Email Specials from November 2010

Friday 11/5/2010 ~ Names, Bands, and TV Theme Songs


Yesterday I made plans for the January 2011 NAMM Show. (NAMM is a music industry trade show, where instrument manufacturers introduce new models.) I'm going because (a) I want to find the latest, hippest, coolest products for YOU, our favorite customer; and (2), well, it's in sunny California in January... so....

Then last night I decided to take a break from all of this non-stop guitar-store work, and watch TV. (I figured it might be safe now that those horrible, nasty political ads are over.) So, I fired up the TiVo and clicked on "Cougar Town." It's a funny, well-written show, with a bad name.

(In fact, the show's writers dislike the name so much that they considered changing it for the second season. But after much discussion, they decided it might be too confusing to change the name of a successful show. They have, however, been mocking it. Every week when the theme is playing and the show's title graphics appear, they add a comment above the "Cougar Town" logo. One week it read "Badly Titled." Another episode said "Not What The Show Is." Last night it said "Modern Cougar Town" as a nod to "Modern Family," the show immediately before it.)

As I was watching Courtney Cox drink wine (hey, we have so much in common!), I flashed back to her old show, its theme, and a NAMM event from many years ago. I was at a NAMM Show party in the late 1990s, and the entertainment was a band called The Rembrandts. As the lead singer introduced "I'll Be There For You" (the theme from "Friends") he said, "Here's a song that made me very rich... and ruined my career." He seemed kind of upset... but he had a nice suit.

(To show you how long ago this was, the other band at the party was a new band I'd never heard of, called the Black Eyed Peas.)

As I tried to imagine what it would be like to have written the theme for a hit TV show... ("What?? Another check?? What am I supposed to do with all of these??")... I noticed that the next show on my TiVo also featured a rock band doing a theme song. The theme to "The Big Bang Theory" was written and performed by the Barenaked Ladies. I saw the Barenaked Ladies last year in Florida and they were great. In addition to being excellent musicians, they take a lighthearted approach to their music. And you know how I like the "lighthearted approach."

As I nodded off (maybe it was the wine) I wondered if they were happier with their theme song success than the Rembrandts guy... But I guessed I'd never know.


Then today, as I was checking the what's-going-down-around-town schedule, I noticed that the Barenaked Ladies are going to be in Pittsburgh next week!

So...... a plan was needed!

I rattled it all through my brain... and looked for connections....

(1) I'd heard that the band was very friendly; they certainly come across that way on-stage... (2) The bass player, Jim Creeggan, often plays a Hofner Bass... (3) Pittsburgh Guitars sells Hofner Basses... (4) Beatle Paul McCartney also plays a Hofner Bass... (5) On December 11th, we will be hosting the Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatles Show #8 at the Rex Theater... (6) Like our previous shows, Big Beatles Show #8 will be a benefit for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank... (7) There will be Hofner Basses and people interested in Hofner Basses at the Big Beatles Show... (8) What if we could do something that brought all of these things together?

I made some calls... and everything worked out!!

Next week, the Barenaked Ladies are going to autograph a Hofner Bass, and we're going to auction it at the December 11th Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatles Show, with all of the proceeds going to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank!!

AND, when I'm backstage getting their autographs, I'll ask them how they feel about "The Big Bang Theory" and their song!

AND maybe you can be there, too!! I've arranged for a pair of tickets to the show for an Email Special reader, plus a "Meet & Greet" with the band afterward! All we need is a contest, to pick the winner.

So here is the contest:

Answer the following questions. The folks with correct answers will be thrown into a hat (well, their email will be) and we will randomly draw a winner. The prize: two tickets to see the Barenaked Ladies next Thursday, November 11th, and a backstage meeting with the band. You'll also see them autograph a Hofner Icon Bass, which will be auctioned off in December at the Big Beatles Show.

