Email Specials from April 2007

Friday 4/6/2007 ~ Grand Opening Weekend


OK!! Things have been happenin' regarding our May 18th and 19th combination Anniversary/ Grand Opening Weekend!

GHS and Martin have sent us some fun give-away stuff. The Fender guy is working on an "Extra 10% Off All Fender Products" deal for that weekend. We'll have our Free Vox Amp drawing for the folks who submitted recordings of "I Saw Her Standing There." We're planning lots of specials, contests, and drawings. And, of course, chocolate chip cookies!

Also, by that week we will have our new Pittsburgh Guitars "Free Stuff When You Buy A Guitar" items. Right now we have Pittsburgh Guitars Picks, Pittsburgh Guitars Polish Cloths, Pittsburgh Guitars Bumperstickers and Pittsburgh Guitars Key Chains... But coming soon: Pittsburgh Guitars Ice Cream Scoops (Mmmmm...), Pittsburgh Guitars Rulers (not the King Tut kind of ruler, but the "here, let me measure this for ya" kind), plus Pittsburgh Guitars Ping Pong Balls! (I don't have a reason for these... but I've always enjoyed ping pong balls... they're small, they're smooth, and they bounce! What's not to like?)

AND to top it off, we've just struck a deal with The Rex Theater to have our next "Big Beatle Show" on Saturday Night, May 19th!! This will be "Big Beatle Show #3!" The last two were tons of fun and we had non-stop performers for over four hours... (Actually, I Think #2 ran a little over five hours!) Get in touch with Johnny B (T.N.G.) here at the store to sign up. You can be a pro or a first-time-on-stage-er! You can perform as a solo act, or bring your whole band, or we'll back you up with the house band... We will provide the amps (all Vox Super Beatles) and the drums. It'll be You: Live! On the Big Stage! With rock & roll lights and a smoke machine!

It's gonna be a fun weekend! May 18th and 19th!


See you soon,


PS: "Born in Arizona, Moved to Babylonia..."

PPS: This Anniversary/Grand Opening Weekend is really shapin' up.
It's hard to believe we only thought of it last week. If you have
any other fun suggestions for the event, send `em in.

PPPS: If you're new to this list and would like to know more about
the "I Saw Her Standing There" Contest, reply back and I'll send you
the email from a few weeks ago that explains things!

PPPPS: Customer web site:
The Standard Band

Friday 4/13/2007 ~ Steve Martin, King Tut, and the Gretsch Duo Jet


As I was getting in the van this morning I wondered what I'd write about in today's email special...

I thought back to last week, when I mentioned the new upcoming Pittsburgh Guitars Rulers (a just-for-the-fun-of-it give-away item, when you buy a guitar). Last week I said (although not in these exact words) "the measuring kind of ruler, not the King Tut kind." (Well, I might have used those exact words, but not in that exact order...)

I was curious (both last week and this morning) how many folks understood the first PS: "Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia..."

Much to my surprise (and this is a true story) (actually, all of the email special stories are true stories, so I guess I shouldn't have mentioned that it's a true story...) (but, in case you wondered...)... Anyhow, much to my surprise, when I got in the van and turned on the satellite radio, the first thing I heard was Steve Martin's recording of "King Tut"!! (And it had just started, so I got to enjoy the entire song!)

(Re: Last week's PS: "Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia..." are lines from the song. Steve originally performed it as a comedy bit on Saturday Night Live on April 22, 1978, and then included it on his "Wild And Crazy Guy" LP. It was also released as a 45 and it went to #17 on the Billboard charts.)

As I listened on my drive to the store, the line "He's an Egyptian!" reminded me of The Bangles' song "Walk Like An Egyptian." That, of course, reminded me of Susanna Hoffs. And when you think of Susanna Hoffs the second thing you think of is the Rickenbacker she played. (The first thing, of course, is the way her eyes went back and forth when she sang...)

And when I thought of Rickenbackers, I thought of next month's Big Beatle Show #3, May 19th at The Rex Theater. (You should call soon, by the way, to sign up. John already has 15 acts on the schedule!)

And when I thought of the Big Beatle Show I remembered that recently someone found the guy who sold George Harrison his first Gretsch! Here's the youtube link (The George story is about a minute into the clip).

Most people associate George Harrison with Gretsch Country Gentleman and Tennessean guitars, but his first expensive guitar was a Gretsch Duo Jet. Here's a picture of John with a new Gretsch `57 Reissue Duo Jet.

Here's a picture of John with other Duo Jets we have in stock.

George Harrison used his Duo Jet on many early recordings, including "I Saw Her Standing There." (Which reminds me that ALL of the entries to our "Send-in-your-recording-of-'I-Saw-Her-Standing-There'-contest" are great! Thanks!) (And there's still time to send in YOUR recording and maybe win a Vox Amp! The winner will be announced May 19th.)

You know, looking at that first picture of John just now reminds me that we have our Gretsch Duo Jets hanging on the wall near our selection of banjos... And you know who's a great banjo player? Steve Martin!


See you soon,


PS: Speaking of `Til Tuesday, John is a big Aimee Mann fan. (Although I don't think she plays the banjo...) (She may own a Duo Jet, though...)

