Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Latest Unique Guitars and a Few Oldies, But Goodies

Unique guitars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! The following instruments are among some of the newest offerings by some well known and not so well known guitar manufacturers. Just for fun, I’ve thrown in a couple “oldies, but goodies” from Gibson’s What Were We Thinking About Department. Enjoy!

Mr. Hartley Peavey’s company has created a new series of guitars that are aimed at the youth market. So Daisy Rock and Squier Hello Kitty, move over, because Peavey has now come out with the Super Heroes of Marvel Universe series of guitars. If not a hit with your kiddos, these may be a hit at Comic Con.

All of the guitars are licensed through Marvel and feature, Captain America, Wolverine, X-Men, Spider Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Thor.

(I guarantee your fingers will be Mighty Thor if you string these with heavy gauge Black Diamonds.) All instruments come with detailed artwork on the guitars body from the artists at Marvel Comics.

The Marvel electric guitars in the series are ¾ sized, except for the full-sized Rockmaster. The acoustic Marvel character guitars are ½ sized. The series also includes guitar picks and straps adorned with Marvel characters.

Robert Godin of his namesake company has come up with a couple of off-the-wall 5th Avenue guitars archtop guitars for the recent NAMM convention. These instruments were hand painted by artist Joseph Arthur.

For those unfamiliar with Arthur, he is a singer/songwriter and hails from Akron, Ohio. He was discovered by Peter Gabriel. Arthur is well known for his poetic lyrics and sonic palette. He is also an acclaimed painter. .

A Hawaiian company called Mahalo has come up with a trio of unique instruments, two of which resemble Hallmark guitars and one is reminiscent of a Mosrite creation. The Hallmark style instruments are both ukuleles. The larger surfboard shaped instrument is a six string steel guitar.

If you looked closely in the Godin article, there was a video link to the Godin Multi-oud. For the unfamiliar, the Oud (pronounced Ooood) is an ancient lute shaped fretless instrument that has been used for centuries to play Middle Eastern music.

The instrument has eleven strings and is played with a stiff plectrum. Most Oud players do not play chords; rather they play single note melodies and counter melodies.

The Oud has a very unique sound and has been incorporated in some traditional music.

Godin has designed this as an electric model that has an advantageous cutaway, to extend the instruments range. It can be played acoustically or played through an amplifier. The Multi-oud has built in microphones and piezo electric pickups.

A company called Moses has created this year’s answer to the Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar. Moses is well known for their carbon graphite guitar and bass necks.
A company from Belgium has come up with an instrument that is much like The Stick. For the unfamiliar, The Stick is strapped onto the player so that both arms are free and is played by tapping the strings.

The Kelstone is played in a similar manner, the difference is this instrument is played flat and supported by a stand.

Does anyone remember that in the late 1990’s Gibson’s own design team decided what the world needed was a Dale Earnhardt Les Paul guitar. Now I consider NASCAR is a great sport, but I have no idea how Dale Earnhardt and Les Paul got together in the minds of Gibson designers.

Gibson built a limited run of 333 of these instruments. I have yet to see anyone play one.

In another move that left me scratching my head, Gibson designers decided to produce a Les Paul Jr. style guitar under their Epiphone brand that had licensed USA University Team logos on the body and headstock.

This was at a time when players desired to purchase Les Paul Flame tops. As you can imagine, the Collegiate Les Paul line was not a success. There used to be a music store called Shreve Audio that advertised in Vintage Guitar Magazine. Within a year of offering the University Logo Les Paul’s Shreve had a close-out on these for $99 each.

ESP offers this Kirk Hammett KH-2 model. I understand you can not only play Thrash Metal on it, but you can also ask the spirit world what Dave Mustaine is up to these days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Godin Guitars - Factory Tour

I am a big fan of Godin guitars. In my opinion they are well made and sensibly priced guitars.

M. Robert Godin
(Ro-bere Go-dey[n]) got started by building the guitars and then driving in his station wagon to sell his instruments directly to dealers.

Godin has a created a great variety of brands to choose from for novices to professionals. Here is a listing of the companies brand names:

Arts & Lutherie Ami

Arts and Lutherie makes a great beginner guitar.

Seagull guitars are moderately priced and are excellent instruments for beginners or professionals.

Simon and Patrick (named for his sons) are excellent instruments, perhaps a step above Seagull.

Godin recently started an electric guitar line called Richmond, which is named for a town where Godin has a factory.

Godin brand guitars are professional quality.

A few years back Mr. Godin got the notion to produce an archtop guitar that was similar to those he saw as a young boy. The result was the Godin 5th Avenue. This model went from a non-cutaway laminated archtop instrument, similar to the Kays, Harmonys and Gibsons that could be found in any pawnshop, to a modern Jazz archtop in the style of the Gibson ES-175.

Some lessor know Godin brands include Norman and LaPatrie guitars.

By the way, the town of LaPatrie is home to one of the Godin factories.

LaPatrie is located in Quebec Provence. All guitars are built in Canada and are beauts, eh?

Recently Robert Godin has created a line of amplifiers, made in Italy with the brand name SR. These are great for Jazz and electrified Acoustic guitars or can be used as a miniature P.A.

Godin has also created some unusual instruments. This would include the latest instrument called The Merlin. It is played like a fretted dulcimer.

This youtube video is a tour of the Godin factory. Check it out and you will see the quality that goes into each guitar.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gold Medal Guitars

We are still watching the world competition in the 2012 Summer Olympics. All contestants are vying for a Gold Medal. I would rather have a Gold Guitar. I thought we would take a look at some unique golden models.

