Sunday, November 29, 2009

Building a Telecaster from Scratch


I am crazy for Telecasters!

I have decided to go all out and build one from scratch. It is a crazy thing to do, since I almost lost the tip of my second finger on my left hand when I was routing and drilling my partscaster a few years ago. Last year, I went in to overdrive and got the guitar finished in a rough form. This summer I got a neck and bridge from GuitarFetish.com, transferred over parts from my other Telecaster and had a great sounding guitar. I twangs just the way a good Tele should! The neck is huge - way thicker than I am used to. However, it cost only $40 and is playable. I choose a light brown finish because I was too impatient to wait to order a 1950's era butterscotch color. I don't mind this color at all. It's different and brings out the grain in the wood, which I think is ash.
I did quite a lot research on the Telecaster Discussion Page, which has a section devoted to do-it-yourself players. I was inspired.

I have looked at guitars in the stores with a new eye, and can't justify ever spending a lot of money for one. Yes, I am cheap these days. There was a challenge issued by the Telecaster Page to build a functioning guitar for $100, which is what I plan to do for the first one. Once I broke down the actual construction, I realized that I have most of the tools to pull it off. So off I will go this winter. This guitar body will be easy to cut, but the neck will be hard. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Squier Classic Vibe Telecasters


I love Telecasters. I know have two of them - my trusty Standard - made in Mexico - and my just completed Tele-parts caster, of which I had to do all of the routing and assembly. It was a fun project that has inspired me to try and make one from scratch later next year.


Recently, I found myself in a music store, waiting for my daughter's flute to be repaired. This store had at least one of each popular model of Telecaster - the 52 reissue at around $1,500; a "new" road worn at around $900; a Highway one at around $600; a Standard at around $350 and the new Squier Classic Vibe at around $300. Since I had time to kill, I tried all of these guitars out through a Peavey Classic 30. Which was best? The lowly Squier. Why? It played beautifully, sounded like a Tele should - lots of twang, and had virtually no flaws anywhere on the body or neck. For the price, I do not think you can find a better deal. The Classic Vibe features a PINE body, which goes way back to the early days of the Telecaster. I found there was no difference in sound from the Squier and the 52 reissue - at least to my ears. Someone else may be to differ, but that is my opinion. The Roadworn and Highway One were certainly fine guitars, but for $300 the choice is obivious to me. I want one!

I will add that the two Classic Vibe STRATOCASTERS there were also great guitars. The 62 copy in Candy Apple Red and rosewood nect was flawless.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jimi Hendrix Film

I just discovered a short film about the early life of Jimi Hendrix. This film interviews Jimi's childhood friends, his two brothers Leon and Joe, and many other relatives. It also showed many of the places he lived in and went to school in. I found this to be an interesting movie, and gave a bit more insight to how Jimi grew up and how it shaped his music. Here is the link to movie on the Snags Film website. The film covers from 1941 to 1961, right up to where he went into the Army. I am looking for part 2.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alan Wilson of Canned Heat


I have just finished reading a book called "The 27 Club." The book is about all the influential musicians who have died at the age of 27. The book covers Robert Johnson, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, D. Boon, Kristen Plaff and many others who left this world. I wanted to more about

Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson was the leader, singer, and primary composer in Canned Heat, played guitar and harmonica, and wrote most of the songs for the band. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, majored in music at Boston University and played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit.

The nickname "Blind Owl" was due to his nearsightedness. While a member of Canned Heat, Wilson performed at both the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band's "Going Up the Country," which Wilson sang, has been referred to as the festival's unofficial theme song.
Alan was dedicated to the blues, and to the environment. He was one of the better bottleneck slide guitar players of the day, and was considered on of the best harmonica players around.
Wilson died in Topanga Canyon, California of a drug overdose at age 27. He had reportedly attempted suicide two times before and his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not clearly established and he left no note.
I have been watching video of Alan on YouTube, of which there are quite a few. His slide playing, on a 50's era Les Paul Goldtop, was not in the style of Duane Allman, but based on players like Johnny Lee Hooker.
Here are a few of them:






It is sad that Alan did not stick around. It would have been interesting to see where his music would have taken him. He is not one of the most well-known of the sixties-era muscians, but he has a lasting legacy to music. Check out the videos and leave a comment on what you think of Alan. I also wonder where that cool goldtop Les Paul is today!

