Friday 1/4/2008 ~ Rockin' New
I watched Dick Clark's Rockin'
New Years Eve... first to see if anybody was actually "rockin'"...
and secondly to see if Dick Clark would still be countin'.
To answer the second question
first, yes! And he was better than last year! Not bad for a guy
who's 175 years old!
And as for the music, I was pleasantly
surprised by two acts, Miley Cyrus, and The Jonas Brothers. They
were young, energetic, and were actually rockin'! One Jonas Brother
played a red ES-335. Another one used a white Gibson Les Paul
Custom. And considering it was outside in the cold at Times Square,
I was impressed to see that it was an actual Gibson and not an
Epiphone Les Paul Custom (not that there's anything wrong with
-Quick recap: Gibson bought the
Epiphone name back in 1957.
*Part One: For years they made Epiphone guitars in the Gibson
factory in Kalamazoo, and many Epiphone models were nearly identical
to their Gibson counterpart. For example, here's John with a 1969 Gibson ES-330.
here's John with a 1968 Epiphone Casino.
*Part B: In 1970 Gibson started making Epiphones in Japan. They
were OK... But many people felt the same way that Kurt Cobain
felt about his Epiphone Model ET-270 in this picture.
(That may be the one we sold him...)
*Part III: In the 1990s, Gibson, first in Korea and then in China,
started to make almost exact copies of their American models
under the Epiphone name. Many of these are excellent guitars,
and they cost a fraction of the Gibson version. (Example: Epiphone
Les Paul Custom: $599... Gibson Les Paul Custom: $3399.)
-Quick recap II: You could tell
that Jonas Brother #2 was using a Custom vs. Les Paul Standard
because it had a bound headstock. Remember the three similar
Les Pauls? 1) The Standard has two full-size humbucking pickups
and trapezoid fingerboard inlays. 2) The Les Paul Deluxe is the
same guitar but with mini-humbucks. And 3) the Les Paul Custom
has full-size humbucking pickups, block inlays and a bound headstock.
Getting back to New Year's Eve,
Miley Cyrus did a song with her band; The Jonas Brothers did
one with their band; and she joined them for a third song. And
all three were guitar-based rock tunes! Performed by young people!
(Miley: 15 years old. Jonas Brothers: 14, 17 & 19 years old.)
Back in the 1960s, groups comprised of teenagers (like The Rolling
Stones, The Kinks, The Beatles, etc...) inspired an entire generation
to take up the guitar. Maybe these new kids will do the same!
See you soon,
PS: Speaking of Miley Cyrus,
twenty-one hours after Dick Clark said "Happy New Year"
I was scanning my three hundred cable-TV channels... trying to
find ANYTHING decent to watch... and I stumbled on the "Hannah
Montana" show, starring the very same Miley Cyrus! And it
was great!! On the show she plays a normal teenager, "Miley
Stewart" who also has a secret life as rock star "Hannah
Montana." In her daytime life she has dark hair. When she
transforms into "Hannah" she puts on a blond wig and
no one recognizes her... just like the Superman on/off glasses
thing. I guess you DO look completely different with
a blond wig.
PPS: The "Hannah Montana"
show is funny and clever. And it's such a pleasant change of
pace to see good humorous writing... compared to the non-stop,
lame sexual innuendo comments that they try to pass as jokes
on most prime-time shows like "Two and a Half Men."
PPPS: As an actor, Miley at this
point is only three or four times better than Charlie Sheen,
so she still has a way to go. But the show is so pleasant, and
she and her TV-dad (played by her real-life dad, Billy Ray Achy-Breaky-Heart
Cyrus) have guitars in almost every scene, so I'm glad it's a
hit with the kids. She's a much better role model than Britney
PPPPS: Speaking of family acts,
a couple of weeks ago we had a contest about famous bands containing
siblings. The first three responses offered a link to a wikipedia page, "Bands With
Siblings"! Wow! This whole internet thing makes it hard
to have mental challenge contests! However, for the winner we
chose the person who actually submitted the greatest number of
acts, Sue B. She listed over thirty groups, several of which
were NOT on the wikipedia site! (Under "N" alone wikipedia
missed The Neville Brothers and NRBQ!) Sue wins a copy of my
favorite Kinks album, "The Village Green Preservation Society,"
a Partridge Family LP, a songbook from the movie "O Brother,
Whereart Thou?" along with the soundtrack CD, and "NRBQ
Live In Tokyo." Thanks to everyone who entered!
PPPPPS: Speaking of previous
emails, several weeks ago I mentioned a Pittsburgh band that
back in the 1970s played mostly original material. (In those
days 98% of Pittsburgh bands played cover tunes.) The band was
then called Gravel, which they later changed to Corbin/Hanner.
I recorded Gravel at The Decade on May 6, 1977. Here's one of the tunes. It's just a live
recording with no overdubs or effects, so it's a little ragged,
but I like it! It's Dave Hanner on guitar, Bob Corbin on piano,
Kip Paxton on bass and Dave Freeland on drums. Everybody on vocals.
