Sunday, January 1, 2023

Where Did The Unique Guitar Blog Go? - You Can't Keep A Good Man Down


For the majority of 2022 I have been unable to continue the Unique Guitar Blog due to illness and changes in my life.  

Regrettably 2022 welcomed me to the new normal.

Looking back from November and December of 2021, I began having significant mobility issues. I had been using a cane to steady myself for several years when walking in public, but as my wife pointed out, my walking was becoming much worse. 

In December of last year, I developed double vision. This condition was quite annoying. I could not drive. I had to close one eye to focus.  My doctor immediately sent me to the emergency room for CT scans and MRI studies. 

The report came back negative, but for a white space at the top of my brainstem. (I figured my stuffing was probably falling out). I regained my normal vision, but still had trouble walking. 

By January of 2022 I was sent to physical therapy because of my limited gait. (I was pretty much walking like Tim Conway’s little old man). The therapist consulted my doctor asking why I had not been assessed for Parkinson's Disease.

In March I visited a neurologist and was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which is a Parkinson type disease. I was told by my doctor that white spot at the top of my brainstem showed a “hummingbird’ sign.

This white area is a positive indicator of this disease. This condition is also known as PSP. It is not true Parkinson Disease, which causes involuntary shaking of the body. PSP affects balance and mobility and also the voice and vision 

My therapy was then changed from physical to a form of occupational therapy called LSV Big and LSV Loud. This therapy involve exaggerated movement and counting in a loud voice to overcome what your brain is telling you that you can’t do. 

 I spent the next five months doing therapy, an hour a day for four days a week, plus exercising at home. 

I can walk around my home unassisted, although I have fallen three times, but outside I must use a walker. It is sort of unseemly, but it beats hitting the ground. Concrete is very solid and since I don’t easily bounce, and it hurts.

We had moved into a large apartment complex in March of 2017 after taking care of my aging mother since 2011. 

My wife and I had left our home in 2011 to take care of Mom.  However, she  went to a nursing home in late 2016, so we had to move so her house could be sold. 

Five years later, in July of 2022 the entire complex was purchased by an investment company, and we received notice they were converting the building into luxury apartments. To do this all 232 units and residents were being forced to leave so construction could get underway.  

I have since found out this is happening not just to me, but to renters worldwide, as investment companies are buying up property.

Robotic open heart surgery
We moved in late October to a larger and much nicer complex. Moving was difficult due to my illness.  Weeks after the move, in early November, my wife suffered a massive heart attack. 

Her doctor immediately put her in hospital and within a week she underwent robotic cardiac bypass surgery at Christ Hospital in Ohio (a procedure that is not even done in the state where we live). 

All went well, and she is currently recovering from the surgery at home. I am thankful for the help and support of my children. I am thankful that she was quickly diagnosed and treated by the most excellent staff and doctors. However all of these health problems have caused significant changes in our lifestyle. 

Recently I learned that Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is the same disease that has forced Linda Ronstadt to retire. I was able to write to her recently to share my experience. I received a lovely response. 

Now here it is New Years Day of 2023. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and may you have wonderful New Year. 

I hope to get back to the blog sometime in early 2023 with some new ideas.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Rick Turner - Founder of Rick Turner Guitars Passes Away At Age 79


Rick Turner Model 1
Warwick Lancelot Armstrong "Rick" Turner III was born on July 30th, 1943. and passed away recenly on April 17th of 2022. Though his guitars may not have been as well known as Fender and Gibson, many players such as Jesse Colin Young, John Entwistle, and especially Lindsey Buckingham all relied on his unique instruments. 

Rick Turner (recent photo)
Turner grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts and started helping to make and repair musical instruments when young soon after was given his first guitar at the age of 11. He attended boarding school in Rhode Island before starting at Boston University in 1962. It was there where Turner started going to folk clubs and coffeehouses, and began repairing guitars at a store in Cambridge. 

He also began playing in a band called Banana and the Bunch, with Lowell "Banana" Levinger and Michael Kane, who later played with The Youngbloods. 

In 1964, the three musicians opened a music store in Martha's Vineyard. The next year Turner was invited to play guitar on tour with Ian & Sylvia. He also played on the duo's 1966 album, Play One More. 

Early Days In A Band
Following this tour Turner moved to New York City in 1966. He was a founding member of the psychedelic band Autosalvage, which released a self-titled album on RCA in 1968. He continued to work a second job repairing guitars, 

His band, Autosalvage,  eventually split up and Turner moved to Point Reyes, California. 