1) Name a famous band (besides The Rembrandts and the Barenaked Ladies) who performed the theme song for a hit TV Show.
2) Name a famous musical act that, like "Cougar Town," was/is unhappy with their name.
3) Can you think of a famous musical act that, unlike "Cougar Town," changed their name after they were famous?
4) Name someone in a famous band, besides Paul McCartney and Jim Creeggan, who uses a Hofner Bass.
5) The Barenaked Ladies are from Canada. Name another famous Canadian band.

Since the show is next Thursday, we'll have to pick the winner by Tuesday. So send in your answers by the end of day on Monday. I'll email the winner first thing Tuesday morning (Nov 9th).


See you soon,


PS: More info about the Barenaked Ladies show next week:
Thursday, November 11
Carnegie Library Music Hall, Homestead
510 East 10th Avenue. Phone: 412-368-5225

PPS: Jim Creeggan with his Hofner

PPPS: The Big Bang Theory Theme

PPPPS: The Friends Theme

PPPPPS: Barenaked Ladies homepage

PPPPPPS: Customer of the week: Patti Spadaro
Check out the Patti Spadaro Band CD release party!
Saturday, November 13
PDs Pub in Squirrel Hill


Friday 11/12/2010 ~ Another Contest, Another Happy Winner, and The Monkees


I love Pittsburgh Guitars Email Special Contests. There are so many people on the list, with such diverse interests, that I'm always enlightened by contest replies.

Last week's contest (to win tickets to see the fully-clothed Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies) consisted of five questions:

1) Name a famous band who performed the theme song for a hit TV Show.
2) Name a famous musical act that, like the TV show "Cougar Town," was/is unhappy with their name.
3) Name a famous musical act that, unlike "Cougar Town," changed their name after they were famous.
4) Name someone in a famous band, besides Paul McCartney and Jim Creeggan, who uses a Hofner Bass.
5) Name another famous Canadian band.

1) I expected folks to mention Cheap Trick doing the theme to That 70s Show and The Ventures with the theme to (the original) Hawaii Five-O. But I forgot all about They Might be Giants and the theme to Malcolm In The Middle. And The Who on CSI, Albuquerque. (Although in this case The Who recorded the song years ago, and not specifically for the TV show...) The surprise to me, and it shouldn't be because I used to watch this show every week, was The Monkees singing the theme from The Monkees. I was surprised not only because I forgot it, but also because so many of you didn't! Lots of folks listed that one!

(No one mentioned that Rick Nielson recorded the theme to The Colbert Report... but I don't know if that is officially a Cheap Trick product, or just Rick.)


2) I don't know if there are any "correct" answers to #2... Lots of bands have commented that they weren't thrilled with their name, but once they were famous they couldn't change it. But if a name makes you famous it's hard to be too unhappy about it. Most answers to this question were along the lines of "I read once that so-and-so didn't like their band's name." So, I believed anything anyone submitted. (Especially since some answers sounded reasonable.) Answers included Styx, The Kinks, Steely Dan, Smashing Pumpkins, Matchbox 20, the Monkees (again) and 10,000 Maniacs. And any others... well, OK.


3) When I asked Question 3, the only act that came to my mind was Johnny Cougar. His record label gave him the fake Cougar name. After a few hits he had the power to work his way back to his real name, first becoming John Cougar Mellencamp, and eventually just John Mellencamp. (I thought you'd be impressed that I worked this question into the story about a show called "Cougar" Town...)

Again, the wonderful Email Special readers reminded me of another big name-changing act: The Jefferson Airplane. Formed in 1965, they changed their name to The Jefferson Starship in 1974, and eventually shortened it to The Starship.

Another famous name change was Prince, who in 1993 changed his name to a wacky symbol. By 2000, though, he noticed that none of the computer and typewriter keyboards in the world had been modified to include the symbol. So he changed back to Prince. Besides, there were personal problems ("Hi, I'd like to order a pizza. My name is Zxyzzxyk...").


4) With regard to Hofner-using bass players in famous bands, lots of one-zees and two-zees were mentioned, but so many folks listed Tina Weymouth from the Talking Heads that we're just gonna give this category to her.


