Email Specials from April 2010

Friday 4/2/2010 ~ Guitar Modifications and the Gibson ES-295


This week at Pittsburgh Guitars


1) Because of the internet, and the Email Special and other stuff (like being around for 31 years), we often get "What can you tell me about my guitar?" emails. On Monday someone sent pictures of a guitar they bought on ebay. He called it a "Mystery Guitar." Here are the photos. It's an old archtop tenor guitar that says "PITT" on the headstock. He asked if I had ever seen one before.... and he thought it might have been made by Martin for the University of Pittsburgh. (I'm not sure where he came up with the Martin connection... maybe because Martin is in Pennsylvania and so is the University of Pittsburgh... Or maybe that's what the guy on ebay told him.)

Well, not only have I seen one before... I own one. Here's John with our PITT Tenor guitar. And "no" on the Martin part. I suspect it was made by Harmony. But it could have been made for the University of Pittsburgh. Back in the good old days it was not unusual for manufacturers to make custom logo guitars, as special orders for music teachers, stores, distributors, and even schools. We should dig up some old 1930s University of Pittsburgh yearbooks, and look for pictures of the Glee Club... Maybe we can find a photo of one of these guitars in use!

I'm glad I got this email, though. Now I see that the "PITT" on my headstock has been painted black, and the original was much more colorful. I'm going to carefully scrape off that paint! Hey... maybe years ago my guitar was sold to someone from WVU... and they blacked out the PITT!! Ah... history, it's exciting!


2) A few days later I got an email from a guy who owns a 1959 Danelectro Longhorn Bass. He said that back in 1970 he cut a hole in it to add another pickup. He never finished the job, but he's thinking of finishing it now, and he wondered if it would be more valuable once it has an "improved" sound. Here are his photos. I explained that, unfortunately, guitars are never more valuable with extra holes cut in them. Just like a parachute. (Hey, I just thought of that analogy!) (How about, "just like a life-raft...") (... or "just like a pair of socks...") (Hmmmm... I wonder what IS more valuable with extra holes cut in it?... )

Anyway, with this gentleman's guitar there is no going back. I told him it wouldn't really matter, from a "vintage value" standpoint whether he finally installed the pickup or not. For reference, here's John with a new "58 Reissue" Longhorn and an original 1958 Danelectro Longhorn. Note the lack of extra holes. (And as long as we're "noting" things, you may have noticed that the pickups on the original 1958 Longhorn are closer together than the reissue and the one owned by the guy with the saw. The `58 in our collection is one of the first Longhorns ever made, and the earliest versions had closer pickup spacing.)


3) A couple of days ago our friend Anthony brought in a Gibson ES-295. He wanted to know how old it was, and our opinion of its originality. We told him it was from 1952, the first year for the ES-295. And the best way to discuss originality was with "show and tell"... so I grabbed our 1954 ES-295. Here are the two of us with the two of them. Anthony's is mostly original. The only issue is that someone removed the original combination trapeze tailpiece/bridge and replaced it with a more traditional set-up. But fortunately, unlike the Danelectro mentioned above, this change didn't involve cutting any extra holes in the guitar! If you could find an original part... admittedly that's a big "if".... you could put Anthony's 295 back to right.

The ES-295 is an interesting model. And despite its big hollowness, it has a Les Paul connection.

Our story starts in the late 1940s. At the end of World War II, guitar manufacturers were finally able to get back to business. And Gibson wanted to shake things up with their newly designed pickup, the P-90, and a newly designed guitar body shape. In 1949 they introduced their first guitar with a sharp-pointed cutaway (known as a "Florentine" cutaway). The guitar cost $175 and was called the ES-175. Here's John with an original 1949 ES-175.

The following year, in 1950, Gibson started to design their first ever solid body guitar, and in 1951 they began negotiations with the famous guitarist Les Paul to endorse the new model.