1952 Les Paul Goldtop

Taking 1st place is the Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.

Popular guitarist Les Paul had a lot of input with the design of his signature instrument.

He had been experimenting at the Epiphone factory, when it was in New York, by taking apart and putting together guitars and adding pickups to them.

Fender had introduced the first mass produced electric guitar in 1950, the Telecaster. In 1951, Ted McCarty consulted with Mr. Paul to design a classier version of a solid body electric guitar.

Les’ first choice for colour was gold. It looked uptown and showed up nicely on his television show and according to Les, reflected his showmanship. His next choice was black, since it went well with the uniform for jazz players, a tuxedo. The original Goldtop was in production from 1952 to 1958. The original models were scaled down versions of Gibson’s archtop line.

The Les Paul was sleek and slim. It had a maple cap over its mahogany body, purportedly to increase sustain. Les Paul’s signature was inscribed on the headstock. The original version came with a set in neck, a one-piece trapeze bridge/tailpiece and twin P-90 pickups. The earliest models were unbound. Later in 1952 binding was added, as were serial numbers. Some of the early models were fitted with black pickup covers, rather than the usual cream coloured covers.

In 2nd place is the Gibson ES-295. This instrument also first appeared in 1952. As with most all Gibson guitars of that era, the model number indicated the retail price. We can see where Les Paul got some idea of what he wanted his signature model to look like.

In fact, Les Paul’s wife and vocalist, Mary Ford, played an ES-295.

Scotty Moore with ES-295

Scotty Moore favored the ES-295.

The drawback on the original models was the combination trapeze bridge/tailpiece. It did not allow for individual string intonation.

Later models came with a Bigsby tailpiece and a tune-o-matic adjustable bridge that was mounted on a rosewood saddle. The knobs for volume and tone had a gold hue. The neck finished matched the body. The pickguard was embossed with a floral design. The rosewood fretboard had parallelogram inlays for fret markers. The headstock veneer was topped with Gibsons Crown inlay. Like the Les Paul Goldtop, his guitar survived until 1958. In 1957 the pickups were changed to gold-plated humbuckers. Gibson resurrected the model from 1993 to 2000. Some consider it a fancy version of the Gibson ES-175.

Finishing 3rd is Fender Guitars with their Mary Kaye Stratocaster. For the unfamiliar, Mary Kaye aka Mary Ka’aihue, was a popular Las Vegas Lounge player.

She was actually descended from Hawaiian royalty.

In a 1956 Fender promotional advertisement, The Mary Kaye Trio was shown with Miss Kaye holding her new custom Fender Stratocaster. The body was ash blonde and featured a maple neck. The pick guard was made of gold plated anodized aluminum. All of the metallic parts, bridge and bridge cover, tremolo bar and tuners were also gold plated.

This was the first custom guitar that Fender ever produced. Fender has reintroduced it on several occasions. An original Mary Kaye is a highly sought after collectors item.

4th place goes to Prince’s Custom Shop Gold Stratocaster. The man formerly known as Prince and now currently known as Prince had this guitar created to kick off his Welcome2 America Live Tour. It was later auctioned off by Prince.

The winning bidder was U.K. Formula 1 race car driver, Lewis Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton plunked down a cool $100K to purchase the instrument. All proceeds went to children’s charities.

The 5th place winner is Fender Shoreline Gold. This is not actually a guitar, but a custom paint that was offered by the Fender Company as early as 1959. I have seen this finish on Stratocasters, Jazzmasters, and even on Fender’s electric mandolin.

One of the prettiest guitars is a Shoreline gold Jazzmaster with a gold anodized pickguard, and gold hardware.

Coming in as the 6th place Gold guitar goes to Gibson. Around 1970, during the Norlin era, an unusual Les Paul guitar was introduced. It had a similar colour scheme as the Les Paul Goldtop, but that is where the comparison ends.

This was the Les Paul Signature guitar and it looked somewhat like an ES-335 with a gold top. The upper bout was rounded like on a 335, however the lower bout was…similar to a Les Paul's cutaway.
Anyone who has studied Les Paul knows he preferred LowZ pickups for recording so he could plug directly into the console. The Les Paul Signature came with two  LowZ pickups.

It also had a built-in transformer that permitted plugging straight into the console, like Les did or played straight into an amp. It was an interesting, but not popular instrument. Jack Casady plays the bass version of this guitar.

This brings us to 7th place with the Epiphone Jack Casady signature bass guitar. Casady was bass player for a number of popular bands, such as Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

In 1985 he found a short scale bass at music store and began using this Gibson bass version of the Les Paul Signature model, then known as the Les Paul Bass. In the earlier part of this decade Casady worked with Epiphone to produce his signature model, The JC Bass.

Epiphone JC Bass
This is a hollow body instrument with a maple body and a single active bridge pickup, a single volume and tone control and a Vari-Tone control.

The Vari-Tone control lets you dial in the impedance of its active humbucking pickup from around 50 ohms to around 500 ohms, seriously affecting your sound.

As you turn the Jack Casady Signature Bass's Vari-Tone control, you shift its tone from even dynamics and full tone to a punchier response.

I would like to give a shout out to New Zealand for the nation's Gold Guitar Awards. This takes place at the end of May and has been going on for the past 38 years.

It showcases the country's up and coming talent.

Helen Vanderlin 2009 Winner
New Zealand Gold Guitar