5) And Canadian rock bands? Rush, Triumph, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Guess Who, The Cowboy Junkies, Nickelback, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, and more! And one person even mentioned a really cool band that I saw here in Pittsburgh several times in the 1990s, Moxy Fruvous.


When The Monkees were mentioned as an answer to question #1, I remembered how much I enjoyed the show. For one thing, I was impressed that they had a Vox Super Beatle amp in their living room. As a kid I thought that was so cool. When I grew up, I realized... hey, I could do that myself! First I bought one... then two... then... well... OK, I got carried away there. But at least now we have a stage full of Super Beatle amps for the Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatles Show! And as for my living room... well... they look nice next to the drum set!

Thinking back to The Monkees, I remembered that on the show's pilot they hadn't yet made an endorsement deal with Gretsch. For early filming and promo pictures Mike Nesmith used a Gretsch Tennessean with a custom-made twelve-string neck, and Peter Tork used a Fender bass. In some pictures they even showed Davy Jones holding a guitar. (This was before the producers recognized his expert tambourine-playing skills!) Here are some super early shots.

Once the show was picked up by NBC, the producers made a deal with Gretsch for a one-of-a-kind natural Gretsch twelve-string (it looked white on TV) for Mike. This guitar was built on a 17-inch wide Country Gentleman body, and it was gorgeous! Halfway through the first season Gretsch actually added a twelve-string to their product line, but it was on a 16-inch body and in sunburst (Model 6075), and didn't look nearly as cool. Even as a youth I wondered why they didn't properly capitalize on Mike's use of one of their guitars on a hit TV show. Later I found out that they never really thought rock & roll was gonna catch on, so it wasn't a priority for them.

Meanwhile, as part of the Gretsch deal, Peter Tork was given a newly introduced Model 6073 bass. Unlike Mike's guitar, this instrument, which was a Gretsch Tennessean with a bass neck, was a stock Gretsch model. Unfortunately, despite Peter's weekly use of this bass, it was not well received in the market and never sold in big numbers. (Perhaps because it looks like a Gretsch Tennessean, which everyone in the world saw George Harrison use. Most kids probably didn't even know it was a bass!) Here are pictures of the Monkees with the aforementioned Gretsch instruments. My guess is that those were probably Gretsch drums, too. (I'm not sure of the brand on Davy's tambourine!) (Boy, there was another missed marketing opportunity! Why didn't anyone ever market an Official Davy Jones Tambourine??)

Here's Sam with a rare 1968 Gretsch Model 6073 Bass.


See you soon,


PS: Here's a catalog picture of Gretsch's Model 6075 twelve-string.

PPS: In 1967 Gretsch introduced an actual Monkees signature model guitar. But just like their Model 6075 twelve-string, it was built with a 16-inch body. And it was red. And it said "Monkees" on the pickguard and truss rod cover. And like every Gretsch guitar, then and now, it was expensive. So... as you might guess, it didn't sell well. Young kid Monkees-fans couldn't afford it. Non-Monkees fans didn't want a guitar with The Monkees name on it. And the few musicians who wanted a guitar like Mike Nesmith's saw that it obviously wasn't like his. The Gretsch Monkees model was discontinued a year later in 1968. Here's a picture.

PPS: Getting back to last week's contest, Congratulations to our winner Dave S.! Here's a picture of Dave with guitarist-keyboardist-accordianist-vocalist-generally-wacky-guy-ist, Kevin Hearn, of the Barenaked Ladies last night.

PPPS: Our meeting with the band was a blast. Here are Jim, Ed and Tyler autographing a Hofner Icon bass. We will be auctioning this bass at the December 11th Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatles Show at the Rex Theater. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Here's me with the bass and the band.

PPPPS: Last week I mentioned that I once saw the Rembrandts play and they made a disparaging comment about the impact of theme from the TV show Friends on their career. Last night I asked the Barenaked Ladies about the theme from The Big Bang Theory that they wrote and performed. They said that they loved the show and think it's intelligently written. And they are very happy to have their song associated with it!

