Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bob Dylan's Guitars

“Johnny's in the basement, 
Mixing up the medicine 
I'm on the pavement, 
Thinking about the government 
The man in the trench coat, 
Badge out, laid off 
Says he's got a bad cough, 
Wants to get it paid off…” 

Maybe if I wrote lyrics like that I would have won a Noble prize? Bob Dylan did!

Bob Dylan - Susie Rotolo on the cover

In the mid 1960’s Bob Dylan wrote many wonderful songs with poetic lyrics which were sometimes very bizarre. Some of his music and some of the lyrics were taken from older folk songs. No worries, as those songs were public domain at the time. But most of Bob's songs were pure genius.

Bob Dylan - Albert Grossman

When manager/impresario Albert Grossman took him on as a client, it seemed like Dylan became famous overnight.

'63 Dylan -Washburn - North Country Blues
Bob Dylan was probably not interested in what guitar he played. He even borrowed guitars on the spur of the moment at major concerts back in the day. Dylan was all about the music and lyrics.  However, he played and owned a variety of very interesting guitars.

I've been a Dylan fan since I was a kid in the mid 1960's, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the guitars that Bob Dylan has used throughout his career.

Bob Dylan in High School with Stella guitar
Bob Dylan’s first guitar was probably a cheap Silvertone Stella. This was not the Oscar Schmidt made Stella model, since the company had been acquired by Harmony Guitars of Chicago in 1939. Bob's guitar was made by Harmony.

Dylan's Silvertone

The next guitar he is said to have owned was a Silvertone Aristocrat 642 Archtop. He played this in a high school talent show. It is currently on display at the Hibbing, Minnesota public library.

 Dylan with '49 - 00-17

Dylan's first decent guitar was a 1949 Martin 00-17 all mahogany guitar. He was probably inspired by his hero and mentor Woody Guthrie.  Guthrie played "00" and small bodied guitars. In pictures and videos of his early concerts Dylan is usually seen playing a small body guitar. This one look like it has been through the mill.

Dylan with Gretsch Rancher

When he was a young man, Bob also made use of a 1950's Gretsch Ranger.

Bob with Washburn 5250

In 1963 Dylan showed up at the Newport Folk Festival with a Washburn model 5250. This guitar had a slightly arched top, with a round sound-hole. The strings went over a wooden bridge, that was held in place by the strings. Then the strings were secured to a trapeze tailpiece.

Dylan with Washburn Tanglewood guitar
In a 1986 concert to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Dylan showed up with another Washburn guitar. This time it was a Washburn Tanglewood. The Washburn 5250 was made in the USA by the Tonk Brothers, who made banjos and stringed instruments in the 1930's. The newer Washburn Tanglewood model was made in Asia.

Dylan with 1950's Gibson J-50N

His next guitar was a late 1940’s Gibson J-50N. It must have been a model made after WWII because it does not have the Only A Gibson Is Good Enough banner. This guitar had a teardrop pickguard and is featured on the cover of “Bob Dylan”. This guitar was lost or stolen.

Dylan with Gibson Nick Lucas Special
After losing the J-50, in 1963 Dylan purchased an early 1930’s Gibson Nick Lucas Special from a shop in New York City called Fretted Instruments. It was originally sunburst, but when Dylan got it, the guitar had been refinished blonde and the bridge had been replaced with one off a Guild guitar.

The original Nick Lucas models from that era had trapeze tailpieces. Later models featured the belly bridge.

Bob's Gibson LG-1

In 2006 a photographer was touring Gibson's Montana facilities when he spied two Gibson LG-1 with tags that had Dylan's name on them. Bob had ordered the custom shop to build them, perhaps because he was so fond of the Nick Lucas guitar, which by the way was based on the LG-1 body with a 13 fret neck.

Dylan -Baez - Martin 0-45

Dylan borrowed a Martin 0-45 from Joan Baez, who he was dating at the time for a performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

Dylan with Gibson J-200

Dylan also owned several Gibson J-200 guitars that were played in concert. One was a gift from George Harrison. One was custom made by Gibson and it had a double pickguard.

Dylan with Martin 0-18

Bob Dylan was also fond of Martin 0-18’s and 000-18’s and can be seen playing both. In a 1974 concert to benefit the nation of Chile; a country in the midst of a revolution at the time.

