All Hail…

firebirdThe Gibson Firebird…

A very iconic 60’s Gibson model, originally meant to give battle to the Stratocaster with either Gibson’s P-90 single-coil pickups or the Epiphone- designed mini-humbuckers.

I was watching That Metal Show this morning, and mention was made of a band called Rival Sons. I cued up a video, and lo and behold….

A gorgeous blue Firebird VII. An excellent band, very old-school Zeppelin-esque.

Very refreshing stuff, highly recommended.

As a clueless youth, I had two Firebirds; both were traded off for something else at the time. The reasons are no longer recalled, doesn’t matter anyway…idiocy. If only there was a functioning adult to intervene…ah, well.

These have a wonderful voice of their own, somewhere in between the sharp brightness of typical Fender and the warm depth of  typical Gibson.

The most well-known Firebird player is Johnny Winter. But there have been many…Sonny Landreth, Keith Richards, Brian Jones…the Black Crowes …lots.

Somewhat ungainly to actually play…not particularly well- balanced. This is likely why they’re not seen more often.

So? Get a locking strap, shut the !#@$ up and play.

Firebird people are a unique bunch. Go find some Firebird music and see what I mean.

And start it off with the Rival Sons…


Hey! Don’t Forget The Really Old Guys…

And the Award for First Use of An Electrified Guitar In Public goes to;


Gage Brewer; Wichita, Kansas, 1932 ( with some help from George Beauchamp and Adolf Rickenbacker )

Charlie Christian; with the Benny Goodman band, early 1930’s

Chet Atkins claimed to have been using an electrified guitar on ” the kerosene circuit ” in the 1930’s

Who can say for sure? But before there were Les Pauls, Telecasters, Strats, and all the rest…there were full hollow-body guitars with contact sensors of various kinds being attached to them.

Gibson always had an edge where these were concerned, having so much experience with acoustic instruments. And now, we have several big names ( Gibson, Gretsch, Ibanez ) and a great many smaller shops and luthiers dedicated to this genre.

I have a very inexpensive Korean- made Douglas hollowbody that I play almost exclusively these days. I plan to replace the pickups that aren’t very good, but the body itself is quite good.

These guitars have a very sweet and responsive tone of their own, and I play it without an amp most of the time.

So is it electric, or not?

I have to go find that chicken….


Published in: on June 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hey! Don’t Forget The Log!…

Now that’s really cryptic…

In continuing our theme;

Who actually invented the Electric Guitar?


After all that carrying on about Stratocasters…you just might presume that Leo Fender started it all. A great many people would support that claim.

At the time, what Fender did that was so extraordinary was to employ the principles of mass production to making guitars. All the new Fender models played well, were wildly colorful, were quite affordable, and most of all…were identical. People were being slowly weaned away from the tried-and-true Gibson formula of fine craftsmanship by European elves.

And to add insult to injury, Fender also released the first electric bass.

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But…an equal number hold that the Gibson company started the whole thing. Their claim is based on The Log, Les Paul’s original design of a small,02-07_full

solid piece of wood with pickups, strings and a neck. It had no resonating chamber at all, and worked perfectly well when connected to an amplifier (another category that was in its infancy in the 1940’s. )

Depending exactly on how you would define electric guitar, you get some intriguing responses to all this.

Les Paul’s Log was never meant for general use; Gibson simply used it as the heart of several different body styles ( Les Paul, SG, 335, Firebird, Flying V, Explorer ) The Log worked, but needed to have a relatively conventional body shape attached to it to make it palatable to the public.

Les Paul  then went on to develop his own complementary design of a solid-body instrument with Gibson’s sponsorship; the Les Paul.


This is also considered by many to be the most- used, most- heard electric guitar on the planet.

Depends on who you ask…

But then…there’s Adolf Rickenbacker. In 1937, he put a product on the market that he called the Frying Pan. It was not exactly a conventional guitar, but a lap steel. But, it was electric, and was sold with a cool little amplifier…

So…you tell me…who came first?

The chicken, or the egg…or the other chicken…


Ode to the Single Coil…

Now that’s cryptic.

