Saturday, December 31, 2011

Freddy King - Chicago Blues Guitarist

Freddy King is sometimes described as a bluesman, but he successfully blended many different styles of music and came up with his own distinctive sound. He was one of the first blues guitarists who broke through to a main stream audience. His instrumental hits, such asHideaway, influenced many a young guitar player, among them Eric Clapton. His many songs have been covered by Jeff Beck, Clapton, Peter Green, and ZZ Top.
Freddy King was born in 1934 in Gilmer, Texas. By 1940, he had already learned to play the guitar and by 1949, moved to Chicago.Once he arrived, he went to blues clubs where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter performed. He often sat in with these bands and made friends with the musicians. His skills were growing, as the guitarists he met often taught him new techniques.
In 1956, he made his first record, signed to the El-Bee label in Chicago. The single, Country Boy/That’s Not What You Think was released. It was not a hit, and Freddy did not record again for at least 4 years.
Freddy signed to the King/Federal label in 1960 and recorded several singles, many of them having vocals on the A side, and an instrumental in the B side. A B side,Hideway, became a success on blues and rock radio reaching #5 on the R&B charts and #29 on the pop charts. He followed up with an instrumental album called Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away.
Freddy continued his success throughout the 1960s, with many releases. He did his first tour of Europe in 1969, and toured with Eric Clapton in 1974. Eric Clapton recorded a cover of Hideaway on the John Mayall Bluesbreakers “Beano” album in 1965. This album is often credited with inventing the sound of rock guitar, the classic combo of a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier.
Freddy used mostly Gibson ES-355 guitars for much of his career. He also used and ES-345, Les Pauls and a Firebird. He did not use a flat pick, using a steel finger pick on his right-hand forefinger and a plastic thumb pick on his thumb. He used Fender Twin Reverb and a Fender Quad combo amplifier near the end of his career.
Freddy died of pancreatitis on December 18, 1976 at the age of 42

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gretchen Menn

I just discovered this great guitarist, Gretchen Menn, thanks to the folks at

How many people in the world go from being a commercial pilot career to a career as a guitarist? There are a few who do the opposite - Steve Morse and Bruce Dickenson come to mind.

Gretchen gave up her short career as a pilot to pursue her dream of music. A graduate of Smith College with a degree in music, it says on her web site:

After a year in the jet, with the life of an airline pilot being more than a little incompatible with a career in music, Gretchen relinquished her position with the airlines, knowing that there was a pilot out there somewhere who would appreciate the opportunity. She decided to take a more direct approach to realizing her musical dreams.

And she has.

Her music spans jazz, funk, rock, progressive, and metal. In 2007, she formed Sticks and Stones, with guitarist Mickael Tremel and drummer Sam Adato. She has played in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, Zeperalla, and is currently at work on her first solo release.

Gretchen has been influenced by Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, and Frank Zappa, which shows in her music. I detect a number of Eric Johnson styles in her songs, and her sound is very much like Steve Morse. Not copying him, but adding a new twist to it.

Gretchen is the daughter of renowned music journalist and Guitar Player magazine editor, Don Menn.

Monday, December 5, 2011

3.2 Million Ink Dots

Wow! Incredible amount of pre-planning and patience needed to do this!

Hero from Miguel Endara on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Jezabels - Modern Rock from Australia

I love hearing a new band for the first time. I was wandering around YouTube in search of something new. It was with great pleasure that I found The Jezabels. 

The Jezabels began in Byron Bay, Australia, where singer Hayley Mary and keyboardist Heather Shannon worked together before moving to Sydney to study. The pair met up with drummer Nik Kaloper and guitarist Sam Lockwood and formed a band for their university's band competition in 2007.

The band was a hobby at first, but with some success behind them, they began treating The Jezabels more seriously. They started to write their own material and hone their playing skills.  The band's first release was the 2009 EP The Man is Dead, the first releases.  It received good reviews online and the band's profile was built upon when the single Hurt Me from their follow-up release She's So Hard began getting widespread airplay both locally and in the United States.

The Jezabels landed a support slot for duo Tegan & Sara. They tour took the band around the country as they headlined venues to positive reviews. The third EP, Dark Storm, found the band experimenting on both instrumentation and lyrical themes. The EP would top the Australian iTunes charts and also have a lengthy stay in the upper reaches of the ARIA alternative charts.

The band started an extensive tour of North America in 2010, with shows in the US and Canada, and sold out a series of Australian shows as well as appearing on the bill of numerous summer festivals. Early 2011 saw the band venture overseas with more shows added in the US as well as the UK, as well as start on the recording of their debut album, Prisioner.

The Jezabels remind of U2, with a few of their songs having a massive wall of sound, almost tailor made for an arena. Hayley Mary’s vocals are very similar to Tonya Donnelly and Shona Laing. The guitar work of Sam Lockwood is very much in the style of The Edge, but different enough to stand out as unique. The drumming on the song, Deep Wide Ocean, are fantastic. This is my favorite song so far off of the Prisoner CD. It is rare that I like most of the songs off a CD. Prisoner could be an exception as so far, I like every song.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Duane Allman

40 years ago today Duane passed on.  Thanks for the music, Duane.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Visit Hubpages for More of My Articles

I have been doing a fair amount of writing on in the last few weeks. If you would like to read a few of them, here our the links:

Iconic Guitars in Rock History Part 2 - Rory Gallagher's 1961 Fender Stratocaster 
Freddie Gruber - Drummer and Teaching Master  
Cliff Gallup - Legendary Guitarist with Gene Vincent  
Mountain - Heavy Metal Pioneers 
Duane Eddy - King of the Twang Guitar 
Jim Weider - Guitarist with The Band and Levon Helm
Iconic Guitars in History Part 1 - Duane Allman and Peter Green 
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Early Blues and Rock Music Pioneer 

Hubpages does not get picked up in Google as quickly as this blog, but I prefer the ease of Hubpages. Please let me know if like any of them or found them interesting.  Any visits are appreciated!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cindy Cashdollar - Virtuoso Pedal Steel, Dobro Player

I love the sound a pedal-steel guitar and dobro. I have never attempted to play either, despite being able to get at least some sound from any instrument with strings.  One of the best today is Cindy Cashdollar, now based in Austin, Texas.  Cindy's pedal steel and dobro skills have her in much demand in the music business, as evident with her work with many of the leading artists in  music including Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Asleep at the Wheel, Garrison Keillor, Marcia Ball, Jorma Kaukonen, Leon Redbone, BeauSoliel, Daniel Lanois, Redd Volkaert, and Dave Alvin.

Cindy was born and raised in Woodstock, New York where she perfected her skills by performing with bluegrass legend John Herald, blues great Paul Butterfield, Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band, others. What a great way to start your career and pay your dues. Imagine sitting in with Levon and Rick, two legends of rock music. Cindy went on the road for eight years with the band Asleep At The Wheel, which netted her five Grammy awards. She has continued to work with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and The Dixie Chicks, Bob Dylan, Redd Volkaert, Ryan Adams, among many others.

In 2004 she toured as a member of Ryan Adam’s band The Cardinals. She also recorded the CD Cold Roses with Adams.In 2006, she toured with Van Morrison, who was touring to promote his Pay the Devil release and is also a  member of Dave Alvin's 2009 project, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women.

Cindy appears frequently on Garrison Keillor's live radio program,  A Prairie Home Companion and also works as a teacher. Cindy gives workshops and has produced four instructional DVDs distributed by Homespun Tapes. Her debut CD, Slide Show, featured guest artists such as Marcia Ball, Steve James, Mike Auldridge, and Sonny Landreth. Any song recorded with Sonny has to be good, as he is the master of the slide guitar.

Cindy was inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame on March 12, 2011during the Texas Steel Guitar Association's weekend of concerts, seminars, and awards. Cindy is the first female to be inducted, and dedicated the honor to Marian Hall, whom she cited as "truly one of the greats and one of the first female pioneers of the instrument".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visit my Hubpage Page!

This past weekend I discovered Hubpages, a web site that makes writing and posting much easier. The content on these pages are different than here, for the most part, as Hubpages does not allow duplicate postings. I found that out fairly quickly! This forces me to come up with new content. I am not a prolific blogger, as anyone who visits this site on a regular basis has probably noticed. However, with winter on its way, I usually find more time to write. Lately,I have been finding more inspiration, as well. Not sure why - it just kicks in.

A few of the topics I have put up on Hubpages are an article on Freddie King, Cliff Gallup, Freddie Gruber, who passed away yesterday, and a sort of repeat about my discovery of surf music while just a young kid. Here is my site. Please stop by from time to time, as the content there will be different from this blog. I have now put more pressure on myself to write on a more regular basis!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - 'Lux Aurumque'

I found this gem on YouTube a few nights ago and am one what is probably my 20th listening of it.
I was logoking for choral music, just for fun, to expand my music collection. I particularly like music that has been used in films. It is hard to find, as I often do not take note of who does the music in a film.

The following video is by renowned conductor and composer Eric Whitacre. He was impressed by the a video of a young woman singing one of his songs that was posted to Youtube. He thought if she could do this, what about getting 100s of people to post their part, then string them together to make a virtual choir. He did this with his song "Sleep." It was a great success. So he decided to do it again with his song, Lux Aurumque. He offered up a backing track and had the sheet music downloaded for free for each person to sing their parts. He then taped himself conducting the song, conducting to the music in his head. After it was done, it was put together in this video. This is quite possibly the most beautiful music I have ever heard. There are multiple versions of this song around, by other choirs, marching bands and orchestras. But I like this best. Here is Eric explaining how it all came to be. Please let me know what you think of this. It is just breathtaking.

Monday, September 12, 2011

PRS McCarty

I do not know how many guitar players read my far and few between ramblings. But perhaps someone will appreciate this.

Yesterday,  I was able to get time on my friends PRS McCary guitar. These have been around for many years. They were designed as an attempt to recapture the Allman Brothers tone on the Fillmore East album, and as a tribute to Ted McCarty, the inventor of the humbucking pickup and designer of many of Gibsons finest guitars. I have never played this guitar for long, and this was the first time we switched guitars. He played my Strat and found it be an easy guitar to play.

PRS guitars can get a bad rap as an elitist guitar, due to its price. Yes, they are pricey, but no more than your average Gibson. This guitar was fairly light, and sounded fantastic through the Mesa Boogie Lonestar I was using. It was a joy to play a guitar that is so different than the Stratocaster and Telecaster that I normally play. For once, I had sustain and a tone that punched through, full and strong. The pickups can be tapped by pulling up on the tone knob, adding even more sounds.

In the next few years, I hope to add a guitar of this caliber to my meager collection. I would choose this over a Les Paul for the easy fret access, and the lighter weight. It does not sound like a Les Paul, of course, but I am so  used to double cutaway guitars that a single cutaway is difficult for me to use.  The McCarty is still an expensive guitar even at used prices, between $1500-1800, about what you would expect to pay for a Les Paul Standard, a Hamer Monaco or a Heritage.

PRS offers the Starla and Mira at lower prices that the McCarty. I will have to check those out, as well.

PRS offers the affordable SE line of guitars made in Korea. I have played these at the store many times. These guitars are finely made, but I would always be wanting the real deal!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aram Bedrosian - bass player master

Apologies that I have not posted much. Been busy with summer stuff and vacations.

Found this on Reddit, as I seem to be spending so much time there.

This is bass player Aram Bedrosian. I know nothing about him except that he is AWESOME.
From his website:

Aram Bedrosian is a soloist, ensemble player, composer and teacher from Burlington, Vermont. He is hard at work on a follow-up to his debut album of unaccompanied solo bass guitar pieces which continues to earn international acclaim for it's balance of technical achievement and musicality. He has performed on stages across the country, appeared on dozens of albums, has a private teaching studio in Burlington and is the resident bass instructor at Johnson State College.

I love finding musicians like this. They take their craft to a whole new level. What is also amazing that their are lots more musicians of this caliber out there. I would love to see Aram with a band but could not seem to find that. Regardless, great musicianship.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Marc Bolan of T-Rex

A few weeks ago, we watched the excellent Ringo Starr-produced video, Born to Boogie. This movie featured a restored concert from 1972, featuring T-Rex at their peak. Now of course, I have heard of T-Rex many times, mostly from the song, "Bang a Gong."  That was about the extent of my knowledge about the original glam rocker Marc Bolan, excpet I knew that he died in 1977 in a car accident. 

What I did not realize was JUST HOW GOOD this band was!  Marc Bolan was a great performer.  His guitar work, most three chord rhythm, was excellent, with a fantastic growling tone coming from his 50s Les Paul.  I was even more amazed that he used solid state amps.  I would have thought that tone was from a Marshall.

We were both very impressed with not only Marcs musicianship, but with the rest of the band, as well.  What was interesting to me was that this music sounded like it could have been released today. I  heard bits of Green Day here.  I also noticed that Mark was very much in the same style as his good friend, David Bowie. The radio stations only play Bang a Gong so that was my exposure to T-Rex.  This DVD has the band playing many of their other hits that were popular in the UK.

Sadly, T-Rex only lasted a few  years, and Marc fell out of fashion. He was making comeback of sorts when he died in a car accident. He was very much excepted in the new punk rock scene taking place in London, as he influenced many of those young kids.

Gibson has now released a version of his famous orange Les Paul. This guitar was refiished after Marc bought it. The orange was meant to mimic a Gretsch guitar played by his idol, Eddie Cochran, who also died young in a car crash in England. The reissue guitar features a neck from a Les Paul Custom, as the original neck broke and was replaced. After watching the concert, I can see why it broke. Marc runs around and jumps around on stage that it was only a matter of time!

Marc also played a white pre-CBS Strat, a Zeimitas, and a Gibson Flying V.  All of his guitars were stolen hours after his death, with only the Flying V accounted for.

 It amazes that here I am, 48 years old, still discovering great music recorded during the 1970s. There was so much great music done then. Who else can I "discover"?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A radio stations impact on my young life - KAAY Beaker Street

In 1973 I was just a little kid of 11 years old, sharing a room with my older brother. His musical tastes ran with the Eagles, James Taylor, CCR, etc. I was not yet into music much, and would rather have been looking at books about space and airplanes. However, I always had an ear tuned to the radio when he would turn in on as we went to bed. He had a thing where he would tape songs off the radio, log them and listen to them later. His favorite was KAAY in Little Rock, Arkansas. During the day KAAY was a top 40 station, but starting at 11 p.m. through 6 a.m., the signal was boosted and the real rock and roll began on the radio program, Beaker Street.

By the end of 1973 I had my own room and a new radio and tape recorder. I tuned into to Beaker Street and stayed up late listening to the music. I heard Rush when "Working Man" had just been released, Blue Oyster Cult way before they hit big with "Don't Fear the Reaper." They played Peter Frampton, "Do You Feel Like I Do" before he beacame a household name and everyone was buying it. Beaker Street was one step ahead of mainstream radio.

Here are a few artists I discovered: Robin Trower - they played "Bridge of Sighs." He had me at the opening riff of the song! Led Zepplin - I knew who they were, but REALLY got into them after hearing "No Quarter" off of the The Song Remains the Same. Utopia - Todd Rundgrens band. Steve Miller Band - they were playing "Fly Like an Eagle" which I quickly ran and bought. A few months later it was on mainstream radio. Alan Parsons Project, UFO, Tommy Bolin and many others.

Of course, it was Beaker Street that played the Allman Brothers Band at 1 a.m. on a late December night in 1973, when I awoke from a dream and turned on the radio to hear the most incredible sound I had ever heard: Duane Allman playing the solo on "You Don't Love Me" from the Fillmore East album. This few minutes changed my musical life. Before this, I had a few albums - Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and a handful of cassettes. I had always wanted to play guitar, but put it off. This night changed that.

Anyways, the DJ never did tell who was playing that song! In the morning, I asked my brother, who was up at the same time. He told me he thought he heard the Allman Brothers Band. I had no idea who they were, even though the were very popular at the time. Once I knew that,I bought the albums (thanks to my mom who never seemed to mind buying them) and starting soaking all this great music in. I bought a guitar from a friend and started to teach myself to play.

To this day, I still love to pick up one of my guitars and just play it for a few hours. I never played pro, and have no regrets about that. I continue to love music, old and new, and appreciate the amount of work an artist puts into keeping us entertained!

The point of this post is that if it were not for radio programs like KAAY's Beaker Street, I probably would never have started to play music. So thank you to whoever started it up. The program influenced myself and countless others to start making music.

As I researched this I came across many others who had the same experience as I did. The author of this article sums up my feelings and even did a great list of the songs he discovered.

There is a Beaker Street Facebook page, as well.

Someone has posted an audio clip of Beaker Street!

A Youtube clip with the DJ Clyde Clifford

This is the music they played in the background between songs!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dominic Frasca

I was just surfing around Youtube and came across Dominic Frasca. This is just insane guitar playing. How on earth does he do this? Called "Eddie Van Halen for eggheads", Dominic plays guitars that are modified by himself, creating an amazing technique and unique sound.  Click onto his website and read his bio. He attended Yale and Cornell and has dealt with injuries to his hands due to his intense playing. He is from Akron, Ohio and now lives in Manhatten, where he performs and writes his own music. This is amazing music. I am glad I found this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shawn Lane

Shawn Lane was one year younger than me. When I was 15, I was just learning how to play the guitar, struggling to get my fingers to go to the right place and to get my right hand to work with my left hand. At the same time, Shawn was playing lead guitar for Black Oak Arkansas. Child prodigy? I would think so.

Back in the 70's, a young guitarist with advanced skills was rare. And Shawn did not stop there. He was an accomplished piano player, drummer and song writer.

Shawn studied piano and cello when he was four years old. He started playing guitar at eight. He started his professional music career at 12 and 14 he was hired to play for Black Oak Arkansas. Video available on YouTube shows Shawn playing at age 16 as BOA was in the end of their career and playing a hybrid of rock and fusion jazz.

Shawn left the music world briefly to pursue academic studies. He was known for reading multiple books in a day. A few years later he started up his career again, forming a band called The Willys, who became the house band at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. While there he caught the attention of many musicians, and did sessions with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash on the Highwayman 2 release.

I had read about Shawn in the guitar magazines during the 80's, but had yet to actually hear him play. He was the type of person who wanted to do things is own way, and did not seem to care about achieving stardom. In 1992 he wrote, recorded and played all the instruments on Powers of Ten, and was named by Guitar Player Magazine in 1992 as Best New Talent. Interestingly, he made second place in Keyboard Magazines list of best keyboardists. He toured with the Powers of Ten album, did instructional videos and taught music in a number of European Conservatories.

In 1994 he started collaborating with bassist Jonas Hellborg, releasing several albums. They toured with drummer Jeff Sipe, with many of their concerts being totally improvised. It was well known that Shawn did not practice much. The three recorded Temporal Analogues of Paradise and Time Is the Enemy during this time.

In 1999 Shawn and Jonas worked with V. Selvaganesh,and moved their music into a kind of South Indian fusion. Shawn became well known in India and made many trips there.

Shawn had health problems in 2001, and took a break from performing. Unfortunately, his comeback to music was cut short as he passed away September 26, 2003 following lung surgery.

I have listened to songs off of Powers of Ten and an amazed of the versatility Shawn had. He could play faster than anyone, as evidence on Get You Back and turn all that off to play the emotional Eqpilogue For Lisa, dedicated to his late sister.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mike Bloomfield - Influential Guitarist

You would think that I would be more familiar with Mike Bloomfield, the late, great American guitarist who set the standard for blues guitar in the 1060s. After all, it was Mike and Eric Clapton who made the Gibson Les Paul popular in the mid 60s. When Mike started using one, they surged in popularity. Sadly, I am not all that familiar with him. I have always known who he was, but have not listened to him all that much. I am catching up.

Michael Bloomfield (July 28, 1943 – February 15, 1981), born in Chicago, Illinois, became espected for guitar playing,  working with many of Chicago's blues legends. He was one of the primary influences on the mid-to-late 1960s revival of classic Chicago and other styles of blues music. In 2003 he was ranked at number 22 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."

He worked with Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop on the influential blues album, East-West, and was a session musician, playing alongside Bob Dylan. He was the guitarist for Dylan when he went electric at the Newport Jazz Festival, causing much controversy with his fans.

His success did not carry much into the 1970s, as drug use and mental issues casued him to have many problems. He died of a drug overdose in his car of February 15, 1981.

He was a huge influence on many of the young guitarists back in day, and is regarded as one of the best.

For gear, he used a Fender Telecaster before switching to a 1954 goldtop Les Paul. He traded that guitar for a a 1959 Les Paul Standard, which he used throughout the rest of his life. However, that guitar was lost in Canada. Whoever has that guitar has a goldmine, as it would be worth millions. Gibson reissued a Tribute Les Paul, based on what was known about it through  .

Here is a video of Mike from 1968. I love his guitar tone on this.

With that 1959 Les Paul

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A 1958 Gibson Les Paul Story

I do not normally just put a link to another persons writing, but this one is an exception. This guitarist, Binky Phillips, writes about how he bought a 58 Les Paul that had belonged to Rick Derringer, who used it with Edgar Winter. There was a day when a 1958 Les Paul cost only $650!!! Try $200,000 today. This one is probably worth more since it was the guitar used on the hit "Frankenstein" by Edgar Winter. The link is to Huffington Post.