Email Specials from December 2007

Saturday 12/1/2007 ~ Last Year's Favor and Humidifiers


Hey, remember last year when I asked you to do me a favor?

Well, that worked out really well, so I just want to say Thanks!

It all started in October 2006, when my landlord at the old place, 1409 East Carson Street, raised the rent for the millionth time. OK... it wasn't the millionth time... but it was a million dollars!... OK... it wasn't a million dollars... but it was a LOT.... again! It reached the point where it made more sense to just buy our own building. And we did!! One block away, here at the luxurious 1305 East Carson Street! I bought the building at 11AM on November 1, 2006 and at 11:10 AM John and I were here with sledge hammers... renovating. We spent three and a half weeks of non-stop cleaning (seven trips to the dump), painting (seventy-five gallons of white paint) and putting up slat wall (darn, that stuff is heavy!). Then, after a few hours of rest, we carried 20 years worth of stuff down the street. By November 30, 2006, one year ago today, we were happily doing business in our new, free-from-a-landlord, permanent home!

And that's when I asked you for the favor. I was naturally a bit worried about moving the store. We didn't have time for a massive advertising campaign. (Or the money, for that matter... what with the "buying the building" part and everything...) So, in an email special I asked that if you happened to mention Pittsburgh Guitars to anyone, would you please add "Hey, I hear they moved one block down the street."

And you did! It's really remarkable how fast word got around. I really appreciate your help. We're all happier here! Maybe it's because the lesson rooms now have windows... or maybe it's because Scott now has a workshop big enough to dance in... (not that he does...) or maybe it's just the red ceiling. But we're happier, the customers are happier... and I even think the guitars are happier. So, Thanks!


By the way, if you'd like your guitar to stay happy during these dry winter months, keep it humidified. Have you tried to comb your hair and found that it was sticking up all over the place? Have you reached for a doorknob and got a static electricity shock? These are signs that the air in your house is too dry. (Although I guess we shouldn't rule out that you might be in a "Flock Of Seagulls" tribute band...) (...and your roommate is trying to do you in by attaching a live electrical wire to your doorknob...) Most likely, though, you have excessively dry air... and this is bad for your guitar.

The first sign will be sharp fret edges. The wooden neck of your guitar will shrink as it dries out. Naturally the metal frets won't shrink. The result: you'll feel the sharp edges of the frets as you slide your hand up the neck of the guitar. On acoustic guitars extreme dryness can also lead to cracks in the face of the guitar.


See you soon,


PS: Last weekend I went to The Rex to see the Corbin/Hanner band. Yesterday I was telling someone how much I enjoyed it and they said, "Did anyone videotape it?" No, no one filmed it. But as I thought about it, I realized that even if it HAD been filmed, the video wouldn't really capture the spirit of the event. You see, the audience consisted of old-time fans of the band, from back in the late 1970s, when Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner, with their band Gravel, played every juke-joint in Western Pennsylvania. I used to go to see them at The Decade in Oakland and at several downtown clubs called The Grogshops. In an era when most local bands were doing cover tunes, Gravel played their own songs. And in 1977, when Saturday Night Fever was in the theaters and the disco Bee Gees were all over the radio, Corbin and Hanner were writing story-based rock songs, with lines like "I've got to get to work on time," or "He's just a regular Joe." Eventually they found success writing million-selling songs for country artists like Alabama and Kenny Rogers... but back then they were just a local band with great, fun songs. I have wonderful memories from those days, and seeing the band last weekend brought those memories back. Even though they have grey hair now (and tune down a half step to make the songs easier to sing) hearing the same songs by the same singers took me back to The Decade. And here's the beauty of it, it took me back to The Decade as I am now, with an additional thirty years of experiences. Let's face it, we often imagine that it would be exciting to go back in time... but you wouldn't want to go back and re-live everything again for the first time. You'd want to go back and know then what you know now. Of course, that's impossible. But it is nice to be temporarily transported back to pleasant memories. It's nice to be who you are now, but, just for a moment, let the past wash over you. And music is excellent for that. As much as you may be wrapped up in everyday life, it's good to take a break and let a song bring back some old, sentimental memories. That's what happened last weekend. It may have appeared to be an old band and some old fans, but more was happening than met the eye.

I hope you have some fond memories. And I hope every now and then you get a chance to go back to them. We've had a fun, exciting time during our first year here in the new building. Years from now we're going to re-live these days. And it will be nice. Thanks again for your help with it all.