Then in 1970 Rick Turner, Ampex audio engineer, Ron Wickersham, Bob Matthews, a recording engineer, became three equal shareholders of Alembic Incorporated. Alembic was founded by Owsley Stanley in 1968, and was involved in the design and construction of the Alembic instruments. 

The initial purpose of Stanley's company was formed to support and supply The Grateful Dead. After the sale Alembic  went on to build exceptionally fine guitars and basses. 

In 1979 Turner founded Rick Turner Guitars, the business he ran for the remainder of his life. 

Turner joined Gibson in 1988 where he served as president of Gibson Labs West Coast R&D Division. 

1992 Gibson Chet Atkins SST
Four years later, he left Gibson in 1992 and ran a guitar repair shop at Westwood Music in Los Angeles where he developed piezo pickup designs, while working with Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and others. He later co-founded Highlander Musical Audio, manufacturer of piezo pickups for acoustic guitars. 

Rick Turner

Through Rick Turner Guitars he continued to design and build guitars for many professional players including Lindsey Buckingham, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, and Andy Summers. He was also a regular columnist for Acoustic Guitar magazine and was a columnist for Bass Player, Frets and Guitar Player magazines. 

D-Tar Pickup-Mic System
He partnered with Seymour W. Duncan to form D-TAR Multisource Pickup-Mic System. He used this in his most well-know instrument The Turner Model 1 electric which Turner designed in 1979 for use by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham Buckingham continues to use the Model 1 to this day. 

The Turner Model 1 pioneered the use of curved plates on the front and back in order to reduce standing wave hysteresis loss and the use of 18 volt preamps in an attempt to tame the 'quack' sound commonly associated with piezoelectric acoustic guitar pickups. 

Rick Turner also held the patent on the graphite guitar neck, which he developed in 1976 with Geoff Gould. Gould used this neck as the basis for his guitar/bass replacement neck company; Modulus Graphite. 

Rick Turner was generous with his time and taught mandolin-building courses in the US and Australia and was extremely active on a wide range of musical instrument Internet forums and social media groups. 

Turner died from congestive heart failure and a stroke on April 17, 2022, at the age of 78. 

“Rick Turner was a gifted guitar maker, an innovator, and a special soul,” wrote Smith. “At the beginning of my career, he selflessly helped my company through a review in Guitar Player magazine. His honesty and willingness to help another instrument maker left a lifelong, very positive impression on me. I send my very best to his family and friends.” Rick Turner guitars, basses, and ukuleles are exquisite instruments. 

Turner Model 1 and
Model 1 Featherweight

The guitars include two versions of The Model 1; The Model 1 and the Model 1 Featherweight.. Both versions of this guitar comes in 3 models; Deluxe, Standard, and Special.  

These instruments include the Timerline Piezo pickup with the built-in D-TAR 18 volt preamp.

Turner also offers four versions of his Renaissance model guitars.

In addition to the company's guitar line, Rick Turner Guitars also offers three models of bass guitars.  

The Pretzel

Rick Turner built a couple of very interesting guitars in the 1970's. One of them, known as The Pretzel. 

This instrument was built without using hand tools, other that a Sear electric drill and a drill press. 

It was housed in the New York City Museum of Art and Design, the later moved to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  

The other guitar is the Turner Model T. The design was based on the shape of vintage Kay Kraft guitars from the 1920's, and a Double Horseshoe magnetic pickup based on Rickenbacker guitars of the 1930's,  In addition to the horseshoe pickup, the electronics include an "all controls bypass switch, which provides a direct load-free signal to the output jack.

Click on the links below the pictures for sources. Click on links in text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications  2022 (text only)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ukrainian Guitar Builders

Russian Bombing of Kiev
We are all concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the senseless harm that has incurred to all of the innocent citizens of this peaceful nation. I certainly hope the entire world recognizes the devastation and steps in to stop Vladimir Putin's spilling of blood by his unrighteous invasion and destruction. 

Russian Bombing of Maternity Hospital 
One tragedy of every war is that freedom of speech is totally obliterated. The press is controlled by government propaganda as is the media and social media.  Once this is accomplished, the arts are eliminated. 

After all Arts and Music are a method of expression. This was exemplified in yesterday's cruel and needless bombing of a theater that had been turned into a bomb shelter.  Someone had even painted the word CHILDREN on the roof. Despite this, the theater was bombed, destroyed by heartless soldiers. Many women and children were killed.  

As this is a guitar blog, my thoughts turned to the amazing guitar builders and luthiers that make their home in the Ukraine. In researching these builders I was struck with the fact that most of them have connections to Russia, either through training, mentoring, or from living in Russia. However these builders all live and make their living in the Ukraine. I pray that all are well and safe.

