Another Green World

7 03 2012

GREEN. Before and After Green…When I started getting into guitars, all I ever bought were  Hollowbody Guitars…Harmony, Silvertone, Airline, Kay…you name it I had to have it. They were cheap. I’d go down to the Liquor Store on Thursdays, pick up a Recycler Newspaper for free, and start digging. Almost every other week I would starve just enough to be able to afford another $200.00 piece of wood and wire. Thursday came once more. One page advertised the potential of a fiery enrollment, whereby I found myself nestled in the grips of a Guild “Slim Jim” T-100DP with two Franz P-90 pickups. This was a real guitar! Not some Department Store Namesake, but a rumored brand I had thought unattainable…don’t get me wrong, I’ve still a great fondness and admiration of the Baseball Bat Neck shape of yore, and all of the roughly hewn Roy Smeck, and Rocket Fingerboards that were cut, fretted, and glued by the millions, not to mention, but I will, all those Low Output Ceramic Magnet Pickups that put the “Mmmm!” back in Mud. I love ‘em! Yet this Guild was seemingly the star of the movie. Flavour of the Month for almost a whole year of months. This Honey set me back nearly 400 Bead Necklaces and a couple of warm Furry Pelts! I coddled it, yet plunked the dying creosote out of it. That thing with that Bigsby. That horrible thing. I had turned a corner, still to return eventually on a regular basis to the House Brands…I was sickly insatiable, and still required an occasional fix of the Western Auto, “off the rack” style guitar. My closet, waxing. My wallet, waning.  The constant apogee and perigee of the ultimate accident. Wary to turn the page from “Household Furnishings”, or “Free Fill-Dirt” to the “Musical Instruments” section. Then, enter the Epiphany…I would have less strings to change constantly if I employed a smattering of Sacrificial Lambs as fodder for Upgrade. An odd and mystical logic pervaded my wanton lark. It was, and still is, never easy to sell any of those sweet escalators in order to facilitate pushing the “Going Up” button on the elevators, but I did it anyway. I was ready to dump my auspicious carcass on the 13th Floor. Yup! I got me a Mother Fuckin’ Gibson! A beauty of an ES-125 TDC!…Boy! Kneeling at the feet of the L-5 and Super 400 Heavy-Weight cutaways, and almost the same as my Guild…but hey Man, this was my first Gibson! Sure, along the the trail of kismet, fell the random Telecaster and SG, but my heart belonged to Fatty.  It was like gazing into a mirror. The bigger, the thicker, the more hollow..The Better. This kind of guitar takes time to construct…requires knowledge handed down from Caveman to Caveman, to Republicans, then back to Cavemen…all the way through The Enlightenment, The Renaissance, and Reconstruction. Ultimately deposited in the unwitting collective lap of those who dare to bronze thus. Melding anterior to an Heretofore Decency.  It seems that the notion of painting certain objects in a distinctive and eye-catching color was just coming into play in the 1950s. When guitar builders thought it might be a good idea to paint their wares in solid colors, they headed straight for the Car Companies…Those Dupont Pantones were making waves. Two-Tone and solid color Buggies shone as beacons into the dark decades of blight. The black-only option car had become dust. Red, White, Blue, Green…even Taupe made it’s way onto the Sea of “See-And-Be-Seen” scene. Next on Deck? Gretsch and Fender Guitar Manufacturers. Fender in one corner with their Custom-Order Only solid color slabs, and then here in this corner, Gretsch took it one step further…their guitars kind of made you decide which model you wanted just by the color. Most models were numbered in a Color-Indicative mode. Orange worn proudly on the Chet Atkins 6120. The 6136 White Falcon in WHITE, and so on. Albeit, practically every model was available in Natural Blonde or Sunburst as well. Now, to the matter of discussion at this juncture, my Gretsch 6196 Country Club, sporting the luxurious  “Cadillac Green” finish. Voila! How I ever got here shall remain a mystery! Tantamount to the Topper-Most Top Of  The Gretsch Catalog springs forth this, “Manly yes, but I like it too” younger sibling to the White Falcon. Behold. Pictured, a 1962 Emerald Doll. I’m feeling a mite Richard Dreyfuss ala Close Encounters of The Third Kind right about now for all of the prior build-up, but adoration deserves it’s due. I love this thing! Gold on Black? Gaudy! Gold on White? Ehhh…? Gold on Twenty Thousand Leagues of Deep Dark Green? Yes please! Thank You! Double Gretsch Filtertron Pickups, Bigsby Vibrato Tailpiece, Gretsch Space-Roller Bridge, Gold Grover Imperial Tuning Machines, Ebony Fretboard, Gold Knurled Metal “G Pointer-Knobs”, Thumbprint Neck Inlays, Multi-Layer Bound F-Holes???

