Saturday, October 31, 2009
What I also recall is that in the 1960's I was growing up and trying to fit in with my school crowd. The British Invasion had come and brought with it not just music, but fashion. To be Mod you needed a paisley shirt with puffy sleeves and bell-bottom trousers. And that was for the guys!
Fender took a queue from this era and came out with four new guitars and a bass. All used wall paper on their finishes. Yep! I did say wall paper.
There was a flowery Telecaster finished in light blue and floral Stratocaster and a Telecaster and Stratocaster finished in hot pink paisley. Not to forget the bass players, Fender also produced a Telecaster bass in a pink paisley finish.
Fender used self-stick adhesive backed wall paper that was cut and applied to the front and back of the already painted bodies. Another coat of spray was applied around the perimeter of the body to create a sunburst effect. The body was then lacquered.
The pickguard Assembly was clear plastic so the finish could be seen throughout the guitar. The effect appeared as if someone had taken a great deal of time to carefully hand paint each guitar.
These guitars were only produced from 1968 through 1969. At the time sales were flat. Fender saw this as a marketing ploy gone bad. But the old versions are extremely collectible now. In Japan the guitar became very popular and in 1984 the Japanese arm of Fender began producing reissues. They continue being produced only in Japan through the present.
When Fender opened it's Mexican production plant in the 90's they stopped importing Fender guitars from other countries. Paisley/Floral Teles and Stats were sold through non-approved channels through 2003.
Since then FMIC purchases them through Japan for sale in the US using the Fender logo. The newer versions have eschewed the use of wallpaper and instead use preprinted clear plastic that is embedded with the paisley or floral design.
Brad Paisley and James Burton devotion to Paisley Telecasters have popularized these guitars. Brad Paisley now has his guitars handmade by a luthier named Bill Crooks.
Fender is not the only company using wallpaper or a variant as a finish. Ibanez came out with a series of guitars they call the Talman. These come in an electric verion and also an acoustic-electric version.
Many of these guitars appear to be made of an expensive flamed or quilted wood. However it is actually a photo of wood that is processed and glued on the particle board top and back and then heavily lacquered. The process is called Photoflame.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
In 1971 Gibson introduced the Gibson Les Paul recording guitar. The guitar was designed to be much like Paul's specially designed personal guitar which was equipped with low impedance pickups.
The Les Paul Recording came with two slanted low impedance pickups with Gibson logo molded on covers. The guitar was equipped with integral transformers to make the output impedance compatible with normal high impedance amps or low impedance. In other words,with the transformer off for recording in a studio plugged directly into the board, the low-impedance mode gave much cleaner tracks and broader frequency bandwidth, that could be tweaked in the mix.
For live performances, the Les Paul Low-Hi Impedance Tonal Circuitry was switched to high impedance, allowing the guitar to be played directly through standard guitar amplifiers. The pickups were produced for Gibson by a company that eventually was known as EMG.
Like most Les Paul's it was designed with a single cutaway bound body, however the Recording was made of solid Honduran mahogany. The necks were three piece laminated Mahogany with bound ebony rosewood fingerboards and mother-of-pearl block inlays.
The Les Paul Recording was manufactured between 1971 and 1980. The first version was produced through 1977 and a second version with a slightly different control arrangement was produced from 1977 to 1980. The first models were available in only a clear finish or a walnut finish. The later version was available in brown, black, white or sunburst.
Aside from the Hi-Lo impedance switches, the guitar had some other unusual features. It had an 11 position Decade Control that altered the treble frequencies. It also had a phase switch, which put the pickups in phase or out of phase with each other. The Tone Selector switch was unique in that it could bypass the treble and bass controls for a flat frequency. The bridge was a new version of the Tune-O-Matic bridge. The routed area for the control panel was completely shielded with a metal casing.
The Les Paul Recording was designed to be clean and noiseless. Which is probably why it didn't catch on like the Standard or Deluxe models. It is not the kind of instrument you would want to play through a 50 watt Marshall JPM stack.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Here is a little history lesson about Guild Guitars, the manufacturer of the Guild S-200 Thunderbird, which resembles You-know-Who.
