Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cheapness And Beauty (Once You Go Black...)

Series of posts blah blah blah...reminiscing blah blah blah...share a get the picture.

This post is going to be about the guitar Casey referred affectionately to in the comments as "Odie".

Number 4
1964 Silvertone Silhouette

Odie was a 1964 Silvertone Silhouette solid body electric. It was made in Chicago by Harmony and was black with white plastic pick guard that held the controls and two DeArmond pickups. I stuck an Odie decal on the headstock and a legend was born.

Here is the original description from the 1964 Sears catalog:

Dual-pickup Guitar. Tone and volume controls for each pickup plus 3-way selector switch. Thin, high-speed neck with adjustable steel reinforcing rod. Ebonized fingerboard. Adjustable bridge. White position markers. About 36 x 13 x 2 inches. $5 mo. Shpg. wt. 9 lbs. 57 H 1476L--Black finish..............Cash $54.95

Now that I had fully caught the bug I was on the constant lookout for another cool tool. Something on the cheap of course because I wasn't wealthy. One night while scanning the Sheboygan Press classifieds I came across an ad for a Sears guitar. I called the number in the ad and spoke to an older man who said it had been purchased in the 60's and all it said was Silvertone on the headstock.

The first thing that went through my head was Danelectro! Seeing they had built guitars with the Silvertone moniker for Sears I saw my chance for a real bargain.

The man wanted $75 for the guitar and accessories but it wasn't clear what they were and the fact that I might steal a 60's Danelectro for that amount it didn't matter so much. I booked across town to the man's house to scope it out.

When I got there I was only a bit disappointed it was a '64 Silvertone which was manufactured by Harmony and not Danelectro. The guitar was in great shape with the majority of the wear on the fret board. The frets were nice but the fingerboard was scalloped pretty deeply at the first position. It really didn't effect the playability of the guitar so I plugged it in.

This is when the sale became a bargain. The accessories that went along with the guitar were a 60's 20 foot coiled patch cord, amp and foot switch.

The amp is where this one becomes fun. This thing was a warm 55 watt two channel combo with a tremolo circuit and a single 12" speaker and it was mint.

I bought that rig in a heartbeat and raced home to check it out. I was already pulling the speaker wires from my Peavey Audition 30 and running it like a preamp into a 30 watt Washburn bass amp I got from my friend Scott after his failed attempt at playing bass. That combo was a tinnitus inducing swarm of bees and now coupled with that Silvertone amp I could achieve something that resembled Bob Mould's rig albeit on a smaller scale.

Scan of the 1966 Sears Catalog showing the Silhouette

Back to the guitar. It was very light with a thin neck that did nothing to help with the sustain. The neck as I mentioned earlier was very soft, or what the catalog refers to as a high-speed Ebonized fingerboard. The man I bought it from must have had a ton of Ebonized wood under his nails because the scalloping on the fingerboard would have made Yngwie Johann Malmsteen proud. The thin plastic pick guard made a sound like stretching a dental dam over the top of a cereal bowl and humming into it.

One thing the guitar wasn't was grounded. I eventually wound an e string around the output jack and tucked it under the tailpiece cover to reduce the wonderful hum it produced.

This guitar was nothing special but it did make an appearance on stage with the one off band Septic Fish. I owned it for quite sometime and finally sold it to a kid from a group called Agent Glitter. I hope he enjoyed it more than I did.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cherry's scratching like a grain of sand, the trigger itch in the killer's hand.

This is the third posting in a series of posts I will be making covering all the guitars I have owned or possessed long enough to lay claim to. I have already posted the first two installments a mid 60's Teisco E-120 and an 80's Rocket Roll II. It has been very fun reminiscing about the subject of guitars and also stirs up some fond memories of time gone past. I hope you enjoy this as much as I am and please share a story about one of your stringed friends in the comments.

Number 3
1975 Ibanez 2390

In the summer of 1985 another of those epiphanous musical moments happened to me. I heard the thrum and drone of a song called "Never Understand" on Mtv by The Jesus and Mary Chain. It absolutely blew my mind that a song could sound so abrasive and mellow at the same time. I heard the lyrics and instantly felt in love with an emotion of some kind but I couldn't pin point what it was.

The way the band looked in the video was exactly like me. Floppy hair? Check! Ray-Ban style sunglasses? Check! Hole riddled jeans and dark shirts buttoned to the collar? Check! All I needed was the old hollow body guitar.