Dylan with Martin  00-21

Dylan owned and is photographed here with a Martin 00-21. During the 1960's,

Dylan at '65 Newport Folk Festival
Dylan gravitated to the electric guitar in 1965. His image as the darling of the Folk Crowd instantly became tarnished when he took the stage with an early 1960's sunburst Fender Stratocaster to play Like A Rolling Stone.

Folk singer Pete Seeger became so angry it is said that he wanted to cut the electric lines going to the stage. (Other accounts say, that he was just yelling, "Cut, cut" in an effort to make Bob and The Band to stop playing.)

With a '60's Strat and Ampeg amp

Some black and white photos from the session at the Colombia recording studio A, show Bob playing the Strat.

Fender Jazz Bass - Bandmaster - Jaguar

Possibly from the same photo shoot we also see him with a 1960's Fender Jazz bass, and a 1962 Fender Jaguar.

Dylan playing a Fender XII

In a poster for the Bootleg Series Volume XII, we see Bob playing a Fender XII.

'65 Fender Jazzmaster

In another publicity photo Dylan is seen with a 1965 Fender Jazzmaster.

John Sebastian - Bob Dylan - ? Bass
In another photo from the Bootleg series, Dylan is seated at what appears to be an Italian restaurant playing an off-brand Precision Bass copy while a young John Sebastian plays guitar.

Playing a Fender Kingman
Dylan played some fairly odd guitars, including a 1966 Fender Kingman acoustic guitar. This was designed by Roger Rosmeisl and had a metal bar inside of it that went from the neck block to the end block. Fender discontinued this series of acoustic guitars in 1971.

Martin OM-28

He also received a special Martin guitar through his guitar tech, Cesar Diaz. This was a Martin OM-28 Perry Bechtel model. Bechtel was an entertainer in the 1930's and requested that Martin create the OM style guitar with the neck joining the body at the 14th fret. Note the pyramid bridge.

Dylan with Martin D-28

Dylan also played a Martin D-28 at the Concert for Bangladesh and a HD-28 in the Rolling Thunder Revue.

Yamaha L-6

Bob utilized a Yamaha L-6 for the Budokan Tour.

Dylan with Yamaha L-51
In 1978 he purchase three Yamaha L-51's at the Hong Kong airport.

This guitar had an unusually shaped headstock.

Then later on he used a black Yamaha L-52.

Dylan with Yamaha L-52

The L-6 is a low end Yamaha, while the L-51 is a solid wood guitar with an unusual rippled headstock. The L-52 model has a jumbo body, like a Gibson J-200, only with squared off upper and lower pickguards and a bridge similar to a Gibson Dove. This was a nice guitar, with cloud inlays on the ebony fretboard. Yamaha offered this model around 1972. Paul Simon also used a similar guitar.

2001 Negative Martin

Bob must have liked the look of the black Yamaha L-52, since around 2002 Martin came out with a Negative HD-28, which had a black body and a white neck and headstock. Dylan had one commissioned with twin white pickguards and used it in a 2002 concert.

Dylan with Stratocaster

For as much trouble as the electric guitar caused for Dylan, he did not play it in concert as much as his acoustic guitars. His best known electric guitar would be the 1960’s sunburst Stratocaster that he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, when he got booed while playing “Like A Rolling Stone”.

The Strat that Dylan used in 1965

It was also featured in some early pictures of him in a recording studio. He only used it a few times and then it went missing.

1965 Dylan with Telecaster

Dylan also played several Telecasters starting in 1965 with a sunburst model with his band called The Hawks.

Tele used with The Band
Later when he played with The Band he used a black model and a blonde model.

One of the more interesting guitars that Dylan is said to have played, but not owned, was Mike Bloomfield's 1963 Fender Telecaster. 

Bloomfield's Tele - before and after
Bloomfield played this guitar before it went under the knife. He used in on the original recording of Like A Rolling Stone, and in the Newport Folk Festival Concert where Dylan went electric and got booed off the stage.

Bloomfield also recording those guitar licks on Highway 61 Revisited with this guitar and Dylan is said to have borrowed it during the recording sessions.

Bob with Kramer Ferrington bass

While in the Traveling Wilburys, Dylan sported this 1987 Kramer Ferrington bass guitar.

The Traveling Wilburys 

He is also seen with the Wilburys posing with this Gretsch Silver Jet.

Dylan with Gibson Hummingbird

Around 1993 Dylan played a Gibson Hummingbird guitar in concert.

With a Gibson Black Dove

A year later Bob was using a Gibson Dove.

