Collectible Guitar :: Then and Now - May/Jun 2014

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Pau l Reed Smith






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The Search for the “King of the Flat Tops” I bought my first jumbo size acoustic guitar in 1979 when I was just 23 years old. I was taking guitar lessons on Friday nights at a local music store and then teaching what I had learned the next morning to one of my guitar students (I always was a quick study). Ha! At the store they had a super jumbo Yamaha acoustic that had caught my eye. I bought it and loved that big woody sound. Yes, it is large to hold, but it has a big guitar vibe that just makes you want to strum away zealously. I don’t even remember selling that guitar, but now 34 years later I have been thinking of the “real deal” guitar that my old Yamaha was fashioned after: The Gibson J200! There is something about that mustache bridge, the bold fret markers, and the characteristic big body curves of the J200 that has influenced modern music since the 1940’s.

seem to be getting harder to find. Maybe guitarists are realizing how unique they are and are simply hanging on to them. There are two eras and price points that I am focusing on learning more about. The first one is the 1950’s up to 1961 or so. There can be some stellar ones made then. In the early 60’s Gibson took something that was working just great and decided to place a tune-omatic bridge on these acoustic mammoths so folks could intonate them… the problem was that the new system also muted some of its tonal mojo. Bad move! This mistake went on for years. There was also a time when Gibson went to a thinner nut width for a while – yikes! Watch out for those years. There is a lot to research however, because even some of the older J200’s on the market from the good years can be a bit up and down in tonal quality, and they are commonly modified and/or repaired, maybe even more so that other vintage models. I’m not sure why, but it just seems to be the case.

The second era I am interested in is the 1990’s Montana-made Gibson acoustics. Luthier Ren Ferguson was hired by Gibson to head up the resurgence of their acoustic guitar aspirations. And Ren delivered! He was there for years (he has recently moved I have been asking on to Guild guitars). friends of mine in the vintage world Both eras of J200’s are desirable in my eyes, to let me know and both have quite different price points. if they have The newer ones are more utilitarian and you one to sell. In would feel better kicking around with it to my own frame local gigs, whereas the 50’s one would be of reference, it more of an investment instrument that you seems that over can play at home (much more fun than lookthe last five or ing at stock certificates) but might feel a bit so years they just more self conscious throwing it in the car and then stopping for groceries on the way

home with it still in the trunk, while you calculate what the heat index is in your car as you walk into the store. Well, since I am on a mission to learn more, balance out my emotional bonding with the J200, and see which road I’ll walk down with these remarkable and historic guitars in my sights, I will share the journey with you our readers. Let’s see where this goes. If I went with the less expensive J200 I could maybe have enough left over for a Gibson Hummingbird! Come to think of it, I had a Yamaha knock-off of the classic Hummingbird guitar too. Now that guitar has an interesting back-story, and I know where that one ended up. Looks like a story for another day…

Throwback Thursday: Bruce with his Hummingbird knock-off guitar.

Guitar people helping guitar people! Bruce & Judy

Editor & President: Bruce Adolph VP/Office Manager: Judy Adolph Street Team: Mike Adolph, Jesse Hill & Winston Design & Layout: Matt Kees Photographer/Advisor: Joe Riggio 4227 S. Meridian, Suite C PMB #275, Puyallup Washington 98373 Phone: 253.445.1973 Fax: 253.655.5001 Published by The Adolph Agency, Inc. ©2014 The Adolph Agency Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any portion of this magazine may not be used or reproduced without the expressed consent of The Adolph Agency, Inc.


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Trem King DIY Project

Phil Madeira: Guitars of a Journeyman




Remember Jimmy Nalls?

Paul Reed Smith The Interview



18 State of the Union 12 The One That Didn’t Get Away An Interesting Few Months... 1970 Sparkle Strat 1970 Sparkle Strat cover photo by Joe Riggio by Dave Belzer by Rick King

34 The Fretboard Less Traveled by Rich Severson

14 Quirky Vintage Collecting Vintage Pawnshop Guitars: Part One by Bob Cianci

28 Boutique Builder by James Schultz

36 View of the Day by Dave Cleveland

30 An Interview with Bob Weil... the genius behind Visual Sound by Michael Elsner

50 Pedal Snapshot by Phil Traina

16 All About Amps How Can I Tell if My Amp Needs New Tubes? by Skip Simmons

8 Collings SoCo LC by Joe Riggio

8 32

26 PRS Private Stock Martin Simpson Brazilian Acoustic by Bruce Adolph 27 PRS Private Stock Violin II Electric by Bruce Adolph


42 Audio-Technica: System 10 Wireless Guitar System by Mitch Bohannon 44 Bedell Limited Edition LEOH -25-25 Orchestra by Michael Hodge

32 Riggio Custom Guitar: Sierra Model by Bruce Adolph 40 Sebago Sound DT25 1x12” 25 Watt Combo Amp by Doug Doppler




Collings SoCo LC Model Guitar by Joe Riggio

example is as flawless as is even possible and will satisfy even those who might normally prefer a modern high-gloss. Fit and finish of all seams, parts, and hardware is near perfect as well.

Historically speaking, there have been many failed attempts from well-known acoustic guitar makers at producing electric models. Even companies as iconic as C.F. Martin, Ovation, Tacoma and others have had very limited success at launching electric models that have any “stick” in the finicky guitar market. The Collings company from Austin, Texas has beaten the odds. First known for their high-end acoustic guitars, finely crafted in the USA, they have successfully launched several electric models that have been very well accepted into the playing field. This newly released model: the SoCo LC is a perfect example of why they might be at the forefront of acoustic and electric success. FIRST GLANCE The SoCo LC is a semi-hollow thinline model, derived from the traditional “335” styling. It is slightly smaller in size: 15” at the lower bout and 10.75” at the upper. The cutaways are somewhat unique as well, with the treble side being similar to an enlarged Les Paul shape and the bass side being Teleesque. Everything about the appearance of this guitar will catch your eye. From the Custom Ameritage hard-shell case, to the fine craftsmanship of every single detail, all aspects are top-notch, to say the least. I’ve always felt that the sunburst finish technique from Collings has stood out as a beautiful work of art, and this one is no exception. The nitrocellulose lacquer finish on this

knobs, and a 3-way switch. Navigation is easy and intuitive. All 3 pickup combinations offer sonic bliss and produce rich, dry tones, usually associated with more seasoned instruments. The combination of tone woods and pickup design makes it possible to have fully bright tones when necessary, and never sounds dull or “plasticky”. This is the sound of wood! END GAME

This is the kind of instrument that, while you might have to strive to own it, I say FIRST PLAY that it’s more than worth the financial Let it be said that I am about as sensitive investment. It is a lifetime quality guitar that as it gets when it comes to set-up and doesn’t disappoint on any level. playability. I have customers that will bring List Price: $4500 with hard case their new guitars to me for a proper set-up before they even bring it home! Even guitars Joe Riggio is a professional guitar repairman/technician and recordthat are marketed as being set-up at the ing engineer, based in Tacoma, factory and “ready-to-go” are commonly… WA. He owns and operates “Serwait, usually…no, almost always in need of vice Guitar Repair” and “House Sound Recording Studio” He a set-up before they can perform at their best. Of has a deep love and knowledge of Equally, it must be said that the SoCo is an vintage guitars, as well as modern exception. It just felt right, and even after and loves to share his passion with taking it to my bench for fine measurements, others. He can be contacted at it proved to be about as close as you can get website: to what most would agree was the perfect set-up. Only the final intonation adjustments at the bridge saddles were slighty off from dead-on. It’s fair to say that any set of strings will drift out of proper intonation, and there might have been just enough play-time on these to throw it off just a little. The neck profile is slightly larger than that of many modern guitars. It is quite reminiscent of the wellloved feel of a late 50’s Gibson. The nut width is 1-11/16” and works well with the full-feeling neck, which is roughly .880” at the first fret. Medium-jumbo frets also add to the familiar feel of this wonderful guitar. One slight limitation for some players to consider is that the neck joins the body somewhere between the 1617th fret, making it a bit difficult to play in the highest registers of the fingerboard. PLUGGING IN The layout on the SoCo is a traditional one of 2 Lollar LowWind Imperial Humbuckers, 4


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I have never been much of a vibrato guy. It’s not that I don’t like the sound they produce—a tastefully subtle touch of whammy bar can add a lot—I just prefer to stay in tune. But when I heard about the Trem King® claim that I could have both... I was intrigued.

see that this was not going to be a plug and Next I held up the Trem King® (centered play operation. To assure free movement with the fretboard) and marked the areas of the bridge mechanism, the spring cavity of the top that needed trimming. There must be enlarged. Wood must be removed. wasn’t much wood to remove so I taped the I am not a luthier. I barely qualify as a top with low stick masking tape to prevent “do-it-yourselfer.” But I do own a router scratches and used my spiral saw to expand and have used it once or twice. Fortunately, the opening to my outline (a Dremel—or The newly patented Trem King® is a Trem King provided step-by-step installation similar tool—would probably have worked vibrato system that uses a fixed bridge guides, as well as several You Tube videos just as well). Dropping in the Trem King®, concept. The bridge plate is fixed to the that helped me understand exactly what I could see that it fit nicely and lined up well guitar body. The saddles are fixed to the I was dealing with (and helped bolster my with the fretboard centerline, which I had bridge and don’t move. The intonation point courage). They also advertised a friendly marked on low stick tape. Then I set the and string height never change. The tone offer of help by e-mail or phone with any bridge aside for later. block pivots back and forth to provide the questions or concerns. I flipped the guitar back over, taped off the vibrato action. The Trem King® balances back with low-stick tape, and adjusted the I removed the strings, pulled the pickguard string tension with spring pressure for a and back cover, and took off the stock router for depth. Running the router along light and smooth action, combined with the bridge, which I had blocked (because of that both the front and back of the cavity looked patented Tension Bar for precision. When thing I have about staying in tune). Then I like it was doing the trick. A couple of depth you use the vibrato bar, the tension bar held up the Trem King® to the open bridge adjustments and router passes later, and it brings the tone block back to the same Zero cavity and I could see the installation would was time to see whether it was enough. I set Point every time. Trem King® Model TKS- be a little more involved than I thought. The the Trem King® into the trimmed slot once 1, which comes in chrome, nickel, or black, Trem King® was shaped differently than the again and worked the mechanism back and is intended for guitars with a two post or six stock bridge. The opening would need to be forth, carefully watching from the bottom screw style tremolo unit, such as a Strat. It trimmed to fit into the slot and to slide far to ensure that it was getting full movement sells for $125.97 on the Trem King web site. enough to the left to center on the fretboard. and not hanging up on anything. With relief Other models are available for Tele-style and The mounting points were also in different I judged that my eyeball routing job worked other solid body guitars. locations than stock. That meant pulling the exactly as intended. It didn’t look too bad, either. Time to mount the spring claws. My old MIJ Strat, sadly ignored on the wall two screw inserts and gluing in dowels. continued on page 29 of my music room (and long overdue for an I took a hard look into the now-empty upgrade or two) was a perfect test subject, spring chamber at the back to try to gauge so I decided to take on the Trem King as my how much wood would need to be routed DIY project. out to create the necessary pocket. Trem When I received the Trem King I spent King provides a diagram to build a router enough time with the instructions to clearly template out of Plexiglas. They also offer templates for purchase directly from their web site. Not owning any Plexiglas (and never one to follow instructions too closely), I decided to eyeball the pocket route without constructing (or ordering) the template. Okay, so here’s hoping… The first thing I did (after tying back my hair and donning safety glasses) was pull the screw inserts and glue in dowels with wood glue, being careful to make the tops of the plugs flush with the guitar body. I wanted the glue to be nice and dry for the rest of the installation.



1970 Sparkle Strat Sparkle with gold parts and a maple cap neck to sell. Before I even saw the guitar, Bob snagged it. When Bob showed it to me I was excited for him, but I was also sick to my stomach. It was the most beautiful Stratocaster I had ever seen in my life. I still feel that way to this very day. It had a matching sunburst sparkle finish on the body, pick guard, and the headstock. The fact that it was a 1970 meant that it was a larger headstock with more sparkle! I told Bob I would buy it right there and then. He said he wanted to hang on to it awhile. Shortly thereafter, he wanted to purchase a guitar from my personal collection – a near mint 1958 Gibson, Unbound ES-335 in Sunburst. I didn’t want to sell it, but I would certainly trade for the 1970 sparkle Strat. He offered me $15,000 for the guitar instead of taking me up on my trade. We went back and forth for what seemed like months.

I turned 30 in April of 1988, and I found myself not listening to music that was played on commercial radio. The majority of the music I was listening to came from right here in the Pacific Northwest. I was convinced

that the old saying from the 60’s, “don’t trust anyone over 30” pertained to me. I run a vintage guitar store, Guitar Maniacs, and in July of 1990 I moved my store out of my home and into a shop in Tacoma, WA. Much to my surprise, a few months later Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, from the band Nirvana, walked into my store! Krist lived in Tacoma during the making of their album “Nevermind”. I had opened my store at the right time in the right place!

At the same time, I was corresponding with my friend, Mike Parker (who also has sadly passed), because he was trying to procure a 1955 Fender Stratocaster, mint with tags and original sales receipt. He was having trouble, like me, obtaining his dream guitar. Mike told me that unfortunately sometimes, “you just have to cheat a little”. I asked him what that meant and he told me with a laugh that I would figure it out. I called Bob again hoping we would make a deal, only to have him say that after he was “gone” he would make sure that I got the guitar. Remembering what Mike had told me, I told Bob that his arrangement wouldn’t work for me because then every time I asked him in the future how he was doing and he said, “fine”, I would tell him, “bummer!” We laughed and he told me to bring the 335 and come and pick up “my” Strat. Bob lived an hour away and I told him I would be there in 5 minutes. We laughed again.

