Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Les Paul Quest Part 3

In my last couple of posts I talked about my buddy Sherman's quest for his ultimate Les Paul.

And I was surprised when he told me someone on one of the guitar forums was selling a Sid Poole Les Paul!

Another guitar collector friend of mine had bought a Poole Les Paul off of Bernie Marsden in 1998.  His story was that he was in the UK for business where he happened upon a blues festival featuring Marsden's band.  So enamoured was he with the tone of Marsden's Poole that he offered him top dollar for it right after the show.  Pretty crazy I know, but that's the story.  And I've seen and played that Poole guitar myself. 

And it was through this same collector friend that I met Sid Poole in Singapore in 1999.  Over dinner in an Indian restaurant (Sid's preference), the three of us spent about two hours talking guitars. I remember him mentioning how he started out building 1959 Les Paul replicas for a select clientele in the UK, and the subsequent 'Cease and Desist' letters from Gibson that followed.  Changing the headstock design and putting his own name on it didn't stop his customers from coming back, however.

Sid was a really good bloke.  Sadly, he passed away a couple of years later in 2001.

The Marsden-owned Poole became a benchmark for me as to what a great Les Paul could be -- or should be. 

Light and resonant, the whole guitar seems alive in your hands.  Heck, when I played it sitting down I could hear the fabric of my jeans rustling against the thin nitrocellulose finish through the amplifier!  And the Tom Holmes humbucking pickups perfectly complemented the instrument giving an airy twang without a hint of a mud. Everything I would imagine an authentic 1959 Les Paul to be.  Finish off the whole deal with a stunning quilted maple top and you had what was basically, quintessential Sid Poole.

The only thing missing was the familiar headstock with every guitar player's favorite bluechip 'G' brand. 

I swear, if someone were to scarf-join a Gibson headstock onto a heavily flamed Epiphone Les Paul some mook will gladly fork out big bucks for it.   And where is Epiphone getting all that amazing flame maple for their tops anyway?

But back to our story.

When Sherman sent me the pics of the Poole Les Paul he was considering, certain alarm bells went off.  It looked like a decidedly new guitar and didn't have the vibe of an original Sid Poole-built guitar.  A quick search revealed a Poole successor of sorts who was custom building guitars and this particular axe appears to be one of them.

The seller wanted about $2200 for it, well below what an original Poole would go for these days.  If you were lucky enough to find one.

For Sherman, the quest continues.

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of The Les Paul Quest.

And take a gander at the Poole Custom Guitars site.  Besides their standard models, they're also building guitars to custom specifications.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Les Paul Quest Part 2

In Part 1 of The Les Paul Quest  I wrote about the Provision Les Paul my friend was contemplating on getting.  But you know, contemplate on something for too long and it'll grow legs and walk away.

With the Provision Les Paul snapped up by another buyer, Sherman sent me an email with pics of a Les Paul from the far, Far East -- Thailand! 

Thai-made guitars are a fairly recent entry into the guitar market and I'd tried a couple of bolt-on strat and tele-style guitars over the last couple of years.  Both were made by one Prasit Pariyarungsri. 

The guitars were pretty well-made and the attention to detail was definitely there.  But because they used indigenous local woods, they tended to be extremely heavy -- imagine a tele-style axe with a bolt-on neck weighing in at almost 9lbs! 

That would be on the heavy side even for a regular Les Paul.  And at that kind of weight a guitar is just not going to resonate.  The two guitars I tried felt like the pickups were speaking directly to the strings, with no contributing acoustic resonance from the body and neck at all.  Which is fine, maybe even desired, for heavier rock and metal, which would appeal to a sizeable chunk of the Thai guitar-buying market. 

From what I understand, Prasit apprenticed under another Thai guitar maker -- whose name eludes me now -- who also made a variety of solidbody guitars in the style of Gibson, Tom Anderson, Fender and PRS and marketed under the brand 'POT'.  And browsing the NNG Guitars website -- Prasit's current guitar company -- it looks like they are taking a similar approach.