Here are a few interesting Alan-related sites:

The Blind Owl Blues Blog
Alan's Biography "Blind Owl Blues" by Rebecca Davis Winters
Canned Heat Website

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gibson 339


I had some time to kill on Friday, so I ventured over to the local Guitar Center, a mere one block away. I do not go there much, but I needed strings.


I looked around for awhile, saw a few nice used guitars and the usual rows of beautiful Fender guitars on the wall. After a few minutes I walked into the private area, where the really expensive Les Pauls and other electrics are stored behind locked glass doors. Hanging on the wall were two 335's, two 339's and two Les Pauls. The sales guy said to help myself and try out any of them. So I did!


I have done these kindof tests before when I had the room to myself, and I had it to myself on Friday. I plugged into a Bogner amp, not sure of the model, but you could switch between 20 and 40 watts. It was a great amp, priced at $1,500. The first guitar to try was the Gibson 339, which is a smaller bodied version of the 335, and with a maple-poplar-maple laminate. The electronics are also different, with circuitry to maintain the highs when the volume is turned down. I loved this guitar, and at $1,799, was the cheapest in the room! The guitar had a sparkle to it, crisp highs and very warm lows. The guitar had no imperfections on it, as many Gibsons often do. In fact, all of the Gibsons I tried were perfectly made - no fret issues, no finish issues.


The 335 was next. The last time I played one, it smoked all the Les Pauls and SGs I tried out. This time, I felt it did not have the spark of the 339 and the large body was uncomfortable to me. Now I have never played the 339 until today, so the 335 has always been the one guitar I really would love to own. It was still a great guitar, but felt the 339 had more punch.


The Les Paul Traditional was next, and at high gain, it was great. However, at the low gain setting it felt it was muddy sounding. Plus the single cutaway, never an issue before, seems to bother me a bit now. I am used to the double cutaway of my Fenders. The Les Paul was still a great guitar and this one had everything going for it.


I am trying these out at low volumes, so it is hard to really get a feel for how they sound. I have no doubt that any one of these guitars would sound fantastic on stage or on recordings.


I give my vote to the 339, though, because it just cut through the rest, was lighter and very comfortable, and is a stunning guitar to look at.


I am no expert on these things. I know what I like, by the feel and sound. I have been sort of anti-Gibson as of late, and am not very fond of how they have run the company the last few years or so. However, if I had the cash, I would have a 339 sitting in my music room.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kings Of Leon


I guess I am a few years behind, as I have just discovered Kings of Leon. I have been listening to them quite alot as of late, thanks to LastFM.com, which has many of their songs posted.

Kings of Leon consists of Anthony "Caleb" Followill (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ivan "Nathan" Followill (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Michael "Jared" Followill (bass guitar, backing vocals), with their cousin Cameron "Matthew" Followill (lead guitar, backing vocals). They formed in Nashville in 1999, and soon were signed to RCA. Kings of Leon became very successful in Europe, and have opened of U2 and toured with Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam during 2005 and 2006.

I have been listening to "Only by the Night", their 2008 release. I like most of the songs here, unusual for me, as I tend to only like a few songs on any CD. "Manhattan", "Crawl", "Use Somebody", "Revelry", "Notion" and "Be Somebody" are my favorites here. Kings of Leon are very distinctive, with Calebs vocals standing out. He does not sound like anyone else in music today. You know it is him when you hear it. The guitar work is fantastic, not full of solos or guitar-wizardry, just simple work, with great tone coming from primarily Gibson guitars. Caleb uses an old Gibson ES-325 into a Matchless DC-30 or Lightning. I heard he recently smashed his 325 in a fit of rage during a concert.

Matthew uses an Epiphone Sheraton II into an Ampeg Reverbrocket, with pedals providing the overdrive tones. The Shearton is an inexpensive Korean or Chinese made semi-hollow guitar that has long been on my list to own.

