "Pretty Woman" was covered by Van Halen!

Part 2:
Can you get from Van Halen to Mary Wells and The Beatles?

1) Van Halen recorded "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks
2) Chrissie Hynde was a BIG Kinks fan, especially when you factor in the baby
(She had a baby with lead Kink, Ray Davies.)
3) Chrissie Hynde's band, The Pretenders, recorded several Kinks songs.
4) The Pretenders late guitar player, James Honeyman-Scott, played an
unusual metal faced guitar: a Zemaitas
5) Ron Wood (The Rolling Stones) also played that type of guitar
6) Ron Wood's band recorded "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," a cover of a Motown hit
7) "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" was originally recorded by The Temptations
8) The Temptations also had a hit called "My Girl"
9) "My Girl" was written by Smokey Robinson
10) Smokey Robinson also wrote an "answer song" for #8 called "My Guy"
11) "My Guy" was recorded by Mary Wells
12) In 1964, when "My Guy" was #1 on the charts, The Beatles called Mary Wells
"their favorite American singer" and invited her to tour England with them.
13) Extra credit:
The Beatles also recorded a song written by Smokey Robinson. It was "You Really Got A Hold On Me"

PPPS: Customer web site:
Brad Yoder

Friday 7/15/2005 ~ Childhood inspiration


My next door neighbor is a really nice retired guy, and when he's not keeping track of what's going on in the neighborhood, he sits in his house and plays accordion.

He has an electric accordion, made by Cordovox, and he runs it through a Polytone Mini Brute III. A couple of days ago he asked if I had an extension cabinet that would boost the sound of his Polytone. I happened to have a 1X15 with an EV speaker, so I took it over to his place.

We plugged it in, and it sounded great! He insisted that I stay for a couple of songs. Now generally, I would run screaming from the room if someone offered to play accordion, but he is my neighbor, so I thought it would be polite to stay for a few minutes. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed it!!! Not the accordion actually... but the experience of watching someone play an instrument well. With one or two exceptions (and I think you know what I mean) ANY music is enjoyable if it's done well. And something magical happens when an instrument is picked up and from silence comes music...

It reminded me of an early childhood experience. I was playing with my Little League team at Leland Field and it started to rain. The closest shelter was an old farmhouse that I believe was designated as the "Baldwin Community Center." We ran to the place and rambled around the mostly empty building. In one of the rooms, off to the side, we came across an old upright piano. One of my teammates, I don't remember who, sat down and started to play "Alley Cat." (I'm sure you'd recognize the song if you heard it.) I was stunned. No one in my family was musically involved, so this was an all-new experience. I was standing in an empty farmhouse... one minute all I could hear was the rain outside... the next minute the room was filled with music! It gave me chills.

I didn't really know how to process this feeling until a year later when I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Then everything fell into place. Forty years later, here I am.


As a kid you are like a sponge. Or more like a confused sponge. You don't really know what life is supposed to mean and what your role in it is. But you absorb all new experiences. And some experiences become a part of your being and change your life. Today, if you get a chance, expose a kid to the magic of music. No matter what the instrument, even if it's an accordion, making music will enrich their life and yours. Music is a creative and spiritual outlet, and the world would be a better place if more folks played an instrument.


This week's email special is Fender 3/4 size beginners guitars. Buy one and give it to a kid. You won't regret it.


See You soon,


PS: Hmmmmm... I remember once.... This accordion player decided to visit Pittsburgh Guitars. He left his accordion in the back seat of his car, and came in to look around. He was here for a few minutes, when he suddenly remembered that he left his car unlocked! He ran out to his car... But it was too late!! Someone had put another accordion in!

PPS: John, the new guy, said that for his high school graduation party his Dad hired an accordion player. He was so embarrassed that he hoped that no one would show up. But they did, and everyone had a great time! (Of course, there might have been drinking involved...)

PPPS: Customer web site:

Friday 7/22/2005 ~ Don't rule out inexpensive guitars


Sometimes when I'm wandering through the store after hours... in the dark... I grab a guitar off of the wall and just sit and strum. I'm not very proficient, but it gives me a peaceful feeling. (A peaceful easy feeling... much like an Eagles song, only less boring...)

You know, during these 26 years, I've spent many hours alone in the dark with a store full of guitars. It feels good. It's like they are all pets, just hanging there on the wall, waiting to entertain me. (Except I don't have to feed them...) (And I can go away for the weekend, and I know they'll be okay... `cause they're really bad at telling time and they hardly know I'm gone...)

Anyway, the other night I tried a $119 used Fender Squier Affinity Strat... and I really liked it. The Affinity Strats are very inexpensive; they're made in Indonesia and we sell them for only $149 brand new... so you'd think that they'd feel like a beginner's guitar. But they are actually quite nice. The neck is thin and comfortable, and the action is low and smooth. Yeah, I'm sure some corners have been cut... the pickups don't have the same punch as the $895 USA Strats, and all of the metal parts are probably psuedo-metal... but the wood is good. And the finish is great. And they're friendly.

I decided to keep this one, and use it as a jamming-in-the-basement-with-my-friends guitar. (An activity that I heartily recommend!)

I grabbed some used Seymour Duncan pickups that I had laying in my desk, and a better set of machine heads, and gave everything to Rick Marsh, a customer/friend who hangs out at the store. (Have you seen the movie "High Fidelity"?) In real life Rick has a regular job, but in his off hours (when he's not here) he likes to sit at home and change parts on guitars. He's hooked on solder. So, rather than bothering Scott, our actual repairman who these days is working non-stop, I thought I'd let Rick mess with it... and I'd have an extra, fun, cheap guitar.

Just yesterday a guy was in the store talking about his Beatle guitars, and he said, "You know, the Rickenbacker 325 is not a good sounding guitar. I only own it because John played one." Of course, I disagree with him about the 325's sound (sure it doesn't have any sustain, and as a 3/4 size guitar, it's a kinda chunka chunka guitar, but it's great for rhythm playing...) But his point was understandable. It's not a Les Paul... or even a Telecaster. It was an inexpensive guitar when John Lennon bought it. McCartney's Hofner bass was cheap, too. What was important was what they did with the instruments they had.

So don't rule out a cheap guitar as a backup, or jamming, or songwriting instrument. Of course, if you're playing Ozzfest, you need a professional guitar with no weak links. But if you're hanging around doing some strumming... or if you have the talent of The Beatles... maybe an inexpensive one will do. At least you won't have to worry if someone spills beer on it...


See You Soon,


PS: Ozzfest crossed my mind because our former guitar teacher, and favorite left-handed guitar/keyboard/accordion/saxophone player, Korel Tunador, is on tour with Ozzfest, playing in Wicked Wisdom.

PPS: And speaking of The Beatles, a friend of mine, B.E. Taylor, just called to tell me about his visit with Ringo's band in New York. He said that Ringo was incredibly nice, and even joked with B.E. about his "Southern" (Pittsburgh/West Virginia) accent.

B.E will be performing Tuesday night at Duquesne University's 2005 Guitar and Bass Workshop, along with world famous guitar pickup manufacturer and hot-shot guitarist Seymour Duncan. (Hey, I just noticed that I mentioned Seymour Duncan pickups earlier in this email!! See how everything in life is interconnected?)

The show on Tuesday will also feature Pittsburgher Steve Dudas, who is currently playing in Ringo's band and has previously worked with Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne. There will be a Presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards to Steve Dudas and Seymour Duncan followed by a concert and jam. Festivities start at 7:30 PM, in the PNC Hall at Duquesne University.

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