Alexander Momot
Alexander Momot was born at 22 of January 1971 in Kharkov in the Ukraine. In 1993, he graduated from the Kharkov Higher Military Engineering School of the Strategic Missile  Forces. He worked on telemetry station of a Russian commodore "Plesetsk", is a reserve officer in 1992, at the end of study in military university, 

At that time he met a "world of guitar makers" in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov city. Prior to the current war he was still working in Kharkov.

Another guitar master builder is Oleg Stefanyuk. There is not much information about this excellent classical and flamenco luthier. However he certainly builds some excellent instruments. 

Guitar master luthier Berezhnoy Igor Vasilyevich worked in  Kharkov. prior to the war.  Vasilyevich was born on October 3, 1962 in the city of Kungur in the Perm Region, He grew up in the family of a serviceman. 

Until the age of 16, he grew up and studied in a closed military camp, where he built his first guitar  

In 1982 he came to live in his historical homeland in Kharkov, where he met the leading masters of the city, He became friendly and kept up communications with other Ukrainian builder which helped to improve his skills and experience. 

In addition to making acoustic guitars, he also makes folk instruments, such as kobza, and also carry out maintenance and overhaul of other stringed musical instruments.  In 2004 in the city of Odessa he became a laureate of the international competition of guitar masters with a classical guitar made of Indian rosewood.  

Evgeny Labunsky

Evgeny Labunsky, was born in Odessa in 1955. He graduated from high school, and then went to a polytechnic institute and worked as an engineer before the start of perestroika. 

At the same time in his youthful years, he became fond of playing guitar for tourists. He realized that it was impossible to play a guitar bought in a department store for 13 Soviet rubles without repairing it.  Therefore, while still a schoolboy he worked on carrying out "after-sales" preparation of several guitars. 

Guitars by Evgeny Labunsky
By 1980 chance meeting brought him together with the team of the section of guitar masters of the Odessa Club of Guitar Lovers. The section annually held competitions of guitar masters and participated in almost all competitions. 

By 2000 I became the chairman of our section. 

More Guitars by Labunsky
His first mentor in guitar production was Alexander Nikolaev. In future years he was consulted by masters from Kharkov Oleg Stefanyuk, Oleg Gints, Vladimir Alekseevich Oleinichenko, master from Chernigov Nikolai Ivanovich Yeshchenko and others. So far Labunsky says that he has built over fifty instruments.

His preference is to make instruments of traditional classical shape and sizes for nylon strings.  And he also uses traditional materials. Sides and backs in rosewood and maple, with the tops in spruce or Canadian cedar. 

About Lanbunsky's Guitars
He often make instruments for “bards” that sing, play and tell stories  For these instruments, he says that he uses fine wood veneer plywood for the body to avoid warping during outdoor performances. 

On rosewood instruments I install soundboards from Canadian cedar, on maple. For plywood instruments he builds the tops from Russian spruce. 

For his standard premium instruments he uses a traditional classical  scale of 650mm, 

He states that he also makes a "quarter size instrument with a scale of 555mm. He prefers using Rosewood, Canadian cedar on the bodies and sides, and ebony on the fingerboards He gets much of his wood, fretboards, and machine heads from Germany from the finest music stores.  At the request of the customer he will embellish his guitars with mother-of-pearl.

Viktor Alekseevich Syrovatskii
Viktor Alekseevich Syrovatskii was born in 1960 in Sumy. Here he graduated from the Polytechnic Institute and worked for many years worked as an engineer at a factory. 

Syrovatskii writes poems and songs and periodically go on stage with them, and often goes on various creative trips. 

Once, at a the festivals, fate brought me together with Kharkov guitar master Vladimir Oleinichenko. His guitar needed repair, and he took it to his shop in Kharkov.

Once in the workshop, he realized that he wanted to do this craft, and immediately asked for it as an apprentice. At that time his father was still alive, and he blessed me by allowing him to quit the factory job to study with maestro Oleinichenko.. Since then is has been making musical instruments for many years. 

Syrovatskii at work
Syrovatskii only builds guitars because he is a concert author and the head of his studio. However he also repairs and restores various instruments - violins, cellos, domras, balalaikas, mandolins, kobzas, banduras. But most of all he loves building new guitars.

Dmitry Yeremeyev is the only Ukrainian luthier that builds electric guitars, and his Mera brand instruments are amazing.