PPS: Pictures from Big Beatle Show #2

PPPS: Customer web site:
the love x nowhere

Friday 4/20/2007 ~ Hit Songs Inspired by Other Hit Songs


I heard an old Elvis song yesterday and it reminded me of visiting a girl's apartment in New York City in early 1977. At the time I was making regular trips to Manhattan, selling guitars to the Beatlemania show on Broadway. Naturally it would be impolite of me to say any more about the girl or the apartment or the 1970s for that matter... but there was this one time....

I had just dropped off some guitars backstage at the Wintergarden Theater, and she said "Hey, come over to my place and listen to this test pressing... I think it's great!" (Back in those days music was recorded on large black vinyl discs! In grooves!! Well, one long groove, actually...) (It was a pretty decent medium for music. In fact today there are many people who feel that a vinyl record, which is a direct copy of the sound waves on the master tape, sounds better than a CD, which is actually lots of samples. Of course, the downside to vinyl is the cracks and pops and scratches... And turning the record over... And you can't push a button and immediately go to track 6... And if you ever had to help someone move...) (One thing is absolutely true though, a CD cover doesn't come close to the beauty and artistry of an LP cover. There's a used CD store up the street from Pittsburgh Guitars and recently they started selling used LPs. They only have about a hundred, but I stopped in to look... and flipping through those albums was a joy! It reminded me of the good old days of holding an album and looking at the pictures.... and being able to actually read the type on the back.... ah....)

Anyway, this girl had an all-white-label test pressing of an album that hadn't been released yet. (I think she was a friend of the producer, Todd Rundgren.) The record was by a guy I'd never heard of called Meatloaf and the first song she played for me was "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad." The chorus: "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you. But don't be sad, two out of three ain't bad." I appreciated the recording, it was powerful. And the melody was semi-catchy. But I was most amused by the Elvis connection. It was obviously inspired by Elvis's 1956 follow-up to "Heartbreak Hotel": "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."

As you know, "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" later became a hit single, and the album, "Bat Out Of Hell" sold a gazillion copies. When I heard "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" on the satellite radio yesterday I stopped to wonder what other hit songs were inspired by another hit song.

The first one that came to mind was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" which references both Neil Young and his song "Southern Man." I'll bet there are more...

Let's have a contest. Send in the names of some hit songs that you feel were inspired by other hits. We'll put all of the entries in a box made out of old LP covers and randomly pull out a winner next week. The prize will be a couple of brand new Pittsburgh Guitars T-shirts (with our new address!) and a free song book (your choice) so that you, in turn, can be inspired by a hit song.


See you soon,


PS: We have lots of Beatle song books, so this'll give you a chance to learn some songs for May 19th's Big Beatle Show #3 at the Rex Theater. Call John and sign up. We have lots and lots of folks on the list so far.

PPS: Vox heard about our "Send in your recording of 'I Saw her Standing There' Contest" and with their help we've upped the prize from a Vox AD30VT (list Price $320.00) to a Vox AD50VT (List Price $520.00)!! The winner will be chosen on May 19th during our big "Pittsburgh Guitars 28th Anniversary / Grand Opening Of The New Building" Weekend.

PPPS: Customer web site:
Great Big Sea

PPPPS: Just as I was about to hit "send" on this the UPS man walked in with the newest amp from Vox, the AC-50CP2. It's an all-tube, switchable channel, 50-watt combo. We're gonna plug it in right now!

Friday 4/27/2007 ~ Gibson Archtop Guitars


Earlier this week I watched "The New Adventures Of Old Christine," a very funny CBS show starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss from Seinfield. It's a success thanks to a strong supporting cast... (unlike, say, "Joey," the failed sitcom starring Matt LaBlanc from "Friends.") A star (or lead singer) is certainly important... but a show (or band) needs talented backup players to maximize its potential. This show is an example of strong backup making the lead singer look even better.

Beside the acting, I particularly enjoyed this week's episode because one scene took place at a wedding and a band was on-screen. I like to see guitars when I don't expect them. And I was happy to see the guitarist using a Gibson ES-345. It struck me that Gibson really made the most of that body design!

It all goes back to 1958... or maybe 1954... That young upstart Leo Fender was coming on strong, first with the Telecaster in 1950 and then in 1954 with his new improved model, the Stratocaster. The old Gibson company was holding their own in the solid-body field with the Les Paul, which they upgraded almost every year in the 1950s. But they needed to show that they, too, could be hip. And there was one thing Gibson could do that Fender couldn't possibly compete with: they had the know-how (and equipment!) to make an archtop hollow-body guitar. In 1957 Gibson's R&D team, lead by Ted McCarty, came up with a great idea: use their archtop guitar skills to manufacture a thin, semi-hollow guitar. The guitar would have the majesty of Gibson's archtop heritage, plus, with a thinner body and a solid block running through the center, it could be turned up loud without the feedback issues of a completely hollow instrument. The best of both worlds! Also adding to the hip factor, the new model had a unique symmetrical double cutaway body.

Introduced in 1958, new guitar was designated the ES-335. Here's a picture of John with a 1964 ES-335.