Anastasios Stathopoulos made his own fiddles and Turkish lutes (oud, laouto). Stathopoulos moved to the United States of America in 1903, and continued to make his original instruments, as well as mandolins, from Long Island City in Queens, New York.
Anastasios died in 1915, and his son, Epaminondas, nicknamed Epi, took over. After two years, the company was known as The House Of Stathopoulous. The company produced their first guitars in 1928 under the Epiphone brand. When Epi passed away in 1943, the next generation of Stathopoulos brothers continued the business until 1957 when they sold out to Chicago Musical Instruments in 1957.
If you've been reading this blog, you'll remember Chicago Musical Instruments(CMI)owned Gibson guitars. The craftsmen that worked for Epiphone were left without work when Gibson/CMI moved production to their headquarters in Kalamazoo Michigan.
Former Epiphone executive Alfred Dronge and a music retailer George Mann banded together in 1952 to found Guild Guitars in Manhattan, New York.
When Epiphone left the state, Guild hired some of the Epiphone craftsmen. Guild has a reputation for turning out fine archtop acoustic and electric guitars as well as some of the most wonderful flat top acoustic guitars.
In the mid 1960's Guild produced some wonderful electric guitars and basses, but the one that stands out in my mind is the Guild S-200 Thunderbird aka The Gumby Guitar as it sort of resembles the little clay guy when you stand it up.
And by the way, you don't need a guitar stand for the Guild S-200. In the back of the body tucked away in a routed out cavity was a spring-loaded, hinged, nine inch flat chrome bar to allow you to prop the guitar up vertically.
This Guitar was equipped with two Humbucking pickups, 2 tone circuits for each pickup on/off switches and phase switch. The body shape with the three slider switches looked somewhat like a Fender Jaguar.
The lead pickup knobs go to up to nine. It came equipped with a Hagstrom tremolo unit. Later production models switched from the Humbucking pickups to DeArmond single coil pickups. As far as I can discern the guitar was produced from around 1963 to 1968.
I call your attention to the asymmetrical headstock shape, the carved and contoured body and the inlay on the bound neck. The neck on the Guild S-200 was a set neck. In essence it was a quality instrument.
All of us who are old enough to remember Shindig, Hullabaloo, Where The Action Is, Ready Steady Go and other TV rock shows of that era may recall Zal Yanovsky, lead player of the Lovin' Spoonful rocking out with his Guild S-200 Thunderbird.
"Do you believe in magic...?"
Sunday, October 25, 2009
It was designed with a flat top, had square shoulders, arched back, maple neck, laminated maple back and sides and had a tortoise style body binding and pickguard. The guitars were only available with a natural finish. The headstock featured the image of a Dove below the Gibson logo.
The arched back was unique and used on other guitars with which I am familiar. Guild used the arched back on at least one model and Framus of Bavaria used it on most of their acoustic instruments. The arched back provided its own support, so there was no need for bracing.
The arched back aided in providing that big, deep sound.
The consumer focus of the guitar was for Christian music, perhaps due to this era being known as the Jesus Revolution. The advertisment bears this out by showing a typical Christian coffeehouse singer of the era testifying about the instrument.
But the Gibson Gospel acoustic guitar was also an excellent instrument choice for bluegrass, folk, country music and even blues.
In 1992 Gibson again offered the Gospel acoustic model. The reissue defers compared to the original. Gibson chose mahogany over maple for the reissue. This guitar has multiple white binding, multiply arched back laminate and unbound rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays. The braces were scalloped like those on the more expensive models. The Dove logo remained on this instruments headstock.
This time it also was adorned with black pickguard that was not as large or fancy as the original. Finishes were offered in either natural or sunburst.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
In 1977 Norlin owned several companies including Moog which manufactured synthesizers designed by Robert Moog. Due to the popularity of personal synthesizers during this era, Gibson partnered with Moog to design the RD Guitar (research and developement) which brought electronic circuitry to Gibson instruments for the first time.