I met many cool people in the early 90’s, but one of the coolest came to be a good friend. His name was Bob Jeniker. Bob was never too competitive, and he was always a lot of fun, quite unlike others I dealt with during this time. I One of my basic philosophies in my guitar remember the day Bob dealing is that if you buy a guitar for $100 and I were eating Thai and the guitar is not for sale and someone food around the corner from his business, offers you $1000 for it and you turn it down, Park Ave Records in Seattle, when he told your cost is $1000 not $100. Opportunity me he only had a few months to live and cost, yes, but still a cost! So now the truth that he had just been diagnosed with cancer. comes out, I sold this guitar a few months Bob quickly sold his business and relieved back for over 10x my actual cost. *It was as much stress from his life as he could. He time to sell, so this guitar “did” get away. then devoted most of his time to his true passion, collecting custom colored Fender Rick King is the owner of guitars. Bob beat the 6-month sentence and Guitar Maniacs in Tacoma went on to live for a couple of years. Washington. He lives in Gig Around this time, at a local Seattle guitar Harbor with his wife Sheila, show, a dealer from Orange County brought two dogs and a cat. Contact in a 1970, Fender Stratocaster in Surf-Burst Rick:


Lyle Lovett and Collings Guitars

Lyle Lovett with his 1992 Collings CJ41 A SB Serious Guitars | | (512) 288-7770


Collecting Vintage Pawnshop Guitars: Part One There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to come clean and admit his shortcomings: I am a sucker for cheap, funky “pawnshop” electric guitars. I like to set them up and stare at them in wonder. And yes, I like my high end electrics too; five great Les Pauls, a killer reverse Firebird, a white SG Special, a Moderne reissue, an MIJ Strat, my Rickenbacker 330-12-string, and that Candy Apple Red Jazzmaster staring back at me from across the room with its back turned, undoubtedly annoyed because I haven’t played her in a while.

wall as display items. Such was the case for me during a recent nostalgic trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, where I graduated college. The local pawnshop, L. Oppelman & Sons, had dozens of ‘60’s era funky, cheap prizes hanging on the wall, and not one was for sale. The owner collects them, I was told. Thanks a lot, guys. I found the same deal at Metro Sound in Richmond, Virginia: lots of cool, weird guitars, but not one for sale. What you will find these days in pawnshops are terrible low-end Stratocaster copies, crummy Chinese Like many of you, with two kids in acoustics, and pointy, heavy metal college, a mortgage, and car payments, weapons that many of us, myself I simply don’t have the financial included, wouldn’t touch with a ten wherewithal to spend on a ’56 Les foot pole. Paul Custom, or any other high dollar So what is a classic pawnshop guitar. It goes without saying that a guitar? Think brand names such as real ’59 Les Paul flametop ‘Burst is an Harmony, Danelectro, Silvertone, unattainable fantasy, unless I happen Kay, National, Supro, Magnatone, to find one under a farmer’s bed in and Alamo. From the Asian side of rural Pennsylvania. the globe, there’s Teisco, Teisco DelNow that I own many of the better Ray, Kawai, Kent, Norma, Kingston, guitars that once existed on my want Jedson, Apollo, Duke, Heit, and list, I have turned my attention to countless others, collectively known collecting the guitars that many of us as “stencil” brands. And let’s not started on back in our youth; guitars forget the wacky Euro prizes; EKO, that were scorned for years by holier- Wandre, Crucianelli, Gemelli, Vox, than-thou snobs as, “dogs,” “trash,” Goya, Galanti, Hagstrom, Egmond, “junky crap,” and the once-negative Vox, Framus, Hofner, Hoyer, Burns, epithet, “pawnshop.” These guitars Watkins, and Hayman. And finally, easily fit my budgetary restraints these those ultra bizarre Russian and Eastern European guitars, like days. the supremely ugly Tonika, Just for the record, you won’t find shaped like the state of Texas many classic “pawnshop” electrics on a bad acid trip. Let’s look in pawnshops anymore, and if you at some of the leading brands do, chances are they’re up on the individually.


Harmony of Chicago was the largest manufacturer of guitars in the USA for 83 years. They supposedly shipped over 350,000 guitars in 1965 alone, after The Beatles and other British Invasion bands ignited demand for electric guitars. It is estimated that Harmony sold over 10 million guitars in a thirty-three year period, from 1945 until 1978. No other American guitar maker came close to those numbers. Today, vintage Harmony guitars are abundant, but the prices are going up for some of the better models, and many of them need work to make them gig-worthy. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and singer/guitarist Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes favor Harmony hollow body guitars. Original Harmony H22 basses are also highly prized. Harmony also made stencil brands, including Silvertone, the house brand name for Sears-Roebuck. Nat Daniel started making amplifiers for Epiphone and Sears a few years after World War II, but began to produce guitars and amps under the Danelectro and Silvertone names at his factory in New Jersey in 1954. Nat was a very clever, innovative man who made highly playable instruments from cheap materials such as pine and Masonite, and single coil pickups encased in surplus lipstick tubes.

Today, every vintage Danelectro guitar is collectible, and excellent examples are becoming harder and harder to find. I bought my ‘60’s Danelectro Convertible for $40 in 1978, and still own it. Many vintage Danos can still be had for under a grand, including that infamous but much-loved Silvertone electric with the amp in the case.

some of the quirkiest guitars known to man. Moseley gained fame for his upside down Stratocaster design made famous by The Ventures, Iron Butterfly, and other ‘60’s groups. Joe Hall’s Hallmark Swept-Wing was an attention-grabbing cross between a Vox Phantom and a backwards Flying V. The late Bill Gruggett’s Stradette (the name is a homage to Stradivarius), looked more like a violin The Kay Company also built guitars than a guitar. All these are still being aimed at the youth market, and produced by collector Bob Shade’s somehow secured the endorsement Magnatone and Alamo, both from of famed jazz and session guitarist of Texas, produced electric guitars revitalized Hallmark Company. Bob’s Barney Kessel. His signature model, in small quantities and have a cult website is, Kay’s attempt at building a high following of collectors, including in case you’d like to see what he has quality guitar, was a flop, most likely Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Known to offer. Despite their rarity, these due to the company’s reputation as primarily for their amplifiers, original California prizes are still out builders of low-end gear. Not many Magnatone made guitars that looked there if you can find them. professional guitarists took them like a Rickenbacker 325, the “John seriously. With their “Kelvinator” Lennon” model. I have only seen one headstocks and “Kleenex Box’ Magantone like this in the flesh. A Next Issue - Part Two: Japanese, pickups, some Kay electrics now fetch guitar teacher I knew in the late ‘60’s considerable sums on the collector’s who hated rock music owned it and Eastern, & Western European market, but are still affordable used it while giving lessons. All his Bizarro Guitars & More compared to high dollar Gibsons and students reputedly wanted to buy that Fenders. guitar. I wish I knew what happened Bob Cianci is a National/Supro guitars, products of to it. lifelong musician, the Valco Corporation, are some of Stepping out a bit from the music journalist, the most notorious funky pawnshop boundaries of cheapo electrics, but and author of the guitars ever made, but only from a still worth mentioning, are the guitars book, Great Rock visual standpoint. Their map-shaped made in California by Mosrite, Drummers of The Sixties, and has Res-O-Glass (fiberglass, actually) Hallmark and Gruggett. written extensively guitars are strangely cool, and have Semie Moseley, Joe Hall, and Bill for many guitar and drum publications, a cult following, but are often barely Gruggett were friends and business newspapers, websites, and fanzines. He is a playable, and frequently sound just as associates at one point or another working guitarist and drummer in three bands in New Jersey. His guitar collection numbers bad. Valco got it right however, with in the ‘60’s, and all three produced over twenty-five pieces at the moment, and is their Supro line of budget guitars that featured wooden bodies and Valco pickups; big single coil units that look like humbuckers, but have a raw, nasty sound all their own. Models like the single pickup Belmont, the two pickup Dual-Tone, and the Coronado are desirable collector’s items, but still affordable. Players like Link Wray, Rory Gallagher, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith have used Supros. Joe told me it’s the best slide guitar he ever owned.

constantly evolving.


ALL ABOUT AMPS with Skip Simmons

How Can I Tell if My Amp Needs New Tubes?

I recently purchased a new tube amp but I am confused about tubes - really confused! I looked online and am bewildered by all the options. How can I tell if my amp needs tubes and which tubes would be best for my amp? This is a big question that I’m sure we will be revisiting in the future, but let’s touch on some important points right now. In keeping with the age-old tradition of advertising and sales, you will find plenty of hyperbole when it comes to tubes. Online forums where actual users discuss the qualities of various tubes seem like a great idea, but it’s tough to know if someone else’s opinion will match your own, especially when it comes to something as personal as music. If your amp is fairly new and works properly without any loud noises or blowing fuses, I would strongly suggest leaving the tubes alone for now. In general, it’s a mistake to try to alter the tone or distortion characteristics by swapping tubes. All those groovy knobs on the amp will change the tone way more than swapping tubes! Here are some (possibly) amazing tube facts. Despite the myriad of different brands, all current-production tubes are made in a small handful of factories in China, Russia, and Slovakia. Yes, that means quite a few different “brands” will be found printed on the identical tube. Back in the old days (otherwise known as the seventies), Groove Tubes made their reputation by testing and grading available tubes, not by

manufacturing tubes. All the American manufacturers shut down by the 1980s. Tubes were dead, right? That’s about when tube amps sky-rocketed in popularity and a genius named Mike Matthews (of ElectroHarmonix fame) went to Russia, one of the homes of obsolete technology, and said “Hey, you guys are still making tubes. I want to import them to the US.” Fender began cranking out tube amps again so they went to China for all their tubes, and the rest is history.

levels but again, so do the tone controls on the amp.

There may come a time when you have a broken, dead, or noisy tube that must be replaced. Many well-meaning gearheads would figure that a complete set of tubes is a good idea, but it’s not. Every tube in your amp has a specific function, so replacing all of them is a little like putting new brakes on your car because your transmission needs work. This is also a good time to mention that most tubes will last far longer than you Okay, so let’s say that “stratguy78” says might expect. Preamp tubes, in particular, online that the new XYZ preamp tubes he can often run perfectly for decades! Even put in his Marshall made it louder. Well, power tubes in a properly designed amp will some of the current-production 12AX7s usually survive several years of moderate actually have a bit more gain than some use. others, but does “louder” equal “better”? Keep those questions coming! Next issue: Maybe not... “Are vintage tubes worth the money?” Don’t try to alter the basic tone of the amp Skip’s Tip: A torn or punctured speaker by changing tubes. In other words, don’t doesn’t always require reconing. I get think that your 50-watt amp will sound excellent results repairing rips and punctures better in your spare bedroom if you change using Barge cement or Pliobond glue. Don’t tubes. If the basic sound of a working amp be tempted to use super glue, nail polish, doesn’t make you happy, don’t expect tubes rubber cement, or so-called ‘speaker repair to help. cement’. None of them work as well. Power tubes (6L6s, 6V6s, EL-34s, etc.) Skip Simmons is a won’t make a huge difference in tone until nationally known vintage amp the amp is turned up quite a bit, and if repairman. He can be reached you are playing a too-loud amp in a too- at small room, you probably won’t hear any difference. Preamp tubes, on the other hand, can make a noticeable difference to an attentive musician even at lower volume


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STATE OF THE UNION by David Belzer

An Interesting Few Months... He then took his supposed 100% original amplifier to his amp tech, only to be told that almost everything other than the tweed covering and chassis had been replaced with new components.

Well, it’s been an interesting few months in the vintage guitar market. Gruhn Guitars sold an early 1954 stratocaster for $250,000. There was a very large auction of over 300 vintage guitars in New York City, mostly comprised of flat top acoustics and archtops, which received a large amount of press coverage. All of a sudden, there seems to be a lot of buzz about vintage guitars from all sides, be it playing, collecting, or investing. I have had a number of people new to the market contact me about specific items they are looking for or wanting appraisals on recent purchases. I would say this is the most enthusiasm I have witnessed in the vintage market in the last seven or eight years. I find this exciting, but at the same time a bit disturbing. Warren Buffet once said, “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” He also said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” When buying a vintage guitar, it’s really important to know what you are doing, or at least have a trustworthy resource to help you. There are several things to consider when buying a vintage guitar. Are you buying it to play it, collect it, or as an investment? In the world of vintage guitars, the cleanest, all original guitars are the most sought after, but to a player, it might not matter as much if the guitar has had some modifications made to it, as long as it sounds amazing. A collector is most likely interested in the cleanest, most

I never actually saw the Gibson because it had been returned before we connected. I think he is still trying to resolve that one. I did see a picture of the amp, and yes, it was in excellent cosmetic condition, but all one had to do was remove the four screws on the back panel to see all of the caps and resistors had been replaced. At first the dealer actually had the nerve to accuse him of replacing all of the parts, but original guitar that is in their scope of interest. eventually gave up on that one and returned Maybe it’s custom color Fender guitars, or a the customer’s money. certain year of a particular model. A lot of A few years ago I was asked to do an people want a guitar from the year they were born. The investor is trying to get a desirable insurance appraisal on a guitar signed by guitar at a good price that will grow in value all four Beatles that had been purchased and can be sold at a profit. Whatever your at a lesser-known auction house for a motivation, it’s still important to do your considerable sum of money. I am no expert homework and know that you should be in Beatles signatures, but I felt bad when I excited, but at the same time cautious when had to inform the buyer that all four Beatles could not possibly have signed a 2002 Fender picking that special guitar. Squire Strat. I had a gentleman contact me recently I’m not saying that any of these dealers wanting to invest in some blue chip guitars and amps. He is a very educated and intentionally tried to put one over on the successful businessman who plays well, has customer. Everyone makes mistakes, even his own studio and also writes and performs the best of us. What I am saying is “Caveat music. Well, he got bit by the vintage bug Emptor” or “Let the buyer beware”. Some and a’shoppin’ he went! Being an educated dealers will give you a wait time to make consumer, he did his research and bought sure the purchase is for you. A two or from two different but well-known dealers. three day approval time is not unheard of He purchased a 50’s Gibson from one these days. But before you buy, do your dealer and a Fender amplifier from the other homework. Get detailed pictures, get some dealer. Both purchases were at the high end kind of written appraisal as to exactly what of retail pricing and the customer knew he you are supposed to be getting. Make sure was paying top dollar, but he felt confident the guitar of your dreams stays the guitar of in the fact he was being told these were 100% your dreams and doesn’t become your worst original and in excellent condition and they nightmare. were coming from reliable sources with a David Belzer is one of the top vintage guitar long history in the biz. I’m guessing you can see where this is going. He ended up taking the guitar to a local dealer near his home to get an appraisal for insurance, only to be told that under the black light there was a major repair that had been done to it at some point.


authorities in the world, with over 30 years of experience in vintage. His knowledge of vintage guitars is only exceeded by his passion for playing them. For more information or to contact him directly, visit

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The Interview

by Bruce Adolph

A local music store in Seattle (The Guitar Store) was hosting a Paul Reed Smith clinic and the owner, James Schultz, is a friend of mine. I told him I would love to interview Paul in person for Collectible Guitar, and I was graciously given one of the stores inner offices to sit down with the man himself.

