Monday, November 19, 2007

1960's SG Jr.

In 1981, I traveled up to St. Cloud, Minnesota to visit a few music stores. I came across Al’s Music on my last stop. One the wall was a beat up, white SG Jr., with its finish cracked\ and dents and chips all over the body, but in all original condition. The price was $250. I had to have this guitar, but, being only 18 and in vocational school, I had no cash. I drove home, about an hour south, and tried to figure out a way to buy this before it was too late. I decided that my Echoplex had to go. So, with that in hand, and some cash, I drove back up there. It had been a few weeks, so I was hoping it was still there. It was, and I got it.

When I plugged it in, I remember being under whelmed with the soap bar pickup. That was probably because I had never had one before. I decided it needed a humbucking pickup. I managed to find one even with my limited funds. I had no tools to get it in, though. Out comes a screwdriver, which worked well as a chisel. I made the rout just big enough. Of course, today, you would never, ever do this. Back then, it was just an 18 year old beat up SG Jr. I did not know the year of the SG, but it had to be between 1964 and 1967.

The guitar sounded great with the new pickup. I was using a Lab Series L-5 amp with it.
It was as light as a feather, and had a crude vibrato bar on it, which worked well enough. It was not meant for dive bombing, Van Halen type playing, but with a subtle touch, you could get those Allan Holdsworth styling’s.

I used the guitar for maybe two years, until GAS go a hold of me (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). I traded it for a Les Paul Custom. The original pickup went back on, and the rout was small enough to where you did not even notice that I took a screwdriver to it.

I really miss this guitar. It is the only one I ever regret getting rid of. With the damage I did to it, it may not be all that collectable, but it played great and had the true reliced look, due to years of playing and abuse by its former owner. Today, Gibson and others try to replicate that look. This one was the real deal.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Univox Hi-Flyer 1976

In the summer of 1976, aftera long beanwalking season, I bought this guitar. It was sitting at the music store where my mom bought sheet music. I had admired it for quite a long time, and when the $150 came in, I got it. I did not know much about guitars. I knew that Duane Allman played a Gibson Les Paul, but I had never played one yet. They were out of reach at that time.

This guitar is a Univox Hi-Flyer, a made in Japan model. It was a copy of a Mosrite from the early sixties. This guitar had two humbucking pickups and a vibrato bridge.
I recall that it had a nice neck and played very well. I had it a year and sold it to a kid in Iowa in the summer of 1977.
Who knew that Kurt Cobain would use this very model of guitar in the early days of Nirvana and cause the prices to go up on them a bit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I recently spent some quality time with a Fender Telecaster Thinline, a Made in Mexico semi-hollow guitar, modeled after the 1969 Thinline. This particular guitar was finished in a beautiful three color sunburst finish. This combo is one of my favorite color schemes.

The features are typical Telecaster, with a one piece maple neck with skunk stripe on the back of the neck, slotted tuners, 21 frets vintage style frets, three saddle adjustable ashtray bridge, and volume and tone controls. The neck was slightly chunky, with a laquered finish, which seems sticky to me, as someone who is used to satin finished necks. But I got over that quickly as I played this guitar through a Classic 30 amp.

The setup was great on this guitar, and finish darn near perfect. Then neck pocket was as it should be. The guitar does not weigh much at all, which is great for my old back.

All that aside, what about the guitar sound? I found that this guitar gave me the twang my Standard does not, although I am changing the pickups on that one soon. I play a lot of blues and classic rock music, and use Stratocasters, along with my Standard Telecaster. The guitar just sang and the semi-hollow body projects the sound beautifully. The neck pickup gets a smooth tone, slightly dark, if you roll off the treble. I really prefer the neck pickup on this guitar.

The bridge pickup is a little harsh, but controllable. I could see doing a pickup change someday but I don’t own this guitar, so I am only thinking out loud here.

This guitar is on my wish list, although I am really intrigued with building my own with Stew-Mac parts. I am a little wary of the small frets, and if I were to spend the money, I would want the larger frets.

However, if I never get around to building a partscaster, this one would do fine.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Agile AL2000

Here is a clip of the Agile AL2000, a korean made Les Paul copy. It is an alright guitar, but I am changing the pickups next year. The guitar itself is almost flawless in construction, and has a maple top with a thin flame veneer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

1983 - Gibson Explorer and Marshall Amp

In 1983, I owned this setup - a brand new first run Gibson Explorer from the new custom shop. I traded a 1983 57 reissue Stratocaster that I just could not get along with. (In the time between the two guitars, I borrowed a 1968 SG Standard, which was then just a 15 year old guitar that I rememer as being not so good and difficult to get along with. Who knew that would be worth so much today?)

The Marshall is a 50 watt from 1969-70, that was used through a Vox 6 x 10 cabinet. This was not the best set up for an apartment, even with the Powersoak!

I sometimes regret getting rid of that Explorer. It was all korina mahogany, with a fantastic neck. The vibrato bar on this picture was a Bolen Bar, that just sat on the exisiting stop tail set up. I did not have it on the guitar for long.
The Marshall was killer. The first time I played through it to test it out before buying, was the first time I had ever played through a Marshall. Somehow, I got the $475 for it all, even though I was only working parttime at a Pizza Hut. The amp did not do as well when I used it later with the strat. I was a bit naive about gear back then and could have used a distortion pedal or EQ with a booster to give it more bite. I bought the amp when I had a Les Paul, so I was using the same amp that Duane Allman used and a similar guitar (in name only, really). I did not sound like Duane, though, no matter how hard I tried.
I traded the amp for a Fostex x-15 four track, which I got many years of use out of and, since I was not a performer, made more sense to have.
The Explorer - well, I traded for a Hamer Prototype, a new guitar with a triple pickup system and Kahler vibrato bar. This guitar left the Explorer in the dust as far as playability and sound. When I got the Hamer, it was pure bliss. I used that guitar for many years as my main performing and recording guitar. As much as I regret getting rid of the Explorer, that Hamer gave me years of service. It is gone, traded for a Stratocaster.
Next mid 60's SG Jr., that I bought for $250 in 1981.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Randy Rhoads

I am a big fan of Randy Rhoads. I did not really know about him until after his death. I had the first LP, but never really listened to it much in 1981. In June of 1982, while learning songs in a band, someone played "Diary of a Madman." I was hooked. I wish I could have gone to Musonia, his mom's music school, when I was in Los Angeles. Hopefully I will have more time on the next trip out.
Here are a few pictures that a co-worker took in January of 1982, as they played the Met Center, now the site of a Mall of America parking lot.
I never got to see Randy play. All I have are these pictures. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 4, 2007