Meanwhile, in mid-1951 Les visited a friend in the hospital, and he decided he could cheer up his friend by having a special guitar made just for him. Les asked Gibson to make an all-gold ES-175 for his friend. Both Les and everyone at Gibson loved the look of the resulting guitar.

Les decided that when Gibson's new "Les Paul Model" was introduced it should be gold, just like the gold ES-175 made for his friend. He and Gibson eventually settled on just a gold top on the new Les Paul. (Although in the following years a few were made in all-gold.)

And Gibson, inspired by the gold ES-175 they made for Les, decided that when they introduced the new gold-top Les Paul in 1952, they would also introduce a souped-up gold version of the ES-175. Thus was born the very expensive (cost: $295!) ES-295. (If you're noticing a trend here with Gibson's model designations, you're right!) The ES-295 was an ES-175 with two pickups, creme-colored P-90 pickup covers, a creme-colored pickguard with gold flowers, the Les Paul-designed wrap-around combination trapeze bridge/tailpiece, and an all-gold finish. Here's John with our 1949 ES-175 and 1954 ES-295.

The ES-295 was a spectacular looking guitar. The only issue is that Gibson achieved the gold look by mixing lacquer with a very fine bronze powder, and when it oxidizes the bronze turns green. After regular use a player's hand or arm would wear off the protective outer clear lacquer coat, exposing the gold paint to the air. Green would ensue. Most ES-295s and many 1950s Les Pauls now have green spots. Like this.

Getting back to Anthony's ES-295, somewhere during it's long life someone removed its tailpiece/bridge and replaced it with an ES-175 tailpiece and bridge.


4) Then, yesterday, the weather got warm and wonderful!


That was our week. How was yours?



Oh yeah, we just got thousands and thousands of dollars worth of new Boss Pedals...


See you soon,


PS: In addition to boxes of Boss's, other fun stuff arrived this week, too. From Yamaha we got two basses that aren't available anywhere else in the USA. From Vox we got their new acoustic amp. And moments ago we got a really cool orange sparkle Fender Standard Strat. Its an eye-opener!!

PPS: If you're inquisitive like me, after reading the above story, you're probably wondering, "You said the ES-295 was an ES-175 with two pickups... Was the original 175 only available with one pickup?" Yes! from 1949 until 1953 the ES-175 only had one pickup. Starting in 1953 it was available in one or two pickup versions.

PPPS: How rare are the above guitars?
1949 ES-175: 129 made that year
1952 ES-295: 297 made that year
1954 ES-295: 357 made that year
The orange sparkle Strat that just arrived: 1000 made last month

PPPPS: Coming May 22nd! Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatle Show #7!!

PPPPPS: Customer of the week: Paul Thorn


Friday 4/9/2010 ~ Folk Singers Turned Rock-n-Rollers

On Monday a guy called from Kansas. He needed a new McCartney-style strap for the Hofner 500/1 "Beatle" Bass that he bought from us five years ago. (He still loves the bass! He wore out the strap.) He called us because... well, because he likes us... and because the McCartney strap is unusual and can only be found at super cool places like Pittsburgh Guitars. You see, until 1964 Hofner basses did not come with strap buttons, and if you wanted to play a Hofner standing up you had to tie your strap to the bass. (Yeah, I know. It's weird.) By 1963 McCartney realized that he could tie his strap in the gap under the neck joint... here's a picture... but when he got his first Hofner bass in 1961 he tied the strap to the headstock, like this. Thinking about how odd the bass looked with the strap tied to the headstock reminded me of the only ever video footage of the Beatles playing at the Cavern. It was shot on August 22, 1962 by a BBC camera crew who were doing a documentary about Liverpool. So, last night I went to youtube to watch the video for the 2,325th time. The song captured that fateful evening was a cover of a song by Richard Barrett called "Some Other Guy." Here is the video.

