Email Specials from January 2008

Friday 1/4/2008 ~ Rockin' New Year's Eve


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 that...).

-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.

And 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 I-Have-No-Sense-Of-Good-Judgement Spears.

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, Carl's 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:
Mystic Knights

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 guitar.

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 double neck!
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 D-12-20.
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.
Here's 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 him. Yeah!!!

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 Show #4???

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 next line:
This 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...
Just 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 guitar"!!

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 "Doctor Recommended!"


And you thought we were only interested in good times! At Pittsburgh Guitars we're here for your health!!


See you soon,


PS: Coming on Saturday February 16th!!
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 house band!
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:
Joe Grushecky

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