PPPPPS: Customer of the week: Emmylou Harris


Wednesday 11/24/2010 ~ Christmas Record #30, and The Partridge Family


I'm sorry I missed last week's email. I've been working on a massive project and it used every extra minute last week. (Actually it used non-extra minutes, too...) (And, unlike my cell phone plan, life doesn't have any carry-over minutes.)

But it was worth it in the end! And I'm happy! And tired!

You see, years and years (and years) ago I formed a band called The Flashcats. We played a thousand gigs, and had a wonderful fan club. So in 1981, as a "thank you note" to the fans, we recorded the Flashcat Fan Club Christmas Record. It was a vinyl 45 back in those days, and we mailed it out free to the fan club members. It turned out to be a lot of fun... for them and us, so we did it again the following year.

Well, like life, one thing led to another... and we never stopped.

By the early 1990s most of the folks in the band had houses and kids, so we scaled back our performance schedule to once or twice a year. But we still loved to get together every Christmas to write and record a few holiday songs... and people kept joining the Fan Club... so the annual Christmas Record continued.

And now, in 2010, we've reached Flashcat Christmas Record #30. And by some odd coincidence, it also turned out to be our 100th Christmas song. With two landmarks to celebrate (#30 and #100), I decided to do something special and release every Flashcat Christmas song in a massive 4-CD, 100-song, four-and-a-half hour, box set! (Yep, my philosophy is: First, think of something cool... and then worry about how you're gonna pull it off!)

Unfortunately, I spent most of October working on the Halloween Show, Night Of The Singing Dead #18. (Well, I shouldn't say "unfortunately" `cause that Halloween Show was great!!) But, I needed to have the 4-CD set ready by this Saturday, November 27th, when The Flashcats will be making our only 2010 appearance... So that meant that I'd only have the first few weeks of November to compile 99 songs from 30 years worth of tapes. Plus, get the band together to record song #100.

It was a bit of a challenge. But everything worked out! The CDs will be ready. The songs are wonderful (if I do say so myself). And I even had time to go to Philadelphia last weekend for a vintage guitar show. (More about that next week.)

Meanwhile, there simply wasn't enough time to write last Friday's email special. But I was thinking about it!

In the last Email Special we talked about The Monkees. (I used the term "we" not because I'm the Queen of England, but because after I send the Email Special, folks write back with comments and other stories, and it does kinda end up like a conversation...)

After The Monkees' pilot was filmed, but before the first episode aired, the producers made a deal with Gretsch, and were given a custom-made 12-string for Mike and a Gretsch Model 6073 for Peter. Here they are before the deal. (In that picture Mike is using his own Gretsch Tennessean that he had modified with a 12-string neck, and Peter is using a Fender Bass.) Here they are with their shiny new instruments from Gretsch.

As I pondered the Monkees' guitars, I remembered another TV band. Like The Monkees, they sang their own TV theme song. And, like The Monkees, they made a deal with a guitar manufacturer. Wanna guess? OK, I'll give you a second...
Yep, you're right! The Partridge Family! For those of you too young to remember, here's a bit of background: Once upon a time there was a family band called The Cowsills. Although it was a bit corny to have both their younger sister and their Mom in the band, they were actually really good. When Hollywood TV executives noticed this unusual family-band was having million-selling hit records, they thought (as all TV executives do), "How can we copy this?" Since The Monkees, a show about a rock band, had been a success for NBC a few years earlier, ABC decided they'd mimic the Mom-and-kids-in-a-band concept in a new TV series. They considered hiring the actual Cowsills, but they decided to use actors instead. (The actors were cuter, and probably a lot cheaper. Besides, it enabled ABC to hire an actual movie star, Shirley Jones, to play the Mom.)