This particular Prasit-built NNG Les Paul copy comes upgraded with woods more traditionally associated with the Gibson family.  The description in the email from Prasit himself is as follows:

Neck Joint : Set in (Long neck tenon type)    
Neck : One piece mahogany
Fretboard :  Rosewood with Mother of Pearl trapezoid inlays
Headstock shape : Les paul standard shape with real ebony wood veneer
Body :  Almost one piece Honduras mahogany (the one piece has 90% of total width body jointed with another piece has 10% of remainder).  However I ever found original Les Paul jointed same as this, everybody can be called that one piece body
Body top : Book match highly curly flame maple(4A grade)
PUs. : 2× genuine Alnico V magnet


And I appreciate the guy's honesty about the ratio of wood that makes up the body joint. Try getting the Gibson Custom Shop to openly offer up that kind of information!

Prasit's current approach, now that he has access to Honduran mahogany, is to bring his Les Paul guitars in at between 7.5 to 8lbs. 

I'm really digging the real mother of pearl inlays!  Why Gibson continues to use cheap pearloid plastic for the inlays on their Les Paul Standards continues to elude me. 

And it looks like NNG Guitars is getting their own Alnico humbuckers custom made as well.  Interesting.

Check 'em out --

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Les Paul Quest Part 1

A good buddy of mine is on a quest for his ultimate Les Paul and he has kindly agreed to let me document his ongoing research and correspondence with the various luthiers, pickup makers and hardware manufacturers. Thanks Sherman! 

And having owned several Gibson Les Pauls in the past, he initially had his sights set on one of the obscure Japanese manufacturers.

Like this Provision Les Paul.

Largely unknown outside of the US, Provision makes mid to very high-end Les Paul copies in limited runs.

From Ishibashi Japan's U-Box listing of used instruments, this axe features a nicely flamed, solid maple top, mahogany neck and body and comes equipped with Seymour Duncan 59N and JB pickups.  It was listed on Ishibashi's U-Box for 140,952 yen  or US$1854.  This was Provision's mid-level model, so the price brand new would have been in the US$2500 region.  Pretty crazy I know.

So why would anyone want to pay that much for a no-name guitar?  Folks, it's all about attention to detail and looking past that unfamiliar name on the headstock. 

Gibson's quality began to flag in the early '90s.  My theory is that one Saul Hudson aka Slash suddenly drove demand for Les Paul guitars through the roof and Gibson were caught off-guard and were unable to crank them out fast enough.  In the process, quality was sacrificed. 

And thanks to Slash's popularity, almost overnight Gibson guitars appeared with dodgy craftmanship -- sloppy finishing, rough fretwork with sharp fret ends and misaligned pearloid fingerboard markers inlaid into oversized slots with a huge amount of surrounding wood filler.

What better conditions for a high-end Les Paul-copy market in Japan to suddenly fluorish and prosper, appealing to a culture that is positively fanatical about details.

This particular guitar sold out pretty quickly from Ishibashi's listing despite the numerous dings and dents that pervaded the headstock, sides and back.

Stay tuned for upcoming instalments of the Les Paul Quest!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

10 Steve Jobs Quotes And What They Could Mean For Guitar Players

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."

"It is piracy, not overt online music stores, which is our main competitor."

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith."

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." 

On being fired from Apple in 1985 -- "The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

"We're going to use a pointing device that we're all born with - born with ten of them. We're going to use our fingers. We're going to touch this with our fingers."

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

"I want to put a ding in the universe."

Steve Jobs RIP, 1955-2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yngwie Malmsteen's 1969 Les Paul Gold Top | Random Guitar Of The Day

This was the only Gibson Les Paul in Yngwie Malmsteen's collection before he sold it to the current owner.

Wait a minute, Strat-meister or no, I thought that owning at least one Les Paul was de rigueur for every guitar hero? 

And this Les Paul Gold Top is a good one too, apparently. 

According to the seller, Yngwie was reluctant to sell this particular guitar because it had a 'bright' tone he was unable to find in any other Les Paul. 

I would give this guitar probably a 7/10 on the beat-up scale.  The gold-top actually looks pretty good with none of the green oxidization of the bronze powder that was mixed in with paint to achieve the 'gold' color.  There is a real nice natural patina in the nitrocellulose finish along with a couple of character-adding, man-sized dings -- none of that perfectly coiffed, fake aging you see coming out of custom shops. 

But boy is the back chewed up -- probably from years of grinding against Yngwie's pirate-approved belt buckles.  The serial number (836070) is just visible on the back of the most excellently ravaged headstock, which would put this guitar's year of production at around about 1969.

