Friday, December 26, 2014

Keith Richard's Guitars

Keith Richard is now 69 years old and no longer a young man. His fingers are swollen with arthritis and even he admits he is not the same player he was in his youthful days.

Years of alcohol and drug abuse have not helped his aging process. But this does not discount the fact of Keith’s accomplishments.

1965 Shindig Show
When the Rolling Stones first hit the scene in the mid 1960’s, Richards was a mere adolescent. The original core of the band was based on the members love for Blues Music. In fact I recall that when the band played on an old TV show called Shindig, they demanded that Muddy Waters be on the show with them or they would not play.

The Stones admired these old Blues-men and recorded their songs.

It was Brian Jones that put the group together. In the early days, he determined their musical path. Sadly he was fired from the group and tragically died soon afterward.

I remember seeing the Rolling Stones on several old television shows including Ed Sullivan, Shindig and Hullabaloo. Back in those early days Keith can be seen playing some very different guitars which included Epiphones.

Like other British Invasion bands their choice of instruments was based on the availability in the UK. In those years following World War II the tariffs on imported products, including guitars was very high.

The earliest photos I recall show Keith playing a Harmony single cutaway model and a Framus guitar.

After the Rolling Stone garnered some fame, Keith can also be seen on a TV show picture playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul with a Bigsby Vibrato.

Those days are long gone and it is rumored that Keith Richards has amassed a collection of nearly 3,000 instruments.

Pierre De Beauport
Out of these the ones that he uses for concerts and recording include the following. These guitars are described by his guitar technician Pierre De Beauport.

Micawber is named after a Charles Dickens character. This is a 1953 blonde Fender Telecaster and a very unique guitar. Keith has it set up with only five strings. He tunes this guitar to G-B-D-B-D (low to high) and never uses a capo on it.

The guitar bares a lot of battle scars. You can see the plastic Tele selector switch cap has been replace with a plastic cap off of a Stratocaster.

This guitar sports a full sized humbucker in the neck position that has the pole pieces away from the neck. The bridge pickup is a Tele pickup with the pole piece removed that would go under the sixth string. The bridge plate and saddle appear to be made of brass.

There are only five bridge saddles on Keith’s guitar. However there are six tuning pegs and they do not look like the original Klusons. The neck is maple.

Keith usually plays only the top five strings. Ernie Ball has even made a special Keith Richards string set that is .011 to .042 guage nickel wound strings, that contains an unwound 3rd string.

His back-up Telecaster is named Malcolm. It is a1954 model that is set up in a similar manner to Keith number one go-to guitar. This guitar is also kept in open G tuning.


Keith also plays a 1966 sunburst Fender Telecaster that he has named Sonny, because of its sunburst finish. This guitar is set up in the same manner as the others and is likewise kept in open G tuning.

Keith also owns and plays a 1957 double cutaway Les Paul TV model, that of course came with the original butterscotch finish (to show up on black and white TV and not cause the glare associated with a white guitar). It has a single bridge PAF pickup and is kept in standard tuning, but is capo’d at the 7th fret.

Keith’s 1964 white stereo Gibson ES-345 and is called Dwight. The story goes that Keith also had a black Gibson ES-355 and his guitar tech referred to this guitar as “the white one”, which got run together as “d’white one” or Dwight One which got shortened to Dwight. It is kept in standard tuning and uses all six strings. It has a Bigsby vibrato unit.

The 1959 ES-355 does not have a name. It also has a Bigsby vibrato and is kept in standard tuning. It is a monaural guitar. It is black, but based on another photograph it may have been red at one time.

Keith also owns and plays a black 1975 Telecaster Custom with the original Fender humbucker in the neck position and the stock Telecaster bridge pickup. This is the model with volume and tone controls for each pickup and a bullet truss rod.

Keith with 1957 Telecaster
Keith also owns and plays a gorgeous 1957 Mary Kay blonde Stratocaster with gold hardware. This guitar is kept in standard tuning.

Keith had an original Zemaitis guitar that was stolen in the late 1970’s. He has since replaced this with a new Zemaitis guitar that has one humbucker in the bridge position.

The guitar appears to have a mahogany body and has mother-of-pearl inlays of a pistol and dagger, a skull and a mask (cannot tell if it is Batman or the mask of comedy). The bridge has inlays on either side that look sort of like an old fashion mustache.

The original Zemaitis had skull and cross-bone designs engraved on it. The original Zemaitis came with the usual engrave metal body covering.

Keith was also given a newer model Ampeg Lucite guitar by Ted Kornblum. Ted was the president of St. Louis Music. His company owned the Ampeg name and built and marketed new Ampeg amplifiers.