The Beatles never did a studio version of that song, but it was covered by most bands in Liverpool in 1962, and it was officially released in 1963 by a locally successful Liverpool band, The Big Three. Here's a youtube link to The Big Three's recording of "Some Other Guy."

As I was searching youtube for more stuff by The Big Three I stumbled across another group with the same name... from America. And I was surprised! You may recognize the girl singer. Here is the American "The Big 3," also from 1963.

Yep, it's Cass Elliot before The Mamas and The Papas. I knew that the members of The Mamas & The Papas had previously been folk singers before the band was formed, but I didn't know that one of them, Mama Cass, had been so successful. The Big 3 released two albums and were on dozens of TV shows, even the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. (Mama Cass's stage look in The Mamas and The Papas was a little cooler than her folk singer look. Here's The Big 3's LP cover.)

The "folk singer" concept reminded me of an Email Special from a few weeks ago, when I showed a picture of folk-singers Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby before they became The Byrds. Here's the picture. The folk music scene was very big in the early 1960s and a lot of future rockers started out as folk singers. It was a little bit before my time... but our friend, Bill Bruno, who later played in The Outsiders, wrote to me about it recently. He said, "It's hard to explain or describe, but folk music was really hot and stirring... a little intellectual... lots of message and protest songs." He sent a picture of his folk group, "Bill, Bob and Jacquie." Here's Bill in 1964. (He's on the left.) Here he is on the TV show Hullabaloo in 1966 with The Outsiders, performing their hit "Time Won't Let Me." (He's the guy on the right, playing the Gretsch Country Gentleman.)

The folk-singer-turned-rock-&-roller concept reminded me of the Monterey Pop Festival. Although it has been historically overshadowed by 1969's Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival, held on June 16, 17 & 18, 1967, was the first large-scale rock festival and had a significant impact on many careers. The acts performing that weekend included: The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, The Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, Simon & Garfunkel, and Janis Joplin; plus the first major American appearance of both The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The concert was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, and the film gave the rest of America their first exposure to the soon-to-be-nationally-famous California bands like Joplin and The Grateful Dead; the equipment-trashing The Who; and the now-famous footage of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar. Hendrix at Monterey.

In an article written two days after Monterey, Michael Lydon, writing for Newsweek magazine, said, "The Festival was, among other things, the largest collection of former folk singers and guitarists ever gathered in one place." Lydon continued, "Monterey Pop ratified the shift away from folk music that has been going on for two years." Many of the acts mentioned above began on acoustic guitars as folk singers. The 1964 "British Invasion" of electrified rockers, led, of course, by The Beatles, inspired them to find drummers, let their hair down, and rock.

And co-organizers, and headliners, of the Monterey Pop Festival? The Mamas and The Papas, featuring former Big 3 songstress Cass Elliott.

In 1961, when 19-year-old Paul McCartney was sitting, attempting to tie his guitar strap to his bass, I wonder if he ever imagined that his band would not only inspire an entire generation of young kids to pick up the guitar, but that they would also convert a slightly older generation of acoustic players to plug in and turn up?


See you soon,


PS: Speaking of Mama Cass... and youtube surprises... I learned something else last night that I never knew!! It's exciting to learn new things!!! Apparently in 1963 Mama Cass's The Big 3 did their own arrangement of Stephen Foster's 1848 song "Oh Suzanna." They called it "The Banjo Song." And though you'll certainly recognize the lyrics, you'll probably also recognize the melody. Here it is! The Big 3's arrangement and melody were stolen a few years later by these guys from The Netherlands. I never knew that!!!

PPS: Speaking of the Monterey Pop Festival, there is something spooky about it. Five of the artists appearing at the festival: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson from Canned Heat, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan from The Grateful Dead, and Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones who was there to introduce Jimi Hendrix, all died within the next couple of years... all at the age of 27!

PPPS: Other rock stars who died when they were 27 years old: Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.

PPPPS: So if you're gonna be a rock star, be VERY careful between your 27th and 28th birthdays!