You can check out the eBay listing for this Yngwie-owned Les Paul here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heritage H150 Les Paul-Style | Random Guitar Of The Day

Here's a Heritage H150 built by our buddy Larry Perkins when he was working for Heritage Guitars during the mid to late-90's.  Judging by the guitars that he built and brought with him when he was gigging in Singapore where I met him, this man knows his craft!

And here's a particularly spectacular example of the ol' Perkins mojo. 

This Heritage H150, dubbed 'Talos', was one of four Heritage guitars built by Larry for his own use.

Custom appointments abound including an ebony fingerboard, a one piece Honduran mahogany body with an extremely figured, bookmatched flame maple top and flame maple headstock veneer.  A Perkins signature touch is also the extra high arch on this guitar's top.  Nice. 

You can check out my earlier interview with Larry Perkins here and you can read more about this guitar at this eBay listing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gibson Les Paul Standard '55 to '59 Scott Lentz Conversion | Random Guitar Of The Day

This guitar is a Scott Lentz 'conversion' -- a 1955 Gold Top Les Paul modded and refinished to look like a vintage cherry sunburst '59, the Holy Grail of Les Pauls!

Prices of original '59 Bursts started going through the roof in the mid-80's, driven in part by post-war baby boomers going through a mid-life-crisis-guitar-acquisition phase.  With prices casually breaching the $250K mark for an original sunburst 1959 Les Paul these days, it's no wonder that we don't see too many of them outside of their climate controlled vaults.

Modifying this 1955 Les Paul to '59 specs would have meant stripping off the Gold Top down to the bare wood, removing the P90 pickups and routing out the pickup cavities for humbuckers.  A reset of the neck angle was also usually done to match the '59.

Surprisingly, quite a number of early Gold Top Les Pauls had immaculate, bookmatched, highly flamed maple tops underneath all that gold paint!  I guess flame maple wasn't much of a selling point in those days.

And Phil X.  Gotta love him.  A little over the top, but what a huge talent.  I would pay to go watch him play!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

O'Donel Levy | A Birthday Tribute

I just received word from a friend that today is jazz guitarist O'Donel Levy's birthday.

I first met O'Donel, or 'O.D.' as he preferred, when he came to my neck of the woods way back in 1983.  The guitar player for flautist Herbie Mann's quartet, watching this guy totally blew my mind and had me rocking back and forth swatting at imaginary insects.  The experience was life changing. 

At the afternoon jazz workshop prior to the concert that same night, OD really put his blonde Gibson Super 400 through its paces.  It seemed like he had it all down -- great tone, boundless vocabulary and incredible chops, all enveloped in an incredibly funky rhythmic sensibility.  You know, one of those cats who could play three notes and have it scream 'jazz!'.

After the workshop, me and a buddy of mine approached OD as he was putting his guitar away.  He seemed genuinely happy to talk to us and answer our guitar geek questions.  A really nice guy.  I felt like I was meeting Santa Claus.

The gig came and went.  But the impact of OD's playing on me remained.  The cassette tape on which I recorded the concert became regular listening -- the terribly hissy, low-fidelity recording I made with my little Walkman recorder permeated nearly every afternoon at my house after school.  I played it so much, my neighbours had Memphis Underground embedded in their collective consciousness.  And believe me, they were not jazz folks. 

And yep, I was a bootlegger. Even then.

Fast forward a few years and OD takes up residence in Singapore, landing a gig at the local Saxophone Club

I know.  I couldn't believe it myself.  One of my guitar heroes, playing a local bar, six nights a week.  And out came the Walkman recorder again.

His Saxophone gigs prove to be another eye-opener. 

Performing in a bass-drums-guitar format, OD proceeded to reinvent the power trio.  A pretty decent vocalist, his shtick was taking crowd-friendly, danceable tunes -- anything from the latest Top-40 hit to Kool & The Gang and Marvin Gaye -- and pulling it off with aplomb, often spicing things up with a killer solo in between.  If there was a horn part to be played, OD was voicing it right there on his guitar.  And he was as likely to blaze through a bebop tune mid-set, just for kicks.  

Lesson learnt.  The only musical limits are ones we set up for ourselves.

OD is back in Baltimore, Maryland now.  I'd heard he is not in the best of health, but is working hard to recover facility in his hands so he can play again.  And if there is a man who deserves to play, it is this one.

OD, thank you for being an inspiration to me and many others. 

Happy Birthday!

