Saturday, February 25, 2017

Larry Coryell, The Godfather of Fusion Guitar, Dead at age 73 - A Retrospective of his guitars

Larry Coryell playing his Hagstrom Swede guitar
Larry Coryell passed away of heart failure last Sunday at age 73. Larry was best known as a Jazz-Fusion guitarist and even dubbed the “Godfather of Fusion.”

He was born Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III in Galveston Texas, but grew up in Richland, Washington. When his mother re-married. Larry took his beloved stepfather’s surname, Coryell. He attended the University of Washington for his undergraduate degree and during those years played in some area club bands.

Coryell with Chico Hamilton Quintet


In 1965 Larry Coryell moved to New York City to attend the Mannes School of Music. This is where he got his first big break by joining drummer Chico Hamilton’s jazz quintet.





Coryell in the Gary Burton group


A few years later he recorded with Jazz vibraphone player, Gary Burton as a member of Burton's band.




The Free Spirits



Coryell went on to become the leader of a Jazz-Rock group called The Free Spirits and recorded several album with the group.







Larry and Julie Nathanson Coryell


It was during this time period that he married Julie Nathanson, a writer-actress and released a solo LP entitled Lady Coryell. This and subsequent LP’s featured his wife’s photos on the cover as well as her poetry.




1970 Album Spaces



In late 1969 he recorded Spaces, the album for which he is best remembered. It was a guitar blow-out that also included John McLaughlin.





Larry Coryell 1971 Barefoot Boy


In the early 1970’s he was in a group called Foreplay, Albums from this era include some of his finest, including Barfoot Boy, Offering and The Real Great Escape.





 Coryell at Long View Farm


After Foreplay disbanded Coryell briefly turned to the acoustic guitar. He returned to the acoustic guitar for albums with the Brubeck Brothers and Mouzon.






The Guitar Trio

By 1979 Coryell formed The Guitar Trio with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. The group toured Europe. Sadly his addiction lead to him being replaced by Al Di Meola.

Larry stated that he sought help for his problems and became sober, but attended counselling most of his adult life.

1967 Super 400


Throughout his career, Larry Coryell played a variety of interesting guitars. He seemed to be most fond of archtop, hollowbody electrics and even states in an interview that his favorite guitar was his 1967 Gibson Super 400.





Younger days with the '67 Super 400



Interestingly, he views guitars as "wood and metal"; Coryell was all about the music.




Coryell with his first Super 400


In his younger days he played a different Gibson Super 400. This one was blonde and had a single floating pickup mounted on the pickguard.  This guitar was stolen.


With Hagstrom Swede



For a long time he played a Hagstrom Swede.  This was a solidbody guitar that he says he received when his manager made a deal with the company and he used it for nearly 12 years.





Coryell with Ovation Adamas


Coryell also liked the older Ovations that were made in the 70’s, as they were durable road guitars, had great piezo pickups, and had the feel of electric guitars. At one time he even played an Adamas 12 string.



With Matthews Telecaster
Coryell has been photographed playing Martin guitars, classical guitars (actually a Rodriguez Flamenco guitar that was a gift), a white Les Paul guitar, even a Stratocaster and a Telecaster.


Coryell with Parker Guitar

Larry Coryell is well known for playing a blonde Parker semi-acoustic hollowbody guitar. He also played a similar model with a sunburst finish.



Coryell with Parker Event Series acoustic

Coryell must have been fond of Parkers, as he also owned and played a Parker Event Series acoustic steel string guitar, that was made by Washburn.




Larry Coryell Cort model



At one point Cort Guitars offered a Larry Coryell model.






Coryell with his SF Twin Reverb

For much of his career Coryell relied on Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers. Later in life he only used this amp for loud gigs, instead relying on a Jazz-Kat BluesKat amp or a Henriksen amplifier.

With Hamer Monaco III



He said that used little or no reverb, preferring a touch of delay and chorus to get his sound.







The Original Eleventh House
Larry Coryell has collaborated on stage with so many great artists, from Herbie Mann to B.B. King and others too numerous to mention. Larry was still touring the world right up until his passing. He had played two shows at the Iridium in New York city on February 17th and 18th.


He was planning an extensive 2017 summer tour with a reformed the Eleventh House.

He is survived by his wife, Tracey, his daughter Annie, his sons Murali and Julian, and his daughter Allegra, as well as six grandchildren. Both of his sons play guitar and have their own trios

Click on the links under the pictures for the sources. Click on the links in the text for more interesting information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)





Saturday, February 18, 2017

Who is Mel Bay?