Many of these guitars were fitted with a Bob Moog designed compression and expansion preamplifier. Gibson soon discovered that many players did not like the advanced electronics.
The guitars shape could be described as a weird looking reversed firebird with a Les Paul headstock.
The Gibson RD standard had a double cut solid body, 2 humbuckers, stop tailpiece, rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays, chrome parts, large back plate, and were made in natural, walnut or sunburst finishes.
(Note the top 2 guitar have an extra toggle switch on the bottom that engages the active circuitry.)
The Gibson RD Custom had basically the same specs like the rd standard but with active electronics and was made with maple fingerboards.
The Gibson RD Artist also featured active electronics, 2 humbuckers, a tp-6 tailpiece, tune-o-matic bridge, large back plate, ebony fingerboards with block inlays, 3 piece mahogany necks, gold plated parts, pearl logo and was made with various finishes. The line was discontinued in 1982.
The Gibson L-6S Series
The Gibson L-6S was really a nice instrument. It was a cheaper descendant of the L5S jazz solid body electric guitar. It was the same shape - very much like a wide Gibson Les Paul. It was the first Gibson to sport a 24 fret two-octave neck.
The L-6S was designed by a young Bill Lawrence in 1972, who had been given the task of designing a "multi-sound system" under a very tight budget. The final production guitar was somewhat different from the Guitar he had in mind but as he stated, "even with these changes, the early production L6-S was still an excellent performer.”
The guitar had a small following and at the time was favored by Al DiMeola, Keith Richards and Carlos Santana among others.
The L-6S came in three variants; all were maple-bodied with twin super-humbucking Lawrence designed pickups.
The L-6S Custom was the best known version with total production of over 12000 instruments. It featured a Maple body, and set neck with a choice of maple or ebony fingerboard. Controls include a six position pickup selector, master volume, mid-range and treble roll-off controls. The first production models were simply called the L-6S. Later Gibson renamed the guitar the L-6S Custom and added a badge on the truss rod cover.
The L-6S Custom is noted for its six way rotary selector switch, complete with "chicken head" pointer knob. Starting with switch position #1, in the most clockwise position, the available pickup switching options are as follows:
1 Both pickups, in series
2 Neck pickup, alone
3 Both pickups, in parallel
4 Both pickups, parallel out of phase, with the neck pickup's bass response restricted thought a series capacitor*.
5 Bridge pickup, alone
6 Both pickups, series out of phase.
• The capacitor in the #4 position gives a fuller tone than the otherwise very nasal out of phase tone. The capacitor serves to limit the low end response of the neck pickup, and also phase delays the signal from that pickup, resulting in a fuller tone, not too unlike the #2 and #4 switch positions on a Fender Stratocaster guitar.
The mid-range control on the L-6S Custom uses a 1.8Hy inductor, which is split wound for hum-cancellation, along with a capacitor. This is a variation of the notch filter concept introduced by Gibson with the VariTone circuit. In the VariTone, however, the resistance is fixed, and different capacitors are chosen.
In the L-6S's mid-range control, the resistance is variable, while the capacitance is a fixed value. The result is one which allows decreasing of the middle tones, while retaining a large degree of "sparkle" or "brilliance" to the tone of the instrument. The volume and treble roll-off controls work as they do in most other electric guitars.
There were two versions of the L-6S produced without the sophisticated tone swithing control. One version was The L-6S called The Midnight Special with total production of around 2000 instruments Maple body, and bolt-on maple neck with a maple fingerboard. Controls include a pickup selector, master volume, and tone control. This guitar was strung through the body.
The L-6S Deluxe was less popular than the Custom with total production around 3500 instruments The Deluxe had a set maple neck, with a rosewood fingerboard. Controls include a pickup selector, master volume, and tone control. Strung through the body. The guitars production was ended in 1979.