I’m not sorry in the least to impart to the reader, that this guitar does it all. Despite the loving dings and scratches, and never mind where the finish has been worn down to the bare wood in places on the back of the neck…I’m not the first, but secretly, selfishly hoping to be the last to possess, and to be possessed by it. These are the clues, the badges, the Treasure Map of fortuitous consequence. Oh yes, where am I? Notice if you dare, the Model 6163 Gretsch Amp with 15 inch Jensen Alnico Magnet Speaker accompanied by a 3 inch Tweeter hiding in the upper left grill, is covered in the identical 3D “Tolex” found on the Country Club’s Lavish Case, making for a Foxy pairing of opulent accoutrements. This amp will not shut up! It doesn’t need to go to 11…enumeration renders itself to obsolescence with the flip of the ON Switch.

There you have it. Not quite in a Nut Shell, but maybe more of an Ostrich Egg. This one’s for my Dear Friend, Mr. John Ransom. Thanks for the inspiration and swift kick in the Overalls to get me going again! What’s for lunch? Call me! …right now I need to go tune up a 1968 Harmony (of all things!) 12 String Electric that just bounced in my door, but that’s a horse of a different time and color…some things are not subject to change…no substitutions.





Civil Defense Elegance

4 03 2011

Let’s go back. January 17, 1994, at 4:31 AM Pacific Standard Time.  Many of us  probably woke up to the the vibrating Earth.  I had the first incarnation of my Guitar Shop on 6th Street.  The first thing I did was check on my daughter to see if she was okay.  The next was to check on my shop.  I imagined Earthquake Damage like had never been seen.  Broken guitars scattered across the floor.  I checked in and the first thing I saw was a woman, a wonderful person, wearing a WWII Civil Defense Helmet with flashlight in hand, its flame  strangely barking into the emptiness of the street. It was my Dear Friend Wendy. “What are you doing?” I asked.  She bravely told me, “I’m making sure that there aren’t any shenanigans”.  She was protecting my shop.  Everyone’s shops.  From anything possible.  It was fucking 5am.  She was there for the world.  I’ve seen her nearly every day since.  Walking The Beat.  I just got a phone call that she’s died…my emotion is strong yet shattered.  She used to see me at The Salvation Army Store and buy me things under the guise of being my Grandmother at Senior Discounts, but only by her insistence.  This was one brilliant, gallant, charming Being.  I’m deeply saddened and I don’t even know how to finish this properly, but I’ll give it a shot…Wendy Gal…you  drilled a hole in my heart and plugged it right back up with beauty, dignity and a great big dash of grace.  I will miss you! I’m crying……………………………………………………………………………………….