Dodd's Music was in the white building


I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13 years old; first at the YMCA in a group setting and then at Dodd’s Music Store, in Covington, Kentucky.






One of the acts on WLW radio

My teacher at Dodd's was an old guy named George Olinger. George made a living playing guitar in Country groups around town as well as being a staff guitarist on WLW radio, back in the days when the station played live music.

George taught me the basic chord patterns mainly from the books he had me purchase, which seemed to all be written by one man; Mel Bay.

Tommy Flint
Last week I learned that a fairly well-known guitarist named Tommy Flint had passed away. It seems that Mr. Flint was not only an excellent finger-style guitarist, in the style of Chet Atkins, but also an author of guitar instruction books that were published by Mel Bay.

This got me to wondering, who was Mel Bay?


Mel 1928 with National Triolian

Mel grew up in a small Missouri town in the Ozark Mountains. He bought his first guitar at the age of 13 from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Within months of acquiring the guitar, he was playing in front of people. Mel Bay never had a guitar teacher.  He watched other guitar player perform and memorized their fingering on the fretboard.


That is the way I learned to play guitar.  I stood in front of bands and watched the lead guitar player and copied his fingerings. I am certain many of you reading this article honed your skills in much the same manner.

Bay was not satisfied to just learn the guitar. No sir. He went on to learn fingerings on the tenor banjo, mandolin, ukulele and Hawaiian slide guitar. This was all back in the 1920's when he was still a young man.

D'Angelico with "Melbourne Bay"
engraved on the pickguard
Mel Bay became hooked on playing in front of audiences and decided to make a career out of being a professional musician. So he moved to St. Louis in 1933 and joined numerous local and traveling bands. He also was hired by several radio stations as a staff guitarist.

He put together The Mel Bay Trio, which consisted of him, a bass player and a drummer. And this became his steady gig for the next 25 years. His career was briefly interrupted by a stint in the US Army during WWII.

His custom D'Angelico New Yorker
As a working musician he had extra time and was able to teach guitar to others. In fact Mel Bay taught as many as 100 students a week. During those years he found out there was not a lot of instructional material available at the time.

He determined some of the material availabe was flawed. It only offered students chord patterns; not the ability to learn notes on the guitar.

So Mel began writing his own instruction books. These books became the basis for the Mel Bay Publication House.

Mel Bay's 1st Book
After getting out of the Army, he published his first instruction book in 1947 and called it The Orchestral Chord System for Guitar. This book was the first of many to be published it under his own business; Mel Bay Publishing Incorporated. Amazingly this the book is still in print, but now it is titled The Rhythm Guitar Chord System. This book has been used by countless students to learn how to play guitar.


Mel Bay's 2nd Book



By 1948 another book was published called Modern Guitar Method. Through the years Modern Guitar Method has sold more than 20 million copies in its original version.






Mel teaching guitar to
high school students

By the mid 1950’s Elvis Presley's career was the talk of the nation, and this caused the guitar to experience a surge in popularity. During these years Mel Bay traveled around the country talking to guitar teachers and their students about his publications with the goal of selling them as texts.

In doing this he came to know most every guitar teacher in the United States on a first name basis. Guitar Player Magazine dubbed him as The George Washington of Guitar.

Mel Bay playing a mandolin


Since first publishing guitar instruction books, his company has branched off into publishing method books for violin, banjo, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, harmonica, folk instruments, and accordion. His books for guitar include methods for differing styles, including folk, jazz, classical, rock, blues and jazz.


Mel Bay Book by Tommy Flint
Getting back to Tommy Flint, who I mentioned early on; Mr. Flint was the author of Mel Bay’s books on Finger Style guitar, Chet Atkins style picking, as well as Bluegrass Guitar and Christmas Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar.  In all, Tommy Flint wrote over 40 books for Mel Bay Publishing

Mel Bay received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guitar Foundation of America from the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and he also received the Owen Miller Award from the American Federation of Musicians.

Bay received a Certificate of Merit from the St. Louis Music Educators Association, as well as a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his achievements. He ever was sent a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton, and was honored by St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Making October 25, 1996 “Mel Bay Day” for citizens of that fair city.

Mel's D'Angelico New Yorker 
I often wondered about the image of a D’Angelico guitar on the cover of the Mel Bay instruction book that I purchased so many years ago. A similar guitar image also shows up on the cover of other Mel Bay guitar instruction books. It seem that Mel used to sell D’Angelico guitars and kept a half a dozen D'Angelico guitars at his home that were for sale to perspective students.


One of Mel's personal guitars was a New Yorker model with a cutaway and a slightly thinner neck custom made for him.