Check Kings of Leon out. It took me long enough to start listening to them. You will not be disapponted.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health Care Reform

This has nothing to do with music, but it is on my mind. I hope the government can work out something to guarantee everyone healthcare insurance because any of us can find ourselves without it at any time. If I were to lose my job, my coverage for myself and my family would be very difficult - cost-wise and with preexisting conditions. I would not stand a chance with that one. Same for my siblings. A person should not have to die because they can't afford healthcare. What does that say about America?

And insurance companies should be held accountable for denying people who pay for coverage.

Something has to change, because most of us are one step away from having no health insurance. The very people who spread misinformation about this could easily find themselves without insurance. Who will they come running to for help then?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jim Weider Band


I have not had much time or interest in listening to music as of late. However, I have rediscovered the guitar-genius Jim Weider. I downloaded a free set of his music from the great website, Internet Archive, where there are thousands of free songs posted with the permission of the artist.

I have been listening to this and am convinced he is one of the best sort-of-unknown guitarists in the world.

I was fortunate to see him as part of the Levon Helm Band this past June. His role in that band was to add tasty Telecaster stylings, and to play mostly acoustic guitar. He did not play in the style I am listening to here, which convinces me he can play any style. On the sets from the Internet Archive, he is blasting away with a hell-bound fury.
By the way, during the Levon Helm show, he played ONE electric guitar, a vintage or a reissue of a 50's Telecaster. No changing guitars every song for this guy.

Do yourself a favor - check Jim's music out. Download a set from the Internet Archive. You can't preview the music there, but take a chance and do it.
Speaking the Internet Archive, take some time and explore this site. As I mentioned above, there are THOUSANDS of free songs here, all perfectly legal and live. I have downloaded quite a few Derek Trucks and Buckethead sets. If you enjoy cheesy Coronet educational films, you will find them here, as well as a few old TV ads and shows. This is good stuff, people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Michael Jackson at the Field Museum in Chicago


We were in Chicago on June 23. As I walked into the Egypt exhibit, I was taken aback with what I saw in the glass enclosure. I quickly called over to my son, who immediately said "What is Michael Jackson doing in there?" I took this picture and planned to post it, but he died soon after! Yesteday I saw that this was in the news. I am sure we were not the first to notice the resemblance!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Squier Classic Vibe Guitars

I am a bit behind on talking about the Classic Vibe series by Squier. They came out well over a year ago, however, my local Guitar Center had never even heard of them the last time I was there! Luckily, Best Buy has started selling guitars, and usually have in stock the guitars that Guitar Center does not. That was the case when I went to the local Best Buy (not that I really like the store much, but I needed some software), and low and behold, they had one of these sitting there waiting to be played.

The Stratocaster, in the 1950s style, looked identical to my old 1957 Stratocaster reissue that I owned many years ago. I was just stunned at how good of a guitar this was. The finish and fretwork was perfect, the sound was great as it was, although many would change out the pickups anyway, but as it was, it had the Stratocaster tone we all love. It has a very lightweight alder body, which looked to be two pieces, probably three in a beautiful two-tone sunburst.


At $349, you will not be disappointed with this. They did not have a Telecaster, but I am sure that it is great, too. The folks at the Telecaster Disccussion Page love this guitar.



If I needed another Stratocaster or Telecaster, I would get one of these over the Mexican-made Standards. The MIM's are great guitars, too, but this one would be closer to the vintage style. They are soooo better than those Road-worn models that I was ranting about a few weeks ago. Get one of these, maybe modify it to suit your needs, then take it out and play the heck out of it. Add your own sweat and tears to it rather than have it faked. I want one of these, but I do not NEED one!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fender Roadworn Guitars

Fender introduced a cheaper version of their relic, custom-shop guitars recently. I have played six of them at a few stores this past week.

These guitars are made in Mexico, and are mass-produced relics, with the wear and tear being the same on all guitars. How original. Take a brand new guitar, worth about $500, artificially tear it up and sell if for $950. Then have all the gear heads on the guitar forums go nuts over them, and have no problems what so ever buying them at these prices and feel great that they got a good deal. That is great if you like it and it makes you play better. More power to you.

I did not like any of these guitars. Here is an idea - try and play your guitar and put the wear and tear in on it yourself. These guitars were not very good at all. They did not sound or feel any different than the cheaper Mexican-made Strats and Teles. There was nothing special about them at all, other than the fact that you have spent way too much money for a guitar that looks just like the some other musicians guitar.