In his own rather esoteric words, "Everything in the Universe is a trinity of Matter, an Information(eidolon) and a Measure(MERA in Russian). A MATTER is TRANSFORMING according to a MEASURE. The measure of a guitar (MERAGUITARS) is the SOUND, the ERGONOMY, the RELIABILITY, and the LOOK. These four criteria forms a conceptual Measure(MERA) of a guitar

Mera Guitars
MERA incorporates all the component measures, required for transformation of a MATTER.

 TRANSFORMING a MATTER according to the matrix of MERA (considering all the partial measures ) one can get an exclusive innovatory instrument that have an unusual awesome characteristics improved a lot grades up. 

This fact makes a musician to feel delight as much as a listener and also opens a totally new possibilities in Creation and Creativity." Check out his amazing creations.

I hope and I pray that this unjust war comes to a swift end and does not escalate.

Click on the links below the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications 2022 (text only)

I am including this video by one of my favorite cover bands, Leonid and Friends. The lead singer is Serge Tiagniryadno. While most of the band is made up of Russian citizens, Serge is from Kiev, Ukraine.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Ventures Guitarist Don Wilson, The Last Remaining Original Member Passes Away January 22nd


When the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964 I knew that I just wanted to have a guitar. 

1950's  Harmony

My first instrument was a very used Harmony Patrician archtop model that my Dad purchased from Will’s Pawn Shop for $20. I took group lessons at the local YMCA. By Christmas I was able to get a very nice used electric guitar. Those initial lessons taught me a few basic chord patterns. But I learned more from listening to records. Although I had learned to read music from piano and clarinet lessons,  I guess you could say learning the guitar was all done “by ear”. 

The Ventures were the most popular instrumental guitar group at the time. I owned more than a few Ventures albums. Back in 1964 I had no clue who the players were, or who was playing lead, rhythm, of bass guitar. In later years when Guitar Player Magazine and other periodicals appeared I learned much more about each of the players. 

The story of how the Ventures came together was fascinating. All of the original members have now passed away with the announcement of Don Wilson’s passing on January 22nd of this year. According to his son, Timothy, Don Wilson passed away in his sleep of natural causes at age 88. 

Don Wilson and Bob Bogle first met in 1958, when Bogle was looking to buy a car from a used car dealership in Seattle which was owned by Wilson's father. They started a friendship when they discovered that they both wanted to play guitar. Bogle and Wilson purchased two used guitars from a pawn shop for $10 each, learned to play and in 1958 they decided to start a duo. 

The boys initially called themselves The Versatones and began by playing in small clubs, bars, and private parties throughout the Pacific Northwest.  

By 1959 the boys researched the bands name and discovered another group had already registered it. Wilson’s mother suggested calling their duo, The Ventures. 

The First Ventures Band
Wilson and Bogle had heard about a local player named Nokie Edwards who was playing guitar at a nearby nightclub. Nokie was very good, so Wilson and Bogle asked if he would be interested in playing bass guitar for The Ventures. Edwards agreed.

Bogle owned a Chet Atkins LP that included Chet’s version of a Johnny Smith song called Walk Don’t Run

The guys worked up a much simpler version of this song. By this time they had recruited a drummer named George Babbitt. But Babbitt was too young to play in clubs so he resigned  (interestingly enough in later years George Babbitt became a Four Star General). 

The guys needed a replacement drummer so they hired Skip Moore. Late in 1959 the group was able to record their version of Walk Don’t Run on an LP that was recorded at Joe Boles' home studio in Seattle, Washington. 

The Ventures First Recordings

This album was released on on Liberty's Dolton subsidiary in December 1960. The song, Walk, Don't Run became a big seller, peaking at #11 on Billboard and earning a gold record for The Ventures (their first of three) for over 500,000 copies sold. The Ventures had made it. 

The Ventures First LP
Skip Moore was the drummer on the recording. He  was devoted to his family’s auto-repair business. Thinking this was just another gig, he sold his rights to receive royalties to the recording session for $25. In later years, Moore filed a lawsuit, but it was dismissed since the document showed had signed away his rights.

The Ventures 1959
Moore was replaced by drummer Howie Johnson. The original Ventures line up included Bob Bogle on lead guitar, Don Wilson on rhythm guitar, Nokie Edwards on bass guitar, and Howie Johnson on drums. Johnson had been involved in a car accident prior to joining the group and had irreversible spinal damage. Sometimes he had to perform wearing a neck brace when playing drums. Later he resigned and was replaced by Mel Taylor. 