The Gibson Mark Series aka MK Series
Perhaps due to the popularity of Ovation guitars, designed with the parabolic sound bowl that was said to increase and improve the guitars sound, Gibson Norlin jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to design the ultimate acoustic guitar based on the principles of physics.
This effort was initiated by collaboration between Dr. Michael Kasha, a physics professor at Florida State University and Richard Schneider, who at the time was an apprentice of Mexican Luther Juan Pimentel. The collaborative result was the Gibson Mark series.
Dr. Michael Kasha had been working on improving the classical guitar circa 1965. Encouraged by the classical guitar establishment he began to measure the sound response of great classical guitars. He had already been aided in his effort by Richard Schneider.
By 1971, Kasha was publishing many of his conclusions. Kasha loaded weight in or near the headstock to increase the transmission of string vibration down through the neck. (Many of us as young guitarist had discovered that placing the headstock of your guitar against a wall or the headboard of your bed resulted in transferred vibrations and increased sound. There is a company that builds a flat piece of metal called the Fathead that is designed to fit on the rear of a Stratocaster headstock for this purpose.) Kasha counterbalanced this by adding a weight in the tail block.
The soundboard received a radical revision to the bracing system.
Systems varied for classical and steel-stringed models, but basically it involved two transverse bars under the bridge and above the sound hole, then a sort of hybrid X and fan system. X bracing was used on the upper bout and fanned bracing on the lower, with braces get graduating from thick to thinner as they moved from bass to treble sides. FYI, steel string guitars normally use X bracing and classical/flamenco guitars use fan bracing. So this design was very unusual.
Kasha also came up with an impedance-matching bridge that was basically wide on the bass side and tapered on the treble.
Ironically in 1972 Kasha and Schneider signed an agreement to sell classical and steel string instruments through the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company, owners and builders of Gretsch and Baldwin/Burns guitars. That arrangement lasted only about a year, perhaps due to the financial problems Baldwin was experiencing at the time due to their purchase of Burns.
Kasha and Schneider then signed with Gibson in 1973 to develop a line of scientifically designed acoustic guitars, with Norlin picking up the development tab.
All sported 25 1/2" scales and had a plastic ring around the sound hole. The top of the line was the Mark 99 in spruce and rosewood with an ebony fretboard, gold hardware, and bow-tie inlays ($2,199). These were basically custom-made by Schneider.
The Mark 81 was the top production model, differing only in large pearl block inlays ($999).
The Mark 72, a plainer rosewood model with less binding, chrome hardware, rosewood fingerboard, and dots ($749).
The Mark 53 was maple-bodied with rosewood 'board and dots ($649).
The Mark 35 had a mahogany body with rosewood 'board and dots ($569). Cases were an extra $109. Two 12-strings were briefly offered, the Mark 45-12, probably made of maple (two made in '79), and the Mark 35-12 (12 made in '77).
The Mark guitars were only offered for four years, until 1979. Only one custom Mark 99 was ever produced and sold. Of the Mark 81s, 431 were produced. The second most popular was the Mark 72 clocking in at 1,229 units. The maple Mark 53 saw 1,424 produced. The most popular was the mahogany Mark 35, with 5,226 made
I have played a Gibson Mark 53. While it is a fine American-made, solid wood, extremely well constructed instrument, I am of the opinion that despite all the scientific research that went into producing and designing the Mark Series guitars, when it is compared with a Gibson Hummingbird or a Martin D28 the Martin and Hummingbird produce a better tone.
Monday, October 19, 2009
In 1974 partners H. Norton Stevens head of E.C.L and William Berlin, who was head of CMI joined forces called the business Norlin or Gibson Norlin. Which combined the syllables of the partner's sir names.
I certainly do not mean to deride the reputation of either of these gentlemen. Mr. Berlin was CEO of the giant music conglomerate CMI.
H. Norton Stevens was a graduate of Harvard. After leaving Gibson due to a hostile take over, he was appointed to the Inter-America Foundation by President G. H. W. Bush.