Everything Means Everything Forevermore

20 02 2011

Sit back, relax and I’ll impart a Tale Of Punk Rock. Children, I guess I was lucky enough to have witnessed some of the most notorious music ever to be wrung out of a Plain White T-Shirt. I’m speaking today about hitting up Hollywood at least a couple times a week back in the late 1970’s , having my ears and eyes blown out by a bevy of artists, the likes of which will never be seen or heard again.  The Bags, The Weirdos, The Germs, Zeros, Catholic Discipline, Johanna Went, IUD, I could go on for a week…and then we have THE ALLEY CATS hailing from glorious downtown LOMITA, CALIFORNIA. Randy Stodola, Diane Chai, and John McCarthy. Quite possibly the hardest working band from this, the inception, and sadly the last vestige in my memory, of anything truly interesting  happening in The Los Angeles Music “Scene”. Got me? This was when you could go to a show at The Starwood, The Roxy, The Whikey A Go-Go, The Masque…have a blast, Pogo on a slippery, beer soaked floor, fall down, and before you hit the floor, someone would grab your arm and pull you right back up on your feet. Poseur Clothing in Hollywood wasn’t open yet with their phony Pre-Fab Punk Rock Garb. There were a lot of Thrift Shop skinny ties, mohair sweaters and fedoras. I must have seen The Alley Cats about fifty times. Hollywood, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Orange County. It didn’t matter where you were. They were everywhere. Randy and I have been friends for years. He’s one of the most well read, funny, talented, and articulate chaps I’ve ever met. He’s given me a few amazing things lately. Original Dangerhouse singles (one is a test pressing). Some very old and precious show flyers. He autographed my copy of Nothing Means Nothing…”Good Luck, Saint Dirk, Randy.”  You can see the tattered nature of my original “Nothing” single. They changed the artwork later because you couldn’t see John in the photo. Hence the Porno-Style Moustachioed John McCarthy on the second version. How fucking Punk Rock is that? 100% Punk Rock. John is a powerhouse drummer…a very dynamic performer. Diane? Well, just forget it. Not another female (nor male) punk rock musician got anywhere near her possessed, throbbing demeanor. Okay, Alice Bag is right on par. Randy Stodola…one of the very few Punk Players that could actually play any kind of lead guitar. His lyrics border on the psychedelic. Street stories about a kid being killed by a limousine, Ice cream, Jesus,  Junk and despair. Randy gave me the snapshot seen here. The Alley Cats playing at The Masque September 1977!!!  There was a time when Dez Cadena’s father Ozzie was booking Jazz Shows here in San Pedro at The Sheraton Hotel. Kenny Burrell was playing and Randy, Mike Watt and I went out for the night. Randy showed up wearing Pseudo-Pirate Gear. Eye Patch…the whole bit. The Bouncer announced that he wasn’t going to let Randy in. I remember asking “Don’t  you know who this is? Do you know who you’re talking to here?” The guy looked so confused at my line of question and was left with no option but to promptly admit us into the venue.  Back to the map. I’ve included a video with this post to give a taste of what things used to be. Thanks to Randy for so many great shows and wonderful songs…it is all so deeply etched.





1971 The Year Of The Last Real Thinline…

13 02 2011

I love this guitar. It’s been beaten.  It’s been smoked on.  Maybe been in a few Topless Bars.  It has almost zero frets left.  Worked to death without retirement.  It’s light weight.  It sings.  These went to a double Seth Lover Designed Humbucker-Pickup configuration right after this, but I love a Telecaster and this has the standard Tele Design.  Not to knock the Seth Lover Pickups…they’re great with a maple fretboard!  Get yourself an original 70’s Starcaster and see what I mean.  Paul Reed Smith is like “Lips and Dicks” (hot dogs?) compared to the tone you can get from either of these Telecasters that I’m describing.  I guess I won’t be getting a Paul Reed Smith Dealership anytime soon but who cares?   No love lost.  I found this guitar in Dallas about twenty five years ago.  Check out the Dry Lake-Bed Smoke-Stained Pickguard.  The worn-out attributes and cracks in the wood…my floor!  Who could ask for more?  I’ve played some of the Mexican Manufactured Models and some are great and cost way less than one of these originals, but you should buy one!  Not from me though, those people won’t give an independent guitar shop the time of day now.  Am I bitter?  No, probably just disappointed that in the good old days these Sales-Clowns would drive all over the country, beg,  and take on Dealerships with anyone who would just talk to them after getting out of their Country Squire Wagon and show them a piece or two.  Now, you’ve got to be NASA or something to get them to even deal with you.   Here I go again, crying about the state of things….when people are starving and rioting and/or making tons of money.  Buy a Telecaster from a small shop and see what you can do!  I have three of them and they’re all amazing!  Give up The Strat Habit!  Jazzmasters and Telecasters are the best guitars Leo ever brought to life.  Oh yeah, and put on some Harry Nilsson.  It will blow your 2011 mind!





