Friday 6/24/11 ~ Changing Times & Contest Answers
Life (i.e. music) has changed so much since I was young that sometimes it starts to get to me.
When I was young we all hoped for a record contract. But today the major records labels are on their last legs.
When I was young we used to actually perform live in public. Today most famous acts are some variation of a karaoke presentation.
And when I was young we strove to actually learn how to sing and play. Last week I found a site called ujam.com. All you have to do is hum or sing any kind of quasi-melody, and the site will pitch-correct it, add harmonies and add a backing track. You can pick a style of music and everything will be automatically done for you. UJam specifically says you will be, "... creating your own music... even if you have no musical or instrumental skills..."
I know we can't stop technology. So this is the way it will be in the future. But it's kinda depressing.
Then, a few nights ago I stumbled upon a home-grown radio podcast of a guy playing oldies. He was a DJ blast from the past... a guy who picks his own music and plays whatever he wants. And it was a breath of fresh air. The music was primarily from the late 1950s, slightly before my time, and some of it was a bit doo-woppy. But the rockin' songs really rocked. And most importantly, he was playing songs that were recorded back when people did things live in the studio. You had to be able to play. And sing in tune. And rock. I loved it!
You can't believe anything you hear today. Especially when it comes to recorded music. But you can take a step back in time, and appreciate what it was. And how great it was. When it was down to a singer, a band, and a microphone. They didn't know it at the time, but what a joy that was... what a special moment.
I don't want to go back... I like my iPhone too much. But hearing some music from those days warms my soul.
Thanks to everyone who entered last week's contest! The randomly chosen winner from the contestants with the most correct answers (the best score: 21 out of 22) was Dan M. He wins a $50 Gift Certificate to Pittsburgh Guitars.
As I mentioned last week, the following words are shortcut or slang terms referring to specific guitars, or eras, in the vintage biz. In many cases they refer to a year when a certain modification was made, and thus signifying a cutoff date in the development of a particular model.
Here are what these words mean to us:
A Rickenbacker pickup used from 1957 until 1969 on guitars, and from 1961 until 1973 on basses. Still used on the Vintage Reissue models. The pickup looks like the top of toaster.
The metal snap-on bridge cover from a Fender Telecaster. Leo designed it to protect the bridge pickup, but most folks want to play back there near the bridge where the sound is all bright and Telecastery. When removed and turned upside down, the cover makes a nice ashtray. (Although we do NOT recommend smoking!) These covers were discontinued when Fender redesigned the Tele bridge in 1983. The original Strats also came with a bridge cover, although it was much smaller. It would only hold one butt.
Fender used black Bakelite material for Telecaster (and Broadcaster, "No-Caster" and Esquire) pickguards from 1950 until 1954. A "Blackguard" guitar refers to a Tele (etc.) from that era. (For more about the history of the Telecaster name changes, see the Email Special from October 9, 2009.)
A vibrato unit used by Gibson from 1961 until 1963. Although this unit is most often seen on the SG/LPs from that era, it was also offered on other models. The vibrato was awkward to use, since you pulled the arm upward (parallel to the face of the guitar), rather than pushing in (toward the guitar). It never worked well.
Until late-1964 Fender headstock decal logos used thin squiggly lettering. Years ago a vintage dealer (Gil Southworth) remarked that it looked like the logo was written in spaghetti. And just like cooked spaghetti to a wall, the term stuck. A spaghetti logo is a pre-1964 Fender logo. Here's a picture.
(For you detail lovers: the Fender Jazz Bass introduced in 1960 and Fender Jaguar introduced in 1962, never had spaghetti logos. Both of those models used a bolder, smoother "Fender" decal right from the start.)
In 1960 sales of the Les Paul were so slow that Gibson dropped the body shape and introduced what we now know as the SG. They initially tried to call it the Les Paul, but nobody liked the idea, especially Les Paul himself. Although the guitars made in 1961 were officially "Les Pauls" (The Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Standard, Les Paul Special & Les Paul Jr) we now refer to them as SG/Les Pauls... just so the person we're talking to will know that we know what body shape we're talking about. (For more about the SG/LP see the Chapter Three of the Email Special from March 12, 2010.)
Almost all Stratocasters feature a vibrato unit. But even back as far as 1954, the first year of issue, Fender offered a non-vibrato option. These non-vibrato Strats are known as Hardtails. (Again, a name coined by a guitar dealer somewhere, no doubt while having beers with other guitar dealers.)
A Gibson PAF pickup with one white bobbin and one black bobbin. When Gibson first invented the humbucking pickup, the bobbins that the coils of wire were wrapped around were made of black plastic. In late 1959, Gibson's bobbin supplier ran out of black die and sent Gibson a shipment of white plastic bobbins. Since these bobbins were hidden under the metal pickup cover, Gibson thought that the players would never know if the bobbin colors matched or not. So from 1959 until 1961 they randomly used either color when building the dual coil humbucking pickups. They didn't anticipate that years later players would remove the metal covers and find double-black, double-white, or even black & white ("zebra") bobbins.
When the Gibson ES-335 was introduced in 1958 it featured dot inlays on its fingerboard. In mid-1962 Gibson changed the inlays to small blocks. The term "dotboard" came to refer to Gibson ES-335s made between 1958 and 1962. This term has become so well known that when Gibson reissued the early style 335s, they called them the ES-335 DOT.
10) Witch hat
Control knobs that are tall and skinny with a flat flange. They kinda look like a witch's hat without the point. Used by Gibson during the late 1960s. Here's a picture.