The complete home study jazz guitar course

Friday, September 16, 2011

Roy Buchanan's Gold Top Les Paul | Random Guitar of the Day

Here's an interesting find.

The late Roy Buchanan established a unique voice with his blazing work on his 1953 Fender Telecaster.  In his hands, the Telecaster was rock, country, blues, soul and gospel; transcending genres.  Roy Buchanan pushed the boundaries of the instrument well past its traditional country role. 

But back to this guitar.

Roy apparently purchased this 1983 Gibson Les Paul 30th Anniversary Gold Top from a music store, recorded with it, and appears with it on the cover of his album Dancing On The Edge.  

In a Guitar Player magazine interview from August 1985 he had this to say about his Les Paul, "I was in a music store to buy some strings and they had this 30th Anniversary gold-top Les Paul that looked great.  I fell in love with it.  So I went home, came back and bought it -- right off the rack.  In the 60's, the trouble was that they stopped making the model early in the decade, so they were really hard to find.  The ones I found were usually beat up.  Plus they had these little bitty frets, and now they have big frets.  Mine's a Standard with humbucking pickups.  I like it because it's entirely different from the Telecaster -- a nice big, fat sound.  On the album, I used the Gibson for the fat sound on the rockers."

According to the seller, this Gold Top Les Paul was sold by Roy Buchanan's widow after his death to Gil Southworth of Southworth Guitars.  Thorough documentation from both Roy's widow and Gil Southworth accompany this guitar -- and it even retains the original strings that Roy installed himself!

You can check out the eBay listing for this guitar here.  As always, ask the necessary questions and do the research before committing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jimi Hendrix Naked Tracks!

Ok, maybe calling this Jimi Hendrix Naked Tracks is not copyright appropriate -- Steve Vai already calls his series of backing tracks minus lead guitar, Naked Tracks.

But anyhow, if you've always wanted to jam along with Mitch Mitchell's and Noel Redding's actual drum and bass tracks now's your chance.  No need to break into the Hendrix vaults here, because Eddie Kramer's already raided his own archives and beat you to it! 

This set of original studio tracks, as recorded by The Experience, sans Jimi's lead guitar for the most part, provides an intriguing glimpse into rock history.  It's been written about before but to truly appreciate what an absolute monster of a rhythm section Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were, you have got to check this out. 

Pardon the French but damn did they make Jimi sound good!

And here's a handy list of track notes, keys and tunings that are part of this set:

PURPLE HAZE * Key: E Major
Guitar bleed is heard through drum and bass mics, is below 1%. You can finally hear Jimi's Oooohs and Ahh's.

SPANISH CASTLE MAGIC * Key: Eb Major-1/2 step Down
Intro Chords are heard from the 2nd Guitar. Very Loud Clav piano. Guitars bleed is below 1%. Simply Incredible

WIND CRIES MARY * Key: F major
Incredible Vocals, Historic Bass Tone, Guitar bleed is below 1%

WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW * Key: Ab Major-1/2 step down
First Chord Slams, then the bleed is above 1% due to the laid back drums, but gone when band kicks in. Hendrix Rap is classic. Background Vocals are a gas.

FOXY LADY * Key: F# Minor
Rhythm Guitar bleed is below 1%. This was a 2 Guitar track recording, so the lead guitar track is out and there is no bleed, Killer Bass

AXIS BOLD AS LOVE * Key: Ab Major-1/2 step down
Probably contains the loudest guitar track out of this collection. Recording of this Epic song was very open, and when you now hear can understand why.

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC * Key: C# Major-1/2 step down
What you hear on this track is NOT a guitar, but a KAZOO that Jimi played to emulate a second guitar doing harmonies.

FIRE * Key: D Minor
This track is the cleanest of the bunch, which leads to believe that the drums and bass were recorded alone, or that Jimi's amp was in an isolation booth.

FREEDOM * Key: C Major
Again here is the obvious use of a cleaner recording style, as there is no guitar bleed whatsoever. Nice Clav work that you can hear now. Also checkout the double track vocals by Jimi.

MACHINE GUN * Key: D Minor-1/2 step down
The new recording style pays off here also as the guitar tracks again have no bleed. There is an extensive count-in click.

POWER TO LOVE * Key: B Minor-1/2 step down
The later recording style again, this cut is taken from a studio version of the song. Guitar bleed in non-existent. You can now hear the heart of the 2nd stage rhythm section.