Sponge Bath Square Dad…Tell him what we said ’bout “Paint It Black”.

14 01 2011

I’m bummed, happy and sad, but strangely glad. I just sold my beloved mint condition late 50’s Kay Barney Kessel Pro Model.  The only saving grace is that it has gone to a very good home.  Nick Carr is responsible for music that shows up faithfully and chock-full of whimsy in conjunction with the wonderful and smartly-stupid Sponge Bob Square Pants Cartoon Series.   It’s a painful tickle that pervades at this time.  Thanks Nick, you’ve  all at once ruined and somehow completed my life.  Attached is a shot of Nick’s Home Studio with the newly adopted baby.  Take this Brother…May it serve you well!

I still have my Kessel Jazz Special so…all is not lost. All is not lost.  The only guitar that ever came to me in a Lawnmower Box.  It’s not going anywhere!





The Captain Went Down With the Ship

31 12 2010

I know that this is a bit late in coming, but never too late to consider the beauty and genius of Don Van Vliet, who sadly left this “God’s Golf Ball” a few weeks ago.  I remember stumbling into a record store when I was about 15 years old and buying a copy of Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band’s “Strictly Personal”.  It was a “Cut-Out” on the Blue Thumb Label.  I was loving all of the Glam and Trash type music at the time, but this record got stuck in my craw from the first few seconds of  “Ah Feel Like Ahcid”.  The inside of the Gate-fold Sleeve kept me up at night.  Maybe most people found The Good Captain by way of Frank Zappa, but I think I did it in reverse.  Both of these guys hailed from the same depths of the Palmdale Desert  and became Rock & Roll Iconoclasts of the first order.  I gobbled up everything I could find from there. Trout Mask Replica, Safe As Milk, Mirror Man, etc… My favourites being, Lick My Decals Off Baby, Clear Spot, and Doc At The Radar Station. These records run deep and identify a few clear phases of the Magic Band.  Eventually, Don gave up music for fine art.  I didn’t know it until last night while talking to Mike Watt on the phone that I went to the very last show that Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band perfomed. It was at The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach in January 1981.  It wasn’t easy to find The Captain playing very often, but I did manage to see the 1975 Zappa “Bongo Fury” tour which featured Don stepping up to the microphone and reciting his poetry backed up with angular instrumentation by The Mothers Of Invention.  It was poetry that you could touch and smell.  This was a man that lived with the playfulness of a child, yet was able to see through the trappings.  This yarn goes on for miles and I would hope that by posting this, maybe one more person will find this amazing human that has brought me so much happiness with his life and commitment to art.  To me, one of the biggest ones that ever got away.  Now a word from our Sponsors…
My smile is stuck
I cannot go back t’ yer Frownland
My Spirit’s made up of the ocean
And the sky ‘n the sun ‘n the moon
‘n all my eye can see





Thirty Days Has November…Some Of Which Won’t Be Remembered!

15 11 2010

Hey everyone!  I know I’m a bit of a Broken Record sometimes but I need to tell you about going out to Joshua Tree/Pioneer Town again.  Bonnie Prince Billy at Pappy & Harriett’s was one of the most mesmerizing shows I’ve ever seen. It was the day before Halloween. The band as well as the participating Audience Revelers under the starlit desert night sky were in full effect.  The Cairo Gang accompanied Mr. Oldham and were impossibly atmospheric. Guitarist Emmett Kelly is incredible…and with that, I must impart to all readers to pick up Bonnie Prince Billy & The Cairo Gang’s new disc “The Wonder Show Of  The World”.  If you ever find yourself anywhere close, like say, 3000 miles from Joshua Tree, just stop on by!  It’s pure magic. More to follow soon…I’ve got to stop being so lazy and get with this Blog thing a little more often.  Oh yeah! I’m selling one of Glenn Cornick’s 1951 Fender Precision Bass’ on ebay right now…check it out. It ain’t stock but it sure is sweet!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=250724039709&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT

 








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