Mel Bay



Mel Bay kept playing guitar every day until his death at age 84 in 1997.






From St. Louis WOF Inductees
On June 30 of 2011, the city of St. Louis, Missouri honored him one more time by inducting him into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. There is also a Mel Bay Jazz Festival held annually in DeSoto, Missouri; the town where he grew up. The music center at the town’s high school is named in his honor.

Ode To Mel Bay

A song was written by Michael “Supe” Granda of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils called “Ode to Mel Bay”. It is featured on the album by Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins called The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. It sort of makes fun of Mel’s instruction books.



Mel Bay Books
Today Mel Bay Publications offers hundreds of books for a variety of instruments that were written by many different authors including Mel’s son, William Bay, who is a very proficient guitarist as well as an author and runs Mel Bay Publications.

The links under the pictures will take you to the source. The links in the text will take you to more interesting information.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kurt Cobain Guitar and Jerry Garcia Guitar to be Auctioned

1958 Hagstrom Deluxe 90
One of Kurt Cobain’s guitars is to be auctioned on eBay with the proceeds going to charity. The proceeds will benefit Transition Projects, a Portland, Oregon based organization that benefits homeless veterans and their families.

This auction marks what would have been Cobain’s 50th birthday had he not taken his own life at age 27. A cardigan sweater once owned by the musician brought in $137,000 USD some years ago. This auction will run from February 16 starting at 11:00 am EST to February 26, 11:00 am EST,

Owner Nathan Fasold displays the Hagstrom

The guitar is a vintage 1958 Hagstrom Sparkle Deluxe guitar that is currently owned by Nathan Fasold of Black Book Guitars in Portland.


It has been authenticated by Earnie Bailey, who was formerly Nirvana’s primary guitar tech who personally delivered it to Cobain in 1992. At that time it was converted to a left-handed model. 

Click here for the link to the auction.

Jerry Garcia with Wolf Guitar
Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar is to be auctioned off this May with proceeds to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This gorgeous guitar is a 1973 creation of Grateful Dead builder Doug Irwin and was given the name “Wolf” after Garcia affixed a sticker of a cartoon wolf to its lower bout.

Through the years, the guitar went through many updates with pickup combinations.

Body of Wolf guitar


Garcia used this guitar for over 20 years before retiring it in 1993.

After Garcia’s death in 1995, a dispute occurred regarding ownership of Garcia’s instruments. As a part of a settlement, Doug Irwin reclaimed this guitar.




Jerry play Wolf in later years


He later sold it auction to its current owner for over $700,000. The anonymous owner will auction the Wolf guitar at an event to be held at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl.




The back of the Wolf guitar


The Wolf guitar is an exceptionally gorgeous instrument as was hand-made with book-matched curly western maple for it’s body and the builder also used amaranth wood, also known as purple heart and African ivory. The inlay work on the neck is superb.





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Electro-Harmonix Effects Pedals; A Brief History

Electro-Harmonix original logo
For electric guitarists it is not enough to have your instrument sound like a guitar; We leave that to the jazz players, the classical players, and the folkies. Electric players want to make their instrument growl, wail, and and scream.

Guitar George


We are not like “Guitar George, he knows all the chords. Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make them cry or sing.” The majority of us want to express ourselves and be heard.




Maestro Fuzztone
Aside from a loud, over driven amplifier, effects pedals are necessary tools for most guitarists and bass players. The granddaddy of them all was the Maestro Fuzztone. This was the original pedal used on the Rolling Stone’s hit song, Satisfaction, and it started a whole industry.

One of the original and most prominent manufacturers of guitar and bass effects pedal is Electro-Harmonix. This company emerged on the scene in New York City back in 1968.

Mike Matthews in 1979


Back in 1967 Mike Matthews, the companies owner and founder was a rhythm and blues piano player and had a day time sales job. His friend, Bill Berko, was an audio repairman who had just constructed a circuit for a guitar fuzz pedal.




'67 Axis and Foxey Lady fuzz pedals

Under the advice of Matthews, Berko hired a company to construct these pedals under a deal with the Guild Guitar Company and the device was given the name of the Axis fuzz pedal. It was also sold under the name Foxey Lady.

All parties made a little money off the deal, and eventually Berko and Matthews parted ways.

Mike Matthews 1967
However Mike Matthews was smitten with the idea of creating guitar effects. As I've mentioned, at the time Matthews was a salesman for IBM and he next teamed up with an IBM colleague who was an electrical engineer by the name of Bob Myer.