Pau l Reed Smith

photos by Marc Quigley exept where noted

I had met Paul briefly several times but never really said more than three words to him. This was going to be interesting! I found out two things I didn’t know about Paul that day. One: he is an intelligent man; and two: he is an engaging personality. To be honest I was a bit nervous going into this interview, but in no time at all we were clicking intellectually and even laughing quite a bit. He is a trusting soul, as you will find out.

CG: When you were a young guitar repairman what vintage guitars inspired you in your journey to make your own PRS guitars?

that you could pull the frets out with your fingernails because the slots had gotten so big. I got all of the really hard repairs. If someone was in a Paul: So I was the repairman in band and their new Music Man bass Annapolis, Maryland between was making noise because there was Baltimore and D.C. and north of a radio transmitter too close, they Richmand. I was the guy that they would bring it to me. would say, “Oh shoot, I’ve got to go I mean I saw repairs right after see Paul.” things were released, you know, and There were good repairmen in town, nobody knew how to deal with it. but if they couldn’t do the repair I And I would say, “Leave it and I’ll was the one who got it. If someone work on it.” Like that Music Man had a flying V that the headstock had bass . . . I must have coated every been re-glued on three times with single wire with four layers of tin foil foxy-poxy, they would show up at my and do everything I could to shield it, shop. I would get the re-frets from the and finally I got the noise to shut up. 1950’s Tele’s from Richland where the I can’t tell you how many times I took guy had re-fretted it so many times in a repair and they would leave me a $100.00 deposit (I didn’t have money


PAUL REED SMITH for rent) and I didn’t even know how have been playing together forever. to fix it (laughing). But I figured it out. CG: Ted McCarty has been a mentor When Joe Perry broke the headstock of yours for years. What were some off of his Les Paul Junior and Steven of your “takeaways” from him as a Tyler whipped the headstock around person and as a guitar maker? with the bridge (because the bridge comes off of a Les Paul Junior when Paul: I drained him for every piece you break the headstock) and the of information he would tell me. I bridge flew off into the audience… knew that I had all of the stories when I got that repair. Those were the he would start repeating himself. But kinds of things I was doing. I would he didn’t start repeating himself for do repair work most of the time and a long time. And the other thing that I would make a guitar maybe once a was really nice about Ted was that he month – so about 12 guitars a year in wanted to give back. We made a deal. I said, “Listen, I will make sure that the shop. you are not forgotten, and I want to CG: You were pretty young then, know it all.” He ended up being the weren’t you? grandfather that I never really had. Paul: Yes, I was pretty young, but My mother’s father was there, but he I was the repairman in that area didn’t talk with me, and my father’s for those things. I remember one father had died before I was born. Ted guy came into my shop and asked, was a grandfather-like relationship to “Where’s Paul, the guitar maker?” I me. I sang to him on his deathbed. said, “Right here.” He replied, “No, It was on my birthday. I’m not sure no, no. I need the big guy with the gut I handled his death so well. I really and the apron on.” (laughing). No, loved him a lot. I used to whisper in I was a really skinny long-haired kid, his ear, “Time for an interview Ted.” right? He carded me in my own shop; And he would be asleep in his chair. He would wake up and go, “OK!” he did not believe it was me! We would do the interview and he I got carded at the first Dallas vintage would go back to sleep. And the last guitar show too! Jimmy Wallace said, time he came to NAMM I wheeled “Where is Paul Reed Smith?” I said, him around in the wheelchair and “Right here.” He said, “Nah, show everybody came out of their booths me your driver’s license.” He did not to say goodbye. One of the most believe me. But I was the repairman touching was when Jean Claude when you had to drive. I also did Larrivée came out and knelt down repair work at Washington Music as next to him to say goodbye. Rob, from a kid, and at Veneman Music. EMG, and all these people came by to CG: I love it! That is good insight to pay their respects because they knew it was going to be the last time they your beginnings. saw him. Paul: When I met David Grissom at one of the first vintage guitar shows Ted was cool. I interviewed him he said, “Boy, you play really good. about everything. Let’s play a game You are just like a guy in D.C. except . . . . You ask me anything, right now. you are better.” That’s my call. We CG: Alright. Paul’s friend & mentor, Ted McCarty

Paul: You ask me anything right now about how the old Gibson’s were made and I’ll tell you. Something like what kind of glue did they use to glue the frets in with – those kinds of questions. Nobody really knows the answer to that one. CG: OK, let’s put that question out there… Paul: Fish glue! They send a horse to the factory for hide glue; they send fish to the

photos on this page by Sam Holden

Throw Back Thursday with Ted McCarty and Paul

fish factory for fish glue. I tried it. It stunk! I wouldn’t use it. But that is what they used. CG: (laughing) Crazy… Paul: So ask me anything! (Editor’s note: OK, I was on the hot seat now. Paul had turned the tables on me… Yikes! I needed a good question and quick… the clock was ticking) CG: How did Gibson shape their frets? How did they crown them back in the day? Paul: I have no idea. I didn’t ask that question. CG: Well then, I won the game, didn’t I? (laughing again) Paul: But they used to run a router down each side after they fretted it before they bound the neck because the frets came right up to the binding. They used to dry the ever-living heck out of their fretboards. Ted said, “Well, you know, there was oil and stuff all over the floor… kind of a fire hazard. I don’t think they should let you do that anymore.” I would ask, “How did you glue the tops on?” Ted answered, “We glued them on with radio ovens.” CG: Did he mean Microwave Ovens? Paul: He didn’t call them microwaves, but that is exactly what it was! (laughing) I said, “How did you do it?” Ted said, “Well, we had these wood jigs, you know, and you could walk around the oven with a light bulb in your hand not plugged in and it would go on!”


PAUL REED SMITH CG: Now that was dangerous. Paul: They were cooking their blood. It is like drying a cat in the microwave. CG: No! (Editor’s note: PRS, CG, or anyone sane does not recommend drying their guitar wood this way, nor treating cats or any animals this way) Paul: By the way, they still glue Marshall cabinets together today with radio ovens. Sure, it is very common. CG: It must be a big microwave to fit Marshall cabinets into them… Paul: We glue our tops together with a handheld similar device. They dry immediately, and the tool is safe to use. I must have asked everything of Ted: how they glued everything together, how they dried their woods, how did they make the pick-ups. I said, “Ted, you had women winding the pickups right?” He said, “Nah, we used machines”. CG: Now didn’t you end up buying those same machines he was talking about? Paul: I had already bought them. I wanted to know specifics and he told me all of the specifics. If he didn’t know on the spot he would call me back with the answer later. I asked him, “The bridges are made of pot metal, right Ted?” He replied, “There is no such thing as pot metal. I don’t remember, but I’ll call you.” He called me back and told me exactly what all those old bridges are made of. CG: Wow! (Editor’s note, Paul placed his hand over the recording device and whispered to me what they were made of… great, now I have yet another secret to be carried to the grave :) Paul: They used to break and they were crystalline and they didn’t weigh anything. There is no such thing as pot metal. It is a term for something else. But Ted told me everything he could remember. And he never told the story different, which is how I knew he was telling the truth. He never embellished the stories; they were always exactly the same. This guy was a champion; he was the real deal. One day he said, “I saw a bar in the shape of a failure today.” I said, “Pardon me, where were you Ted?” He responded, “The Hard Rock Café.”

The bar was the shape of the Flying V. He could only sell 40 or 80 of them right? I said, “Ted, the Flying V is a legend!” “It’s a failure,” he said, “The stores bought them and put them in these display cases that rotated around… but they couldn’t sell them.” That, in his mind, was a failure. I can’t remember if it was 40 Flying V’s and 80 Explorers or which it was, but things were in batches of 40. He was a beautifully good guy. And he handed me the baton with all due respect… that is what he did. Ted was cool; he was really something. CG: Well that was an honor for you. Paul: It was an honor for me and it was an honor for him. And if he were alive today he would be sitting here talking with you right now answering every question you want.

am not sure, but I can tell you that I keep four vintage guitars in my office and they are really good ones. The best examples I have found of those models. CG: And they are? Paul: Jimmy Wallace’s 1957 Strat; the best 1958 Goldtop Les Paul I’ve ever touched (Gibson); a 1961 Gibson SG; and a 1967 Martin D-28 acoustic. I compare them all the time to the guitars that we make at PRS. Those guitars aren’t coming out of cases anymore. It used to be that a rock star would buy a guitar and want to compare it to the old guitars. They don’t even ask anymore. They used to want to feel good about what just happened, so I would have them compare this new guitar against history. That is why I had the four vintage guitars in my office, but they are not even serving a purpose anymore and the old Les Paul and the Strat are for sale.

CG: That is way cool. Switching gears, Collectible Guitar magazine is not only about vintage guitars but also highly treasured and used collectible new guitars as well. What do you I am not a guitar collector. Those think is your most collectible PRS are sound samples to me. I can’t talk made guitar? to Ted anymore and I can’t talk to Paul: Dragon One, the Collection Leo anymore. But their guitars, well Series… OK, let me make a point they have left us those. I can’t talk to Christian Martin anymore but he left here before we go down this road. a guitar, right? CG: OK The best wide neck Gibson ever Paul: How old was Jimi Hendrix’s made was in 1961, and by 1963 they guitar when he played “Wind Cries had destroyed it – it wasn’t the same Mary”? shape anymore. So, I really don’t have any use for the four vintage guitars CG: Well, it wasn’t that old at all. anymore, but I had a use for them for Paul: It was brand new. How old was a while. When we started making the the amp? acoustic guitars we were comparing them to that Martin D-28 on my CG: (laughing) I don’t know. office wall. Paul: It was pretty new. And you would think that this D-28 CG: Nothing was vintage then… is a big bass-ie thing, but it is kind of Paul: Ah, that’s not true. Jimi was a boxy midrange guitar. A beautiful 1969 and there were electric guitars sounding guitar. I got it from Larry made in 1953. Guitars with pick- Thomas when he was at Guitar ups made in 1920, 1930 OK… fine. Center, and he called it “the cannon”. But Jimi’s Strat on the “Wind Cries He had been picking through all of Mary” is debatably one of the best the vintage guitars that came through vintage guitar tones of all time. the chain. But it wasn’t an old guitar and they So I think the original question was couldn’t even give a Strat away until what things did I look after in my he picked one up. What, they were building. I had always studied the old making Jazzmasters and Jaguars and violin, Guadagnini, Guarneri and Mustangs right? Amati, but mostly Stradivari – those CG: Yes guys and what they did. And then Paul: So I don’t know which PRS the guitars that Antonio Torres made. guitar is the most collectible yet. I am always trying to find these old I don’t know. I was in diapers in instruments. There is a 1953 or ‘54 1958. I wasn’t allowed to that party. Tele in this place right now where I didn’t start building guitars until we are doing the interview, and the long after Hendrix had died. So, I first thing I did was go and sniff it out to take a look, because that was


PAUL REED SMITH the beginnings of our industry. The electric guitar started in 1923. It was a harp guitar that Skip Majores got. Everybody thinks it was a “frying pan”, but it wasn’t. I have held the guitar from the 1920’s that had a pickup in it. The jack on it was off of a model T Ford light bulb because they didn’t have a jack. CG: That’s right, as nothing was made for that purpose yet. Paul: Right, they were turning radios into amplifiers, but for me I wasn’t invited to that party and it takes somewhere between 10,00050,000 hours of doing something to get good at it. We have gotten to the point where I am really happy with what is going on at PRS. There isn’t a guitar that I pick off the (PRS) wall that I can’t get a recording or live tone out of. It is really cool. CG: Is that why you offer the Private Stock and the Collection Series… to give guitarists their own chance to have a collectible instrument that they can have a pick of what they want? Paul: No, the Private Stock guitars exist because there is very clearly a market to segregate our absolute best artisans and put them in an area where they can develop the art of guitar making. All of those “glow” colors came out of there. All of this wild stuff was developed in Private Stock and then handed down to where the rest of the factory happens.

As for the Collection Series, that is because the guitar is the violin of our time, but prices on guitars are going down, down, and down. You want a French horn? That’s $15,000. You want a good violin? That is somewhere between $25-35,000. If you want a piano, if you want any kind of a real musical instrument it is going to cost you. But a guitar? $600.00? You have got to be kidding me! (Paul looks down at our first issue of Collectible Guitar magazine on the table and points to the 1901 Martin 00-27 guitar on the front cover). I don’t buy that whatever guitar is here on the cover of your magazine… this 1901 Martin (which is a beautiful instrument) is not $600.00 worth of work. That’s thousands and thousands of dollars of work that you get what you pay for. We were trying to make an instrument that clearly had that kind of energy and time and love and care into it. And we wanted something that would last a really, really, really long time. And then the Met took one in (Metropolitan Museum of Art). (Editor’s note: Paul pulled out his smart phone and showed me a photo of the PRS that is in the museum. It has drop dead gorgeous striping in the wood. Then he showed me a picture of several guitars all in a row that he said I couldn’t talk about… something really cool. Oh no! Another secret I have to keep under my hat. Paul is testing me again. Yikes!). So the Private Stock thing is just what I would do if I had my own little shop. Look, people don’t give money long term for something that’s not worth it. The guitar is the violin of our time, but it is the cheap, bastard son of high quality musical instruments in terms of price. (laughing) Except, a $14,000 Collection Series guitar is still 1/20th of the price of a vintage Les Paul. CG: Well Paul, that is a good point… well said! Now Leo and Ted have all passed away…

Paul: By the way, Leo used to come by our booth every year to pay his respects. I really thought what he did was cool. He told me I was doing a good job. CG: Wow! Okay, so they have passed on. Twenty years after you have gone, what do you want your legacy to be? Paul: It would be nice if I was a good father and a good husband. You know they aren’t going to talk about our work when we die. They are going to talk about who we were as a friend. They are going to talk about their experiences with us… “I remember the day when…” I don’t know. I’m not concerned about that. I am much more concerned about our industry. There are a lot of guitars in music stores right now that are bare reflections of what they are imitating. Whereas what you have on the cover of your magazines are extraordinary instruments.