Some players prefer the worn-feel of a guitar. I get that. Totally. I have played pre-CBS Fenders and can attest to the fact that an old, worn in neck is heavenly. These did not feel that way at all to me.

The guitars did not sound any different than my American-made strats, or my Made in Mexico Telecaster, which is one of the best I have played.

Hey - if you like these guitars, good for you. You have found a guitar that meets your needs, so play the heck out of it. I just think it is all a bunch of Fender-hype.

I am crabby today and have probably had too much Corona.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Levon Helm in Concert


Levon Helm stopped by St. Paul to play at the historic Fitzgerald Theater, which is famous for hosing The Prairie Home Companion. Levon, almost 70 years old, played drums like he was still a young man, playing 2 and half hours with no breaks. After most songs, he gave a thumbs up to members of the band and played with a huge grin on his face. His enthusiasm spread to the band and to the audience.

Levon, along with his band featuring Jim Weider, Larry Campbell, Amy Helm, Teresa Williams, and other whose names escape me at the moment, played a mix of Americana bluegrass, gospel, country, along with a few songs he made famous with The Band.

His band is top notch, and were enjoying every minute on the stage, including a rousing Mardis Gras song, which had the brass section marchin around the stage.

The audience was made up of mostly baby boomers, who are of the age where they probably saw The Band in concert. The crowd was very vocal, and in this small, intimate setting, led to Levon interacting quite a bit, including signing an autograph for a woman as they were getting ready for the next song. Levon shook many a hand of the folks sitting in the front, and gave at least three sets of his drum sticks to people who had made there way to stand by his drumset. Class act all the way.

The music was fantastic, as was expected of musicians of this caliber. Levon is a true legend, who deserves every bit of the respect that is given him. I am so glad he stopped by here, as we thought we would never get to see him in concert.

I have to add that Larry Campbell can play anything with strings, and Jim Weider had the perfect Telecaster tone, although he played mostly an acoustic for the show. Check out Larry's website. He has played on many a CD and has toured with Bob Dylan and many others.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Linda Ronstadt


Last night we were watching "Walk the Line", the wonderful biopic of Johnny Cash. While it was on, I was looking him up on YouTube to see his old videos. Somehow I ended up switching over to videos of Linda Ronstadt. I was all of 14 when she started to really hit it big. I grew up listening to her music, as my brother had her albums and tapes. It is easy to forget her contribution to the music world. Linda was the first woman to ever play the arena circut. She was the first major woman rock star to tour the world and have multiple hits, such as "Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Your No Good, It's So Easy, When Will I Be Loved", and many more. She has been in the music business since 1965, and had a hit in the late 60's with "Different Drum", along with her band, The Stone Ponys. Her career spans over 30 years, from rock, to jazz, big band and Broadway.

When the MTV craze hit in the 1980's, she was eclipsed by others such as Madonna. However, Linda just moved over to another style of music and continued to sell millions of records.

I was a big fan of Linda back in the day, and really enjoyed looking at the videos from those days. Hearing her sing the songs mentioned above really brought me back to my teenage years, and made me remember just how much Linda's music was a part of that.

It was amazing to read her entry on Wikipedia, and to see just how many records she sold and how many awards she has.

Thanks, Linda, for your music!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yuto Miyazawa - 9 year old guitar prodigy on Ellen

Here is a link to the Ellen Show, featuring a 9 year old boy from Japan playing "Crazy Train." This youngster has been influenced by Randy Rhoads, as he is using a polka dot Flying V copy. He even mentions Randy as his influence, which goes right over Ellen's head. This is so cool to see Randy's influence on kids today. His gravestone says, "An inspiration to young people." How true that is. Randy has been gone for many years, so it is great to see his music being carried on by the young kids of today. I know how to play Crazy Train, but this young man does it way better than I ever could! Watch to whole thing, as there is a great suprise at the end.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Levon Helm Coming to St. Paul; Neko Case and Robin Trower

Spring is here, and once again, I do not have much to write about. When it finally gets nice up here in Minnesota, one does not want to spend too much time on the computer.