In 1969 they worked together to create a distortion free sustain device. Some fuzz tones of that era produced a buzz saw like effect that produced some sustain, while others like the Maestro box, just added gain to distort the guitars signal. Guitarists at that time wanted the ability for notes to be played and held, just like those played by horn players.

Original LPB-1
What Myer and Matthews came up with was a small device the Linear Power Booster, and called it the LPB-1. This pedal boosted the signal and made the guitar stand out. It did not sit on the floor, but was made to be plugged directly into the amplifier input.


Vintage LPB-1 interior


The price for this unit was about $20 USD, and it was an instant hit. The original units were hand wired with no circuit board.





1969-70 version Big Muff Pi (π)
The next effect that Matthews and Bob Myer created was the a fuzz tone that added a low end heavy sustain to any guitar sound. They gave it the name of The Big Muff Pi. It mixed harmonic distortion, sustain, and fuzz sounds together to make even a small amplifier sound huge. Plus it distorted at any volume. Both devices were instant hits and were put to use by well known artists.

'75 Big Muff Pi (π) interior
The original version of the Big Muff Pi was pretty much hand-made on perforated electronic boards with the wiring and parts hand-soldiered. But by 1970 these devices were updated to etched PCB boards.



Double Muff and Little Muff
The Big Muff was such a hit that subsequent versions emerged in later years, such as the Metal Muff, which had a higher gain threshold, and the Double Muff, which was two Big Muffs wired in series that offered overdrive through a single circuit, or through a cascaded version.

The Little Big Muff was a smaller version of the unit and had a slight variation in the circuit. The NYC Big Muff came with a tone bypass switch that allowed the user to bypass the tone control and another switch the adjusted the frequencies of 3 filters embedded in the circuit.

EH Bass and Treble boost

There were several other devices made by Electro-Harmonix in the late 1960's and early 1970's that included a Treble Booster, called the Screaming Bird and a Bass Booster called the Mole, that were made in a similar format to the LPB-1; These small boxes had an input on one end to accept the guitar cable and a plug on the opposite side that went into the amplifier. These units originally sold for around $20 USD.


EH Slap Back Echo



The company also produced the Slap-Back Echo box that produced a slap-back effect and came with a filter switch to shape the tone.






1975 EH Small Stone Phaser
One of the more popular effects the company produced at this time was the Small Stone Phase Shifter. It was a 4 stage phasing circuit, design by David Cockerell. This device had one large knob to adjust the rate of phasing and a slider switch labeled “Color” that engaged an additional stage of feedback for a more pronounced sound. Think of the Doobie Brothers song “Listen to the Music”.

EH Band Stone Phase Shifter



The Bad Stone Phase Shifter was an upgraded circuit that added a Feedback control and a Manual Shift control to filter the sweet spot.





'77 EH Octave Multiplexer



Electro-Harmonix came out with an octave box called the Octave Multiplexer which produced the clean signal and a filtered signal an octave below.






EH Elecric Mistress Flanger



The Electric Mistress Flanger Chorus Pedal came out in the mid 1970’s and was one of the first multi-effects devices.






Mid 70's EH Attack Equalizer



The Electro-Harmonix Attack Equalizer pedal was a combination of a parametric EQ to produce desired equalization and a pre-amplifier to boost the guitars signal.






1981 EH Graphic Fuzz


The Electro-Harmonix Graphic Fuzz was not only a fuzztone/distortion unit, but it added a six band graphic eq control section.



1980 EH Full Double Tracking Effect
The Full Double Tracking Effect, split the guitars signal. One signal was given a slight delay that was adjustable, while the other was the original guitar signal. It came with a switch that allowed the delay to be 50 ms or 100 ms. The knob adjusted the mix of the original and filtered signals.

'77 EH Triggered Y Filter


The Triggered Y Filter was sort of a phaser unit that allowed the frequency range to be adjusted to Lo or Hi and the amplitude/depth of the filter sweep.







Late '70's EH Echoflanger

The Echo Flanger produced a modulated Echo and a flanging effect, similar to what record producer did when they would press their finger or thumb on recording tape to cause the one of the tracks to be slightly delayed.


1978 EH Memory Man

The Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, was introduced in 1978 and produced analog delay and echo using “bucket brigage” integrated circuits and incorporated a chorus effect. So the user could choose echo or chorus


EH Deluxe Memory Man


Several models of this effect including a stereo version and the Deluxe Memory Man that added a chorus/vibrato feature to the echo.



EH Small Clone Chorus


The Small Clone chorus, introduced by EHX around 1981 remains a very popular chorus pedal. it was also produced in two different smaller versions known as the Neo Clone and the Nano Clone.