Refers to a Fender Jazz Bass made from 1960 to mid-1961. These basses featured an outer volume knob with a smaller, separate tone knob in its center. In August 1961 the Jazz Bass controls changed to the now familiar 3-knob configuration.
12) Dog ear
A Gibson P90 pickup cover with tabs on either end for mounting the pickup. P90s can be mounted two ways, either with the dog ear cover, or with screws through the center of the pickup and cover. Here are dog ear covers. Here is the other style.
13) Top boost
"Top Boost" was a feature offered by Vox on their amps. It was first introduced as an add-on (mounted on the amp's back panel) in 1963, and by 1965 it became standard on the larger amps. Prior to 1963 the "tone" control on an AC-30 was one knob and it merely rolled off the high end, like the tone control on a guitar. The Top Boost circuit has two knobs, Bass and Treble tone controls, which boost the high end and/or low end... rather than just making everything muddy, the way the previous "tone" control did.
Gibson headstock design, introduced in 1923, that is wide near the nut, and gets thinner as it extends. The advantage was that strings were aligned in a straight direction to the machine heads, supposedly to keep tuning easy. Discontinued on mandolins in 1927. Last used on a guitar in 1934 on the L-5
Here's is a Gibson snakehead mandolin.
15) Slab board
Fender's first rosewood fingerboards, introduced in 1958, were flat on the bottom, and fairly thick. In late-1962 Fender started to cut the rosewood thinner, and curved in the bottom. The earlier ones are known as slab boards, simply because they use a thicker piece of rosewood. A "slab board" is a pre-1963 Fender rosewood-fingerboard guitar.
16) Vibramute (OK, that's not slang or a short cut... it's an actual part. But what guitar would it refer to?)
"Vibramute"' is a vibrato unit used on Mosrite guitars from 1962 until 1964. It was designed by the inventor of Mosrite guitars, Semie Moseley. In 1965 he modified the vibrato unit slightly, and changed the impressed name on it from "Vibramute" to "Moseley."
This refers to a tone capacitor design that is cylindrical and colored in alternating black and yellow stripes. The number of stripes indicates the electronic value of the component, if you know how to read the code.
In the mid 1960's a lot of big corporations wanted to jump on the electric guitar bandwagon. The Baldwin Piano and Organ Company went on a buying spree and bought up several other established musical instrument companies, including Burns of London, Sho Bud steel guitars, and most notably (and most horribly) Gretsch. After purchasing them, Baldwin proceeded to run them into the ground. This term is most used to denote pre-1967 Gretsch guitars.
Gibson is known for two styles of mandolins. The, "A" and the "F." The "F" style has a fancy extended curly extension on the upper edge, near the neck. The, "A" style is symmetrical and teardrop shaped.
20) Skunk stripe
The original all-maple Fender necks had their truss rods installed through a routing on the back of the neck. This rout was filled in with a strip of wood of a contrasting color, and became known as a "skunk stripe". When Fender started to add rosewood fingerboards they were able to install the truss rod from the front before adding the fingerboard, rather than from the back. So rosewood fingerboard Fenders don't have the stripe.
Extra Extra credit:
21) If a vintage guitar buff said to you, "Hey, that's cool! But how is the headstock repair?" What kind of guitar would you be holding?
A 1963-1965 Gibson Firebird.
From the Sept 14, 2007 Pittsburgh Guitars Email Special:
"Over the years the most common broken headstocks we've seen have been on Les Pauls. But from a percentage standpoint... i.e. number of a certain model manufactured vs. number of broken headstocks of said model... the winner would have to be the 1963-1965 Gibson Firebird. With its heavy banjo-style tuners pointing backwards instead of to the side, and with a poorly designed case that allows the headstock to rest on the tuners in the case, the Reverse Firebird is a break waiting to happen. In fact, if you see someone with a Reverse Firebird, the first thing you should say is, "Hey, nice guitar!" Your next comment could safely be, "How's the headstock repair?""
PS: Extra Extra Extra credit: (this is a tough one)
22) What do the following have in common? A 1955 Gibson EB-1, a 1957 TVJr, and a 1964 Reverse Firebird
a) In 1955 the Gibson electric bass was called the "Gibson Electric Bass," not called the EB-1. When Gibson introduced their second bass in 1958, the hollow-body 335-style bass, they named it the EB-2, and retroactively the early 1950's Electric Bass became known as the EB-1.
b) In 1957, the sunburst single-pickup budget Les Paul was the "Les Paul Junior." The limed-mahogany yellow single-pickup budget Les Paul was the "Les Paul TV Model." There never was a TVJr. We only started calling the yellow version the TVJr years later, because most folks didn't know the guitar's official name.
c) The 1963- mid-1965 Gibson Firebird was called the "Gibson Firebird." It was retroactively named the "Reverse" Firebird when the new non-reverse model was introduced in late-1965.
So... the answer is: Although we all know exactly what those models refer to, none of those guitars were actually called those names in those years.
See you soon,
PS: Big News: Just booked--- The Pittsburgh Guitars Big Beatle Show #9!!!!!!!!
Saturday, August 20, 2011 at the Rex Theater.
An evening of non-stop Beatle music!!
Since we have so many folks who want to play, here are the details:
Bands can do up to three songs, with the total time up to 10 minutes.
Solo acts can do one or two songs.
Write to John at:
to book your act!!!
PPS: The Email Special will be taking a break next Friday, for the Fourth Of July Weekend. But the store will be open! Stop in and buy a guitar before you head to the cook-out!
PPPS: Customer of the week: Peter Tork
PPPPS: Here's Peter in the store.
PPPPPS: The Monkees show at Stage AE was great! Here's their set-list. (This is the actual on-stage set list.)