Head over here for a preview of the tracks. 

Now where's my kazoo?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vintage Jim Tyler Guitar | Random Guitar of the Day

I remember seeing a picture of Dann Huff in an article in Guitar World magazine in the late 80's.  It was a writeup about his band Giant, and in the accompanying pic he was brandishing an early Strat-headstocked JamesTyler guitar, with the then-obligatory Floyd Rose tremelo, and an assortment of mini-switches on the pickguard. 

I remember thinking, "What on earth is that thing?"

Reading further, Huff talked about how he gave his instruments to a certain Jim Tyler to be hot-rodded.  I came away thinking that Tyler was the guitar world's equivalent of some muscle car hotrod guru.  After all, these LA session cats wouldn't give their prized bread-and-butter instruments to just anyone to fool with right?

And check out that crazy headstock logo! 

Fast forward 20-something years later and one of these babies pops up. 

And there are a couple of distinguishing markings on the neck and body that are visible when this instrument is disassembled -- which might make it even more of collector's item. 

'Buzz 85' is pencilled in on the butt end of the neck just below the nut for truss rod adjustment, which leads to speculation that it may have been a custom instrument built for Buzz Feiten.  Before he made a name for himself as the creator of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System (BFTS), Buzzy was an LA session guitarist and a frequent visitor to Jim Tyler's workshop.

And another thing.  The body and neck for this particular guitar were made by luthier Phil Kubicki and not by Tyler himself.  Hmmm.  The plot thickens.  Maybe he was outsourcing in the early days. 

Pickups appear to be a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails in the neck, a Seymour Duncan Hot Stack in the middle and a Tyler full humbucker in the bridge position.  The Tyler humbucker shares a lot in common with the Tom Anderson and Schecter humbucker design, something which I talked about in this earlier post

In addition to the standard volume pot and 5-way switch, this guitar features 3 mini push/push button switches to split the coils of each pickup as well as a single mini-toggle switch, sometimes called a Blaster switch, which bypasses all 'pre-sets' and activates the bridge humbucker alone, in series.

Real effective for going from a chimey strat tone to an all-out, balls-to-wall crunch for that lead solo!  It's also interesting to note that this pickup switching system is one of several configurations which Tyler still features on some of his current models.  A 9-volt battery is needed to power the onboard Demeter preamp.

According to Tyler Guitars, they only switched to their current headstock design in 1987, which would make the '85 date marking on the neck period correct.  Unfortunately they weren't able to provide any information as to who this guitar was originally sold to.

The seller, acmeguitarworks has a 1009 star, 100% positive rating on eBay.  Check 'em out.

Pickmaster Plectrum Punch | Lifetime Supply of Picks!

Here's a neat little gizmo that promises hours of fun. 

The Pickmaster Plectrum Punch allows you to punch out your own picks out of any piece of plastic flat enough to fit into its jaws.  Old credit cards, plastic container lids, file folders are all fair game. 

After punching out your pick, a quick smoothing out with extra-fine-grit sandpaper will remove any rough edges and you're good to go.  Or you could try my favorite method, which is to buff the pick against carpet, something I do constantly to smooth out the rough edges after those spur of the moment Van Halen-esque pick slides.   

And if the classic #351 Fender pick shape is not your thing, another company called Pick Punch manufactures a similar device capable of stamping out picks in the Dunlop Jazz III shape.  Ooh, the competition these days.  

Either way, you'll probably never look at an ordinary piece of plastic the same way again.   It's all PPM -- Potential Pick Material! 

Here's to guilt-free pick tossing at gigs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gibson 9/11 Les Paul

As we approach the 10th anniversary of that fateful day of September 11, 2001 let's take some time out to remember and honor those who passed. 

And let's not forget also, those who continue to bear the emotional burden of having lost a loved one in that tragedy.

Time, they say, heals all wounds.  And it does.  Up to point. 

I am entirely unqualified to give anyone who has lost someone in 9/11 any kind of advice.  But I can tell you how I deal with personal losses of my own. 

And it is simply this -- remember a favorite song you shared. 

Remember how you sang along to it, or danced to it, or laughed about it.  Remember the dinner you were having the first time you heard that favorite song, or that long drive together when it came on the radio.

Music has that incredible ability to transport one back in time to a happier place.  And if you can smell, taste or even momentarily touch a precious moment once shared you realise that that person, though no longer at your side, is very much a part of your being, your very DNA.  And they are not far away. 