FYI, Rooney Pace had ongoing issues at the time needed to clean their own house. Three years after selling Gibson, Rooney Pace, it's president, Randolph Rooney and five executives were fined, censured and expelled from the N.A.S.D (Nasdaq) for stock manipulation.
But I am going too far ahead in the Norlin story. It was in the beginning of the Norlin era that Gibson left Kalamazoo Michigan and moved their headquarters to Nashville Tennessee.
I am of the opinion they Gibson Norlin lost the sense of all the wonderful things they were doing right throughout the company's history.
During this era there were a few great instruments made, but Gibson produced some truly weird creations that were not worthy of the same company which built fabulous instruments designed by the likes of Lloyd Loar and Ted McCarty.
I am not certain who the designers were at that time, however it would appear the monkeys took over the shop for a few years, I offer these Bizzaro World creations as evidence.
The Gibson Marauder
In 1975 Gibson introduced the Marauder. This guitar was intended to coincide and compliment the Gibson Grabber Bass guitar. The Marauder never really became well established on the market. The Gibson marauder was introduced in 1975 it was 12 3/4" wide, it has a les Paul shaped single cutaway maple or mahogany body (some with alder bodies), hum bucking pick up in the neck position for rhythm and a single blade pickup in the bridge position at a slant for solo, large pick guard which covers the entire upper body, unbound fingerboard (rosewood), dot inlays and a triangular round top spear shaped headstock like the S-1 and Flying Vee. 2 knobs and a rotary tone selector switch created an interesting tone frequency from the 2 pickups.
In 1976 Gibson also introduced the Gibson marauder custom which featured a three way switch on the cutaway bout, bound fingerboard, block inlays on fingerboard, and were made in tobacco sunburst finishes.
The Gibson S-1
In mid 1975 Gibson produced the Gibson S-1 guitar and released it for sale on the market in 1976.
The Gibson S-1 had very similar features like the marauder , its 12 3/4" wide , has a Les Paul shaped body , bolt on neck , maple or rosewood fingerboard, dot inlay, pointed round headstock similar to a Flying V, stop tailpiece, tune o matic bridge, large pick guard ( pointed at the treble bout ) and 3 single coil pickups.
The guitar actually sounded not bad considering its price , it gives you an original funky , bluesy , strat-type tone from its single coil pickups by playing around with its 2 way toggle and its 4 position rotary switch .
The 3 pickup schemes give the impression this was Gibson’s attempt to cash in on the Strat market.
The Grabber Bass Series
The Gibson Grabber Bass was Gibson’s first bolt on neck bass reminiscent to Fender bass guitars, the movable pickup was an interesting feature that left many bass players intrigued as by manually moving the pickup towards the bridge or neck one could create a deeper thick sound or a very punchy sound. Much of the Grabber’s popularity stemmed from their use by Gene Simmons of Kiss.
The Gibson Corvus Series
The final evidence that Gibson Guitars lost their mind occurred in 1982 in the form of a guitar called the Gibson Corvus.
OK, Latin scholars, Corvus is the Latin word for:
a. A small car produced by Chevrolet that Ralph Nader was not fond of.
b. A tasty snack made of compressed corn.
c. A rather silly looking electric guitar.
If you answered D, you are correct. If you answered C and D, you get extra credit.
Those of you are old enough, you may remember the old fashion can opener that had a curved blade that cut into a cans lid. If you will, envision this shape with 6 strings, pickups, a neck and tuners. This is exactly what the Gibson Corvus resembled.
Gibson decided it was a great idea to produce 3 versions of this silly instrument.
The Corvus 1 had a solid body with an offset v-type cut, bolt on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard, volume and tone controls, and one and one hum bucker pickup. The standard finish was silver gloss. However this beauty could be had in other finishes that include yellow and orange. The headstock was 6 on a side similar to the non-reverse Firebird model. The guitar also sported a very unusual bridge design. (They must not have sold well. I can find no pictures of a Covus l)
Gibson also introduced the Gibson Corvus II guitar, the guitar was the same as the Corvus I but with 2 hum buckers and two volume controls, one was a master volume control.