PAUL REED SMITH Martin sounds like. They think the re-issues are what you are talking about. We realize you are not talking about the reissues, but the real thing. This is fascinating, where you live, where I live, where Jimmy Wallace lives, were Warren Hayes lives… that is not what’s going on. Do you think anybody here tonight at my clinic will have played a real Flying V? This is a very interesting problem. I love our industry and I love guitars. I love the whole combination of the learning and the sound in your hands and the sound of the guitar and the pedals… and the amplifier and the speaker cabinet and the microphones and the mic pre’s and recording… the whole chain – and I love it! The songwriting – the whole thing is cool. But a lot of kids I run into don’t even know that their guitars aren’t set up well. They don’t know how to adjust the truss rod. They don’t know that they need a guitar repairman. It scares me that they are in a throwaway world. What do you do with a TV set when it is broken? CG: If it is two years old or more you get a new one… I did a clinic recently where people told me that they have never played an old Les Paul, or an old Strat, or an SG. They don’t know what an old

Paul: Right, you throw it away. But we used to take it to the TV repairman right? It is scary because I saw a guy walk through the airport the other day with his acoustic guitar


in his hands headed for his plane (no case or gig bag). I looked at my wife and said, “That is the problem.” She said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “When that guitar gets broken, what is he going to do with it?” She answered, “Throw it away.” I said, “That’s right!” But that is not what you are supposed to do with musical instruments. Old violins are in the shop all the time. Everybody has to take care of these things. Not that they are built to break. They are not, they are supposed to last lifetimes, but you have to take care of them. And it scares me that kids don’t know how to adjust the intonation or they don’t know how to set things up. It worries me for our industry. It worries me that they are selling $300.00 mics and saying that they sound as good as $3,000.00 mics. Isn’t that what is going on? It’s not the same ball game. CG: Now, with all due respect though, I think your SE Korean made PRS models are the best electrics you can buy for under $1,000.00. Paul: That is the idea. That is why it has survived. CG: And the reason you are bringing in the S2’s (for $1,200.00) is to offer a less expensive, but well made guitar that is built in the USA. Are you trying to get the USA made guitars more affordable so folks won’t have to buy overseas made guitars? Paul: Well, the problem is, if we don’t go down market we are going to die, because everything is going down market. But, we wanted to go

PAUL REED SMITH down market with quality. So the places we sacrificed quality were in the amount of curl that was on the top and whether it was a beveled top instead of a carved top. With that, we still can build a really good guitar. I plugged one in a few minutes ago to test some pedals and it sounded fine. I just grabbed one of off the wall in this store. You should be able to grab any guitar out of a box and be able to go and play a set or a gig with it without taking it to the repairman first. And we do that. Now this I want you to print. CG: Alright… Paul: Our managers get together every single Friday morning at 8:00am and open boxes. And we look at them as if we are going to buy them. And there is a report, and we fix the stuff we find. It is really important.

Paul: I can’t tell you what is going to happen, but I can tell you that the online thing is not going to go down. It’s sales will go up. That will not change, so get used to it. The tide goes in and the tide goes out. At that one point for Fender they were making Jazzmasters and Jaguars and Mustangs and you couldn’t give a Strat away. (Laughing) The tide goes in and the tide goes out. There was a time when you couldn’t give a Les Paul away. They are musical instruments, and the styles also come in and go out. CG: You released three metal style SE guitars at NAMM. You must feel that metal is making a comeback – especially in Europe. Paul: Metal is huge in Europe. The metal market is not small.

CG: For my last question for you… By the way, your magazine, this is do you have a hard time separating the new guard for us. This is quality. Paul Reed Smith the player from Paul CG: Thank you very much. OK, Reed Smith the brand? I saw you next question. I am an industry guy. before at a guitar show and you were This last Winter NAMM was my 34th really a good player. Are there any year. Where do you think we need blurry lines there for you? to go as an industry? You have your Paul: (laughing) The only blurry line brick and mortar stores struggling, is that if you advertise that I am going and you have people buying guitars to play somewhere no one shows up, online… but advertise that I am going to teach Paul: 50% of all sales are online. This store here is one of the rare birds (The Guitar Store in Seattle) because it is a destination store. And this store is in a very rich town. There is a lot of money in Seattle. Driving here from the airport I passed Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks… CG: Costco… Paul: Costco Unbelievable.




So 50% of all sales are now online. If you were going to buy a Chorus pedal ten years ago you would get in your car and go to a music store and try all of the pedals and then buy one. Now you go online and search under Chorus pedal… Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, and other places show up and you pick out the one you want by reading other peoples opinions and looking at the blogs. If you don’t like it, you send it back. That is what is going on. And we helped start that because when that all started we were making McCarty’s and you could play eight different McCarty’s and you could trust the quality of them. CG: So where is this all going to go?

a clinic and it is a packed house! Look, I love to play guitar. I am in a band with the Granger Brothers (Gary and Greg Granger) who are debatably one of the best rhythm sections alive. They are not just good; they are extraordinary. Any day that we are playing is a good day; we are all smiling. I love playing music. I don’t know how you could make instruments without knowing how to play one. But somehow Ted McCarty did so by interviewing musicians and somehow Leo Fender did it by interviewing musicians. Ted would gather musicians once a year in New York and Leo would have musicians to the factory constantly. But for me, I am doing that and I am playing. It teaches me a lot. I can’t imagine these great violin makers didn’t play. They had to experience what they were doing. It would blow me away if Stradiveri didn’t play. So I don’t separate it at all… although, I am not worried about guitar making when I am playing and I am not worried about guitar playing when I am making.



PRS Private Stock Martin Simpson Brazilian Acoustic This PRS acoustic isn’t an ordinary guitar – thus the Private Stock label. It has so many high-end features to it that PRS puts a certificate in the case and lists each item meticulously. PRS does not use traditional terminology to describe their body shapes however. The Private Stock Martin Simpson acoustic adheres to the Angelus Cutaway body shape, which is 15 ½” in width, 3 5/8” in depth at the neck block, and 4 ½” in depth at the tail block. For comparison/ reference, size-wise the Angelus is a concertsized guitar…in between an Orchestra and a Grand Concert. It has a rounded cutaway. This model is named “Martin Simpson” after the well-known guitarist, of course, and the tonewoods involved in this guitar are unique to say the least. The neck wood is dark Peruvian mahogany. The fingerboard is ebony. The top is solid Adirondack spruce with paual black purfling. The back and sides are made of solid Brazilian rosewood with black/maple/black purfling. Sounds pretty nice so far, doesn’t it? Well, there is more. The headstock veneer wood is ebony and the neck carve is their Martin Simpson wide cut.

created a guitar that acts like a speaker box a round warm bass. Then I would flip to a and projects the tone of the guitar out of the pick and I thought to myself, “Well, maybe top. this is more of a strummer… the bass was The back of the headstock has something evenly balanced (not boomy) and the chords written on it that in more than 40 years rang and filled up the room. I thought I was of playing guitars I have never seen. It is going to spook our little dog, Winston, out a sign of our times. It simply reads “USA of the living room because I was jumping on Only”. What does that mean? The certificate it rhythmically and the guitar was keeping expounds a little further. “This guitar was up with it. It had volume when I wanted it, built for the USA only.” This means that and also finesse when I changed dynamics. since the Lacy Act came into effect you cannot travel with endangered tonewoods across international borders. The Brazilian rosewood is the culprit here. PRS has legally sourced the wood, but that does not translate well once you leave the good ol’ USA. I have hopes that the Lacy act will be amended at some point soon to make guitar travel easier, but until that day comes stay within the 50 states and fly to Alaska – don’t drive across the border into Canada to get there, because your guitar may not make the trip with you.

When PRS first came out with their hand crafted acoustics I remember seeing Paul Reed Smith sitting next to Ricky Skaggs and others in clinics talking about how they went about getting that great vintage sound from To add to the cosmetics are fingerboard their acoustics using the aforementioned inlays of Paua “J” birds and purfling, while “acts like a speaker box” construction the headstock veneer inlays are Martin technique. They would bring out an old Simpson’s signature in Paua and the Private Martin guitar and literally A/B test them in Stock inlay and Paua purfling. This guitar front of a live audience to prove to the folks has a Brazilian rosewood/paua rosette that these guitars were legit. and has a high-gloss nitro finish. The frets Picking up this Private Stock guitar are made of nickel/silver. The on-board immediately proves their theory. The sound electronics are PRS’s own acoustic system, is rich and complex, both at the same time. and this guitar has an ebony bridge with Internally, this guitar has a PRS proprietary ebony/paua pins and gold Gotoh tuning x-brace / classical hybrid design bracing. pegs with ebony buttons. Wow! That is a With this approach you get crystal clear dream list of ingredients, even for a custom fingerstyle tones, and this guitar can easily built guitar. handle the dynamics of full strumming with It is worth noting that PRS claims that it is their proprietary bracing system and the thickness spec of the top wood that truly gives these guitars their unique voice. By “locking down” the back and sides with mahogany braces and allowing the thinnerthan-average top to essentially do what the strings do and vibrate freely, they have

a flat pick. The open “A” chord has power behind it (almost felt some trouser flap here). I ran this guitar through its paces jumping back and forth between finger picking and flailing with a pick. The dynamics were solid, and when I was fingerpicking I thought this guitar was slanted more towards fingerstyle with killer highs, good meds, and


The neck has some meat to it (which I like) and the nut width of 1.83” is way more up my alley. The PRS Acoustic pickup system is a proprietary, full bandwidth Piezo pickup that is combined with a proprietary 18-volt custom-voiced preamp. This guitar is clearly at the top of its game when it comes to build, looks, and most importantly, sound. To say it is “resonant” is an understatement, to say “it looks beautiful” is where you would only begin to start describing it, and to study the way it is actually made is inspirational to someone who cares about the art of the luthier. Each completed instrument is checked and signed by Paul Miles and Paul Reed Smith personally. It comes in one of those heavyduty Ameritage hard shell cases that are nice enough to be buried in.

PRS sets out to make these Private Stock guitars to become your own family heirlooms, and they have done just that. Keep in mind that the concept of Private Stock at PRS is two-fold: Their top builders make excellent guitars that they think you will want, or you can add your own selections of tonewoods and appointments and make it the custom guitar of your dreams. Talk with your local PRS dealer and see what you can come up with! MAP for this model is $9,999 (with the Brazilian Rosewood Back and Sides). The “base model” Private Stock Martin Simpson acoustic would MAP at $8,799, so the jump to Brazilian rosewood is not that much.

PRS Private Stock Violin II Electric This issue of Collectible Guitar is truly the trifecta of Paul Reed Smith. We have the personal interview with Paul, the Private Stock Martin Simpson acoustic guitar review, and now the Private Stock Violin II electric guitar review. Yes, all things Paul; and actually by packaging it all together it has given us an opportunity to take a good look at the best of what the Maryland factory has to offer and the thinking behind it all. For the sake of being concise and not repeating myself I am going to jump right into the merits of this Private Stock Violin II guitar and tell you my impressions directly from the list of features you can find yourself on their website. In fact, after all I have seen and heard regarding PRS, I think the only let down in the slightest out of Paul’s long list of accomplishments and all that the guitars and amps have achieved is, for some reason, I am not a big fan of their website. To see Paul, the guitars, and the amps in person is just so much more compelling; I wish their website just had a little more flair to it. This is just one man’s opinion here, and you may totally disagree. Again, take this with a grain of salt as our own website at the moment for the magazine is a whopping two pages. But I digress. What is in a name? Why “Violin II” for an electric guitar? These guitars take several design queues from violins and violas. The combination of a curly maple neck with an ebony fretboard, the finish color, and the “Strad” style purfling (a nod to the purfling that Stradivarius used on some of his violins) all take their cues from violins. PRS previously did a small run of guitars that they called Violin guitars for the same reason; they take their lead from violin building. But those guitars featured Pernambuco necks (what a violin bow was traditionally made of), European maple tops, and a different finish color. This model follows in that tradition, hence the name “Violin II.” Curly Maple Top: Front and center, you can’t get away from it… this striped maple

top gets five stars. The top is brown in color with a tint of gold, and is just drop-dead gorgeous. The bevel cut and the raised top are works of art. This is the sexy look of the quintessential PRS look. Wowzers – what a start. Lightweight Mahogany Back: Another way to get to my heart is to hand me a lightweight guitar. Hand me a nine-pound “whatever” brand guitar and I will hand it right back to you. Ha! Maybe it is all of us baby boomers trying to age gracefully, but I revere a well-balanced lightweight guitar. The grain on the mahogany back reminds me of looking at Korina wood… it is good looking! Curly Maple Neck: Five star striped maple for the neck makes it hard to decide if you think the front or back of this guitar is more beautiful. Combined with the mahogany we just discussed, the back gives the front a run for its money! Ebony Fretboard, Veneer, & Truss Rod Cover: The ebony fingerboard gives your fingers a stable environment to run up and down the neck with and just says, “expensive” to your fingertips. The veneer and truss rod cover made of ebony as well is simply a classy move. 25” Scale Length: This scale length feels comfortable and is easy to adjust to, whether you are a die-hard Strat or Les Paul player. Appointments: With a Private Stock guitar you know you are going to get something unique and special to help fulfill the “family heirloom” role of these fine instruments. Here, you have gold mother of pearl “Violin” birds flying down the fretboard and a MOP eagle on the headstock. But to really set this guitar apart they have added mother of pearl and maple strad purfling running down both the top and bottom of the fretboard, creating a binding look. While playing the guitar at first I thought it was a bit odd; but then, after a while, it won me over and I was thinking to myself, “What a nice upgrade that you will enjoy each time you play this guitar.”