This is music's gift to me.  And I hope, to you.

I initially wanted to peg this post as part of my Random Guitar of the Day series.   But then I realised how trivial that would make it all seem.  There is nothing random about this guitar. 

It's purposeful.  And the handpainting on it is purposeful.  It exudes as much heartfelt emotion as any great work of art.  And if art is a reflection of life, it don't get much more real than this.

If only we would all just pick up a guitar, any guitar, and direct our attention to the peaceful act of making music, instead of planning that next random act of senseless violence.  Legislated or not.  

Screw the guns and bombs.  Hopefully, one day we'll all evolve enough to know better.

Gibson 9/11 Les Paul

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Nylon-String Stratocaster | Random Guitar of the Day

Here's something we don't come across too often -- a scalloped Yngwie Malmsteen nylon-string Stratocaster!

This guitar was made by Fender Japan, who seem to come with all kinds of fun variations on the traditional US Fender models, exclusively for the Japanese market.

This particular guitar, listed in the Japanese Fender catalog as model STCL-140YM, features what appears to be GraphTech's Ghost pickup system and a single volume control.  No fancy parametric EQs here.  And from the sound of it, it doesn't need one.

Although it must be a real pain stringing up the nylon strings onto the Fender Kluson-style machine heads.  Nylon strings are extremely stretchy when new, and before you know it you would have more wraps than those tiny tuning posts can accomodate.  You really have to underestimate for the amount of string slack you will need to use when stringing up this baby, especially on the plain nylon treble strings!
Yngwie Malmsteen does a fine job on his nylon-string Stratocaster in the video below:

Check out the eBay listing for this rare bird.

And here's an earlier post on a Fender Yngwie Double-neck Stratocaster!  Like I said, all kinds of fun variations..

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gibson Guitars CEO on the Recent Federal Raid

In this radio interview, Gibson Guitars CEO Henry Juszkiewicz talks about the recent raid on Gibson's factories in Nashville and Memphis.  Gibson was also raided in 2009 over woods imported from Madagascar with formal charges yet to be filed against the company.  The latest raid late last month was again over Gibson's alleged use of illegally imported woods, this time, ebony from India 

What is chilling is how Juszkiewicz describes it:

"It was a nightmare.  We had over 20 armed men descend upon three factories in different states and our corporate headquarters, and at gunpoint close our factories and evacuate the employees, put them out on the street and in the parking lot.  And then they proceeded to pore thorugh the production facilities and confiscate loads of wood, they grabbed computer hard drives, all kinds of papers, invoices, and generally closed us down for the entire day, and then send us a letter that if we were to continue to use anything, any wood from India, that that would be considered a Federal crime."

"Originally, we had a raid in 2009 that was in regard to wood apparently from Madagascar, and subsequently we have sued them, to recover the goods that they have seized.  We have affidavits from the government of Madagascar that the wood we purchased  was legally obtained and legally exportable." 

According to Juszkiewicz he was told by the authorites that all these problems could be avoided if Gibson were to manufacture in Madagascar -- something which he says is inconceivable.

To top it off, he has no idea why Gibson is being targetted when their competitors are using exactly the same wood, from the same countries.  As of this date, formal charges have yet to brought against Gibson.

"We're the only company that is being targetted.  It's more frightening because the law that's been passed that requires anyone who transports an instrument across borders, they have to know what specie of wood, every piece of that instrument is and where it was acquired.  And while that wood and that specie might have been perfectly legal, the likelihood of your knowing where it came from at any point in time is unlikely.  So even if there's no question about the legality of the wood, the bureaucracy allows people to confiscate that instrument, fine you and produce criminal charges."

As one defiant Twitterer aptly puts it, “They can pry my Gibson guitar from my cold, dead hands.”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

James Taylor's Acoustic Guitar Lessons

James Taylor is offering acoustic guitar lessons at his website and I for one am totally thrilled!

In addition to being an incredible singer and songsmith, James is also a truly great guitar player.  I've always marvelled at his incredible touch on the acoustic guitar and the little filigree decorative figures he uses to embellish chords.  And some of those chord voicings used to keep me up at night! 

You always know something is truly great when it doesn't draw attention to itself  in spite of its intricacy.  In James's playing, it was always about serving the song.