And just to clean up the last post;

Jimmy Page. He’s the only one from that list that has never used the venerable Fender Stratocaster, at least not in public.

The Stratocaster is likely the most often-used and consequently the most-often heard electric guitar on the planet. It has a very particular tonality, one which lends itself to a great many musical styles. I have often said that if I had to live and die with just one guitar, it would be a Strat.

And I don’t own one presently. I haven’t yet been threatened with deportation to a small deserted island, so haven’t had to choose yet. There’s still time…

Fender guitars generally use a type of pickup called a single-coil. ( A pickup is essentially a magnet with a row of small microphones on it, wrapped with thin copper wire.)

They have a very bright and responsive tone, as opposed to the ( Gibson) humbucking  pickup. Humbuckers have a much more subdued, mid-range tone to them, and were originally designed to  make much less noise than single-coils. They consist of two sets of coils; their close proximity to one another cancels much of the noise that the small microphones generate, hence the term ” humbucking.”

Once you learn to recognize the Strat’s body shape and three-single-coil configuration, you’ll realize that they are everywhere. You’ve been listening to them all your life, and now you know what they look like.

There is a very, very long list of dedicated Strat players in the world, and you probably have a favorite or two among them without even knowing it.

Do you think you could choose a best- ever Strat player? Most people would probably choose Jimi Hendrix, but there are very many to consider…Eons ago, Jimi plugged a Strat into 3 100-watt Marshall amps, and started making just a little less noise than a thermonuclear device. Kind of like the soundtrack to sticking your finger in a light socket.

But the era of psychedelia was born. Jimi had created a new genre just by being able to control the beast.

I’m always most impressed with what David Gilmour has done with the tonality of a Strat…but then, there’s Jeff Beck…

Any opinions out there?


You Must Remember This?…

In the mood to throw a music post up here, just because I’ve been listening to stuff lately.

This happens simply because the weather is warm,  and I’m out digging in my garden. I always bring stuff to listen to so I don’t notice how tedious the work is.

Here is what I listened to all day;

Stage Fright ( The Band )

Cahoots ( The Band )

Led Zeppelin ( 1st album )

The Inner Mounting Flame ( Mahavishnu Orchestra )

Two movie soundtracks; Glory and Cold Mountain

Joshua Judges Ruth ( Lyle Lovett )

Glad Rag Doll ( Diana Krall )

Aja ( Steely Dan )

Obviously, I have musical tastes similar to those of a crew member from an 18th-century whaling ship. And after perusing the I- Phone playlist of a young friend from work… I am so very glad of it. It’s a lonely little planet that I inhabit, but I quite prefer it.

Today I happened to hear an old Pink Floyd track on the radio; ” Learning to Fly“. This came out in 1987.

I was working in the audio dept. of a Lechmere store at that time, and had just finished setting up a new display; a set of Acoustic Research TSW9 speakers, driven by a Carver C-1 preamp and 1.0 power amp.  It was recommended by the Carver rep to use the newly released ” A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” as a demo.

There is a stunningly effective subterrannian bass line in ” Learning to Fly ” that no one ever hears because most equipment that people listen to music with can’t handle it. ( No. The tiny little bud-style earphones that are widely used today will not do it. ) But it has always been there…waiting.

And with some decent stuff…Carver…AR…Marantz…etc…between the bass line moving the earth underneath you, and the angel choir background vocals overhead, it is breathtaking…. freaking awesome. Huge fun. And not necessarily loud; it was always much more about clean. As in ” no distortion.”

I really miss that in today’s world…but we recall the days of Audio fondly on my little planet.

Today’s Audio Trivia Question (s);

Here is a list of guitar players; one of them does not fit with the others. Who, and Why? ( clue; watch the videos )

– David Gilmour

– Hendrix

– Bonnie Raitt

-Jimmy Page

Stevie Ray Vaughn

– Eric Clapton

– Ritchie Blackmore

– John Mayer

– Buddy Guy

– Jeff Beck

( one more clue; if you know half the people on this list, you probably passed away five years ago, and no one has told you yet..)

Well, I’ll be outside digging in the dirt…later.