Violin/HG Nitro Finish: Honestly, I’ve always liked the look of PRS guitars, but this nitro finish looks even richer than normal. Phase III Locking Tuners With Ivoroid Buttons: I have said this before, but this is a better way to approach locking tuners than the Sperzel way. It is less cumbersome and adds less weight to the headstock. The ivoroid tuning pegs feel smooth and warm to the touch in comparison to regular metal tuners. 57/08 Brushed Nickel Covered Pickups: These pick-ups have just the right amount of bite to them. The PAF vibe is there. They don’t get overblown or artificial sounding… just dead on. The bridge pickup cuts through, but isn’t harsh. The middle position is thick and powerful, and the neck pick-up kicks some tail. The classic sounds are all there! Kudos to PRS for nailing this important aspect. Paul developed the 57/08’s in 2008 and they are made with vintage-style wire and wound in-house in PRS’s own electronics department. Tapestry Covered Hard Shell Case: I openly teased Paul about this. I said, “What did you do, take this fabric off of your grandmother’s couch?” He replied. “Hey, that it is a very cool cover that we use.” You know, he is right. The paisley fabric looks sharp and durable too. If you walk into a room full of guitarists and they see that case in your hand, you will attract some interest as to what may be inside. And the good news is that what is inside is a traffic stopper! So here is the formula for the Private Stock Violin II guitar from PRS (remembering what Paul had stated in our interview… “the guitar is the violin of our time”) take some very high-grade woods, insert your ‘always on target’ fretwork on it, add in two killer pick-ups, and then doll it up with some expressive inlays/appointments and you have one heck of a violin… er, I mean electric guitar. This one is a keeper! List Price: $8,489.00 More info



As far as epic journeys go, the search for the perfect guitar is one of the few such adventures that many of us will ever choose to embark upon. As I write this column, I am on my iPad as the Boeing 737-800 taking me to LA prepares to leave Seattle, but it all started for me in 1997 shortly after coming into some money for the first time. In those days the world of collectible guitars centered on regional guitar shows or dealer listings in a few trade magazines. For years I had pined after the blonde Telecaster that got away while I was in college. Never thinking that I would be able to get my hands on a clean 50’s Fender I spent my days buying, and then regrettably selling, a disturbingly

Nocaster to Telecaster. I loved playing that guitar. Sadly, I only owned that guitar for a couple months before I realized I needed to use the money for other purposes, but the trip was a beginning for me. I sold the guitar to a friend of a friend who, last time we spoke, still owns it. He has an investment that has gone up in value over long list of funky the years in a way I could not have imagined instruments of random back then. I just knew I could, in the worstcase scenario, break even. I learned that I origin. I had to have that Tele. enjoyed traveling and hunting for guitars An ad in a guitar magazine informed me sometimes turning a profit, sometimes just that a now defunct store outside of Denver paying for a trip, and sometimes getting a had a Nocaster in stock with an asking price new toy. of $11,000, equal that of my inheritance. I immediately called my local travel agent to Our industry has changed. We have gone get a ticket and then asked my boss for the from a time where the best guitars were time off to take the trip. A buddy of mine either those made in the distant past, or by who had just moved to the area offered a companies charging a premium price for motorcycle to use and a place to stay. During models that suggest a premium build over the next two weeks we rode all over the state what they call a ‘standard’. We have builders of Colorado, climbed to the peak of two who have gone out on their own, hanging “teeners”, and darkened the door of every out a shingle and choosing to supply quality pawn or guitar shop we could find. Mexi instead of just quantity. As the curator for Strats, Epiphone Ensigns, Valco combos The Guitar Store, my job is now to search for and more made their way to his house, and these elusive guitars that may be somebody’s finally my Nocaster. It was everything I “The One”. I travel, and my wife Heidi and wanted it to be: untouched by the hands of I are musical tourists. I meet old friends, and those who would mod it, signs of play in the make new ones. My suppliers are partners, craftsmen, and friends of mine. I book trips, first three frets, and a straight neck. and then I cold call luthiers. My goal is that, I love telling people the behind the scenes if all goes well, we will be able to dig through story of the trip and the history behind the secret stashes of woods that these artists will transformation of the Fender Broadcaster to use to create the instruments we design for my fellows. This morning I woke up planning to do a couple of projects around the house, but it was raining, so instead I booked a trip to L.A., then emailed Chris at Suhr Guitars telling him I want to have them make some special things for me. “See you Monday,” I said. Before leaving town, I shanghaied Aaron Andrews - the archtop luthier - requesting that we make a run of flat tops built with materials from the Northwest. He is going to rise to the occasion and we will be able to offer something unique to the player who is looking to find a connection to his or her homeland. 
There is a great new industry founded by people with the right combination of skill and nothing better to do in this post-2008 economy. Amazing works of art are being created by small and medium sized builders - art to help you make art. I am ever so grateful to have been young and crazy enough to start this adventure way back when. It has allowed me to meet these people I call my friends.

James Schultz operates The Guitar Store in Seattle, WA



continued from page 10 The stock spring claw, which would hold three springs, looked like it would fit. A quick check with one of the springs demonstrated that the springs would clip onto it nicely, so I thought I might be able to skip a step. Hmm, the instructions were pretty specific about the individual spring claws. I decided to test the friendly offer for help and called Trem King® just to be sure. As advertised, they were very helpful, and were happy to talk about the finer points of the installation. They patiently explained that I would need to install two of the provided spring claws because they needed to be adjusted individually.

Once I had the spring claws in place I again set the Trem King® in place, carefully lined it up with the fretboard centerline, measured the distance from the nut to the two front screw holes and marked the holes for drilling. After drilling the pilot holes and mounting the new bridge, I flipped it back over onto its top to install the tension bar and springs. I quickly had the tension bar and springs clipped on, and in no time I was ready to string up.

would not be enough. I needed spacers to give more height to the bridge itself. Off came the strings and springs, and out came the bridge. I used three 3/16-inch spacers under the bridge at the screw holes and reinstalled the Trem King®. My biggest concern was whether the pocket rout would still work, given the slightly higher fulcrum point. It was perfect—no restrictions as the tone block moved back and forth. I strung it up, tuned it, used the height adjustment screws to fine-tune the action, and set the intonation. Then I let it set overnight, as the instruction recommend. The next day I tuned up and checked the action. The spring claws needed no further adjustment, so I plugged in and started playing. I pulled the bar up all the way up and dive bombed to the depths several times and retuned as the strings stretched.


How did it work? I am hooked! The Trem King® action is light and smooth and silent and I can bend my notes up and down as much (or as little) as I want and come right back in tune. I now find my hand always comfortably resting on the whammy bar as I play, ready to slide in or just emphasize a note’s finish. I guess I’m a vibrato guy after all!

The legendary Phil Keaggy reading Collectible Guitar

As I started to string the guitar I realized I had an issue: the strings rested flat on the frets. The saddles were just about half the thickness of the old ones. Just for grins I adjusted some of the saddle height screws to max height and quickly saw that it

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An Interview with Bob Weil by Michael Elsner

the genius behind Visual Sound never wear out.

In a relatively short amount of time, Visual Sound’s popularity among guitarists has grown exponentially. Bob Weil, Visual Sound’s owner and designer, spoke with me recently about his pedal designs.

ME: And now you’ve begun releasing the V3 Series. I have both the Dual Tap Delay and the VS-XO from this series, and I absolutely love them. They’re both extremely versatile.

Michael Elsner: Let’s first start with a brief history of Visual Sound. What prompted you to start the company and what was the first pedal you developed? Bob Weil: I’ve been a guitar player since 1980, but back in 1988 I bought a volume pedal that quickly drove me nuts. The taper was way too abrupt for me, and I kept wishing that it had some sort of visual reference. I figured that since everything else has a 0-10 scale, like my amp, stereo, etc., surely there was a volume pedal that had it too, but I found that nobody made anything like that. I became obsessed with making my own, neglecting the fact that I didn’t know anything about electronics at all. ME: So you had no electronics background prior to this? BW: I didn’t even know what shielding was! But I started reading books about electronics, and began experimenting with various designs. After a few years, I learned enough to design the first Visual Volume pedal, complete with 10 LED’s. So, that’s what I started the company with at the end of 1994, taking prototypes to the January 1995 NAMM show. ME: But the Jekyll & Hyde was ultimately your flagship pedal. What inspired the 5 sided polygon shaped housing and the ‘dual pedal’ design? BW: When I first started working on the Jekyll & Hyde concept in 1996, I knew it had

BW: The Dual Tap Delay was something that I researched a lot for its features. I even went to several Warped Tour dates and walked backstage, handing out one-page surveys to find out what musicians were looking for in a delay pedal. A lot of that feedback went into the design and layout of the Dual Tap with the result being an easyto-use, great-sounding delay pedal. With the VS-XO, I wanted to refine the V3 Series pedal design, and to re-design our footswitches again, making them look like normal stomp switches, but last as long as the V2 switches. The VS-XO has what we now call the ‘Forever Footswitch,’ which works in conjunction with relays having gold-plated contacts. This way, we finally offer “true bypass” switching, but done the Visual Sound way. You get to choose ME: You followed that with the Route whether to turn on our Pure Tone buffer for 66 and the H2O pedals, and then came the each channel, and the switches are much V2 Series. For someone with the option of quieter and more reliable than standard buying an original flat-top vs. a V2 Series “true-bypass” switches. Jekyll & Hyde, what would the difference The other thing about the VS-XO is that be? there are many more tonal options than BW: I had tweaked the old flat-top Jekyll we have included on other pedals in the & Hyde several times over the years without past. The “XO” stands for Experimental telling anyone, so there are slight variations Overdrive, and it happens to also be the most from a 1997 original to the last flat-tops in premium level of cognac, which is part of 2007. During that time, the only noticeable the reason why the pedal comes in a velvet changes on the outside were the addition of a bag… it’s a very classy pedal! But it really is Bass Boost switch for the Jekyll channel, and a tone experimenter’s dream pedal, and it’s going from the silver color to red in 2003. hard to find any bad sounds in it. to be unique, since even at that time there was a lot of competition. I decided that since every other stomp box out there was a rectangle, ours wouldn’t be. That would at least make it more noticeable at the shops and on stage. Also, nobody had ever done a true two-channel pedal, with separate controls and the ability to use each channel independently or together.

With the V2 Series in 2007-2008, we started using a fancy die-cast aluminum housing, custom designed footswitches, noise reduction and an internal bass control for the Hyde channel. The custom footswitches were something I worked on for a long time, since those are the things that break the most on stomp boxes. The V2 Series switches are rated at 10 million hits, so they’ll pretty much


ME: It also has the independent inputs and outputs for each channel. BW: Yes, all the pedals in the V3 Series coming up have independent inputs and outputs for each channel. You can use it like one of our previous dual pedals, in one side and out the other, or you can use them just like two pedals, even changing the order of effects, or anything else you would do with two separate pedals. ME: You’ve re-released the H2O with the V3 series. You first released the H2O design many years ago, then with the V2 series, and even as an individual V2 Series Liquid Chorus. But it disappeared for a while. Can you give us a little H2O history? BW: The first H2O was released in 2001 continued on page 35

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Riggio Custom Guitars: Sierra Model by Bruce Adolph

OK, time for full disclosure. I am a big fan of Riggio Custom Guitars. I have known Joe for many years now. He is a friend and also has written for my magazines over the years. I am the happy owner of Serial #5 of Joe’s custom built guitars; a strat style very similar to the Sierra model that we are reviewing today. I tell everyone about mine because I like it that much. But I can’t let the fact that I have one of his well-crafted guitars be the reason that prevents me from letting you know about them… that wouldn’t be fair to you or to Joe. You see, Joe, as a luthier, is what I would call a “purist” in the best sense of the word. He studies vintage instruments. He knows the history of Fenders, Gibsons, Gretschs and others. When it comes to Fenders he probably has the equivalent

of a PhD. He has researched the making of them down to what Fender really used for their clay fret markers. He is the most knowledgeable guy I know on Strats and Teles. Most guitar reviewers may have the instrument they are test-driving for a week or two and then they send it back. I have had the luxury of playing my Sierra electric guitar for almost 2 years now… that will hopefully give you a sense of where I am coming from. I have talked with Joe directly about his custom guitars and build ethic. I was an early adopter, so I “get’ this guitar.

with this color from Fender in the 60’s and Joe has put a little bit of yellowing on the clear coat on this to match the amount of aging on the guitar. It warms it up and bit and takes some of the brightness off.

But don’t just take my word for it. I have shown Riggio Custom Guitars to three different pro players I know. Two of them bought them on the spot, and the third is having one sent to him now. I placed a Sierra in the hands of our friend and legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy to play for a set while he was visiting in Seattle and he said, “This feels like it has been broken in and played for 40 years. It is a very well made guitar.” We Americans aren’t the only ones catching on to Joe’s work. In Japan the asking price of a Riggio is twice what it is here in the US, and they are selling at a good clip. In fact, more than 50% of Joe’s guitars ship to Japan.

The neck profile is shaped after Joe’s own 1963 strat, so it is a really full feeling 60’s “C” shape that is very typical of a batch of guitars that came out in 1963. You will find this neck on various guitars that trickled out between ‘63 and ‘65. If you get lucky you find that one that has this sweet fullness to it.

So let’s look at what a Riggio Sierra model is made of. When you first plug it in you hear these big, single coil strat-style round notes and a full tone. Why? First, the body and neck are made of very select tone woods. This guitar sports Joe’s own pickups: the “Heavenly ‘57” set (he also offers the “Original ‘63” set – both hand wound by Carlson Guitar Audio to Joe’s specifications, for the “Riggio” brand). The 57’s are a little more towards the scooped mids side of tone (the 63’s are fuller in the mids). The scoop really delivers a strong strat type sound. The neck pickup is clear and gorgeous; the middle pickup is real chirpy. Joe wires his guitars with no tone control on the middle pickup so the middle pickup will ring through a touch brighter, and in turn the tone control is directed towards the bridge pickup, which takes away some of that unwanted brightness (you won’t get that “ice-picky” harsh high end that a bridge pickup can give you). This is a 5-position switch. The middle pickup is reverse wound so your 2 and 4 positions will be hum canceling. The finish is a Lake Placid blue vintage Fender color, which originally was a 1958 Cadillac car color. A lot of guitars came


The fingerboard is a very choice piece of Madagascar rosewood (Joe has a supply of this in stock as we speak, which will last him for several guitars to come). The neck is made from straight grain maple with a “hand worn” finish and a nitro vintage gloss that Joe paints himself. The fretwork feels pro right off the bat.