PPPPPS: Fortunately most of us won't be rock stars, so we're safe... (Oh... and well past 27....)

PPPPPPS: Speaking of things that have nothing to do with this week's email... In last week's PS I said that the guys downstairs were opening a new orange sparkle Fender Strat. A couple of folks wrote to ask about it, so here's John with the new Fender "Orange Sunfire" Strat. Two days ago, we got the second model in this Limited Edition run of sparkle guitars, the new "Root Beer Flake" Fender Strat. Here's that one.

PPPPPPPS: Hey, as long as we're taking pictures of John with new unusually colored guitars... Martin doesn't regularly make guitars in sunburst, but they will if you ask. And once a year we Special Order one. Here's John with a brand new sunburst Martin D-28.

PPPPPPPPS: Customer of the week: Midlake


Friday 4/16/2010 ~ Songwriters & Songwriter Royalties


I read an interesting book this week... the autobiography of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. You may not know the names Leiber & Stoller, but you absolutely know the songs they've written.

Songwriters hold an interesting place in the music business. They're the ones in line at the bank.

Since yesterday was Tax Day, let's talk about music and money...


Let's suppose I'm a bad singer (like Kayne West) and you are a very talented guitarist (like yourself), and we decide to form a band. We call ourselves Rockus Giganticus! (We only need the two of us because on stage I'll mostly be lip syncing to prerecorded music anyway.) (like Kayne.)

We decide that we'll split the band royalties 50/50 and get rich! But since you don't write songs, we agree that I'll be the songwriter in the band.

Fortunately, I've already written ten songs:

1. "I Want To Hold Your iPad"
2. "Anyone For Pizza?"
3. "Family Guy Isn't As Funny As It Used To Be"
4. "If I Had Known This Was Gonna Happen I'd Have Let You Leave"
5. "Bob's Your Uncle"
6. "I Love You As Much As I Ever Did"
7. "Don't Touch Me, I Think You Have Cooties"
8. "You're The Apple Of My Eye But You're A Little Green"
9. "Itchy"
10. "If You're The Girl Of My Dreams, Why Does This Feel Like A Nightmare?"


We sign with a record label, Acme Recordings, and we record our CD, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away." It's a pretty good CD, so we figure we'll be rolling in money soon.

At this point, though, it's interesting to note that when you record a song, two separate copyright entities are involved: (1) the actual recorded performance (the sounds we created in the studio) which generates Artist Royalties, and (2) the song itself (the words and music I wrote) which generates Songwriter Royalties.

Let's see how this affects us...

(Note: The following figures are for demonstration purposes. I've super-simplified things to keep this email to one or two pages. In real life explaining royalties would take dozens of pages...)


Artist Royalties:

With the help of our high-powered attorney, Doug Dewey, of the firm Dewey, Cheatem, And Howe, we strike a deal with our record label to get $1 from each CD sold. The CD is released, and we're on our way! My Aunt Linda calls every radio station in the country and begs them to play our songs. We get lots of airplay and we sell 200,000 CDs!! Well, at $1 for each CD, that's $200,000 for Rockus Giganticus... $100,000 for me, $100,000 for you... so we're doin' pretty good! Except that before our record label pays us the money, they take out the $75,000 they lent us to record our CD... and they take out the $25,000 they paid to license the James Brown samples we used on the CD... and they take out the $30,000 they lent us to do a video... and they take out the $15,000 they spent on our big CD release party... and they take out the $20,000 they spent on posters and other advertising... and they take out the $25,000 they lent us to rent a bus so we could go on tour. So, that leaves us with... er... $10,000. But it's still $5,000 each! Except we owe $20,000 to our manager... and $20,000 to our attorney... and $3,246.57 to Aunt Linda for her phone bill. So... we're currently at a negative $33,246.57! But at least we're in the music biz!!