(Note the "eee-iiii-oooo" vocals!)
PPPPPPS: Speaking of recordings,
every so often customers email me a song they've done. I received
two Beatles songs this week, so I put them up on our new site,
Guitar Corner. "Shoe" from New York sent "And
Your Bird Can Sing" and Terry and Darrell, from the band
Around And Back, sent "Two Of Us." I like them both!
If you have any recordings you want the world to hear, send `em
in and we'll link `em up!
PPPPPPPS: For more info about Gibson & Epiphone
PPPPPPPPS: For more info about Gibson Les Pauls
PPPPPPPPPS: Hey, I just noticed
that Miley/Hannah and The Jonas Brothers are playing in Pittsburgh
tonight! I wonder if there are any tickets left!
PPPPPPPPPPS: Customer of the week:
Tuesday 1/15/2008 ~ The Johnny
Cash TV Show
I had the most wonderful time
last Thursday night watching a DVD that I got for Christmas.
(Yep, it doesn't take much to make me happy!!)
The DVD is "The Best Of
The Johnny Cash Show" and it's chock full of cool performances
and even cooler guitars!
The Johnny Cash Show ran for
two seasons, from the summer of 1969 to the summer of 1971. I
must admit that I never watched it when it was on. Although today
I'm a country music fan, back in 1969 I had other things on my
mind: the collapse of the Beatles, the arrival of Led Zeppelin,
and this new band called Crosby, Stills & Nash. Besides,
the molded pompadour hairstyle of most late-1960s country players
was a bit disconcerting.
It's hard to imagine now, in
2008, when you can wear your hair any way you like, that there
was a time when long hair on men was a serious social issue.
On the TV show "Happy Days" Fonzie is portrayed as
a tough, yet happy, kind-hearted soul. In real-life, mid-1960s
"Fonzies" were far less sympathetic to people who looked
different than they did. They felt that the American way of life
as they knew it was threatened by the new British-Invasion fashion
styles, and their response was less than enthusiastic. People
pretty much ended up in two camps, the short hairs and the long
hairs, with little intermingling. (I don't know how I got sidetracked
on this hair thing... but at the time it meant something...)
Since the country stars of the
1960s, with their my-hair-hasn't-moved-since-1961 style, looked
a lot like the older folks who were condemning rock & roll,
I never gave their music a chance. Watching this new DVD was
enlightening for two reasons: (1) Johnny Cash may have looked
like the mayor of WhyDon'tYouGetAHaircutTown, but he was open
to lots of new music. In addition to the mainstream country players,
he also featured young guys like Eric Clapton, James Taylor and
Stevie Wonder. And, (2) even the old guys, like George I-Can-Sing-Without-Ever-Opening-My-Mouth
Jones, were pretty darn entertaining. They had their own, down-home,
honest style and some great guitar playing.
On the show Johnny generally
played a Martin D-45. The D-45 was Martin's fanciest guitar and
the top-of-the-line. You can recognize a D-45 because in addition
to the pearl around the binding, it also has pearl trim along
the edge of the fingerboard where it overlaps the face of the
Here's a picture
of Johnny with his D-45.
Behind him is his stone-faced guitarist, Bob Wootton, playing
Fender's top-of-the-line guitar, the Jazzmaster. Like many of
the backup musicians on this show, Wootton is so statue-like
that even when he takes a solo, he barely moves a muscle. It
must have been a country thang.
Several other guests also play
Martin D-45s, including George Jones. (Note that his band
is in transition: the guitarist is still in high-hair mode, while
the bassist is in comb-down.)
Here at Pittsburgh Guitars we
rarely see D-45s, but we did just get a used D-41. It's almost
as fancy. Here's John with our used Martin D-41.
I was entertained by the Waylon
Jennings' performance for two reasons. First, I didn't know that
he played his customized Telecaster that early in his career
(pre-beard), and secondly, his guitarist has what appears to be a home-made
We used our CSI techniques to focus in on the double-neck. One
headstock says "Super" and the other says "Sound."
It has Tele pickups in the bridge positions, and what appear
to be Microfrets pickups in the neck positions. I'm going to
have to find out more about that guitar...
Speaking of Microfrets, in one
scene Johnny's bass player, Marshall Grant, and the great Carl
"Blue-Suede-Shoes" Perkins behind him, are both using Microfrets instruments!
Here's a link to the Pittsburgh Guitars Email
Special about Microfrets:
Speaking of the young-uns, Johnny
mentions songwriter Kris Kristofferson several times. Kris wrote
many big-time hits, like "For The Good Times," "Help
Me Make It Through The Night," "Me And Bobby McGee,"
and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." Here's Kris on the show with a Martin 12-string
Oddly he has another guy in his band playing 12-string, as well.
The other guy has a Martin D-35-12. His electric guitarist is
in the shadows, but the silhouette of his headstock indicates
a Guild Jetstar.
John with a 1968 Martin D-12-20.