The Sierra has a Gotoh steel block bridge (not the less expensive alloy version) so you get more sustain and resonance. Being a custom guitar to match the player’s own personal style, Riggio can set up the tremolo arm to respond how you prefer. This product review Sierra has 10 gauge strings, so three springs loaded in the back will you give you that “floating sweet spot” with your whammy bar. Joe uses a standard bone nut and Gotoh made Kluson replica tuners (in his opinion they are still the best ones). The headstock is what Riggio calls the “R” proprietary headstock shape. It has a reverse bull nose rout in the shape of an “R” and it can be painted any color (you can match it to your guitar’s body color if you like). It has a concave bevel, and our review guitar had black paint to offset its unique shape. I find it pretty cool that the headstock looks like an “R” for Riggio. You will be able to pick out this shape on stage anywhere… it is striking. Each Riggio comes with a very vintage looking hardshell rectangular case, made in the USA. Standard Price: $2475. Keep in mind, as a custom guitar you can augment everything in the design process. You work with Joe personally to figure out the weight of the body, which tonewoods for you want for the body and neck/fretboard, what size frets, which pick-ups, neck shape… you name it. Going through this process helps you learn more about yourself as a player, and when the guitar is delivered you get a much better match to your own playing style and ascetics.


In the first issue of Collectable Guitar we looked at inversions of an Amin7 chord, which also happens to be a C6 chord, its relative major. Amin7 = A C E G, C6 = C E G A, the same notes just in a different order. We also explored several chord shapes in open and closed voicings. We learned that a closed inversion meant we have chords using four adjacent strings while an open inversion meant we skipped a string in the voicing. I diagrammed 20 different chord shapes of Am7, but since they are also C6 you got 2 for 1, so 40 different chords depending on how you look at them! In the second issue we looked at how you can take each chord shape, lower one note and turn it into a Min6, Dominant 9th, or Min7b5 chord.

Now in this exercise let’s learn several ways of playing one of the most common chord progressions, ii, V7, l. Keeping it in the key of G this gives us Am7 moving to D9 and then resolving to G. Remember the ii chord, Amin7, is spelled A C E G. When we lower the G to and F# we get A C E F#, which could be interpreted as either an Amin6, F#m7b5 & D9 (omitted root) chord. We will use the latter name of D9. For the l chord, G, we will substitute a G6. The G6 will be played with chord shapes that resemble Em7 since they are actually the same chord. Try to hear in your mind’s ear the bass moving from A to D to G. Especially hearing a G note as you play an Em7 chord.


As you play through these chords you’ll find some are easier than others, but all of them are valid, each with their own sound. Remember, if you don’t want to sound like everyone else, use some different chord sounds. These chord voicings might help you find your own unique individuality.

Rich Severson, guitarist, clinician, author, band director, former GIT instructor. To preview Rich’s music and guitar educational products go to and

continued from page 30 and always sold well, however, only a year or two into the V2 Series, we found out that the main delay chip got discontinued. Once we ran out of those chips, the H2O was done. That was around 2011. Meanwhile, we had started making the GarageTone Axle Grease delay and a lot of people, including me and the guys in the office, liked it better than the delay in the old H2O. So, for the V3 H2O, we’ve modified that circuit to use in the new pedal, along with a seriously notched up version of our Liquid Chorus. The new chorus channel has all the sounds it used to have, along with an array of new options that allow you to go from subtle to lush Chorus, Leslie, Vibrato, and even vintage SciFi noise effects. To be honest, I haven’t had this much fun creating sounds ever before. You just have to try it to find out what I’m talking about. ME: I’ve always enjoyed hanging with everyone from Visual Sound. Coming here and talking with everyone is like being around family. You’re actually a very small operation of 7 or 8 employees correct? BW: Visual Sound is still a small family-run company, with only 8 full-time employees. My wife of 27 years, Julie, has been my closest advisor since the beginning. My brother, Mike, is our operations manager, and our mom, Phyllis, is the bookkeeper and accounts

Bob & his wife, Julie

person. It’s not uncommon to see some, or all of us, on a Friday afternoon sharing a homebrew and jokes in the lounge. And if a visiting artist like yourself is here, so much the better! The other great thing about the atmosphere in the office is that I can rely on the guys to give me their honest opinion of my ideas. Sometimes I have brilliant ideas, and sometimes they’re complete duds. I trust everyone to let me know which ones are which, and most of the time, it’s the collaborative ideas that are the best! Michael Elsner is a guitarist/ songwriter/producer whose written for shows including American Idol, Amish Mafia, EXTRA, The Sing Off, and So You Think You Can Dance among many others.

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SYSTEM 10 STOMPBOX Audio-Technica The System 10 digital highfidelity Stompbox guitar wireless system features a rugged pedalboard mountable receiver with foot switch, two switched TRS balanced ¼” outputs and an output mode selector. The unique features and extreme ease of use provide ultimate convenience and versatility to guitarists. $614.95 retail/$349.95 street

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VIEW OF THE DAY by Dave Cleveland Day!” photos. The photos I am sharing in the article are from those posts. I hope that as you read this you will take the time to think about all the people who have been a part of your musical journey. Ken Lewis, Pat McGrath, Charlie Sinclair, Matt Pierson and Jeff Roach

What do I love most about music? It’s the people! Without the creativity of people there would be no fun for me in music. I love the interaction of several musicians sitting (or standing) in the same room together and making music. Yes, you can make music on your own. You can overdub on a project out of the comfort and convenience of your own home, but, for me, there is nothing like the creative process of people in a room together making music.

There are some people that you are just born to play music with. Fitz McGill is one of those people for me. He plays and sings with such a passion and purity that I feel so inspired just being around the guy! He’s more like my brother than a friend. I can start a song that we’ve never played together and it will turn into a 20-minute jam of musical conversation. We talk to each other through our music. We don’t talk over each other but listen, wait, and then respond. It seems like you can find out more about who a person is by playing music together than having a conversation :)

Another brother to me is Jason Webb. Although he is a lot younger than me, I consider him a teacher and mentor. He is absolutely one of the most talented human beings on the planet. Although he is a Pianist/Keyboardist, I learn from him every time we work together. He is another one of those guys that make me feel like there is It’s why I still play music. I want to listen to a real conversation going on when we play and be challenged by other players. I want to together. I can always tell he is listening to feel a groove and interpret it the way another me in the headphone mix because of the human being feels and interprets it. It adds instant response he gives me to a part I depth to what I do as a player and it prepares just played. We all need players like this in me for the musical situations that will follow our lives. We always need to be challenged down the road. to take our ability up another notch. Jason Fitz and Dave Webb does that for me. I grew up playing in bands. I learned to be better because of the people that took the time to let me play in those bands. Don’t you remember the absolute blast you had, and still have, hearing somebody listen to what you are playing and responding to that in the moment?

always inspiring. John Hammond is like a rock. Scott Williamson can scare you with his chops! Dan Needham has a pocket that wraps you into the groove. Ken Lewis fills up the track with not only solid drumming but also unique and creative sounds from a percussionist’s perspective. Tony just plain rocks, and plays with a passion that makes you play with more intensity.

Billy Whittington , Matt Pierson, Blair Masters, Tony Morra, Ken Lewis, and Scott Dente

Some of the bass players I get to work with are: Mark Hill, Gary Lunn, Matt Pierson, Craig Nelson, and Mark Burchfield. Mark Hill is just solid. His tone and groove are always amazing. Gary Lunn is another one of those guys I consider a mentor. His chops, tone, and groove are seriously righteous. Matt Pierson is another brother to me. He is a bass tone connoisseur and is always looking for that perfect bass tone per song to make it special. Craig Nelson is the guy you want when reading notation is involved. I have never seen him not be able to read anything that was put in front of him. Craig always brings his “A game” and has a beautiful tone. Mark Burchfield was on my first Nashville session. He has been like a brother and always brings such joy and musicianship to everything he plays on. Me and Mark Burchfield

This article is simply paying respect to all the players, producers, songwriters, engineers, studio owners, piano tuners, second engineers, music store employees, manufactures, repair men and women, cartage companies, and any other group of people that are associated with what it takes to make the music happen. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!!!

Steve Brewster, Jason Webb and Gary Lunn enjoying Indian Food!

Playing music creates friendships, and friendships make for really good music. The more vulnerable you are as a player, the deeper you can go into the music emotionally. That’s why I love working with a lot of the same guys. You just get into a flow and depth that is good for the song, artist, and the producer. Here are some of the drummers I work with on a daily basis: Steve Brewster, There are so many people I would like John Hammond, Scott Williamson, Dan to individually thank, but it would take Needham, Ken Lewis, and Tony Mora to countless articles to do so! With that in name a few. Each of them brings something mind, let me just tell you about a few of the special and unique to the music. Steve wonderful people I get to work with on a Brewster (Brew) brings a broad range of daily basis. If you follow me on Facebook musical influences and creativity that are you are well aware of my “View of the


I have to also talk about the Keyboard guys! I mentioned Jason Webb, but there are a few more I see in the studio as well. Jeff Roach, Blair Masters, and Pat Coil. All of these guys are seriously amazing and each of them brings something original to the music. Jeff roach is the king of quirkiness. He can take a 3 or four-note part and develop it



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into this epic monster that takes the track to another place. Blair Masters has the knack for sonic landscaping and color. His treatments on songs take them from Dorothy’s Kansas to the Wizard’s Oz. And Pat Coil is the guy who can play anything. He plays with such emotion and feeling. I was tracking with him yesterday and you could hear him singing the part while playing a B-3 pass. And I can’t forget to mention some of incredible guitarists I work with: Scott Dente, Tom Hemby, Jerry McPherson, Mark Baldwin, Pat McGrath, Michael Payne, and a ton more. All of them have made me a better player. Thanks guitar bangers!!!

in other ways. Some of these fine people are the ones that set the gear up. Some are the guys or gals that mic the instruments. Others take the gazillion tracks that are recorded and mix them into something that are so sonically pleasing you just can’t stop listening to it over and over. And still, there are the people that help you find the right gear to achieve the tones you are going for. One of my ‘go to’ guys over the last several years is Tony Higbee. He is a specialist at a local music store in Nashville. He has helped

I hope that this article will inspire you to take a look at your life as a musician and consider the people that are in your circle. Count it as a blessing and don’t be shy about telling them how much you appreciate them. Now let’s play some music!

Pat Coil, John Hammond, Craig Nelson, Marty Parks, Me, Jimmy Jernnigan, Steve Blackmon

Tony Higbee

Along with the players, there are all the “behind the scene” guys. They all are equally passionate about music but are talented

DEERING The Great American Banjo Company

Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops with her Deering John Hartford banjo

me through the years buying, selling, and trading. His expertise has a major influence on what I sound like because of his ability to get me the right gear.

Relax, Express, Enjoy. Find a Deering Banjo Dealer near you:


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Sebago Sound DT25 1x12” 25 Watt Combo by Doug Doppler

• FEATURE SET • Channels: Clean, Dirty • Controls: Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Gain & Volume (lead channel), Master, Presence, Reverb, Effects Send & Return • Face Plate Switches: Bright, Mid, Rock/ Jazz Voicing • Rear Panel Switches: Channel, Pre-amp Boost • Pre-Amp Tubes: 12AX7 • Phase Inverter Tube: 12AX7 (JJ ECC803) • Effects Loop Tube: 12AX7 • Reverb Tubes: 12AT7 (reverb driver), 12AX7 (reverb recovery amplifier) • Power Amp Tubes: 2x 6V6 • Watts: 25 • Speaker: 1x Eminence 50 Watt Legend Sebago Sound founder Bill Dunham started tweaking circuits out of sheer frustration that so many off the shelf amps didn’t have the mojo he was looking for. As his clientele continued to grow, so did Bill’s passion to build affordable Dumble-style amps. For the past five years Dunham has been building amps that deliver signature tone that can be tuned specifically to the customer’s preferences, guitars, and tonal desires—all without breaking the bank. Fueled by a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and a passion for the combination of music and electronics, Dunham has the uncanny ability to hear a sound and know instinctively what that translates to on a component level. As Dunham puts it, “Every Sebago amp is a unique creation tuned to ensure it meets a sonic spec rather than just replicate a schematic.” The end result is a line of amps that sound and, just as importantly, feel great. While all of the amps in Sebago Sound’s Double Trouble series take their inspiration from Robben Ford’s famed Dumble Skyline (serial number 102), the DT25 is especially unique in that it is powered by a pair of 6V6s rather the pair or quad of 6L6s found in the

DT50 and DT100 respectively. Noting that many players have never actually seen, much less played a Dumble, one of the common misconceptions is that the power amp section is responsible for the classic Dumble bloom. In reality, most of the “magic” happens in the pre-amp section, which is why Dumbles tend to be very consistent sonically at a range of volumes. By using a pair of 6V6s rather than the traditional 6L6s, Dunham has grafted some of the Fender’s most inspired tones into the clean side of the DT25, without compromising the dirty channel in the process. CLEAN CHANNEL While the clean channel on the DT25 was designed to infuse some Blackface Deluxe into the mix, engaging the Bright and Mid switches adds some of the jangly high end I’ve only found on Blackface Vibrolux Reverbs. The end result is one of the best dang clean channels I’ve ever heard. Dunham worked hard to ensure that the tones were rich and responsive, but that the low end didn’t get floppy, which tends to happen when you turn a Deluxe Reverb up. From clean spank to smooth jazz, this amp just makes playing on the clean channel every bit as fun as the dirty channel— especially with the silky reverb. DIRTY CHANNEL And then there’s the dirty channel. Bloom and sustain are the quintessential elements of a Dumble dirty channel, and the DT25 does a brilliant job of delivering both. Once you get gain past three o’clock, the notes start feeding back on the fundamental. Engaging the Mid switch tends to push the feedback up an octave. From light gain to rich, amp-driven distortion, the DT25 does a brilliant job of engaging the nuances of your touch as well as those of the instrument

you’re playing. SWITCHES The Treble and Mid switches are both useful in shaping the tone per instrument and/or venue—without getting strident. Toggling the Jazz/Rock switch into the Rock mode partially bypasses the tone stack, fattening things up without getting “soggy”. The foot switch controllable Pre-amp Boost (PAB) switch is located on the back panel, and bypasses the tone stack altogether once engaged, providing a rather significant boost in the process. POWER AND SPEAKER The interaction between power amp and speaker is vital in any combo, especially one with as much gain on tap as the DT25. It took Dunham a year of tinkering to get the power amp section and speaker choice “just right”. In the end Dunham selected the 50-watt Eminence Legend because, “It preserved the dynamic and harmonic range of the amplifier from low to high. There’s a difference between good and right. I tried at least five different speakers that were all good, but the Legend was right.” TONE At all ends of the gain and power spectrum, the DT25 delivers sweet tone that’s ripe with sustain and the perfect amount of natural amp compression. The buffered, tube-driven “Dumblator” effects loop adds something that is nothing short of a magical circuit, even when you’re not using an effect. From rich cleans to long sustained notes—and everything in between, the DT25 delivers. CONCLUSION If you’re looking for that Holy Grail Dumble tone—at a price that won’t break the bank, you’ll definitely want to check out the DT25. $2,499.00 When Doug Doppler is not writing gear reviews, the former Guitar Hero session player and Favored Nations recording artist spends his days, hours, weeks and years demoing the coolest gear on the planet for his web site


