Sunday, April 20, 2008

1970 -- Janis Joplin, The Beatles and The Doors

In 1970, I was 8 years old. I have an older sister who is 11 years older than me, and who graduated in 1969. She has good taste in music and often gave me her old albums to listen to. Up to that point, I had lots of 45's, as our uncle had been a disc jockey in the mid 60's, and had lots of for-promotion-only discs to share. Many of the 45's were surf music -- Dick Dale, The Astronauts, Beach Boys, The Hondells, The Ventures and so on. There were British groups, like The Shadows (with Hank Marvin) and of course, The Beatles. We had almost all of the original Capital Records Beatles 45's, all lost to time, with the lone survivor being an open-ended interview with the DJ inserting his voice into the spaces to make it appear he was doing the interview.

My sister gave me her Big Brother and the Holding Company LP, Cheap Thrills, with the late great Janis Joplin. For some reason, I just loved this record. I had no idea who Janis was, nor did I know anything about hippies, the summer of love, or who Jimi Hendrix was – you get the idea. I was only 8 years old and did not pay any attention to the news.

My head, like most boys my age, was wrapped up in the Apollo space program. But music like this got my attention. You had never heard any rock singer doing what Janis was doing. We were listening to light rock, like The Mamas and The Papas. Mama Cass didn't sing like Janis. She poured her soul into the songs, and all that pain of a troubled childhood came out in an explosion of song. I wished I remembered what drew me to this music. Unfortunately, one of
the things I remember is my sister telling me that Janis died.

At the same time, I got in to the Beatles big time. I wanted to be a drummer, so I spent a lot of time looking at Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs, wanting the silver swirl drum set that Ringo used. Guitars were not much of a thought, even though I tended to prefer guitar rock, like Duane Eddy and The Shadows. My most prized possession was a piano and guitar songbook of The Beatles music. I would make dioramas of a stage, with each member in his own spot. And if I behaved, my sisters would let me watch "Help", which we never did see, since the reception on the TV was so poor. I think I was tricked with that one.

Later, along with the Beatles, my sister gave The Doors to listen to. Jim Morrison must have made an impact on me, as I would go around the neighborhood yelling "We want the world and we want it now!" from When the Music's Over. That got some attention!

The whole point of this rambling goes back to Janis, though. I was watching her on YouTube, where at a concert in Germany, she invited members of the audience up on stage to sing and dance. They crowded around her, singing "Piece of My Heart", and the end, she took a bow and had a huge smile on her face. Janis was a household-name rock star, who led a very lonely life, but at that moment, she just seemed to be on top of the world.

I was lucky to have found this music early in life, as I was a fan -- a young one at that -- at a time when she was still alive. Now she is a music legend.

This music, along with many other songs to be discovered later, is the soundtrack of my life.
Thank you to my sister, who took the time to give me this music to discover and explore.
Also, thanks to my parents, who never paid any attention to what I was listening to!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beware of Counterfeit Electric Guitars from China

Word is starting to get around the internet that there are many fake electric guitars, branded with Gibson and Fender logos, flooding the marketplace in America. These guitars are offered at ridiculously low prices, and to the uninformed, look like the real deal.

These guitars have been selling through e-bay for quite some time. Only recently has there been any kind of publicity about it. One hates to think of any young guitarist losing all their money, thinking they bought a real Les Paul, only to find out it was a plywood fake.

It is not always easy to tell by looking at a small picture if the guitar is fake. To me, the first thing I notice on a modern Gibson is that the fret ends are always covered with the neck binding. Not so on a fake one - the frets go right over the binding and to the edge of the neck. Also, Gibson uses two screws on the truss rod cover. The fakes use three. Most often, the control covers on the back of a real Gibson are brown. Fakes are white or cream.

The links below go into detail about spotting the fakes. I would imagine that the biggest problem is Americans who buy these in bulk, and sell through Craigslist or other classified ads to unsuspecting adults and kids who just want to own the real thing, be it a Fender, Gibson
or PRS. E-bay does not seem to be doing anything about it yet, although I suspect that will change in the near future.

Here are a few links to read about: Modern Guitars, Vintage Rock, Sonic State,, and Free

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Unknown Hinson: The King of Country Western Troubadours

I just discovered this guy and am not sure what to make of him. I just know that he is one heck of a great guitar player.

Unknown Hinson, whose real name is Stuart Daniel Baker, was a music teacher and studio musician from Charlotte, North Carolina. He created Unknown for a cable TV show that featured comedy sketches and concert footage.

He started touring and was "wowing audiences with his outrageous and campy, white-trash persona and freewheeling, sleazy tone. Hinson's most recent CD release, "Target Practice", melds weepy twang and searing guitar riffs and lyrics that speak of love-gone-bad and the dark side of the honky-tonk lifestyle. Raucous, theatrical and over-the-top, Unknown Hinson isn't just for the trailer park set anymore!" (Source:

I spent some time last night watching him on YouTube and found that his guitar tone is fantastic. He plays a Reverend with P-90 pickups through Vox amps. Twang tone for days here! Plus, the guy is funny as hell. Some of his fans include Billy Bob Thorton, Matt Groening (creator of the Simpsons), Tom Petty, and even the Rolling Stones.

A few links: Review in Illinois Entertainer; Wikipedia Entry, and an interesting interview at

I would definently go see him in concert. I would love to have his guitar tone. That Reverend though the Vox is raunch rock and roll at its best. Check him out on YouTube!