By 1961 the band decided that Nokie Edwards was a much better player than Bob Bogle and his talents  were wasted by keeping him on bass guitar. Bogle agreed, and rapidly learned the bass parts to all their tunes. So Edwards became the lead guitarist. This move would prove vital in modernizing the band's sound, ensuring success in an ever-changing market well into the late 1960s. 

The Ventures - Howie Johnson
- Don Wilson - Nokie Edwards on bass
 - Bob Bogle
Initially The Ventures played Fender guitars. Bogle played a Fender Jazzmaster, Don Wilson owned a Fender Stratocaster, while Edwards played a Fender Precision Bass. Later on both Bogle, Wilson, and Edwards opted for the cleaner tones of the Jazzmaster. The guitarists used Fender amplifiers and reverb units. 

Gene Moles With His Mosrite
One evening Nokie Edward was visiting with a guitar playing friend, who played in clubs and on recording sessions. The guitarist was Gene Moles, who had just received a custom made guitar made by luthier Semie Mosely, who was building guitars under The Mosrite brand. 

Nokie Edwards was very impressed with this instrument.

Soon after the encounter, The Ventures hooked up with Moseley to build custom made Ventures guitars and basses. 

Gene Moles
“It was a beautiful guitar,” said Gene Moles, the Bakersfield session guitarist, then a member of Jimmy Thomason’s TV band, He later became the assembly-line inspector for Mosrite guitars. Mole's is quoted as saying  “It was a well-designed instrument. It felt good to a guitar player when he grabbed it. It had a narrow neck and a low profile, so you didn’t have to push down as hard on the strings to play it. And it had what we called ‘speed frets,’ where you could slide up and down the neck without getting held up on high-profile frets. 

The Ventures went on to sign a special distribution agreement with Mosrite. They featured the guitar on preceding album covers. The band, having signed a special distribution agreement with Mosrite, featured the guitar on its album covers.  The headstock logo read "The Ventures" with the Mosrite logo in it's middle.

Don Wilson's Original Jazzmaster
After the expiration of their contract with Moseley, the Ventures returned to playing mainly Fender guitars. Only rarely have they used Mosrite guitars since that contract ended. In the mid-1990s, 

Fender issued a limited edition Ventures Signature Series of guitars consisting of a Jazzmaster,Stratocaster, and a Fender Jazz Bass, all with specifications determined by the band. 

Aria Guitars and Wilson Brothers Guitars have subsequently issued Ventures Signature Model instruments. Though both guitar resemble the Mosrite version, the Wilson Brothers guitar, in particular, is closely modeled physically on the original Mosrite design. 

By 1964 The Ventures released an updated version of their original hit record called Walk Don't Run '64 which hit the #6 mark on the Top 100 chart. This is the version that I learned as did thousands of other kids in garage bands across the nation and world.  It featured that muted, reverb-laden, sliding glissando that just made the song pop. 

This style was imitated by many other "Surf Rock" groups of the day. It is even featured on the TV show theme for Third Rock From The Sun.

The Ventures pioneered the use of special effects on such songs as "The 2000 Pound Bee", recorded in late 1962, in which lead guitarist Nokie Edwards employed a fuzz pedal. This was probably the Mosrite "Fuzzrite" pedal. Edward noted  was the first guitarist to use a fuzz pedal. 

Mosrite 12 String 

Additional, the Ventures with Edwards on lead pioneered the use of the twelve-string guitar in rock. The Ventures also pioneered the use of other special guitar effects such as reverse tracking, flanging, and a talk box effect. 

Though their last major hit song in the United States was the theme to "Hawaii Five-0". This song reach #4 in 1968.

Prior to this their 1965 single "Diamond Head" only reached #70 in the United States, however this one song became major hit overseas, reaching #1 in the Japanese and Hong Kong markets, and becoming the first million-selling single in Japan. 

In fact The Ventures were responsible for a period in Japanese music known as the Eleki which started a guitar boom in Japan. Thousands of Japanese purchased electric guitars and many guitar-based bands started up.  In later years The Ventures played to many sold-out concerts in Japan. This also accounted for their agreement with Aria guitar.

Bogle died in 2009 at age 75. Edwards died in 2018 at age 82. Mel Taylor died in 1992 from cancer, Howie Johnson passed away in 1988, and original drummer Skip Moore is also deceased.

The Ventures played a prominent role in popularizing the electric guitar in the 1960s and helped create the twangy surf sound that influenced the Beach Boys, among others. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame deemed The Ventures, ushered into the hall's ranks in 2008, "the most successful instrumental combo in rock and roll history."

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications 2022 (Text Only)