Gibson loved the design (and spent a lot of money on the molds) so they immediately introduced variations on the theme. The first option was a "Custom" version. Just as with the Les Paul, the Custom featured gold hardware, block inlays, an ebony fingerboard and a fancier, bound headstock. Oddly, rather than call it an ES-335 Custom, they named it an ES-355. The 355 also featured a vibrato unit and a unique six-position rotary switch called a "Varitone" which, thanks to a series of capacitors, gave different tonal variations. (The Varitone has a big circular metal piece numbered 1 thru 6 under the switch. You can recognize it from across the room.)

Gibson also figured that they could use the 335 body for a bass, and they did. It was called an EB-2. (Gibson previously manufactured a solid-body violin-shaped bass, made from 1953 through 1958, which was called the "Electric Bass." Now we retroactively call the solid one the EB-1, so it has its place in history before the EB-2.) Here's a picture of John with a 1966 EB-2.

In 1959 Gibson decided they could make yet another model using the 335 body. The new version, which was less expensive, skipped the center block and it featured P-90 single-coil pickups instead of the ES-335's humbucks. This completely hollow model was designated the ES-330. Here's John with two 330s.

THEN they decided "Hey, let's make something in-between the 335 and the 355!" In 1959 they introduced the ES-345. It wasn't as fancy as the 355 (no binding on the headstock), but it did have the vibrato (usually a Bigsby) and the Varitone switch. (Which made it easy to recognize on the TV show this week. I thought: (1) "Ah, a 335!" (2) "Wait, it has a Varitone switch! It's a 355" and then (3) "No, it has an un-bound headstock... It's a 345!!!" )


So, in the space of a few years Gibson used its new body design on the ES-335, the ES-345, the ES-355, the ES-330 and the EB-2. (Oh, and I didn't mention it, but you could also get a one-pickup ES-330...) In 1966 Gibson introduced a two pickup version of the EB-2 bass, the EB-2D. Later, in the 1970s, Gibson added to the collection with the ES-320 and ES-325 (different pickups) and the ES-340 and ES-347 (different wiring). That's a lotta guitars with the same body! But, you're probably wondering, could there be more? Yes!!

You probably remember from a previous email that in 1957 Gibson bought the Epiphone name. During the 1960s, Gibson manufactured Epiphone guitars in the same Kalamazoo factory as the Gibson guitars. Some Epiphone models were unique to the brand, but several were almost identical to Gibson models. Except for cosmetic details, the Epiphone Casino was the same guitar as the ES-330. Likewise, the Epiphone Rivoli Bass used the same body and electronics as the Gibson EB-2. Here's John with a Casino and a 330; and a Rivoli and an EB-2.

Yep, Gibson has done well with that design. They have made 335s continuously since 1958 and versions of the guitar have been used by lots of folks, including B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton. And the guy in the wedding band on "The New Adventures Of Old Christine."


See you soon,


PS: And, of course, The Beatles used Epiphone Casinos. John, George and Paul each owned one. Paul still uses his.

PPS: I don't own an ES-345 or ES-355. With the added weight of the Bigsby and the Varitone they've always felt too bottom heavy. Compared to an ES-335 or ES-300 I don't care for the way they balance. I do, however, have a Les Paul with a Varitone... It was formerly owned by Dave Hanner from Gravel and The Corbin/Hanner Band. He added the Varitone himself in the mid-1970s. (He also moved the volume and tone controls and used black electric tape to cover the original holes!).

PPPS: Thanks to all of the folks who entered last week's "Hit songs that inspired other hit songs" contest. The randomly chosen winner is Kenny W. He sent in several examples, including "American Pie" by Don McClean, which references many other songs, and "Creeque Alley" by the Mamas & Papas, which references their own song, "California Dreamin'."

PPPPS: I was also impressed with Roy G.s email. I'm sure he won't mind if I quote him here:

"Nothing beats the back and forth 'attack & answering' via songs that Lennon and McCartney had going during the early 1970's... I suppose it starts with McCartney's "Get Back" which Lennon always thought was a swipe at Yoko ("Get back to where you once belonged" and "Jojo (Yoko) was a man who thought he was a woman..."); Lennon always said that Paul shot a look at Yoko whenever he sang the words "Get Back"...
Then you have Lennon's angry diatribe in response "How Do You Sleep?" from "Imagine," with the biting lyrics "the best you did was 'Yesterday'...but now you're just 'Another Day'..." George Harrison also played slide guitar on the track; he was still angry at McCartney over the lawsuits involving manager Allen Klein, etc...
McCartney, ever tired of the angry songs back and forth, answered "How Do You Sleep?" with "Some People Never Know" from Wings' 1st album... with lyrics like "Some people can sleep at night, believing that love is a lie... I'm only a person like you, love, so who in the world can be right or the righter, I know I was wrong, make me right..."

(Editor's note: I always felt that McCartney's "Too Many People" was also part of this back-and-forth Lennon-McCartney criticizing-the-other-guy series of songs. - Carl) (Hey, now that I think about it, rap guys do this all the time don't they? See, and you thought the Beatles didn't inspire rap!)

PPPPPS: Customer web site:
Great Ants

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