I was reading the paper last Friday, while in the break room at work, and chanced upon an ad for the upcoming Levon Helm concert at the Fitzgerald Theater on June 10. The tickets were going on sale at noon, so after checking with my wife to make sure she wanted to go, I was logged on at noon, ready to get the best tickets available. I managed to get middle section, five rows back from the stage. Not bad at all.

My wife is a fan of the The Band, and owns just about everything they have ever put out. She is at the moment playing songs on the piano from the rare songbook she found on ebay. She has been wanting to see Levon in concert, as he rarely tours. He performs shows at his house in Woodstock in his converted barn. These are called the "Midnight Rambles", and are available on DVD.

So imagine our suprise to see that he will be here in June! It should be an excellent show. One rarely gets the chance to see a musical legend up close.

I saw Neko Case a few weeks ago and was blown away by her voice and her band! If you ever get the chance to see her, go for it. It is hard to describe her music to people who have never heard it. Goth alternative country, maybe. Regardless, her voice is heavenly, and her band one of the best I have heard.

Robin Trower is coming here on June 28. I hope to get tickets. Another change to see a legend. I have been a fan of Robin since 1974, when I first heard "Bridge of Sighs", with that fantastic opening riff.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cosmosquad - Progressive Rock from Hollywood


I recently came across Cosmosquad, an instrumental trio from Hollywood, Ca. Very impressive music here.

Formed in 1997, the trio has released a DVD, Lights, Camera, Squad!, which adds their 4 CDs. The DVD features songs from all the previous releases, plus bonus features. The band consists of guitarist Jeff Kollman, drummer Shane Gaalaas and bassist Christopher Maloney.

Cosmosquad is best described as a progressive rock band, and are worth checking out. The band has a few videos on YouTube as well . I found them on LastFM.com.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Shane Speal and the Cigar Box Guitar

This is just amazing. Shane Speal, cigarboxguitar.com, has been playing a guitar made out of a cigar box and a stick, with three strings. It just goes to show you can make music with just about anything.

Shane is called the "King of Cigar Box Guitar" and has released 10 CDs so far. Check out his website for more information.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Allman Brothers Band - "Please Call Home" movie on DVD


I have been waiting for this one for awhile - a film about the Allman Brothers Band's time in Macon, when they lived at the "Big House". The big house was their home from 1970-1973. This is where most of them lived at one time or another. It was where many of the songs were written, and where they rehearsed. It was also the last place Duane Allman was at before his death on October 29, 1971. The house has a long history, and is currently owned by Kirk West, the ABB's road manager. It acts as a museum, as well, with many historical items from the band's long history.

From the website, www.thebighousemuseum.org:

"You’ll be able to sit on the front porch where Duane Allman and Berry Oakley whiled away all those hot Southern afternoons, making music, making friends and making history. You can walk up the steps to that porch and almost hear the footsteps of Jaimoe or Butch Trucks or Chuck Leavell walking up beside you. Those bells you hear in the distance on a Sunday morning? They’ll ring forever in Dickey Betts’ “Blue Sky.” You’ll find out what it was about the place that made it magic, that made it special, that made it home—so much so that when Gregg Allman wrote, “Please Call Home,” this is the home he was writing about. This is where the journey began and the Big House Foundation is now making this one little stretch of Vineville Avenue in Macon, Georgia the road that goes on forever. "

"Please Call Home" was made by Bright Blue Sky Productions and The Big House Foundation and was produced as a fundraiser for the Big House Foundation. Visit the website, www.pleasecallhomethemovie.com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Neko Case "Middle Cyclone", Hamer Echotone guitar

Neko Case has put out another excellent CD. I have yet to listen to all of it - probably over half. So far, I am very impressed. Current favorite is "People Got A Lotta Nerve", with it's very jangly 12-string electric guitar played by Paul Rigby and fantastic backing vocals by Kelly Hogan, Rachel Flotard and Nora O'Connor. Garth Hudson, the legendary keyboardist for The Band, makes numerous appearences, as well. Neko is in fine form. As an added bonus, the artwork on the package is great. She is a very talented artist. I am looking forward to seeing Neko in concert on April 26, her last concert on this leg of the tour.