Writer Royalties:

Meanwhile, as the songwriter, I sign up with a music publisher, Wino Music BMI. The role of publisher is to handle the collection of writer's royalties and try to promote the writer's songs by, for example, getting other artists to record them. In the old days a publisher took 50% of all of the income from a song. These days they generally get 25%. So, I sign with Wino, and they agree to send me 75% of the Writer Royalties. And what are the writer royalties? Well, unlike the Artist Royalties, which are completely negotiated between the Artist and the record label, the Writer Royalties are set by law. The current rate is 9.1 cents per song. So Acme Recordings has to pay me 9.1 cents per song that I wrote on the CD... and there are ten songs, so that's 91 cents per CD sold. And none of the "advances" that Acme lent to Rockus Giganticus are deducted from the writers share. So from the 200,000 CDs sold, I get $182,000. After the publishing company deducts their 25%, I end up with $136,500.

And you know that "tons of airplay" that Aunt Linda stirred up? Rockus Giganticus gets $0 from that. But as the songwriter, I get money every time the record is played on the radio. (That exact figure is calculated by a VERY complicated formula... But it's greater than $0. and it adds up!)

And if Lady Gaga loves our record, and decides to record one of my songs, I'll get 9.1 cents from every CD she sells containing that song. (If her CD sells a million copies... I have one song on it... I make $91,000.) (Well... minus 25% to my publishing company, Wino Music... so I really get $68,250.) Plus, I'll make money any time the Lady Gaga song is on the radio.

And 20 years from now, when our big hit, "Don't Touch Me, I Think You Have Cooties" is revived on an oldies radio station, and gets lots of airplay, the band will continue to make $0.00 from that airplay... But as the writer, I'll get checks.



Now of course, with a hit CD, Rockus Giganticus can make a lot of money on the road. And as the lead (and only) guitarist, you'll have tons of adoring fans! And we'll sell lots of T-Shirts!

But with regard to the money made when we're not on the road, the difference between you and me is a big one. Acme Recordings is going to deduct every possible expense from Rockus Giganticus's $1 per CD income. We'll have to sell a lot more than 200,000 CDs before we, as a band, see any cash.

But as the songwriter, I get money from the first CD sold. And from radio airplay. And from any of my songs recorded by anyone else.

The moral of this story: Whenever possible, write the songs!!


See you soon,


PS: With regard to Leiber & Stoller, they met when they were both 17 years old. And although they loved music, they realized that as performers they just weren't quite good enough to make it. (This was back in the old days, when you actually had to sing and play live on stage!) But they hit it off immediately as songwriting partners, and as writers they had amazing success. Here's just a sampling of the hundreds of songs they've written...

Songs written by Leiber & Stoller:
"Hound Dog"
"Kansas City"
"Jailhouse Rock"
"Yakety Yak"
"Charlie Brown"
"I Who Have Nothing"
"Little Egypt"
"Love Me" (one of my favorite Elvis tunes: "Treat me like a fool, Treat me mean and cruel, buuuuuuuut Love Me")
"Nosey Joe"
"On Broadway"
"Poison Ivy"
"Ruby Baby"
"Santa Claus Is Back In Town"
"Spanish Harlem"
"Smokey Joe's Cafe"
"Stand By Me"

PPS: This week I also read the autobiography of Lemmy from Motorhead. In 1991 he wrote four songs for Ozzy Osbourne's "No More Tears" album, including the hit song "Mama, I'm Coming Home." In his book Lemmy said that he made more money from the songwriting royalties from those four songs than he did from the entire first 15 years playing in his band Motorhead.

PPPS: Earlier in his book (called "White Line Fever" by the way) Lemmy talked about going to Liverpool in 1962 as a teenager to watch the hundreds of bands there. He said, "Every band in Liverpool played the same twenty songs..." And the first one he listed: "Some Other Guy." That's the song I linked to last week as the only video footage of The Beatles playing in The Cavern.

