If D’Angelico guitars are the Stradivarius of the guitar world, Stromberg is the Guarneri.
Stromberg’s top model guitars, with huge nineteen-inch-wide bodies, provided the tremendous volume and projection needed for a rhythm guitarist to be heard in the large jazz orchestras of the 1940s.
Charle's oldest son, Harry worked in the shop for a few years, but moved on to a different career. Elmer joined the shop and the changes he made provided a 15 year golden era for the business.
The Stromberg's top of the line guitar was the Master 400 featuring stylish engraving on the headstock veneer. The body was 19" across the lower bout. In fact their guitars were either 18" or 19" and designed to compete with horns and brass in the big bands of that era.
Guitarist Freddie Green, of the Count Basie Orchestra, used Strombergs exclusively, playing both the Master 400 and the Master 300. Irving Ashby played a Stromberg. He was Nat King Cole's guitarist before Oscar Moore. A banjo wizard of the 40's Jame's Buster Modello endorsed Stromberg banjos and guitars. Jazz player Barry Galbraith played a G-5 model.
Currently "Ranger" Doug Green from Riders in the Sky and The Time Jumpers plays and collects Strombergs. In fact he is THE authority on Strombergs. Little known fact is Doug worked at Gruhn's Guitars in Nashville many years ago.
The Stromberg Master 400 is very scarce and if you find one, expect it to cost around $40,000.
The Stromberg Master 400 is considered to be the ultimate orchestral rhythm guitar beating out Gibson's top of the archtop line 400 model. It is said these instrument are not as sweet sounding as D'Angelicos, but have better projection. In the days when electronic amplification was not the norm, a loud acoustic was necessary.
The Stromberg's produced only 636 guitars, which accounts for their value due to scarcity.
The models they offered were a limited selection. The G-1, G-2 and G-3 were 17 3/8th" across the lower bout with the G-2 and G-3 being fancier with an upgraded tailpiece. The G-3 had a cutaway
Cutaway Master 400's are extremely rare.
The final Stromberg model was the G-5. It was not as fancy as the 300 or 400. It was a 17" guitar and it had a short scale neck of only 23 1/2". The price new for this model in 1952 was a mere $315 or if you wanted a cutaway it was $404. There were likely only a dozen of these instruments built.
The earlier Stromberg's featured laminated pressed tops. And even so, they are still in demand by collectors although the tonal quality is inferior to the latter instruments with carved tops. Most other manufacturers at the time used an X bracing system on their archtops. The Strombergs came up with a guitar that had just one diagonal brace across the top. This resulted in a more percussive sound just right for comping for rhythm in swing bands. The latter Strombergs had adjustable truss rods in the neck that could be accessed by removing the bone nut. Although the top of Stromberg guitars made from the 1940's on is carved and solid, the back and sides on some are laminated. Their are some cosmetic flaws in Strombergs which may have earned them only 3 stars in Guitar Player (if it had been around), but these guitars were designed as working instruments.
Interestingly, some of the wood the Strombergs used was scavenged from old Boston buildings that were being demolished.
One of the drawbacks of Stromberg guitars that had headstock veneer is the veneer was made of nitrocellulous and is subject to deterioration.
Charles and Elmer both died in 1955 within months of each other. Elmer was in an automobile crash. This ended Stromberg Guitars.
There is a Florida based company that has acquired the trademark to the Stromberg brand name. The new guitars, I understand have received excellent reviews, are Asian manufactured and other than the name are not related to any instruments The Stromberg Family produced.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Syd Nathan concentrated primarily on Black Rhythm & Blues groups and Country music groups. Although this was an odd mixture of cultures, Nathans goal was to sell record. This diversified mix of artists and music did the trick to sell records.
Syd Nathan & Hank Ballard
Nathan also owned a couple of record stores in Cincinnati as well as jukeboxes. He realized that most of his record sales were to folks that enjoyed either Black Rhythm & Blues or Country music.
King Record featured not just a recording studio, but a complete record plant that could cut masters, print vinyl records,photograph artists, print covers and package the product. The all-in-one record plant was a plus for artists that hawked their own records at their concerts.