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Audio-Technica: System 10 Wireless Guitar System by Mitch Bohannon

I was excited to review this new system because I had just recently set up a few of the System 10 handheld microphone units and was familiar with how it worked. The idea of a wireless guitar system is brilliant and a cable saver, especially for those of us using a pedalboard. First impression...when I opened the box, it was obvious that this unit is solid and built to last. The stompbox receiver has a metal housing and feels rugged enough to take some stompin’-abuse. I really like that the transmitter has a short, fixed antenna and not one that looks like it could break off. The transmitter runs on two AA batteries. It is lightweight and small enough to fit nicely on my guitar strap. The attached spring clip holds it well to my strap. The on/off switch on the transmitter is a comfortable, rubber push-button... This is also a nice feature as it is not as easy to bump as a sliding switch. The System 10 is a well-thought-through digital unit. Transmitting on a 2.4 Ghz signal rather than our seemingly ever encroachedupon UHF radio frequencies eliminates the option for interference. (How many of ya’ll lost wireless systems to the 700 band takeover? I see that hand, me too, brother, me too). The days of catching the truckers CB driving by and the Spanish service across the street (hey, it happened to me!)

are gone. The System 10 actually transmits on two frequencies at the same time and it chooses the one that is the cleanest. This little unit really does the work for you. There is, however, a possibility for interference when operating too close to a wifi network. I accidentally set up my handheld receivers about 18 inches from my wireless internet system and experienced a few audio drops. Fixed this by moving the prob! Side note: since we are talking about the guitar system, please do not mount your Apple Airport to your pedalboards! Both the transmitter and receiver have a nice, bright blue numerical display. The number has nothing to do with frequency, it only identifies which parts are paired together. In fact, if you have multiple units, they could all have the same number because it does not refer to a channel or frequency. Paring is simple... Hold down the “pair” button...numbers flash...done. There are two options for the stomp footswitch and two 1/4” TRS balanced output jacks (A & B). You choose to have two modes for the switch (A/Mute) or (A/B). If you choose to run your tuner outside of your signal chain, connect the tuner pedal to “B” and use the pedal to switch from live sound to the tuner. Or, leave your tuner in your chain and use the stomp as a mute switch. If you play both acoustic and electric guitars during


your set, your “B” output could easily run to your acoustic D.I. and then you can use the same wireless input for both guitars. One of my lead guitar players, Jonathan Berry, of ReCharge Band, gave the System 10 a test run… here are some of his thoughts: “my first thoughts after playing it were: man this transmitter is light and the pedal looks good on my board! It gives me a visual feature when I mute the channel…and I thought my tone was supposed to suffer?!? In my ear, my tone did not change. I did a head-to-head comparison of wired and wireless tone and I heard no difference.... The only difference was, “now, I am free to run!”… keeps my tone live and full.” The Audio-Technica System 10 Stompbox (ATW-1501) has a list price of $614.95 and a street price of about $349.95..I’m completely pleased, and at that price… totally impressed! Mitch is one of the pioneers in the development of the Kyser Short Cut Capo – an alternate tuning device used by many guitarists today. He is a regular contributor to our sister publications. Mitch and his wife Noelle have 3 awesome kids!


Life is too short to play a lousy guitar!


Bedell Limited Edition LEOH -25-25 Orchestra by Michael Hodge

This month I was fortunate to get my hands on one of the new Bedell custom shop Seed-To-Song guitars. HISTORY: Here’s a little background. Tom Bedell has gone on a personal hunt for tonewoods, not only for their acoustic properties and beauty, but also to find ones that have documentation of their origin. These woods are then legally and ethically procured. This qualifies them for the Guitar Passport issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, thus guaranteeing that your beloved guitar can be transported internationally. You may have heard about Guitar companies targeted by regulatory agencies, making this a modern necessity. I have a guitar that has some endangered wood in it, and though completely legal, I was warned by the builder not to leave the country with it. These are the days we live in. At the Bedell custom shop in Bend, Oregon, you can visit and have your dream guitar built from the wood of

your choosing along with the inlays, fret markers, and binding, etc. Born in that Oregon custom shop, this little beauty, called the LEOH 25-25 for short, was designed and hand built. AT FIRST SIGHT: I picked up the guitar at the Two Old Hippies store in downtown Nashville. This eclectic store is becoming quite a landmark in town. Besides selling vibey stage clothes and hosting live music, it is an acoustic guitar store also carrying a good selection of Mando’s, Resonators, and Ukes from a number of top manufacturers. Speaking of top… The Top of the LEOH 25-25 is made of “Sinker Redwood”. This is wood salvaged from a very old Redwood log that literally sunk about 100 year ago while being floated downstream to be processed. Brown with dark lines, it’s a very unique and special piece of wood. Madagascar Rosewood was chosen for the back and sides. It’s beautifully detailed with wide curving stripes. The neck is made of Honduran Mahogany and is dovetailed. Both the fingerboard and pyramid bridge are made of ebony. Bone is used for the compensated saddle and the 1-11/16ths nut. The gold Waverly tuners also have ebony buttons. There are eighteen frets, with the neck joining the body at the twelfth fret. This guitar has an Iron Cross inlay surrounding the 12th fret. The top and body have a glossy Nitro finish. This guitar is equipped with a passive K&K Pure Mini System, which employs a three head, bridge plate transducer. It can be used with or without a preamp. IN USE: Smaller acoustics are very popular right now. Guitars of this size tend to have a nice, throaty tone. This Bedell has an amazing high-end air that is very special. The guitar is quite loud and the individual notes really speak well. For a studio guitar it would be perfect for instrumental stuff since the notes ring out with clarity and good sustain. I played every note up and down the neck and found zero dead spots. This is exactly what makes for a very special instrument. I played some strummy open string stuff and it sounded just like


a Coldplay record. Ha! It’s woodsy with a nice tight low end. I didn’t want to do my normal ‘play it as hard as you can to see how it compresses’, for fear of scratching the beautiful “no pick guard” top. I’m sure it can take it, but I’ll let someone else have that honor. The neck has what I call an old ”Martin” like feel. This guitar is one of those that after a half hour of playing, you want to have it as your own. I so enjoyed the finger friendly neck, and the fret job was spot on all the way up the neck. It tunes easily and the overall intonation with light gauge strings is fantastic. THE CASE: The guitar comes in a beautiful custom Ameritage hard shell case. The case is covered in a brown leather-like western vinyl design featuring a Hygrometer and a pocket compartment with supplies to keep the guitar in the best possible care. The main compartment is large enough to hold a Direct Box and a few accessories. The case is what you’d expect for a high-end collector guitar. CONCLUSION: What I will remember most about this guitar is how great it is for single note soloing. It’s a perfect choice of wood combinations, bringing out each string in a balanced way. It’s brighter than I expected for a Redwood top. Recording with a KM185, one foot from the twelfth fret, the mic loves this guitar. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind dream guitar with a documented history, the Bedell LEOH with this wood combination is a great choice. Visiting a custom shop and picking your woods from the Bedell Wood Library sounds like a load of fun. Otherwise, you can choose from seventeen models in the Bedell catalog. Prices for Bedell USA Seed-To-Song acoustics start at $1,490.00 for the Earth Song models up to $19,900.00 for the high end Antiquity Collector series. This Limited Edition Orchestra custom shop model’s sale price is $4,999.00. Considering the opportunity to personally pick the exotic woods, the sound of the instrument, and being USA made, it’s a guitar worth saving up for. For more info: Company website:

Michael Hodge is a guitarist and producer from Nashville, TN


LAC I N OU - O VE S T NE lr IC ba N gg U s.c E PE om /v D ™ D AL en I u e

Phil Madeira GUITARS OF a JOURNEYMAN by RObyn TaylOr

gospel, bluegrass, and jazz. “I grew up in white-bread New England, but somehow I got infected by a host of transplanted, displaced persons of one color or another, bluesmen, gospel hummingbirds, and honky-tonkers,” he explains.

Guitars have a way of helping us tell our stories. Phil Madeira’s story is one of a musical heritage that reaches back to his mother’s Mahalia Jackson records. From birth, roots music has always captured his heart. He started as a drummer, and still collects old Ludwig drums, but drums led to keyboards and eventually guitar. Influenced by Clarence White, Ry Cooder, and other innovators of the music world, Phil’s style is gutsy and rooted in blues,

In addition to fronting his own band, releasing three solo records, and authoring “God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith,” Phil is best known for being a member of Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Boys (from 2007 to the present) and Buddy Miller’s band for 10 years prior. His greatest thrill was appearing with Emmylou at The Newport Folk Festival and playing the finale with Pete Seeger.

the 000-18 is a smaller-bodied Grand Concert model that has been a favorite amongst musicians since the early 1900’s.

Road-worthy and able to deliver the tone he needs, Phil’s Blueridge BR 73-AS 000 is the exact size of a Martin 000 and has become his main touring guitar. The 73-AS features a solid spruce top, hand-carved braces, and choice rosewood for the back and sides. “It’s striking, and nothing out there looks like this one.”

In 1986, Phil received a Humanitarian Award from ASCAP for raising awareness The 1952 CF-100 is the first flattop cutaway about the Ethiopian hunger crisis. He won built by Gibson. Only available from 1950

‘with Emmylou Harris’ Photo credit: Amos Perrine

with Emmylou Harris


Martin 000-18

Blueridge BR-73

Photos by Robyn Taylor. Photo edits by Ryan Miller.

Phil Madeira picks up his 1991 Gibson L-1, sits down next to Amy Grant on stage, and kicks off their songwriter round with the hillbilly riffs of his original tune, “An Old Song.” The body of the 12-fret parlor guitar opens up and cries, and we are transported from the Hard Rock Café in Nashville to a moment where the ghosts of Hank Williams and Muddy Waters fill the air like smoke in a bar.

a 2009 Dove Award from The Gospel Music Association for Recorded Country Song of the Year for his song “I Wish,” co-written by Cindy Morgan, and has gone on to have songs recorded by Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Emmylou Harris, The Civil Wars (with a Grammy win for his “From This His is a story of collaboration, Valley” in 2014), Buddy Miller, Keb’ Mo’, and of finding a voice in the midst Mat Kearney, Bruce Hornsby, and Alison of a world that wants to tell you to Krauss. be someone else. It’s no surprise he His defining work, “Mercyland: Hymns For gravitates towards smaller acoustic The Rest Of Us” (2012) features Emmylou parlor guitars on the road and in Harris, John Scofield, Carolina Chocolate the studio, but like Clarence (his Drops, The Civil Wars, Buddy Miller, The hero), he effortlessly flows into North Mississippi Allstars, Shawn Mullins, the electric realm on his Telecaster and more. with a B-Bender. When searching for Phil’s at home go-to guitar is a 1958 Martin guitars, Phil chooses tone, dynamic range, 000-18. “It’s on the wall, and I play it every and structure over monetary value, and day. What a lovely instrument! Found on as a result his guitar collection features a eBay, it’s not extremely valuable, but it’s not seemingly haphazard selection of diamonds losing value. I can’t think of a better guitar in the rough, rich with personal meaning for a beginning collector to start with.” Also and a characteristic sound. praised by Nanci Griffith and Tim O’Brien,

to 1958, Gibson made the CF-100 similar to the X-braced LG2 but added a striking Florentine cutaway. “My friend Dave Perkins and I share a love of these fabulous guitars. Mine is in beautiful condition, and was born in the same year as me. That’s kind of a ‘thing’ among collectors - you’ve got to have something made the year you were born. I used this on The Band Perry record that Lynn Nichols and I produced.” The Gibson Southern Jumbo received the best materials in the midst of a War economy and extreme shortage of supplies, making this powerhouse dreadnought the most expensive Gibson flattop of its time. “This is my second SJ, a 1953; I sold my ’51 one Christmas when I had no money to buy my kids gifts with. Since that time, I’ve enforced a ‘let’s make our gifts’ policy. This guitar is beat up, new tuners, unoriginal, and sounds fantastic. I use it live if it’s a local gig, in fact, you can see me playing it on CMT’s special ‘Willie Nelson’s 80th Birthday Party’, which Jack White produced. What a night! I got to play this guitar with Neil Young, Willie, and Nora Jones, to name a few. I love my life!” “The 1929 Style 0 National is really important to me. My friend Kenny Meeks knew how much I loved Nationals, and brought me this one in the late ‘80s; he traded it for an amp that I had $100 into. I’ve used this on sessions for Toby Keith, Amy Grant, Keb’ Mo’, guitar great Phil Keaggy, Shawn Mullins, Red Dirt Boys, and the Americana tribute to Paul McCartney that I produced (“Let Us In”) in 2012.” Emmylou’s guitar tech Maple Byrne helped Phil pick out a Supro Oahu Lap Steel, which has replaced his old Fender Lap Steel as his go-to steel. “Tone for days. If I didn’t play lap steel, I’d pull the pickup and put on something else. This comes with me on lots of sessions, too.” “I was always a fan of the Byrds – ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ was one of the first records I ever bought. When Clarence came on board in the Byrds, they suddenly had a guitar hero in the band. His use of the CF-100

Southern Jumbo

B-Bender (invented by bandmate Gene Parsons) brought an element into the band that changed everything. His bluegrass background made his electric solos on live tracks like ‘8 Miles High’ truly revolutionary. I’ve had some great Teles over the years, and every one of them is more valuable than this guitar, but the B-Bender is important to my sound and I don’t want to mar a valuable guitar by routing it out. This is my most important Telecaster.” If someone wanted to reproduce your unique electric sound, what would you tell them? “I have learned over the years that one’s sound is really about how they touch the guitar strings. I rarely use a pick, using a claw style with my fingernails.” 1966 Ludwig Jazz Festival snare drum “I thought CG readers would get a kick out of this 1966 Ludwig Jazz Festival snare drum. You don’t see many Black Oyster Ludwig snares out there; this is the Ringo model. It’s valuable because of the color. Red sparkle isn’t going to change the sound. But maybe Ringo playing it would. I collect drums, too.” Anything else? “I have a cool old Silvertone that has been a mainstay for slide and any old time electric blues I’ve done. The old cheap electric guitars have a broken, haunted sound to them, kind of like comparing a National steel body to a Martin D28. Howlin’ Wolf and guys like him couldn’t afford Strats and Les Pauls, so they played guitars that kids were buying at Sears. A high quality guitar won’t get this sound, and that’s part of what makes them collectible.” “My friend Tom Jones, who taught me my first blues turnaround, found a 1967 Fender Coronado II for me in Baltimore that’s currently being set up. I use a reissue Gretsch 6120 on lots of records, as well as my Lowden O10 that’s in the shop. I’ve got a National Tricone Baritone that is great when I need to tune low. My Jerry Jones National

Oahu Lap Steel

Baritone is a staple in the studio and live with Emmylou. I wouldn’t really hire me for Dobro, but when needed I have a Gold Tone Beard model; it’s lovely. I use Fishman pickups and the Aura system in all my acoustics. I’ve had lots of amps, but it usually comes down to my ’90s Fender Blues Junior Tweed, and a hand-wired Vox AC-15, which is beautiful. My pedal board is simple - Boss Tuner, Visual Sound Volume, Boss Tremolo, Keely Compressor, Keely mod Ibanez Tube Screamer, Visual Sound VS*XO Overdrive, which is gorgeous, all strapped onto a Pedal Train board. For travel, my Calton Case is indispensible. D’Addario Strings, Dunlop Capos and Slides, and an iPhone app for tuning on the fly. Last but not least, my gig bags are made in Sweden by Slickbag - they’re fantastic. Yes, I still play Hammond Organ. Mine’s a ‘62 B3. Great year for guitars, too.” Raised in Rhode Island by musical parents, Phil pursued an early life on the road and eventually moved to Nashville in 1983. Fittingly, his current apartment is in a weathered, unassuming brick building, filled with natural light, this Jimmy Abegg original artwork, ukuleles, and paintings of blues legends.