PPPPS: Released in the US in 1962 by Richard Barrett, "Some Other Guy" was not a hit record. But a copy of the disc found it's way to Liverpool... and all of the local bands there played it. It's now known here in America because so many bands in England covered it. And "Some Other Guy" was written by? Leiber & Stoller.

PPPPPS: Since I've already mentioned the video of The Beatles doing "Some Other Guy" in The Cavern... I noticed something when watching it last week. I've always been bothered by people who stare down at their guitar fingerboard while playing. Now I know why. I was spoiled by Paul McCartney. Notice how often he looks down at his fingers in this video.

PPPPPPPPS: The title of the Rockus Gigantus CD above is not my own. "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away" is a song by Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks.

PPPPPPPPPS: Customer of the week: Eyelaska


Friday 4/23/2010


Miscellaneous Miscellany.

Emails to the Email.

Rambling Fever...

(I'm working on a title for this week's email...)


** A few weeks ago I talked about folk artists "going electric" in the mid-1960s. Many folk singers were inspired by the 1964 British music invasion to grow their hair long, plug in their guitars and find a drummer. J.T. from Pittsburgh wrote to point out, though, that some folk acts stayed true to their roots... like Peter Paul & Mary. And some new folk acts grew out of the rock scene... like Arlo Guthrie and James Taylor. Here's Peter, Paul & Mary doing a Bob Dylan Song.


** Speaking of folk singers, Graham of the North Side wrote to mention the movie "A Mighty Wind." To put it simply, "A Mighty Wind" mockuments folk music the way "This Is Spinal Tap" mockuments rock. And that makes sense, since it was written by and stars the same group of wonderfully funny improvisational actors who did "Spinal Tap," Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. I recommend both movies, as well as their other films, "Best In Show" and "Waiting For Guffman."


** In last week's PPPPPPPPS I mentioned Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks. I became a fan of the band in 1969, the moment I heard their song "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away." Email Special reader Greg G. wrote from New York to mention the guitar set-up Dan used in the old days... and I immediately remembered and laughed.

You see, back in the mid-1960s there weren't a lot of ways to amplify an acoustic guitar. DeArmond made a pickup that attached across the soundhole... and Ovation, with their built-in pickup system, was on the horizon... but many acoustic players relied on a microphone to pickup their guitar. They had a tall stand for their vocal mic... and a short stand for their guitar mic. This, of course, meant that the player had to stand still even when not singing. Dan Hicks had the brilliant and amusing idea to screw a microphone gooseneck right to his guitar. His guitar was permanently mic'd! I couldn't find a still picture out there in internet-land, but you can see it in this video. Generally we don't recommend drilling holes in your guitar... but that is pretty funny.


** You know, speaking of the internet, I don't know if you've had a chance to use it yet, but I find it to be a wealth of information! And some of the info even falls into the "Wow, I never knew that!" category. This next story will only be of interest to two, or three, of the thousands of folks getting this email... so I'll type fast... As you know, I'm a big Kinks fan. As you probably don't know, in 1973 head-Kink Ray Davies wrote an ambitious rock opera that spanned two albums, and was a commercial failure. (Although I still like it better than "Tommy.") The albums were called "Preservation, Act 1" and "Preservation, Act 2," and the latter contains a song I've always wanted to do with a band, called "Money Talks." (No, not with a band called "Money Talks"... the song is called "Money Talks.") (Although that's also not a bad name for a band...) Anyhow... the Kinks recording of "Money Talks" features a distinctive female voice, and I never knew who she was. Well, last night, as I was looking for a picture of Dan Hicks with his mic screwed to his guitar, I stumbled on a site with links to the rest of his band. And one of the girl singers (she's on his right in the video linked above) was Maryann Price. So, I clicked on her site, and it turns out that Ray Davies was also a fan of Dan Hicks, and in 1973 he invited Maryann to sing on the "Preservation, Part 2" album. So all of these years I liked her voice in Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, and I liked her voice on "Money Talks" by The Kinks, and I never knew it was the same person! Earth-shattering? No. But last night at 2 A.M. I found it to be fascinating!!