Nathan also was a promoter and had fulltime staff songwriters. This way if a song became a hit, he would own a piece of the revenue. This was all back in the days of vinyl and most recording studios had to farm out printing and packaging.
In 1968, along with his elder brother, Phelps, Bootsy formed a funk band called The Pacemakers. Although any folks are not aware, most of Browns hits were recorded in Cincinnati at King Records.
In 1970 James Brown’s entire backing band quit over a pay dispute. Brown needed a backing band right away. By then some members of Bootsy’s band were doing back up work at King. Bootsy was the go-to rhythm player. Right on the spot, Brown hired Bootsy, Phelps and other members, including Kenny Poole (who went on to become an excellent jazz guitarist). The band played on four of James Brown’s hit tracks and were known as The J.B.'s
Bootsy went through a series of bands and cranked out some great funk recordings over the next two decades.
During the P-Funk years, Bootsy adopted his trademark Space Bass which he used on many recordings.
Nineteen year old Larry Pless and a friend drove to Warren Michigan to a music store named Guz Zoppie’s. The store was known mostly for it’s accordians. Bootsy was between gigs and brought in a guitar that he had made. It was a V style body. Half of it was made of maple and the other half was made of mahogany. The guitar had a maple neck. Pless was hoping Mr. Zoppie would sell this guitar on consignment. Instead Mr. Zoppie’s son ask Larry if he would like a job as the stores guitar repairman. He accepted and continued to work at Zoppies for the next couple of years.
The guitar was only half finished when Bootsy called and said he needed it for a photo shoot in Los Angeles. By then the guitar had a coat of white paint and the pickguard, but it was not finished. This was for Bootsy’s Rubber Band album, Stretching Out.
The first Space Bass. No pickups
The bass was soon finished after that and Larry was sent an airline ticket to fly to Cincinnati with the bass. Bootsy was playing at the Colleseum and wanted to use his new bass guitar. There were problems with the cord that hooked to his bass amp. However Bootsy was happy with the instrument.
Sometime later Bootsy’s Space Bass was stolen, so Pless was asked to make another one. The first bass had a mahogany body and a maple neck. Pless make the 2nd with a basswood body and a maple neck. Bootsy preferred the first bass. This instrument was found in a Cincinnati pawn shop and returned to Bootsy.
Bootsy kept bringing the basses back to Larry Pless for adjustments and to add additional rhinestones. Pless also made a double neck 6/12 string Space Bass for Collins.
Perhaps as a tribute to his past at King Records, Bootsy collaborated with bluegrass legends Del McCoury, Doc Watson and Mac Wiseman in a group called The GrooveGrass Boyz.
You can see some of the pickup variations this instrument has gone through, starting with two pickups and now having five J-style pickups. The one on the left has two P-bass and two J-bass pickups.
These days Bootsy spends his time at his home music studio in southern Indiana and traveling to Cincinnati to the restaurant/club, Bootsy’s in which he has partnered up with local restaurateur Jeff Ruby.
Friday, April 2, 2010
During their meeting Clapton inquired of Crash the possibility of painting a Strat for him. This didn't happen until three years later.
This resulting guitar came to be known as the Crashocaster. The guitar was known by several other titles; Crash #1, the Over-the-Rainbow Strat or the Rainbow Strat. He went on to make two more Crashocasters for Clapton.
2004 was also the year Fender opened the companies Custom Shop. Fender decided to commission Crash to paint 50 Stratocaster Custom Shop bodies featuring the artists graffiti inspired designs. The project took Crash two years to complete. The 50th body was finished in January of 2007.
Though Crashocaster is the name most Fender enthusiasts refer to these guitars, it was never recognized by Fender. Instead it was dubbed Custom Crash Stratocasters.
John Mayer's Crashocaster
Crash may have produced some painted bodies that were not commissioned by or approved by the Fender Musical Instrument Company.
Clapton's instruments, the Crash-1, known as Rainbow Strat was painted in 2000 and the Crash-2 was done in 2002 with the Crash-3 being painted in 2004. These guitars were above those commissioned requested by Fender. So there are actually 53 Crashocasters.
The Custom Shop run of these models feature body painting by Crash; however they are not Eric Clapton signature Stratocasters although the feature similar specifications there are slight differences between the two models.