I got my drivers license in 1985 allowing the freedom to check out stores in the city of Milwaukee. On a Saturday, my brother Casey, friends Scott and Tim and I would pile in my 76 Duster and track all over the Cream City looking for record stores, head shops, clothing stores, book shops and anything else we knew we wouldn't see in Sheboygan.

On one trip we stumbled onto a store called Record Head. If you are having a hard time following this it was a head shop that sold records. The store was at 7045 W Greenfield Ave and had a pretty cool selection of used records and tapes plus if you were in the know you could see their glass pipes they kept under the counter or in the office or something. It was against the law to sell paraphernalia without also selling tobacco products and well the store wasn't called Record Cigar Head now was it.
Against one wall they had a few guitars and being that I had caught the bug I had to check them out. I read my fair share of Guitar World Magazine to know a lot of guitar companies. Nothing on the wall jumped out at me. I asked the irritable man behind the counter how often the stock rolled over and he kinda dismissed me but told me of another Record Head on the north side of town. We didn't have enough time so I planned to take another trip to check it out.

A month or so later the four of us made the trek south and searched for the other Record Head. I found it at 7418 W Hampton Ave and went inside. Holy @#&% batman, this store was amazing. There were fewer records, although they were good, but my eyes bugged out when I spied the selection of guitars. Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, Gretsch, Rickenbacker...jaw-dropping-awesome.

It hung on the wall next to another big huge hollow guitar and a black Guild bass guitar. Walnut brown, soft and round. The Ibanez 2390. Of course I didn't know it was the 2390 back then but I did know it
looked like the guitar the Jesus and Mary Chain guy played.

I pulled it off the wall and held it in my hands. So light and loud. I was sold. $225, saved while working for a small print shop after school and during the summer.

It was essentially a Gibson ES- 345 copy right down to the shape of the headstock. The finish looked new and the bolt-on neck felt the same as the Rocket Roll II's neck. In retrospect it was pretty plastic. The pots and switch were mounted onto a piece of plastic to save money I suspect. A real ES-345 had the same layout but the guts were mounted right to the top of the guitar. Ibanez did make guitars with the top mounted controls so I am going out on a limb and saying the 2390 was probably the cheapest of the catalogs Gibson ES series copies.

I owned that guitar for seven or so years. Just long enough to have the neck mounting screws strip out, the plastic neck inlays fall out and the finish start to check.

I passed it on after some light repairs, again not a luthier, to my friend Matt who was a singer but wanted to learn to play. He owned it for roughly three weeks before pawning it. I would have bought it back from him had I known he would take a loss on it. Unless the pawn shop recognizing it was a 70's guitar gave him more than $80.

Crack of dawn...Cindy's moving on...talking Cindy to everyone...til she's had her fun.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I have my license, it came with birth, for self reliance on this earth.

On Tuesday I started recounting the guitars I have owned or possessed long enough to claim ownership on When Things of the Spirit Come First. Today I am going to share with you pictures and the story of the second guitar I owned. There will be posts for each one with perhaps one or two lumped together because their stories aren't as fun or interesting. I hope you enjoy this little rock-walk down memory lane and please feel free to share an axe tale of your own in the comments.

Number 2
1982 Ibanez Rocket Roll II RR50-FR

So this is it...what I would call my first "real" guitar. It was purchased by my Mom and Dad and it played like butter. It's also one of those guitars I regret selling.

I talked Mom and Dad into a trip to Uncle Bob's Music Center in SW Milwaukee. It is now located at 10220 Greenfield Ave in West Allis, WI and unfortunately has no website. Uncle Bob's was a small store that was so packed with gear it seemed like a hallway with amps stacked to the ceiling. The front of the store had a wall of guitars that at the time seemed cool but in retrospect is mind numbing. It was 1985 or so and I can recall seeing Les Pauls, Strats and a Dean explorer type thing but the guitar I picked was the Rocket Roll II.

This candy apple machine whispered out to me and basically toyed with my 15 year old mind. Could a guitar be that sexy? Damn! It was Metal it was Punk hell my heroes played flying V's.

The guitar was $125 with a form fitting hard shell case and to sweeten the take Uncle Bob himself gave Mom and Dad a $35 deal on a Peavey Audition 30. Throw in strings and picks and I don't remember my cheeks aching more from the grin I had on the car ride home.