** Several folks commented on last week's explanation of band royalties. One guy asked about songwriter royalties and said, "Doesn't Michael Jackson own The Beatles' songs?" (Although at this point he probably meant Blanket, Pillow and Cushion Jackson...) Well, kinda yes... But it depends what you mean by "own."

Last week, as part of the imaginary story, I said that I "signed up with a publisher." The publisher's job is to market the song by: (a) arranging to have sheet music and song books published; (b) presenting it to other artists to record; (c) trying to place it in movies and TV shows; (d) and whatever else makes money. To do this the publisher must "own" the publishing rights to the song. BUT as part of the publisher's original deal with the writer, the publisher must split all of the proceeds with the writer. (In the old days this was 50/50. Today's deals often give the writer a greater percentage.)

Over the years the publishing rights to The Beatles catalog have been owned by several different people and companies. (And I'm not sure if the Jackson estate even still owns them.) But along the way Lennon and McCartney, as writers, have always received their 50% of the income. So, Lennon & McCartney still own as much as they ever have. A few years ago, when Paul McCartney wanted to buy the publishing from Michael Jackson, he was trying to get the publisher's 50%. (He already had the writer's 50%.) Paul wanted to get 100% of every penny earned by record sales, radio airplay, etc. That didn't work out... (Paul originally thought Michael wanted him to pay through the nose... but it turns out he wanted him to pay WITH a nose!) But let's not feel sorry for Paul, he's doing OK in the publishing biz. He owns the publishing rights to thousands and thousands of other songs. Every time you hear "Blue Suede Shoes" or "That'll Be The Day" on the radio, Paul's getting 50% of the money.


** Now only four weeks away: The 7th Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatle Show!! And in addition to twenty-five great bands, we're proud to announce a Special Guest performer: Geoff Nugent! In 1962 there were a lot of rockin' bands in Liverpool England, and three of the best were: The Big Three (discussed in the Email Special two weeks ago), The Beatles (discussed in the Email Special almost every week) and The Undertakers. For next month's Big Beatle Show, The Undertaker's original guitarist and singer, Geoff Nugent, is flying in from Liverpool, England! I've met Geoff several times in Liverpool, and he's a wonderful guy, and we're thrilled to have him do a few songs during the show. And he's anxious to meet some Pittsburghers! If you have any questions ("Exactly how hot was it in The Cavern Club in 1962?") I'm sure he'd be happy to answer them. This will be a chance for you to meet someone who was actually part of an historically important musical scene.


See you soon,


PS: Above I mentioned that Paul McCartney wants to own the publishing rights to his songs because he wants to "get 100% of every penny earned by record sales, radio airplay, etc." While that may be true, I think it's safe to say that there are other motives, as well. (After all, he doesn't need the money.) For example, emotionally speaking, I'm sure he'd like to own 100% of his musical legacy. And, as publisher he would have the final say regarding the licensing of the songs. He could then prevent Beatles songs from being used in TV ads, and other places where he felt they didn't belong.

PPS: Which brings up one more royalty factoid: Although the Michael Jackson estate may still own the publishing rights to The Beatles songs, they have never owned the actual recordings. The recordings are owned by the record label. (In The Beatles' case, some are owned by EMI and some are owned by Apple.) So, if you're making a movie and you want to have someone sing "I Saw Her Standing There" in your film, you'll have to make a deal with the publisher. (Blanket Jackson, et. al.) BUT if you want to use the original recording of "I Saw Her Standing There" you'd have to make a deal with both the publisher AND the record label, EMI.

PPPS: With regard to The Kinks, I mentioned above that their "Preservation" rock opera met with little success. That can be evidenced by the fact that in the hundred-and-twenty-million videos on youtube, I couldn't find one link to the song "Money Talks." (Meanwhile, there's a chicken singing all of The Who's "Tommy.")