EH Holy Grail Reverb


Electro-Harmonix issued a very popular reverb pedal called The Holy Grail.  This pedal came in several different formats including The Holy Grail Plus and the Cathedral. The Holy Stain was a multi-effects pedal that offered two different types of reverb.




EH Wigger 



Tremolo was one of the very earliest guitar effects and Electro-Harmonix offered a solid-state tremolo/vibrato pedal called the Stereo Pulsar and a tube based model called the Wiggler.





1972 Mike Matthews Freedom Amp
In 1972 the company came out with The Mike Matthews Freedom Amp. This DC powered amp put out around 25 watts RMS into a 10” speaker and was wired point-to-point. The controls included Volume, Tone, and Bite. The housing was rugged and built to be carried around. It was possibly the first battery powered amplifier.

Interior of Freedom Amp with battery clips

The only drawback was that it took 40 D cell batteries to power the thing.  It was also available as a bass model or as a public address amplifier which came with built in reverb.


'90's EH Freedom Amp
An updated 1990's version of this amplifier was later produced with a lower wattage but in an all wood cabinet. This version came with a wall adapter and a rechargeable battery.

By 1982 Electro-Harmonix was facing a multiplicity of problems. First there was a labour union dispute. And about the same time the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Two years later, in 1984 Electro-Harmonix was in deeper financial problems and Mike Matthew decided to shift his attention away from the little effects boxes to a new venture.

Mike Matthews



He launched a new company that he called the New Sensor Corporation, which was based in the Soviet Union. Matthew saw the need for vacuum tubes, which were no longer being manufactured in the United States and in short supply, but were plentiful in the USSR.




Sovtek Tubes
Matthews put together factories in three Russian cities to produce Sovtek tubes and eventually became one of the largest suppliers of vacuum tubes in the world. To this day they still offer a variety of the most popular tubes used in modern amplifiers.


Sovtek Mig 50 amplifier
At the time the company went on to produce several tube amplifiers under the Sovtek brand name that included the Mig 50, the Sovtek Mig 60, and the Sovtek Mig 100, were all named after Russian fighter jets.

These amps were based on popular circuits and can still be found on the web at bargain prices.

New Sensor EH Russian made Big Muff Pi



In 1990 Electro-Harmonix resumed the building effect pedals. Some of these were made in Russia through 2009.





EH 2006 Nano Pedals

In 2006 the smaller and more standardized "micro" and "nano" effect lines using surface-mount circuit components were introduced.


The circuit board manufacturing was outsourced, but the final assembly of the pedals was done in New York.

Vintage EH Micro Synthesizer


When synthesizers came into vogue, EH offered the Micro Synthesizer for guitar or bass and the HOG effects unit; Harmonic Octave Generator.




An original EH POG


The POG or Polyphonic Octave Generator was released in 2005 and an enhanced version called the POG 2 came out in 2009. These units allowed your instrument to produce notes 2 octaves up and one octave below the guitars signal.



EH 22 Caliber Amplifier


Two of the more interesting and modern Electro-Harmonix creations may look like effects pedals, but are actually amplifiers housed in pedal sized effects box. The EHX 22 Caliber was a 22 watt solid-state amplifer capable of driving an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet.




EH 44 Magnum Amplifier



It was discontinued and replaced by the EHX 44 Magnum, which could pump 44 solid-state watts into an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet. These are small enough to pack into your guitar case. It is important to note, these units must be connected to a speaker load to work.



Electro-Harmonix C9



For 2016 and 2017 Electro-Harmonix has developed some amazing pedals that can coax organ or piano sounds from your guitar without the need for special pickups.





Electro-Harmonix B9



The C9 and B9 Organ Machines replicate the sounds of several different types of organs, from Hammond organs to church organs, to combo organs.




Electro-Harmonix Key 9

The Key 9 Electric Piano Machine produces a number of electric piano sounds. Combine any of these with the Lester G Deluxe Rotary Speaker emulator or the Lester K Rotary Speaker emulator and as a guitarist you now have all the tools of a keyboard player without the weight of hauling a B-3 and a Leslie cabinet.


Electro-Harmonix Mel 9



The Mel 9 Tape Replay Machine produces sounds from your guitar that were only possible with a Mellotron.





A few of the Electro-Harmonix effects

Electro-Harmonix now offers a line up that is far too numerous to mention every product. And these include not just guitar effects, but bass effects, drum effects and vocal effects.  And they have also updated versions of their original effects that sell at a much lower price than the vintage models.

As a reminder, the sources for the pictures can be found by clicking on the links below them and the links in the text will take you to further interesting facts.
©UniqueGuitar Publishing (text only)