On the guitar side - I just tried out a Hamer Echotone, a Made in Korea ES-335 clone. I have heard good things about the Echotone, but have never found one to try until last weekend. The guitar had a very slim rosewood neck, medium size frets and near flawless finish. It is hard to believe they sell these for under $500. The body is laminated maple, with a sunburst finish. Weight seemed to be tolerable, probably around 7 lbs.

Tone was very good, too, but a bit on the harsh end. Could have been the amp, though. Pickups are usually the first thing people change on an inexpensive guitar. I would change them out if I owned this guitar just because I like alnico pickups better than ceramics. A minor change on a very nice guitar.

I like the Echotone much better than the Epiphone Dot, which has a shorter curve on the bottom cutaway, which really interferes with my ability to play on the upper frets. The Echotone is very much like a Gibson ES-335 in this regard, with no problems reaching those high frets.

March 19 was the anniversary of the passing two great guitarists - Randy Rhoads and Paul Kossoff. Total opposites on the playing spectrum, but legendary in the guitar world. They are both very much missed.

If anyone out there has visited my website, Retro Ads and Graphics, I have since added more old ads in the last week or so. I have many more to come. So far, the site has gotten visitors from Europe, New Zealand, and a few states in the US. I have discovered many more sites doing the same thing so there seems to be quite a few of us designers out there who appreciate this kind of thing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Neko Case - "Middle Cyclone" released today!



I am really looking forward to hearing Neko Case's new CD, which came out today. I love her music, but I also admire her artwork skills. This looks like her work. The artwork on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was excellent.

From her website: "Middle Cyclone features Neko backed by her much-beloved core band - guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse, and drummer Barry Mirochnick - along with numerous guests including M. Ward, Garth Hudson, Sarah Harmer, and members of The New Pornographers, Los Lobos, Calexico, The Sadies, Visqueen, The Lilys, and Giant Sand, among others." She is coming in concert to the State Theater later this spring. I am thinking of going, as the State is a great place to see a concert.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My New Website: Retro Ads and Graphics



The new site is called RETRO ADS AND GRAPHICS.

It does not have much to do with music, although I put in a music/TV/film category. I recently discovered boxes of old magazines at a relatives house. I was impressed with the beautiful artwork in many of the ads, particularly from Saturday Evening Post and Life. Many of the ads were full page, in full color and wonderfuly illustrated. Most car ads of the day used drawings instead of photos. In fact, illustrations were used on most ads, up until the mid 1960's. I wanted a project to practice my web design and web programming skills, so here it is.

I will be adding many more advertisements and interesting graphics, logos and color artwork over the next few months. I have lots of source material and hope to expand to other types of magazines, hoepfully music related ones. I have put two old ads from issue 17 of Rolling Stone: an ad for The Pink Floyd and one for a new Doors release. I also have access to old catalogs, with lots of pictures of old guitars and amps. Check it out and feel free to leave any comments.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buddy Holly and the Surf Ballroom

The Surf Ballroom, located in Clear Lake, Iowa is best known as the last place that Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens performed at before their deaths in a place crash on February 2, 1959. This has placed in as an important place in the history of rock music. We took a drive down to Clear Lake one summer day, a two and a half hour drive from Minneapolis. (I grew up only a hour west of here but had never taken the time to visit. It was long overdue.)


Walking into the Surf was like walking into another time, bringing back memories to me from my youth. The Surf is not unlike the other ballrooms I have been too: Fox Lake Ballroom in Sherburn, Minnesota, Kato Ballroom in Mankato, Minnesota (where Buddy played a few weeks before the Surf show) or the Playmor Ballroom in Glencoe, Minnesota. It has dark interiors, the lights are dim and it has that lingering smell of cigarette smoke that must be embedded in the wood after all those years.


The ballroom is huge, with booths set along side of the dance floor. The old phone booth is there, where Buddy called his wife for the last time. The walls are lined with signed photos of all the other musicians that have visited over the years and there is a small bar and restaurant off to the side with very small stage in the corner. Everything is preserved as it was back then. If you sit there for a few minutes and let your mind wander, you can imagine yourself here in 1959, seeing the last show. One cannot help feel sad knowing that this is the last place they ever made music.