PPS: Customer of the week:
Soy Bomb

Friday 12/14 ~ Friends and Family


Last weekend my band, The Flashcats, met at the studio to record our twenty-seventh Fan Club Christmas Record. It all started back in 1980 when we were playing every night. We had a sizeable Fan Club and we decided to thank them with a Christmas Record. (In those days it was a flat, black, plastic disc with grooves, called a "45.") By 1987 we grew tired of the one-nighters, and cut our gigs back to one or two a year. (This year's show is Saturday, December 29th at The Rex.) But even after we stopped playing regularly, we kept the annual Christmas Record going. It was too much fun and everyone seemed to like it. Over the decades it evolved from a 45, to a cassette, and eventually a CD. The format next year? Who knows! By then those memory sticks should be $1.00.

On Saturday, as we were opening the wine... and starting to write this year's songs... I was struck by how nice it was to see the band again. It always gives me such a warm and happy feeling, deep down inside, to play music with my friends. Especially at this time of year.

If you have a chance during the holidays, invite some friends over to play some songs. Even if you're not sure of all the chords, it's still fun to share the musical creative experience with other folks.

And that goes for family, too. Pittsburgh Guitars has been around so long now that we regularly see older customers buying guitars for their kids. I always say, "I hope you're forming a family band!" And they laugh... and sometimes the Partridge Family is mentioned... and most likely they won't form a band with the kids. But it's still great that they are passing on their love for the guitar to the next generation. (And maybe they WILL end up in a band with their kids... it worked for John Bonham.... no, wait...)


Speaking of playing music with family members, I used to play in a band with my brother John. He was a much better musician than I was... he still is... but he put up with me since we were brothers. (A definite advantage of playing in a family band: you're less likely to get fired!) Now that I think back about it, I may have developed managerial and organizational skills (booking the band, etc) to compensate for weaknesses in my playing. Hmmmmm.... as I contemplate this now, I see that, although I eventually became a decent musician, my early musical insecurities had a positive effect on other aspects of my life, like my ability to deal with strangers when booking gigs and keeping the contracts and receipts organized. And those skills eventually lead to me forming my own band, The Flashcats, and starting Pittsburgh Guitars. See! Playing in a band is good for you, on so many levels! (Wow, I just saved years of therapy...)


Thinking about brothers playing in the same band reminds me of The Kinks. I've always loved that band. A great part of their distinctive sound is the natural blending of the Ray Davies and Dave Davies' voices... another advantage of having family members in the band. I wonder how many other successful bands contain siblings? There's the Osmonds, of course... and the Cowsills... and The Jacksons... but they're made up of all family members.... Who else?.... Creedence Clearwater Revival had two brothers, John and Tom Fogerty...

Let's have a contest! Who can name the greatest number of successful bands (they must have had a hit record) that contained two or more siblings? (Besides the ones listed above.) The winner will get a copy of my favorite Kinks CD (which will be a tough decision on my part, since I like them all), a used LP by The Partridge Family (I got it at Groovy across the street for 50 cents), a song book of the soundtrack from "O Brother Where Art Thou?" (we have it in stock in the Pittsburgh Guitars Banjo Department), a copy of the 2007 Flashcat Christmas Record (which doesn't contain any siblings, but we feel like we're brothers and sisters) and whatever else I can find around here that's "family" related. (Hey, "family related" ha! I'm amusing myself...)


See you soon,


PS: Hey, sorry I didn't send an email special last week! It's been so busy here at the store for Christmas I never made it to my desk to start typing...

PPS: A few years ago I was having a drink in a bar in Liverpool, England and I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. He was a local Liverpudlian and slightly older than me, so I figured in the 1960s he probably played in a band. I asked, and yes, he did have a band in Liverpool in 1965. He said that they never became famous, and he had long since distanced himself from the music business. By our third drink I was badgering him about any experiences he could remember from those days. He said there was one band his band used to do gigs with, who stuck out in his mind... he couldn't remember their name... but there were two brothers in the band, and they were constantly fighting with each other. Of course, I said, "The Kinks?" And he said, "Yeah! What ever happened to them?"

PPPS: Customer of the week:
The Flashcats

Friday 12/21/2007 ~ Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas everyone!

We've had a great time this year at Pittsburgh Guitars... hanging out with old customers and new customers... and new old customers and old new customers.

And we're happy here at our new location! I hope over the past year, we've made you happy, too.

Have a pleasant and peaceful holiday.


See you soon,


PS: Answers are still coming in for last week's "Siblings In Bands" contest. We'll pick a winner next week.

PPS: Also: A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I liked the band Gravel, now known as Corbin/Hanner. I found some old live tapes of theirs from 1977. Next week I'll put up a couple of songs.

PPPS: Actually, there are lots of other loose ends, too. I'll try to wrap everything up next week! And then, on to 2008!!!

PPPPPS: Saturday, December 29th at the Rex: The Flashcats!!!

PPPPPPS: Customer of the week:
The Clarks


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