Going back to 1966, Keith owned four black Les Paul Custom guitars, often known as Black Beauties. These were the 3 pickup models. The first was stolen in 1967. He went out and bought another at a London Music shop. He and girlfriend Anita Pallenberg painted that one. It is now owned by a U.K. collector.

He bought two more Les Paul Customs in 1969 for a Stones tour. He kept one in standard tuning and the other in G tuning for Jumpin' Jack Flash. These were both stolen in 1971.

He also owned some Gibson Hummingbird guitars. He played these at home or in hotel rooms on tour. These were songwriting guitars.

Keith travels with two acoustic guitars. One is a 1964 Martin that appears to be a 00-21s with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides. It has a slotted headstock, with the neck joining the body at the 12th fret.

The other is a custom made 2006 Guild ten string guitar that is fitted with what appears to be a Fishman sound hole pickup.

Keith prefers vintage Fender Twin amplifiers. In fact he owns and plays through one of the original Twins that has the serial number 00003. He plays through two Twins at a time. He also uses an old Oahu amplifier.

As an interesting side-note Keith created the sound heard on Street Fighting Man and Jumpin’ Jack Flash by putting down successive layer of acoustic guitar filtered through a portable cassette tape player.

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Here is Keith playing a Music Man guitar.

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Guitars for the Holiday Season and 2015

Gibson Collector's Choice 30 Gaby (guitar-appraisal-burst aka Gaby)

The Gibson Custom Shop has just released the Collector’s Choice #30 1959 Les Paul “Gaby”. This beautiful instrument features specially selected matching figured maple, a digitally scanned neck shape and dish carve, accurate PAF reproduction pickups and gentle hand aging to recreate an example of what a well preserved Les Paul “burst” would look like.

For this model Gibson borrowed a genuine 1959 Les Paul from “burst” aficionado Vic DaPra, who found it in 2008. Vic sold the guitar to a Texas collector that is willing to lend part of his prized collection to a select network of active players. Gibson examined every detail of what is probably one of the best preserved examples of a Les Paul “Burst” guitar. Through careful scanning and determining minute details of this instrument, Gibson has produced this amazing recreation.

It features hand selected highly figured maple top and a lightweight one piece mahogany body, which has been aged to match the original. The fretboard/neck was scanned from the original and features a one-piece rosewood fretboard with cellulose inlays.

The finish is cherryburst on top or what Gibson is calling Apraisal-burst. Anline dye was used on the back and sides. The pickups specification were recreated to match the original instrument and include vintage aged pickup rings. The electronics feature Custom-buckers with Alnico III magnets.

The tone potentiometers utilize Bumble Bee capacitors and the pots are all topped with gold top-hat knobs. The controls feature a 3-way switch. The hardware consists of reissue Kluson tuners that have been aged, a correct Tune-o-matic bridge and aluminum tailpiece.

The pickguard is similar to the original and it too has been aged.

The guitar comes with a hard-shell case and Certificate of Authenticity. Only 300 limited edition guitars will be produced. It’s suggested retail price is $9,799 U.S. dollars.

Fender has not promoted any new instruments as of yet for 2015, but you may want to rush out and purchase one of these Fender guitar holiday ornaments for your tree.

The guitar ornaments are around $25 U.S.

A set of four picks are also around $25.

For those of you unfamiliar with Michael Johnathon, he is the host and creator of a weekly radio program called Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour. It is heard worldwide on almost 500 stations in 175 countries.

In many US markets the live television version can be seen and is watched in nearly 51 million homes.

This show is produced out of the Lyric Theater in Lexington Kentucky.

Woodsongs features famous and relatively unknown acts on its hour-long broadcast. Everything is done live and there is no editing the music. What you hear and see is what you get. And all the performers are wonderful.

Michael is a true folkie and proudly announces it at end of every performance. He has written a musical based on Henry David Thoreau’s last two days at Walden Pond.

For years Michael has played a wonderful Martin 000-28s guitar.

Coming in 2015 Martin Guitar is honoring him with the Woodsongs 0000-28s guitar.

This is a 12 fret slot head instrument and as Michael calls it, “…a finger picker's canon. It will be marketed as the "WoodSongs QUAD 28s.

The instrument features a huge, golden bass response ... brilliant silver trebles, crystal clear intonation. Herringbone trim, Waverly tuners, Sitka Spruce top and East Indian Rosewood sides and bottom, WoodSongs logo inlayed on the 9th fret.

Currently the only model close to it is Martin's M-36 which has a manufacturer's suggested price of $3500. The Woodsong's Quad is a professional model artist's instrument and will probably command a higher price. Unlike the M-36, this guitar will feature a slotted head stock. Usually 12 fret models with slot heads have a slightly wider neck.