PPPPS: There are many links to "A Mighty Wind." Here's 30 seconds from the big finale. "A Mighty Wind"

PPPPPS: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, formerly Spinal Tap, now The Folksmen. "Eat At Joes"

PPPPPPS: I don't mean to get carried away with folk music and this movie, but right now "A Mighty Wind" is making me smile... and smiling is important! Here's one more: Many vintage American folk songs mention wandering... From "A Mighty Wind" here's The New Main Street Singers with "Never Did No Wandering."

PPPPPPPS: Customer of the week: The Church


Friday 4/30/2010 ~ Dressing The Part


We got a call from an ad agency this week. They were doing a photo shoot for Levi's Jeans and wanted to rent three guitar cases.

I asked if they wanted new ones, and they said they'd prefer used, slightly beat up cases. They wanted the models in the ad to look like they were coming back from a gig.

The first thing I thought was: Yea! More mass-media exposure for guitars! (or in this case, implied guitars). (Actually, I should say: in those cases, implied guitars.)

Then I thought: Jeans? Well, I hope they're wearing jeans because they've already changed out of their stage clothes!

Yeah, I'm a fan of bands who dress up for performances. After all, it is Show Biz. Bands don't have to wear matching suits... although that always looks good... but they should at least look like they didn't just walk in from the street. As the star on-stage, you are special. Shouldn't you look special?

I wonder what the top ten acts on the Billboard Charts are wearing? I'll check...


OK, I'm back.
The Hot 100 Chart was mostly rap acts or solo artists... so I looked at the Top 10 on the "Rock Songs" chart. The top ten songs are:

1. "Between The Lines" - Stone Temple Pilots
2. "Your Decision" - Alice In Chains
3. "The Good Life" - Three Days Grace
4. "Savior" - Rise Against
5. "1901" - Phoenix
6. "Uprising" - Muse
7. "Resistance" - Muse (Hey, those guys are doing well this week!)
8. "Cryin' Like A B...tch!" - Godsmack
9. "Give Me A Sign" - Breaking Benjamin
10. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" - Weezer


OK, now I'll go and watch the videos from all of these songs on youtube...


Whew... this Email Special is getting exhausting....


Well, a few of those guys were wearing sports jackets... but for the most part they all wore everyday street clothes. So I'm disappointed. I was hoping that at least one band would try to look a little different than their audience. Maybe I'll check the top 20...

Er... still not much luck. But hey, Ozzy's on there at #19!! At least he dresses the part!

OK, so, fashion-wise I don't see anyone except Ozzy on the rock charts making an effort. Perhaps "looking like you're not making an effort" is the current on-stage fashion. Well, I miss the White Stripes, and The Hives. And Devo.

Meanwhile, it's good to see that playing guitar is still fashionable: Three of the remaining five contestants on American Idol are using a guitar during their songs. And guitars regularly pop up as background props on TV shows. And this morning, while reading Entertainment Weekly, I saw a full-page Target ad with a girl playing guitar. (The ad was for her clothes, not the guitar.) (Here's the ad.)

So... even if bands these days all kinda look the same... and by that, I mean no different than the rest of us... at least rock music and the guitar are alive and well.


See you soon,


PS: Hey! New News about the Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatle Show #7!!

** We now have so many bands lined up that we're moving the start time up to 7:30 PM.
** We're big fans of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Last year's Food Bank drive was so successful that we're going to do that again this year. Admittance to the Show will be $5 or two cans of food!
** Plus Special Guest: Geoff Nugent of The Undertakers, from Liverpool England.

Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatle Show #7 ---- May 22nd ---- The Rex Theater ----- 7:30PM -----

PPS: In the way-back days, sometimes bands not only dressed alike, they also used matching guitars and amps! Like these guys: The Astronauts! Far out, man!!

PPPS: Customer of the week: Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social


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