As we were walking around, the crew from Walter Trout and Little Feat were setting up for the concert that night. We visited the gift shop and found the directions to the crash site, which at that time, were not advertised or marked. We drove to the area, and saw another car parked on the side of the road. It was a short walk along the edge of a bean field to the site, which was in a corn field. The corn was at least seven feet tall, but we found the trail that led to the small memorial. The path was well worn, as thousands of people have made this walk.

One can only imagine what these musicians would have gone on to. Buddys influence is still felt and heard in many of the bands that came after. The Beatles were obviously very influenced by Buddy, which shows in their early music. He was one of the first in popular music to use the Fender Stratocaster, to great effect with his rhythm and lead playing. He wrote his own music, and took control over the recording process. I have to give Norman Petty some credit, even though he did rake Buddy and the Crickets over the coals. (My mom knew Norman in the years before Buddy, so I try to be impartial toward him. She said he was a nice guy.)




A few years ago, we went to the Martin County Fair in Fairmont, Minnesota to see the original Crickets, J.T. Allison and Joe B. Mauldin with longtime Buddy Holly friend, Sonny Curtis. They put on a great show to an enthusiastic crowd. We were watching and hearing history making musicians here.




Rest in peace, Buddy, Big Bopper and Ritchie. Thanks for the music you left us.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

1983 Squier Telecaster and my Partscaster

I have been borrowing a friends Made in Japan Squier Telecaster. This guitar is fantastic, and has the best tone of any Tele I have ever played. I do not know why it sounds so good, as this guitar was designed to compete with the Tokai, Fernandes and Ibanez copies that were cutting into Fenders market. These Squiers, especially the ones with the JV and SQ serial numbers, are very popular in the collectors market, with prices going up to $500. Not bad for a guitar that probably cost a $200. This Telecaster, with the SQ serial number, is modeled after a vintage 50's era Tele. I have played the Squiers that were made after the 70's-era Fenders, with the three hole neck plate and top loading strings. They were nice, but not like this one.

This video took me at least 15 takes! I never did get it perfect, and had problems hearing the backing track. But what the heck... it was fun to do and I just like playing this guitar.





I just finished routing out the wood on this partscaster. I bought the body a few years back, and just got around to doing the work on it.

I wanted to assemble and test it before I committed to buying the parts so I took apart my Fender Standard Telecaster, transfered over the parts and wired it all up. The two piece ash body sounds excellent, with better tone than the alder Fender body. I am going to take it apart in the spring, and finish the body in a butterscotch or amber color, like the Fenders of the 1950's. I will eventually buy the rest of the parts, and hope to have it all done by the end of the year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac



I am not a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. But I sure enjoy the first incarnation of the the band. Most people probably know the most successful line up of the band, with Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Nicks. However, the band started in 1967 when guitarist Peter Green did a recording session and called the band Fleetwood Mac. He was the guitarist in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, replacing Eric Clapton. Also in the band was John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. McVie refused to join the new band at first, even if his name was part of the bands name. He liked the steady paycheck of the Bluesbreakers.

Once he joined, the band added Jeremy Spencer on lead guitar and vocals, and the band set out to spread the blues gospel around the world. Danny Kirwan was added as another guitarist, giving the band the a rare three lead guitar line up. The hit "Albatross" set the band to the top of the charts, and an American tour followed.

The troubles that set in at this point are legendary. Jeremy Spencer took off in Los Angeles, and never came back, joining a cult. Peter Green went into a journey fueled by LSD and other drugs.

The point of this post is the share with all of you a wonderful 12 part series I watched this weekend on YouTube. This show documents the rise and fall of Peter Green, who is even today a highly influential guitarist. It is a miracle he is still with us and making music. He is not the guitarist he used to be, but that is ok. He is still important.







A sidenote: in the early 1970's, Peter gave away or sold most of his possessions, including a sunburst 1959 Gibson Les Paul, with the famous neck pickup modification (turned around upside down, contributing to his trademark tone). The guitar ended up with guitarist Gary Moore for many years, until he sold it a few years back. The guitar is currently for sale for $2 million. The guitar has been making the rounds at guitar shows for years and has been played by many guitarists. What a great, and expensive, piece of music history.