As of this writing, he has put up two songs, Country Road and Little Wheel.  Watching these two videos I came to realize that his use of the occasional unorthodox left hand fingering enabled him to play certain chord passages smoothly that would have made for a more disjointed sound using more conventional fingerings.

The lessons are shot in HD, and show very high production values.  Split-screen is used to good effect, but what I like the most is the additional camera placed in the soundhole of his Olsen guitar that captures his right hand technique so we actually see the articulation of his right hand fingers against the strings!  This definitely raises the bar for future guitar instructional videos.

James's lessons are being put online slowly in installments but if he keeps it up it will be a great testimony to his music and his playing.

Found via

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ordering a Gibson Firebird V from Ishibashi Japan

I've always had good experiences when buying online from Ishibashi Music in Japan.  Their service has always been top-notch, and I like the fact that they always try to be as thorough as possible when describing an item a customer might be interested in. 

But they do get a large volume of incoming emails everyday, and only a small handful of staff who are able to answer emails in English, which means that a one or two day wait for a reply is the norm.

I ordered my Gibson Firebird V from Ishibashi's U-Box or used item listing a year ago, last September.  Yeah I know, it's taken me that long to blog about it.

Here's the initial reply from Ishibashi:

Hello! This is ____  from Ishibashi Music, Shibuya.

Thank you for sending our Kobe Sannomiya branch an inquiry of the used GIBSON FIREBIRD VS (316212705).  As all international orders are handeled here at Shibuya, I am writing back to you on behalf of them.

I am glad to advise you that this Firebird guitar is still available and would like to share you some information of its overall condition and accompanying item is as follows;

- No outstanding damages such as big dents, finish chips or cracks are found on this guitar, except for some minor picking scratches and small dents.
- The condition of the neck is good, not warped or twisted.
- Fret wear is just a little. The remainder of the frets are approx. 80%.
- The color of the hardwares are still shiny.
- No parts seems to have been modified, replaced or missing.
- No problem with the electronics.
- The playing condition is good.
- Made in 2003 (S/N 02533397)
- The guitar comes with a hardshell case.

Based on the above written condition, the best offer for this GIBSON FIREBIRD VS including the shipping/insurance fee for sending you this guitar to your country via EMS is...

FIREBIRD VS (316212705)--- ******* JPY

Shipping/Insurance fee----  ***** JPY


Total Amount: ******* JPY (tax excluded)
**End of correspondence**
Thorough and descriptive like I mentioned.  And they even provided me with additional pictures of the guitar.
I sent them another email to confirm and received bank wire transfer details.  I prefer bank transfers instead of credit card payments in these cases as it gives me solid documentation of my purchase --a bit of a hassle with the $20 bank wire charge from my bank but worth it, I feel. 
After confirming payment on their end which took one additional business day, the guitar was shipped promptly within hours.  I even got a EMS tracking number so I could track my purchase all the way from Shibuya, to Narita airport, right up to my doorstep.  
Speaking of doorsteps, the visitor intercom to my apartment wasn't working on the morning the guitar arrived, which was, literally, a day after they shipped it!  Which meant that I had to schlep all the way to the post office the next business day to pick the guitar up.  
I was really happy with the way the guitar was packed.  Removing the outer protective cardboard box, I found the hardcase within thoroughly bubble-wrapped with the guitar snug inside.  And my first hands-on experience with the huge Firebird hardcase was that it does not fit in the boot of a cab.  So the backseat it was.
Since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011, Ishibashi has shortened their working hours as part of the energy conservation program so they might take longer in answering incoming emails.  But from what I understand it's business as usual.
Check 'em out sometime.

Boss TU2 Chromatic Tuner with $10,000,000 Starting Bid on eBay!

Every once in a while we come across one of these.

According to the seller this Boss TU2 Chromatic tuner was owned and signed by "law enforcement officer/outlaw country singer/television pioneer Paul Anderson".  Anybody who knows who this guy is, please drop me a comment.

What is interesting is this seller has sold everything from guitars to denim jeans, fog lights and motorcycle parts and received 100% positive feedback with a 346 star rating.

Not easy to do since there are so many a**holes out there these days who buy something, claim the item was not as described and then ask for a discount, to save them the hassle and cost of returning the item -- which would entitle them to a full refund anyway.  To top it off they threaten Neutral or Negative feedback if you don't cave in.  Fishin' for a discount is what I call it!  

eBay Item #:  220844080975

A Dumble Book

You know how it is.  You've always wanted to plug in to a Dumble amplifier

But with fewer than 300 in known existence, a chance encounter with one of these beasts will be about as rare as a sighting of the Loch Ness monster.  Collectors and players fortunate enough to own a Dumble are certainly keeping them locked up, away from prying eyes and itchy fingers. 