“A version of this article originally appeared in Robyn Taylor’s “On the Road with Robyn” blog at” Fender Squier Telecaster w/ B-Bender




Perspective is everything. And sometimes something as trivial as a simple act of kindness by some anonymous individual can knock your perspective back to reality. Other times it can take getting hit upside the head with a rock to whack your perspective back into place. Hopefully, the following story will help you avoid the latter. Being able to own, play, and collect guitars is a great thing. Some consider it a privilege, and rightfully so. Everybody that reads this magazine surely knows this, and the people that do play guitar for a living (we think) are some of the luckiest people in the world. Think about it … there’s not one guitar player out there – novice or professional – that hasn’t said, at least once in his or her life, “One day, I want to be a rock and roll star.” The reality is that the odds are about one-in-a-million it ever happens, if not more. But it’s a nice fantasy world, for sure. How many of us haven’t drooled over old pictures of Led Zeppelin boarding their private, chartered, and totally decked out airplane … you know, the one with the fur couches, fully stocked bars, velvet-lined covered beds, and – of course – the long-legged blonde and brunette bartenders and waitresses standing at attention waiting for their next whimsatisfying command. But then there IS the reality of the guitar players that actually make somewhat of a living playing music. And for the majority it’s a job just like any other … they wake up at 6:30 AM, eat breakfast, kiss the wife and kids goodbye, battle rush hour traffic, work eight or more hours in a recording studio, return home to the wife and kids, have dinner, watch a little TV and go to bed, then wake up and do it all over again the next day. Some of these folks even work overtime in the bars at night, with most of them playing for mere tips and hoping to be “seen” or “heard” by that right person that can change their lives forever. Living in Nashville, I see it firsthand. Hundreds, if not thousands, of guitar players – most of them good enough to take Eric Clapton’s place without missing a beat – come to Music City USA to “chase the dream.” And while many give it a good try, a lot more of them end up going back home with broken dreams and empty bank accounts … some even minus the instruments and gear they came with because they had to sell everything to get back home. But back in the 1970s life was different. If you were in the right place at the right time, those dreams of a rock and roll life could come true for some. Jimmy Nalls was one of the lucky ones. In the 1970s,

Nalls moved from his home in the Virginia suburbs to New York City to play guitar with Australian folk singer and Warner Brothers artist Gary Shearston. Shearston’s producer was Noel Paul Stookey, who just happened to be the “Paul” in the band Peter, Paul, and Mary. Nalls’ relationship with Stookey blossomed into a friendship and soon he found himself a pretty in-demand session guitarist at New York’s famed Record Plant recording studio. Over the next couple of years, Nalls played guitar alongside such notables as Chuck Leavell, Alex Taylor, Dr. John, Gary St. Clair, Mike Zack, and scores of other musicians who had “made it” in the music business as either sessions players, or players in well-known touring acts. In 1976, however, Nalls got his biggest “break” when he teamed up with three musicians from the Allman Brothers Band – keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Lamar Williams, and drummer Jai Johanny Johanson (better known as Jaimoe). Together they formed the legendary ensemble known simply as Sea Level. Though the band only lasted from 1976 to 1981, they managed to cement their place in rock and roll lore by recording five albums of some of the most innovative jazz, rock, and rhythm and bluesblended music ever recorded. During their time they toured the world, lived the lives of rock stars, and Nalls became one of the most acclaimed and soughtafter session guitarists in the business. When Sea


Level disbanded in 1981 Nalls continued to play professionally, most notably in another highly-acclaimed band called The Nighthawks, which also toured the world relentlessly and released several albums of music still sought out today as some of the best in its genre. Nalls continued to play professionally with The Nighthawks and several other projects until late 1994, when he started to experience the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – the progressive and irreversible brain disorder that causes tremors, poor balance, and other muscle and movementrelated symptoms. Unfortunately, the disease affected Nalls’ ability to perform the quick, voluntary muscle movements necessary for him to continue to play professionally. In a nutshell, his dream life was over. No more tours. No more recording sessions. No more guest appearances with some of the biggest names in the music business. Nothing. It all changed in the span of just a few short months, and his life hasn’t been the same since. Since being diagnosed in late 1994,

however, and with the help of several friends – most notably Leavell, Jack Pearson, Lee Roy Parnell, and his ever-present and devoted family – Nalls has managed to release a solo CD called Ain’t No Stranger, which he co-produced with Phil Dillon for MRL Records. He’s also written a book titled Wood and Wire, which he co-wrote with Bill Rust, and which details his life as a “Guitar Slinger” and his fight against Parkinson’s.

to places like Australia and Japan, Europe, pretty much all over the world. And when I lost it all, of course it was devastating, to say the least. But my wife still loves me, even after 39 years of marriage, and I have my kids and grandkids. “And I really want to finish my second solo CD. My studio is down right now, and I need a new computer. But I am trying to get it all back up and running so I can finish it,” Nalls said. “The tracks are all there, and I play the bass and guitar on almost all of them. What I need to finish are the lyrics and the vocal tracks and then put it all together. If someone wants to help me put it all together and help me finish it, I’m all for it. But it is my stuff, and I still want to be a part of the final process. I would really want the chance to be able to complete it, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to do that.”

“When you’re as active as I used to be, this condition is really hard to accept,” Nalls said from his Nashville home. “But I had to accept it or else I would have gone crazy a long time ago. As much as it hurts sometimes, this is something that I have accepted and it’s now a part of my life. So, as much as it does hurt, yes I have come to terms with it.” As for playing the guitar, Nalls said, “I can’t play for a long time anymore, but I do still get enjoyment out of it. With the brain stimulators I had recently put in, they cut down on the shakes a lot and they do take away some of the immobility that’s associated with Parkinson’s. But if it wasn’t for the brain stimulators I’d probably be in a nursing home or some other type of assisted living facility right now.” Nalls has played several guitars throughout his career, but the one he’s always gone back to time and time again is the 1961 Fender Stratocaster he purchased in New York City in 1974 for just $300. “I got it just the way you see it [natural with no finish on it whatsoever], but it used to be [fiesta] red at one point,” Nalls said. “If you look inside the cavities you’ll see the original [fiesta] red finish that was once on it. The pickups are a set of hand-wound pickups that Joe Barden did for me back in 1984.” Probably the coolest aspect of the guitar, however (other than the fact that it belongs to Nalls), is a very faint signature on the back of the guitar. Nalls explains: “There’s a signature on the back of it that you can barely read anymore, but it’s the signature of Bill Carson, who was the guy that Leo Fender designed the Fender Stratocaster for. I met him on an airplane out in California one day and I had the guitar with me so I had him sign it for me.” Carson told Nalls that his personal

Stratocaster was a 1959 model, also with a Fiesta Red finish with matching headstock. The neck was personally shaped by Carson to suit his own playing preference (1 7/16” nut width, shallow depth), and also had a thick slab rosewood fingerboard with “Carson” stamped in the neck pocket. But despite the memories, the guitars, and the lifestyle he had to leave behind, not of his choosing, Nalls is still a very grateful man today. His wife of 39 years, Minni, has remained by his side through thick and thin. He also has a son and daughter, and three grandchildren – all of whom live in the Nashville area and visit him on a regular basis. And while moving around gets more difficult every day, Nalls is not a broken man. In fact, he still plans on finishing his second solo CD that he started recording several years ago while his fingers were still cooperating with his once stellar guitarplaying abilities. And for a man that seemed to be on top of the world at one time and is now limited to just a few steps a day, Nalls has the mindset of a man that is, of course, realistic of his condition, but also a positive attitude that keeps him going day after day … no matter how bad some days can get. “There are times that I get really depressed,” Nalls said. “And sometimes I do feel like a burden to my family. I used to be the alpha male of this family … the top dog. I was traveling the world, going

For a man in his condition, Nalls is a pretty amazing human being. He’s also an incredible inspiration to anyone he comes into contact with. So the next time you’re debating what finish you want for that new Les Paul, or whether to buy that limited edition Martin acoustic or some other vintage guitar, think about Jimmy. I know he’d probably appreciate it. But I guarantee you’ll be a better person for it. And your perspective will have definitely been realigned. For more information on Jimmy Nalls, visit his web site at His book is also still available through Amazon, as is his solo CD and all the music he recorded with Sea Level and The Nighthawks. Gabriel J. Hernandez is the owner of Blues Vintage Guitars, Inc., a shop in Nashville, Tennessee, specializing in the buying and selling of vintage and newer high-end guitars and gear. He is also an accomplished writer, having earned a B.S. in Journalism from The University of Florida in 1988. Over a 25-year career he has worked as an investigative journalist for several news organizations and publishing companies, as a staff sports writer for The Palm Beach Post, and most recently as the Web Editor for Gibson Guitars at the company’s worldwide headquarters in Nashville. Hernandez has played guitar since the age of six, and been fascinated (some say obsessed) by the instrument – and music in general – ever since. You can reach him any time at 1-615613-1389, or visit his company’s Facebook page at


PEDAL SNAPSHOT by Phil Traina Rockett Pedals Blue Note Retail $249.00 Street $199.00 Features: Volume, Gain, Tone, Fat knobs plus a hot switch This pedal has been a mainstay on multiple boards of mine over the past few years. I have put it through its paces, that’s for sure. The blue note loves everything I feed it. The blue note is not your typical TS style pedal. The EQ is great with the Fat and Tone controls. It lets you dial in the exact tone you need, with whatever rig you play. If you need a little more gain, hit the “hot” switch. The Blue Note has a very even response, while not being as mid-centric as a typical TS style pedal. As a boost, it adds back into the signal what may have been lost by long cabling, or adds a little hair to the notes. But don’t be fooled, you can get some gain out of it! If you are looking for a super versatile pedal the Blue Note may be for you.

Earthquaker Devices Organizer MAP/Street $185 Controls Up: Level of Octave Up Down: Level of Octave Down Choir: Regenerates the octaves above and below, adding 2 octaves up and down, with a slight delay that gives a church organ feel. The control only works when the octave up and down are engaged. Tone: Low pass filter for the wet signal, counter clockwise rolls off the highs Lag: Delay control for the wet signal. Delay time increases as it rotates clockwise. The Earthquaker Devices Line is very intriguing. It has just enough twist on what we as guitar players know already, and sparks creative juices. The Organizer can also get pretty crazy and take us off into uncharted warbled territory. Many guitar players these days have some sort of octave generator around to add a little low end or upper octave chime to the average guitar part. The secret weapon for some is a shimmer style reverb. The Organizer covers both of those subjects with a twist. Yes, you can get it to do the Micro POG thing; yes, you can make it sound like an organ or pad. The twist the Organizer has is you can delay the wet signal to create a huge wall of twisted organ madness!! If you need a versatile octave generator, the Organizer is for you. It also has a smaller footprint than most pedals in the class.


Lovepedal Hi-Volt Features: Full eq: treble, mid, bass, Gain, and Volume Retail/Street $225.95 The Hi-Volt is beast of a pedal! I must admit, when I first got it I didn’t exactly know how it fit into the mix of other pedals I have. Then I started treating it like an amp. The Hi-Volt is a JFet based design with an internal charge pump that brings the voltage to 16v. The Hi-Volt is deep, big, and has a lot of gain on tap. It can make a small combo amp turn into a monster stack if you want it too. This pedal can transform your rig…I mean really transform your rig. The Hi-volt has a ton of headroom. If you are looking for a mid to high gain versatile pedal that can take your rig to the next level, the hi-volt does the job. You can purchase it directly at

The Morgan Fuzz Controls Gain, Handles Volume, and OD/ Fuzz Tone: Exactly That Street/map $180 The fuzz for guys who may or may not dig fuzz…The Morgan fuzz is a simple fuzz/OD that can go from boosted overdrive to singing sustain. With 2 knobs, it’s extremely easy to dial in with your rig. In lower gain settings it acts as an OD. Push it past 1 o’clock and the classic fuzz tones are readily apparent, while a clean tone is never further away than your guitars volume control. Easily one of the most expressive and dynamic pedals I’ve played. If you are looking for a fuzz that can double as an overdrive and plays nice with pretty much every rig you put it through…this is it.

Phil Traina "The Gear Concierge" Livin ' the dream in sunny California with my beautiful wife and daughter.

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Kevin Ryan Guitars Toll Free 1.800.311.1527

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