And there's lots of other good
stuff on this DVD. For example, 90% of the bassists are using
Fender Jazz Basses... and all in custom colors. There's only
one Strat on all four hours of DVDs (played by Eric Clapton)
but there are several nice Telecasters.
All in all, The Johnny Cash Show
DVD gets a "Thumbs Up" from the Pittsburgh Guitars
Musical DVD Review Department.
And what we've learned from this
is that just because someone's hair doesn't look like yours,
doesn't mean that you shouldn't give their music a try! Try it,
you just might like it!!
See you soon,
PS: JUST IN!!! (Maybe THIS is
why the email special is late... so we could get the news today!)
Big Beatle Night #4!! Confirmed for Saturday, February 16, 2008
at The Rex!
I will be bringing a wall of Super Beatle Amps
and the drums. John will be handling the scheduling. Stop
in to Pittsburgh Guitars to sign up, or email
PPS: Last week I mentioned Hannah
Montana/Miley Cyrus, who was appearing in Pittsburgh that evening.
We've since talked to lots of folks who went to the show and
everyone loved it! Someone sent me a link to the Episode titles on her show. I
thought they were pretty funny.
PPPS: Did I mention Big Beatles
PPPPS: Customer of the week:
Cheryl Ann Hawk
Friday 1/25/2008 ~ The NAMM Show
Hey! You may have received duplicate
copies of last week's email special. Sorry about that. We now
have so many people on the email special list that last week
it overloaded our sending capabilities. We had kind of a meltdown
and several hundred people got two of the same email. This week
we're moving on to our New Super Deluxe Email System... and hopefully
you'll get this (and only get it once!)
Another issue last week was that
some folks said that the photo links didn't work. They were able
to cut and paste them, but they couldn't click on them within
the email. We're trying a new approach this week. Click on the
should be a picture of John holding a new Martin 000-15S.
Does the picture look normal?
Wait, let me make a few adjustments... I'll make it simpler...
John playing harmonica....
Does that seem right?
OK, now that everything is working
smoothly... Last weekend I went to California for the NAMM Show
(National Association of Music Merchants). I looked at thousands
of guitars, and I picked out some cool, fun stuff. I didn't get
to hang out with Hannah Montana, but I did visit with the guys
from Hofner, Rickenbacker, Vox, Fender, Gretsch, and Danelectro.
I'll have a complete report next week, with secret inside information,
just between us.
I also had a beer with our former
guitar teacher and now Goo Goo Doll, Korel. He told me to say
"hello" to everyone in Pittsburgh, and I'm happy to
say that he's still the same nice guy he was back before he became
an international jet-setter.
Speaking of jets, on the plane
to California I read a magazine article about aging and the brain.
As you probably know, the brain is sort of complicated. Memories
and thoughts exist in the form of neural connections. Like the
rest of our bodies, neurons get old and have a hard time walking
up stairs. For many years people believed that weakening brain
functions were inevitable and eventually everyone ends up speaking
like Ozzy Ozbourne. Recently though, studies have shown that
with mental exercise you can actually make NEW neural connections.
Your skin may get old and wrinkled, but your brain can internally
rebuild itself. (Although I'm pretty sure it will still be wrinkled....)
The key to staying smart: Keep learning new things! And what
did the doctors in this magazine article recommend?? The guitar!
Sure, sure, they also suggested reading more, and playing chess...
but right up there in the top three was "learn to play the
You and I already know that a
guitar is a wonderful thing... The guitar helps you appreciate
music, and music is good for the soul. Playing guitar with a
band helps build valuable social interaction skills, which impact
every facet of your life. A guitar is a work of art that you
can use to create more art! And now we can also say that it's
And you thought we were only
interested in good times! At Pittsburgh Guitars we're here for
See you soon,
PS: Coming on Saturday February
The Big Beatle Show #4!!
This is your chance to play on the Big Stage, with the Big Lights
and the Big Amps and the Big Smoke Machine!!
Sign up now to play two or three Beatle songs!
Bring your band... appear as a solo act... or perform with the
Even if you've never been on stage before, you can join the house
band for a song or two, and feel what it's like to be a rock
star! (You can even just play rhythm guitar.)
It'll be just like "Guitar
Hero" or "Rock Band" ... except this is an actual
three dimensional stage with actual human beings! You may be
a little more nervous... but it will be A LOT more exciting...
and a LOT more fun!
Call John now to sign up!
PPS: Changing topics back to the NAMM Show, I'll tell you about the guitars next week... but in the pedal department, Danelectro has come out with yet another line of pedals... and they looked like fun, so I ordered a bunch. To clear out some room in our display case, this week's email special features pedals that we are no longer going to carry... Here's John carrying them now.
PPPS: By the way, if this email
looks odd, or if the links don't work, or if your email system
automatically puts this in the trash... or if you don't receive
this at all... please write back. I may know that the pickup
rings on Hofner basses got bigger in October 1964, but I don't
know much about how this email thingy works... But my crack technology
department (Betsy) is sorting things out!
PPPPPS: Customer of the week: