Sunday, October 28, 2012

Desiree Bassett

I first heard about Desiree Bassett a few years ago when I came across her youtube videos. She was all of 14 or 15 years old then, and had already jammed with Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, Living Colour, Barry Goudreau, the Marshall Tucker Band and members of the Allman Brothers Band. She was named "Best Musician" by Talent America in 2005, has released two studio albums and has performed many times on both coasts of the United States.

Desiree, born in 1992 in New Haven, Connecticut, started playing guitar at about age three. At age four, she would be correcting her father as he attempted to learn new songs. Age age five, with a new Ibanez electric guitar in hand, she placed second at a talent competition playing a Joe Satriani cover. A few years later, at age nine, she began taking singing and guitar lessons at the University of Connecticut music program, where it was discovered she had perfect pitch and could play by ear. Desiree has been influenced by  Jeff Beck, Rick Emmett, Jimi Hendrix, Reba McEntire, the Allman Brothers and her personal idol Joe Satriani.

In 2005, she was voted Talent America's "Musician of the Year" in New York City.  Bassist Doug Wimbish discovered Bassett at an open mic event in Hartford, Connecticut and invited her to play at his annual Wim-Bash the following night. Later that year, she recorded five songs, performing all of the instruments; selling several hundred copies of the self-made CD.
Eventually word of her talents spread, and local musicians offered their services to be her band.  By November, she had built a local following. In December 2005 she took second place at the Olympics of Entertainment in New York City. In 2006, she performed at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Sponsorship followed from Peavey Amps, Schecter Guitar Research, and offers from Nova Sound Studios and Long View Farm Studios recording studios in North Brookfield, Massachusetts.  When she returned the following year to play at the NAMM Show, she was introduced as "the future of rock and roll." 
Desiree released her first CD, Power & Force Volume II, in 2008, at the age of 16. Currently, she is performing as the lead guitarist on tour with Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour which premiered in October 2011 and is scheduled to tour through Canada, the United States, and Europe.  She has plans to attend college for a music degree at some point in her career. 
I really like the way she plays. You can tell she loves what she is doing by her smiling and enthusiasm on stage. The future of rock is in good hands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Iconic Guitars in Rock History - Rory Gallagher's 1961 Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher used only a few guitars during his music career. His main one was a sunburst 1961 Stratocaster with the serial number of 64351.
Rory, from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland and born in 1948, bought this guitar, said to be the first Fender Stratocaster in Ireland, in 1963. It was sold as a used guitar, as the store owner had ordered a different color and the sunburst was sent instead. Rory bought this guitar in this brand new condition.
Rory used this Stratocaster for most of his life, throughout thousands of shows, touring around the world and recording his many albums. At one point it was stolen and recovered from a ditch, having been exposed to the elements for a few days. That is a testament to Leo Fender for building a guitar that can survive just about any abuse heaped upon it.
Over the many years, this Stratocaster was modified. It does not have the original pickups, tuning pegs, and pick guard.
Almost all of the original finish is gone, due to the heavy use, and a medical condition that caused Rory’s sweat to be acidic, which would wear away the thin nitro finish.
The neck is original but has one fret marker dot changed, as the original clay dot fell out and was replaced by a plastic one. The neck was also removed numerous times for repair, but the original one never broke – just needed a rest from time to time.

You can hear this guitar, most of the time played straight into an amp, on all of Rory’s releases. It is one of the most famous Stratocasters in rock history. It is amazing to me that such a simple guitar, one that started on a production line in Fullerton, California, could go on to be magical in the hands of a young teenager thousands of miles away. In the days when rock stars change guitars every song - Edge, I am talking to you – here was Rory using one or two guitars his whole career, writing a new book in blues-based rock. Fender produces an exact copy of Rory’s Stratocaster, and there are other builders who replicate the guitar, as well.
The history of Rory’s music takes him from his first group, Fontana, in the early 60s, to the very popular Taste, a blues rock and power trio. Taste performed mostly in the UK where they were regulars at the Marquee Club. They opened for Cream at their farewell concert, and supported Blind Faith on a short tour in America. Tasted released two studio albums, Taste and On The Boards, and two live recordings, Live Taste and Live at the Isle of Wight.
Rory went out as solo act in 1971, and remained that way for the rest of his career. He released about 13 albums, with a mix of studio and in concert recordings.
I discovered Rory in 1977 when a friend loaned me the Against the Grain album. I was just blown away by Rory, and was very glad I found his music. As a young guitarist trying to learn from everyone, I spent an ample amount of time listening to Rory, and picking up more of his albums to learn from.
Rory sold in excess of 30 million albums over his 30 career. He did not live, nor did he act, like a rock star, choosing to concentrate on the music. He was an introvert who did not show off, nor go looking for attention. He was dedicated to the art of music.
Rory received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year at age 47. He is a music hero in his hometown, and was one of the first successful musicians to come out of Ireland. His contribution to music was vast; he is sorely missed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Early Blues and Rock Music Pioneer

On one of my many nights exploring the web, mostly via YouTube, I came across a musician who I had never heard of before. On my screen, I was watching a black and white clip of a middle-age woman, jumping up and down, singing and playing a white Gibson SG Custom. It seemed surreal at the time. Until I looked into who this woman was.
It was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, born Rosetta Nubin Tharpe in 1915. She was a gospel singer, songwriter and performer who became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. She was a gospel singer at heart, but crossed over into pop music, singing in clubs and concert halls. Sister Rosetta was the first successful gospel singer in the 1930s and recorded four sides with Decca Records with Lucky Millinder and his jazz orchestra backing her.Her records caused much controversy in her core audience of churchgoers. They were shocked by the mix of gospel and popular music. Sister Rosetta was not content to stay within the boundaries of what was acceptable. Her appearances at the Cotton Club and CafĂ© Society, performing alongside Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman made her even more popular with fans of big band and swing music. Rock Me was her first hit, which took her gospel style into new territory with up-tempo arrangements. This song, along with This Train, introduced gospel music to an audience who had never heard it before. If they had, it sure was never like this.
Sister Rosetta was one of two gospel artists who recorded V-discs for the troops fighting in World War 2. The song Strange Things Happening Every Day, which was recorded in 1944 with Sammy Price, a boogie woogie pianist, showed that she was a formidable guitarist, combined with her sharp, witty lyrics and vocal style. This song was the first gospel song to make Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade Top Ten. The record has been considered the first rock and roll records. Sister Rosetta continued to make the charts as she toured the country with the Dixie Hummingbirds as her band.
Later on Sister Rosetta performed with Marie Knight. They toured the gospel circuit for a few years and had a hit with Up Above My Head. They recorded several blues songs in the early 1950s which proved to be an unpopular move as their gospel audience turned away from them.Knight crossed over to popular music, while Sister Rosetta stayed with gospel music, but her fans were not listening. She eventually returned to the gospel music, after taking a break to Europe, but found that the fans were not supportive.
In April - May 1964, as bands such as the Rolling Stones were forming and making blues popular again, she toured England as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan, with Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Ranson Knowling, Little Willie Smith, Reverend Gary Davis, Cousin Joe and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, performing for mostly audiences of young students. Blues music was not popular in America, and it took the many young British bands to take it up a notch and bring it the masses.
Sister Rosetta suffered a stroke in 1970, and had complications from diabetes.She passed in 1973 after another stroke.
An interest in her work led to many television segments and articles, causing resurgence in her popularity.
Musicians such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Aretha Franklin have listed her as an influence for her guitar playing and performance style. Her songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash often talked about her impact on his music. The U.S. Postal Service issued a Rosetta Tharpe postage stamp in 1998 and in 2003, the album Shout, Sister Shout: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpewas released, with versions of Tharpe’s songs performed by female artists including Maria Muldaur, Odetta, and Marcia Ball. The Noisette’s, a band from England, recently recorded a tribute, called Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit.)
I would imagine that many of the young musicians of today have no clue that the musicians they admire were influenced by a gospel singer. Nor are they probably aware that Sister Rosetta was an early pioneer of rock music, and helped bring blues music back into popularity.
I would also add that the Gibson SG Custom she uses on these videos is one of the best looking guitars ever made. I wonder where this guitar is today.