Alexander Dumble has always been choosy about who he builds amplifiers for.  And now that it seems that he is building amplifiers only when he feels like it and for a very select few, it appears that the few Dumbles that do appear on the re-sale market are packing double their already five-figure prices from, say, 5 years ago.

So, like giving a Nigella cookbook to a starving man, we have A Dumble Book by Jesse Schwarz. 

In its 332 pages are three interviews with Alexander Dumble, an extensive amp history with specs and descriptions of nearly every model, amplifier tests, and an interview with Dumble's long time friend and business partner Jack Smith.   All 90 photographs in the book are in full color.

It is interesting to note that while Jesse Schwarz is credited with coordinating and doing most of the writing for this project, other Dumble amplifier owners have also come forward to contribute in this homage to Alexander Dumble.

Deserving of specific mention in A Dumble Book are Steve Lukather's Overdrive Special serial #048 and David Lindley's Steel String Singer #003. 

And here's a brief history of Dumble amplifiers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Neal Schon's Steinberger Transtrem GM Double Neck on eBay!

Here's an eBay listing for a rare Steinberger Double Neck Transtrem GM.  And one that was apparently previously owned by Neal Schon, no less!

Many of us know Ned Steinberger as the cat who introduced the revolutionary all-plastic composite Steinberger L2 bass and GL series guitars in the early '80s.  Both bore a resemblance not dissimilar to a boat paddle. 

To increase mass market appeal, the GM guitar model was introduced in 1987 with a double cutaway all-maple body and a bolt on neck made of a composite material.  Y'know, something you could cradle comfortably in your lap and wrap your arm around.   We guitars players are such a romantic lot.

This particular double neck Steinberger was purchased by its present owner in 2004 from Schon's guitar broker.  Custom built at Steinberger Sounds Newburgh, NY factory in the '80s, this instrument features Steinberger's Transtrem vibrato system on the 6-string neck and a fixed bridge on the 12-string.

A cool Steinberger doubleneck gig bag and assorted paperwork accompany this axe.

As always, do the research and ask the necessary questions before committing!

eBay Item #:  120763392660

Monday, August 29, 2011

10 Warren Buffett Quotes and What They Could Mean for Guitar Players

I've been a Warren Buffett fan for a couple of years now.  Heads of State seek him out for advice, and financial institutions hang on to his every word while wondering, "What Would Warren Do.. Next?"

But despite his stature as one of the three richest men in the world, the Oracle of Omaha, who will be 81 this August 30th, maintains a sense of quiet humility.

I submit for your perusal, 10 quotes of Warren Buffet's that every guitar player and musician could take and run with.  See what they can do for you.  Individual outcomes will, no doubt, vary wildly:

“There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t know a thing about. I just stay away from those. I stay within what I call my circle of competence."

"You don’t drive a truck that weighs 9,900 pounds across a bridge that says 'Limit 10,000 pounds', because you can’t be that sure. If you see something like that, go a little further down the road and find one that says, 'Limit 20,000 pounds'. That’s one you drive across.”

"As you go along, you learn what things you’re not going to understand. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to focus on. Somebody said how to beat Bobby Fischer; you play him any game except chess. And so I don’t play Bobby Fischer at chess.”

"Beware of geeks bearing formulas."

"I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over."

"It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."

"Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks."

"There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult."

"Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.""

"I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Random Guitar of the Day | 1964 Gibson ES125

Gibson revamped their ES100 model after World War II and renamed it the ES125

Upgraded with a more modern P90 pickup and a 16 1/4" hollowbody, the ES125 proved quite popular as an entry-level archtop in the Gibson line.

This particular Gibson ES125 from 1964 shows off the sheer simplicity of the design -- button tuners, unbound rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, non-laminated tortoise shell-style pickguard, a volume and tone control, single 'dog ear' P90 pickup, trapeze tailpiece and Gibson's standard 24 3/4" scale length.
The ES125 remained in production until 1970.

I've a played few ES125's in the past and every one had that vintage mojo -- not surprising for guitars that were all 50 years old.


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