Again I have no photos of my guitar but since Ibanez only had two color schemes for the Rocket Roll II it was no problem finding one.

picture from
It's almost like the RR50 was a divining rod to find rock and roll.

The Rocket Roll II's came in two styles. The RR50 was the Metallic Red beast I owned an the RR400 was a flame maple topped bound beauty in a cherry sunburst paint scheme. The picture from the Ibanez catalog showcased the maple striped RR400 as seen below. It's a shame because the RR50 was the one that seemed more Metal anyway.

picture from

As I said earlier my heroes played flying v guitars and my favorites were K.K. Downing of Judas Priest and Bob Mould of Hüsker .

Judas Priest had the balance of K.K. and Glenn Tipton. When I had this guitar I often made my friend Jeff jam while doing the Rock Stomp motion (see 2:14) that K.K. and Glenn did while playing live. Jeff had dark hair and played a black Stratocaster like Glenn did and I had blond hair and played a red V like K.K.. Looking back it was all pretty silly but it made me happy.

The other "God" with the flying V is Bob Mould of Hüsker . He didn't have a red V but he did have a Rocket Roll albeit the first generation of the Ibanez V's. This guitar was an exact replica of the Gibson flying V. They were built in the 70's and are amazing guitars. They fetch an unrealistic amount of money and even then you rarely see one come up for sale.

I did see Bob play his V in 1987 during the first leg of the Warehouse: Songs and Stories tour in which the band rifled through the entire album without letting anyone breathe. Bob trotted back and forth riding the V in what looked like a hobby horse between his amps and the front of the stage with a glazed look in his eyes. He wore a grey t-shirt with a New York Yankees pin-striped jersey over it and the sweat stain on the front of the shirt grew throughout the set. He sawed at that Rocket Roll with a piston like fervor slamming song after song through his swarm of bees sounding gear.

That concert was the concrete that set in my mind that I needed to play guitar and The flying V would be the perfect beginning.

Here comes the sad ending.

Over time I punched holes in the undormered ceiling of my bedroom, chipped giant chips of paint from the guitars awkward body and weened myself from the reality that I was going to be a Heavy Metal guitarist. I had picked up new guitars and found it time to move on from the Rocket Roll II. I sold it to one of my older brother's coworkers to give to his son for $300.

The kicker is I recently felt nostalgic for the V and started looking into the availability of another one. After doing research and losing many bids on Ebay I gave up hope. Not only has the guitar gained in value but so many other people have now come to realize the unbelievable quality of these late 70's and early 80's Japanese copies and they often time go for $1,000 or more with the most recent one going for $995. If only I had held on to that guitar for 25 years. Curses to the likes of bands like Tears for Fears and the Smiths for making me feel like I had to soften my approach to guitar. But hell, even Bob Mould doesn't play the things anymore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Any problem you can't solve with a good guitar, is either, unsolvable or isn't a problem.

For the hell of it the other day I started recounting the guitars I have owned and or possessed long enough to claim ownership and came to an amount just over 30. I know...sick! Mind you they all weren't Porsche quality but they were all mine. Anyone who has owned and sold, or traded up to a new guitar, or even passed one down to a younger cousin/future Hendrix will attest to the fact that it may not be yours any longer but you still miss a guitar after it's gone. Perhaps it just played better, or you saw the exact guitar you had when you were 14 blow up on Ebay for $1300, or just call it nostalgia if you will but I bet you too remember your first...or second if it "put out" better.

Anyway, I am going to make a post for all I can recount and share a little tale about each one for nostalgia's sake. I am going to try and keep them in order chronologically so you can get a feel for how important the few that remain really are. Feel free to share a story of your own guitars in the comments. It's okay, the guitar you aren't playing is residing in the closet or under the bed and it will understand.

Number 1
1965-66 Teisco Del Rey E-120

I received my first guitar before I knew I wanted to play. It was a butchered up Teisco Del Rey E-120 that was given to me by my friend Mike in the 7th or 8th grade. I don't recall if it was a sunburst like the picture below or if it was red. I would lean towards red but only because of how I saw it last. I know it was pretty jacked up and am a bit hazy as to the story of why it was a wreck when it was passed on to me. The fret board was removed by what I would speculate was a serrated butter knife and then re-glued with Elmers glue or it's equivalent. The striped anodized aluminum pick guard had also been attacked by someone with I would guess the same butter knife. Not pretty to say the least. I think the story behind it's condition had to do with a scorned wife/ex-wife but like I said I am not very clear on why it was a mess. Perhaps Michael would enlighten us if he stumbles across this posting.