Here is a little history about the Martin 0000 designation.

Martin F-9
Around 1964 folk guitarist David Bromberg owned a 1930’s Martin F-9 archtop. The top was smashed, so he took it to a local music store and asked if a flat top could be put on it. Now those old Martin archtop guitars were unique, since the back was flat and the neck was angled up since the body was arched. Perhaps due to these factors they never really caught the reputation that Gibson and Epiphone had with musicians of that era. The F-9’s shape was slightly wider than a flat top 000 Martin.

Martin M-36
Shortly after the Bromberg modification other players were buying up old Martin Archtop guitars and having them converted to flat tops. Martin took note of this and in the 1970 gave them the designation of the model M guitar shape.

In 2006 Martin honored Bromberg with a model named for him and gave it the designation of M-42. It is built in the Martin 0000 shape.

Martin 0000-18 George Gruhn

For Gruhn Guitars 35th anniversary, Martin honored George Gruhn in 2012 with a 0000-18 model.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jerry Reed - The Claw

Chet Atkins dubbed him a C.G. P. (certified guitar player), his guitar playing fans called him “The Claw” and while most of the world remembers Jerry Reed as a movie star, singer and a song writer, but the guitar world remembers him as one of the best finger picking guitars that ever graced this earth.

Jerry Reed and his sister had a hard start in life. His parents separated four months after his birth. Both children lived in orphanages and foster homes for their first seven years.  Jerry did have visits with his grandparents and at an early age told them, “I am gonna’ be a star and go to Nashville.” He kept his word.

He wrote some signature songs that he played in concerts and on TV shows, such as, Alabama Wild Man, Amos Moses, When You’re Hot, You’re Hot, Ko-Ko Joe, Lord, Mr. Ford, The Bird, She Got the Goldmine, I Got the Shaft, and The Claw (which is a tune familiar to finger and thumb pickers).  

Reed not only starred in Smokey and The Bandit, but also wrote the theme song; East Bound and Down.

It was in 1958 when Jerry Reed was recording rock-a-billy songs that a Capitol Records producer named Bill Lowery took notice of his song, Crazy Legs. Lowery had Gene Vincent cover the song and he signed Jerry Reed to a contract as a staff artist and writer. This was with Lowery’s company National Recording Corporation.

1959 was a busy year for Reed.  He got married. Within a few years two daughters were born to him and his wife. In that same year he joined the United States Army (we had compulsory service at the time) and served two years.

He moved his family to Nashville in 1961 and a year later scored a couple of successes with his take on Good Night Irene and Hully Gully Guitar. The last record caught the attention of Chet Atkins, who was working as a Nashville producer.

In 1967 Reed recorded Guitar Man. Elvis Presley heard the song and decided to record it. Reed also recorded a comic tribute to Elvis called Tupelo Mississippi Flash. It became a top 20 hit song.

When Elvis went to Nashville to make a recording, he wanted the guitar part on Guitar Man to sound just like Reed’s version. But no one could match him note-for-note.

Elvis sent his producer to find Reed and get him in the studio.  Elvis’s studio players were baffled on how Jerry Reed played the guitar part.  

Jerry explained to them, 'Well, if you want it to sound like that, you're going have to get me in there to play guitar, because these guys (you're using in the studio) are straight pickers. I pick with my fingers and tune that guitar up all weird kind of ways.'

Elvis loved the part and kept Reed at the session to cut U.S. Male and Big Boss Man. The following year Elvis hired Reed again to record a few songs on his next album. And again in 1971 Jerry Reed got the call from The King for another album session.

In 1970, Jerry Reed got another break with his song Amos Moses. This charted in country, rock, funk and cajun markets.  By then Chet Atkins had struck up a life long friendship with Jerry. They recorded the album called Me & Jerry.

His biggest break came when he became a regular on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. He released another hit in 1971 called When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.

In 1972, Atkins and Reed teamed up for a second Me & Jerry album. Chet dubbed him a CGP (certified guitar player) which is an honor given to only four people and one other posthumously.

The appearance in the cartoon show ‘Scooby Doo’ may have been responsible for Reed’s acting career. 

He had befriended Burt Reynolds and appeared in a film called W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.  He next acted in Gator and then became a star in all three Smokey and the Bandit films.  For a short time Jerry Reed hosted his own variety TV show.

In 1980 Reed re-recorded Guitar Man as a hotter version. He continued acting and recording. He did more songs with Atkins. Although he was not on the session, Jerry Reed came up with the ascending and descending guitar licks that open Glen Campbell’s hit Southern Nights.