Dylan with Gibson J-45

Dylan also owned a Gibson J-45 with twin pickguards.

2016 Nobel Prize

In 2016 Bob Dylan was honored as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in literature.

Click on the links in the photographs for their source. Click on the links in the text for further information.

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Al Caiola, One of New York Cities Most Prominent Session Players Has Passed Away.

Al Caiola with his Gretsch model G6210DSW
One of the greatest guitarists and most prolific recording session players passed away last week. Al Caiola was 96 years old when he died on November 9th of this year.

In addition to being an influential guitarist, he was a composer and arranger. His work spanned a diverse array of styles.

Caiola worked with many, many famous artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Mitch Miller, Tony Bennett, Buddy Holly, Percy Faith, Steve Lawrence, Bob Crosby, Tony Mottola, Bobby Darin, and others.

One of Al's albums
The list of recordings that feature his guitar are almost too numerous to mention. If you have heard Darin's recording of Mack The Knife, you've heard Caiola's guitar. If you've heard Buddy Holly's True Love Ways, you have heard Caiola. If you've heard Petula Clark's Don't Sleep in the Subway, yes, that was Caiola on guitar.

He has played guitar backing King Curtis, Perry Como, Glen Campbell, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Paul Anka, Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, Louis Armstrong, Benny King, Rosemary Clooney, Dion, Mary Robbins, Del Shannon, Barbara Streisand, Jackie Gleason, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Andy Williams, Joe Williams, Tom and Jerry (Simon and Garfunkle before they were famous), Julie London, Solomon Burke, and so many others.

In the Marine Corps Band

During WWII he played in the Marine Corps 5th Divsion Band. During the 1950’s he became a studio player and arranger in New York City.

Squeeze Play

Early in his career, Al recording on Dot Records on an album called Squeeze Play that featured John Serry. Caiola moved on to the United Artists label where he recorded the theme to The Magnificent Seven and the Bonanza theme.

Early recording with Tony Bennett
Caiola teamed up with arranger Don Costa and made at least 36 albums featuring his guitar playing with a large and lush orchestra. He also released singles that received air play back in the 1960’s. Other albums were based on the Western TV themes that were popular at that time, including Wagon Train (Wagons Ho), The Ballad of Paladin, The Rebel, The Gunslinger, Bonanza, and others.

James Bond Themes - Al Caiola

He also performed on albums based on movies such as From Russia With Love.

Al and fellow guitarists
He was a member of The Manhattan Guitar Club, which was a collaborative of New York City studio musicians that paid dues into this organization for use of Ampeg amplifiers that were kept in various recording studios. This amplifier had a lock on it in place of an of/off switch. Each member was given a key to the amp to use it when the played in that studio.

'65 Caiola Custom

In 1963 Epiphone guitars, which was then owned by Gibson/CMI introduced the Al Caiol guitar. It was designed in the Gibson ES double-cutaway shape and called the Al Caiola Custom.

Although this instrument was semi-hollow, there were no f-holes. The 7-ply bound maple body was 16” wide and slightly less than 2” deep. The instrument came with a deluxe 5-ply pickguard. The bound neck was of a 25 ½” scale and the rosewood fretboard came with pearl block markers.

The open-book headstock was inlaid with an “column” design done in pearl and elongated, as are Epiphone headstocks. It came with a zero fret.

This guitar had two mini humbuckers, with volume controls for each pickup.  It also came with an unusual feature; 5 “Tonexpressor” switches. The pickups were turned off and on with two slide pickup selector switches.

Al Caiola Custom 
The guitar was offered with 3 different finishes; shaded, walnut or cherry. The strings were attached to a trapeze tailpiece with a walnut block that said “Al Caiola.”

Al Caiola Standard

Three years later Epiphone introduced the less fancy Al Caiola Standard model. This came with twin dog-ear P-90 pickups.

With Epiphone Archtop

Earlier in his career Caiola can be seen playing Epiphone archtop electrics.

Al with Gold Gretsch Guitar

He  was also well known for using a gold-coloured Gretsch guitar.

Al Caiola with Epi model gold finish

He did use his Epiphone signature model during the sixties.

Al Caiola with Heritage Guitar

Most recently he played a large bodied single cutaway Heritage guitar.

Though many modern readers may not know about Caiola, he was an integral part of modern guitar history.

Click on the titles under the pictures to view sources. Click on the links in the text for more information about Al Caiola.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (for text only)