And if you can believe it the Gibson Corvus III electric guitar was the same as the Corvus I, but with three single coil pickups, a five way switch, one master volume and one tone control.
Thankfully in the late 1980's the company was rescued by its present owners.
Gibson Guitar is now a privately held corporation owned by chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and president David H. Berryman. And once again Gibson has returned to it's roots and is making great instruments.
Friday, October 16, 2009
In the mid '50s Pioli became interested in new technologies to build guitars. He originally hooked with Italian guitar manufacturer Framez which was run by the Fratelli Meazzi (the Meazzi Brothers - which begs the question, are they related to Click & Clack [Tom & Ray]?) with pickups made by Abel Naldi. Wandre produced 57 to 61 per Meazzi’s records.
Starting in 1959 he moved his production to Cavriago and hooked up with electronics expert Athos Davoli. Davoli’s company at the time was part of a conglomerate known as Radio Elettromeccanica Krundaal, located in Parma, Italy. The two worked on developing the electronics that eventually appeared in Wandré guitars. By '62 or '63 Wandré Pioli's guitar ideas had pretty much come together, and the primary shapes for which he's best known had been introduced.
Pioli's guitars were musical sculptures. The pickups made by the Athos Davoli company were large, trapezoid-shaped pickups with stamped metal covers that said “Davoli/Made In Italy.” The Davoli pickup cover imprint was often the only identification found on Wandré guitars, contributing to the misinformation that they are “Davoli” guitars.
As a sculptor, Pioli fabricated his guitars using a bakelite top with a wood back and sides. As his production was very limited, Wandre guitars are very rare and according to "the illustrated encyclopedia of electric guitars" the are "the most eccentric European guitars of any period in guitar history".
Wandré was attracted early on to aluminum and it’s structural material. He was a motorcycle enthusiast and restored motorcycles. He was often seen riding the Italian countryside. His interest in motorcycles was reflected in the design and workmanship of his guitar vibrato system. The same could be said of motorcylce enthusiast Paul Bigsby, who in the United States invented his famous version of the guitar vibrato made by using a motorcycle spring. However on some of Wandre’s vibrato was either a triangular or diamond-shaped affair was attached to the aluminum core and faced outward with a cast metal “W”… it looked very much like a motorcycle medallion of the day.
A common occurrence in many guitars of this era was neck warpage. Wandre solved that with an aluminum neck that featured and adjustment that allows for placing the neck at a suitable angle for your playing style - maybe 6 degrees each way parallel of the top. It also has a neck-through-tailpiece design and the headstock is also wood framed with aluminunum.
The intonation and string height adjustments are made with an overhead suspension type looking like an upside-down tune-o-matic which you can rest your palm on it smoothly. As were many guitars of the day, the neck is very narrow but kind of like half a baseball bat. The necks were straight as an arrow, .006 of an inch off over its length.
His guitars featured a neat pushbutton pickup selector switch system that looks like the old Chrysler automatic transmission pushbuttons of the 60's. He sold his guitars under the names - Jennings UK, noble USA, Dallas UK, wander ITALY, Krandall, Avalon, Orpheum - Krandall may have been the parent company of the davoli pickup company.
Wandre guitars were exported throughout Europe and the Americas. Concentrations of specimens can be seen in the Netherlands and Argentina. In England and was released by Dallas in the U.S. with Don E. First with Maurice Noble Lipsky and his trademark Orpheum, later. In France, the main distributor was Doris.
The collaboration with Davoli lasted until 1970 when Pioli sold his guitar factory to start a leather clothing business. Wandre guitars production shows around 70,000 instruments being produced and sold around the world. Pioli passed away in 2004.
Thanks to Eastwood Guitars you can own a reproduction of the French Wandre at a more reasonable price. Alas the metal necks are gone, replaced with Maple. Eastwood first named the model Doris, but recently changed the name to the Wandre STD ($899) and Wandre DLX with Bigsby ($1029) with Wandre's signature on the headstock.