During the first season of The Partridge Family, lead singer (and teen-heart-throb) David Cassidy used a variety of cool guitars, including a 1965 sunburst Stratocaster. Kid-bass-player Danny Bonaduce used both a Fender P-Bass and a Fender Mustang Bass. Their amps were often Vox Super Beatles, just as the Monkees had used. It was a nice look.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the young Ovation guitar company (formed in 1966) was finally making waves in the guitar biz. In 1970, the same year The Partridge Family debuted, Ovation developed an excellent pickup system for their distinctive bowl-backed guitars. With Glen Campbell as an endorser, and an acoustic/electric that worked so well it could be used onstage in loud rock & roll bands, Ovation started to taste success. Here's John with an Ovation Glen Campbell Model.

But you know how when someone does one thing really well, they think they can do other things really well, too? Well, so did Ovation. After shaking up the guitar industry with their uniquely designed, and increasingly popular acoustic guitars, the company decided they should also make solidbodies and Gibson-335-ish hollowbody electrics. And what better way to promote these instruments than with a hit TV show! Before the second season of The Partridge Family, Ovation made a deal with the show's producers to provide instruments for the show. And not only would David and Danny use new Ovation electrics, they would also use Ovation amps, microphones and P.A. systems.

To be honest, I don't know if any of the show's young fans noticed the change. But I did. (I wasn't a regular viewer, but I did stumble across the show now and then. This was before cable, so we only had three stations... And the show did have an appeal for older teens, namely Susan Dey as Laurie Partridge.) To me, it was disappointing to see those unattractive Ovation hollowbody electrics and bland-looking amps, instead of the Strat and Super Beatle Amps.

The show survived for another three years, and David and Danny went through nearly every version of Ovation's electric guitar line. But it didn't help. Despite great success with their acoustic/electric guitars, Ovation's electrics never took off. The solidbody and hollowbody electrics were discontinued a few years later.

Some Partridge Family promotional items were designed before the Ovation deal. Here's a Partridge Family lunchbox thermos, showing the Strat and Super Beatles. (Yes, the picture was printed backwards. David was not left handed.)

Here's the lunchbox, with a drawing of the same photo, showing both Fender instruments.

Here's a youtube clip from the first episode of The Partridge Family, showing the Strat, P-Bass, and Vox amps.

Here's a promo picture with the new Ovation instruments. David Cassidy is holding an Ovation Tornado and Danny is holding an Ovation Typhoon Bass. (For some reason, Ovation went with "storm" names for their hollowbodies...)

Here's a youtube video of the band using Ovation guitars and mics.

I couldn't find a photo of The Partridge Family with their Ovation amps, but they were used as props on the show. Here is the Ovation amp catalog. And while we're at it, here are the Ovation hollowbodies.

In our 32 years here at Pittsburgh Guitars we've seen maybe a dozen Ovation electrics, and a grand total of one Ovation amp. It was big, heavy, and mediocre sounding.


See you soon,


PS: The Cowsills endorsing Hofner guitars.

PPS: The Cowsills endorsing Hofner guitars and milk!

PPPS: If you'd like to come and see The Flashcats this weekend, we'll be at Frankie & George's on Forward Ave in Squirrel Hill. Frankie & George's used to be called PDs Pub. It's right next to where the Forward Avenue movie theater used to be. Right around the corner from where Poli's used to be. (That's how we give directions here in Pittsburgh.) Showtime is 9PM till Midnight.

PPPPS: It will be nice to see the band again this weekend. Although to me it will never be the real Flashcats. That ended in early-2001 when our trumpet-player and dear friend Sweet Pete passed away. One of the true joys of putting this 100-song Christmas set together was hearing Pete sing and play again. He lives on through twenty years of Christmas recordings and in all of our cherished memories. I know I sometimes get overly sentimental in these Email Specials, and you probably expected this one to end with "Enjoy the time you spend with your family and friends this holiday weekend, and tell them you love them." But it's true. Family and friends are precious, and none of us will be here forever. When you're passing the turkey and mashed potatoes around the dinner table tomorrow, say "I'm happy to be here with you guys." You won't regret it.

PPPPPS: More info about Flashcat Christmas Record #30, the gig this weekend, and if you scroll down, the entire Flashcat site: The Flashcats!

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