For the next twenty five years, Jerry Reed had successful recordings, co-starred in motion pictures and worked on television. He made public appearances and gave concerts. He recorded one more album with Chet Atkins called Sneakin’ Around.

What set Jerry Reed apart as a guitarist was summed up in his own words, “…I pick with my fingers and tune that guitar up all weird kind of ways.” Other guitarists gave him a nickname; The Claw.

Most finger pickers or thumb pickers use their thumb for the bass line and anywhere from one to three fingers for chords and lead. Jerry just dug his hand in there and made use of all; his thumb and fingers.

He also experimented with different tunings long before most of us gave it a thought. The simplest tuning he used was to tune his guitar down a ½ step. 

He also tuned to an open G and made use of dropped D tuning. He may have been the guy that taught Chet how to use the Gmaj7th tuning of D-G-D-G-B-E.

Tunings were one thing that contributed to Reed’s guitar playing, the other was his guitar. Reed’s first good guitar was a Gretsch Chet Atkins Model 6120. 

Although he was fond of the guitar, Jerry Reed did not like guitars with steel strings. He said they tore up his fingernails. He generally played nylon string guitars. Before he discovered the Baldwin Guitar, he played a Guild classic guitar. It was possibly a Mark III with a spruce top and a mahogany body.  By far his favorite was a guitar sold by The Baldwin Piano Company.

During the guitar boom of the 1960’s, Baldwin was faced with dismal sales and ventured into the guitar market. They were not equipped to manufacture guitars, so they purchased Burns Guitars and went about rebranding them. Burns made excellent electric guitars, but did not offer any acoustic models. 

So the Baldwin Company looked no further than the Chicago manufacturer and distributor Harmony.

The Harmony guitar with the Baldwin logo was cheap and not well made in comparison with other classic guitars. Baldwin designated this guitar the 801CP Electric Classical.  It had a short 25” scale.  What Jerry loved was the guitars neck and the Prismatone Pickup. 

He took his Baldwin to a Nashville music store and had them put in a radical cutaway.  He had the same store put in a Florentine cutaway on another one of his Baldwin guitars too. Reed owned at least three Baldwin guitars.

From reading conversations it sounds like Jerry Reed bought a Baldwin amplifier to go along with the guitar. Most videos of Jerry show him with Peavey amplifiers. But Peavey was not in business during the 1960’s. The solid state amplifier advertised with the guitar is the same model that Willie Nelson has been using for his entire career.

It is said that Fender Guitars spent thousands of dollars making a guitar for Reed. Reed always went back to his Baldwin.  The secret was the Prismatone piezo pickup. It was so well balanced it did not need any EQ or pre-amp.  

Jerry just plugged his guitar into an amplifier and began playing.

Reed once authorized an Iowa luthier, Dave Plummer, to make a Jerry Reed model. His only specifications were that the neck needed to be ‘clubby’, like his Baldwin, the headstock needed to be at a severe angle and it should have a Prismatone pickup.

Word about the Prismatone pickup spread throughout Nashville. At the time, Chet Atkins was beginning to favor classical guitars. His was made by Kentucky luthier Hascal Haille. Chet made sure a Prismatone was added to that guitar. 

Willie Nelson purchased an old Martin N-20 and added a Prismatone pickup. Nashville players were buying up the Baldwin guitars, just for the Prismatone pickup.

Jerry searched around to find the lightest guitar strings made, LaBella 820’s.

After Gretsch guitars went out of business, Gibson Guitar Company was courting Chet Atkins. They built a solid body nylon Chet Atkins model called the CE-1. Jerry owned one of these guitars. Jerry also owned a Marcelo Barbero flamenco guitar.

Jerry can be seen with many different guitars. On a Glen Campbell video, both Jerry and Glen are playing Heritage H555 models. 

In a 1992 clip from the Jerry Reed Show, he is playing a Fender Telecaster. On the George Jones Show, Reed is playing a Fender classic electric guitar. 

An episode of the Porter Wagoner Show has him playing a Gibson Les Paul through an Ampeg amplifier. On an episode of the Barbara Mandrell Show, Jerry is playing a Peavey T-60. On the Glenn Campbell Show, Jerry is playing the obligatory Ovation Classical.

Jerry with Kirk Sand guitar
It is impossible to say if Jerry Reed was giving any of these guitars for consideration or did he just borrow a guitar from another musician. There are quite a few shows in which Jerry played a Kirk Sand guitar that he had made.

Jerry's guitar given to Paul Yandell

Jerry gave one of his beloved Baldwin’s to Chet Atkin’s sideman Paul Yandell.

Tennessee luthier Mel McCullough was making copies of this guitar. He called them The Clawmaster. 

A fellow named Sam Kennedy currently makes what he refers to as The Prismatone II pickups.

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