I did the best a 13-14 year old boy with limited luthier's skills could do to breathe new life into the old girl. I could get it to play though I recall using a gauge of strings closer to chicken wire so naturally they tore apart my supple little fingers. Surprising to say I still play after starting on something that resembled torture. I also had nothing to plug it into so I didn't know the pick-ups worked until I moved on to my first real guitar that came with an amp.

The action was high and intonation...what's intonation? I had a copy of Hal Leonard's Incredible Chord Finder (A Complete Guide to 1116 Guitar Chords) so I could strum a few and played an even more primitive barre chord than Johnny Ramone played. Imagine The Jesus and Mary Chain playing "Smoke on the Water" and you will have an idea of how prodigious my playing was.

I believe it was fortitude in playing this cheese grater of a guitar that convinced Mom and Dad I would continue to play guitar if they got me one that led to a better guitar.

I have no photos of this first guitar but here is a picture of some other Teisco fan's Del Rey E-120.

photo from E-120 page
The E-120 in all it's Japanese glory.

When I got an amp with the new guitar that didn't feel like I was holding my fingers to a sanding belt I plugged the tattered Teisco into it. The Peavey Audition 30 crackled and I heard this horrendous buzz as the fret's sizzled. I threw the Trash-co Del Rat into the back of the closet, under the bed, into the basement or something and tried my hardest to forget about it.

Three or four years later an artist in residence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center taught a basic guitar building class to the art students at Sheboygan North High School so I dug out that Teisco from wherever and passed it to my friend Timon.

Didn't shed a tear!

Timon turned it into a playable piece of art. He owned the crustaceous creation for several years before selling it to a girl in a band from Madison called Pentapus. Whether it is still around (interview mentioning guitar from '94) is a mystery but if the 40+ year old guitar is still swimming around out there I am sure someone is clawing to tell a fishy tale about it.

photo from Timon's flicker pool
One of a kind 1965-66 Teisco Lobster Guitar hanging on the wall at the aforementioned JMKAC in 1987.


My old friend Mike got back to me and told me this:

I had a guitar that I cannot recollect what happened to. I read your post and it reminded me of a maroon electric guitar I bought from a neighbor (a man in his 50's I believe) for $100 (amp included). It doesn't sound like it's the guitar you owned because I would have gotten rid of mine in High School. Anyway, I did take it apart because I wanted to redesign and build my own guitar. The funny thing is, I would have used things such as butter knives to pry things open, but I'm guessing it's not the same guitar. I think I still have those guitar plans (on graph paper) somewhere...

I have to admit that the picture does blur after 25 or so years so Mike may be right in speculating that this particular guitar may not be his.

Things I can attest to be undeniably true are the guitar I had was either tobacco burst or red, it was given to me before I hit high school and it was destroyed in so many aspects. Mike's comments don't solve it's origins but does confirm part of my memory of the guitar. I just might have blended his story with mine a little bit. The human mind tends to do that.

As a side note I recall being envious of my friend Lee's Gibson Explorer copy guitar because it had buttons on it that caused it to space out, echo and buzz naturally. It also looked cooler than the thrashed Teisco I was strumming upon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The way that we weren't is what we'll become so please pay attention while I show you some.

DEVO have a new album scheduled to come out in 2009. For now I suggest heading over to club DEVO to look at their new video for the song entitled "Don't Shoot (I'm A Man)" or click on the image below to be directed to it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Always be smarter than the people who hire you.

rev-e-la-tion (rev-uh-ley-shuhn)

1. the act of revealing or disclosing; disclosure.
2. something revealed or disclosed, esp. a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized.
3. Theology.
a. God's disclosure of Himself and His will to His creatures.
b. an instance of such communication or disclosure.
c. something thus communicated or disclosed.
d. something that contains such disclosure, as the Bible.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Jazz washes away the dust of every day life

Come out, have a drink and listen to a little jazz tonight. I will be spinning bop, hard bop and a smattering of other jazz styles. Show up after 8, I will be there til late.

TiGA Bar
1465 NE Prescott