Whaaaa…??? Two Volume Controls… NOW I Get it!

G’Day, I believe my Blog readership is up to about 4!!!… and that really has me chuffed to keep on writing! First thing, I just have to post a pic of a sign I saw at a store in Parkdale (a Toronto neighbourhood) the other day…

“Milk, Eggs, Cereal, Guitars…” All the essentials!!!

OK, Now down to business… Last night my friend RD and I got together for a little Tone Fest and we turned our attention to the much heralded Paul Reed Smith DGT guitar. We had 3 in the room (two all mahogany Standards and a maple topped DGT), and I must say that – last night anyway – they seemed to kick all the other more traditional humbucker equipped guitars to the curb. If you haven’t tried a DGT (co-designed by David Grissom and Paul Smith), you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s fairly universally accepted that the coil splits on these great guitars are just the best you can get – no big volume drop and very cool Tele and Strat style tones. One of the things we noticed is that these great humbuckers have a whole range of tones that you can coax out simply by manipulating the 2 volumes and the tone. Lots of Gibson players do this – just by leaving the pickup selector in the middle and manipulating the volumes (my friend JL recently mentioned that Clapton used to leave the selector in the middle on his “Fool” SG, open everything up and then roll the tone on the neck pickup to “0” – then you get the articulation of the bridge pickup with the fat rolled off quality of the neck pickup – “woman tone”! … but I digress!) . We got some great “horn-like” sounds simply by manipulating the 2 Volumes!  And it certainly brings to light the fact that you don’t just run a pickup at “10” all the time if you’re trying to get musical sounds! RD is totally sold on “11”s on his DGT Standard – and he ain’t swapping them out for 10s anytime soon! (as many of us do). Comparing the two Standards, my DGT sounded a bit “zingier”, and RD’s was a bit “chunkier”… perhaps due to three factors… strings (I use 10s), pickup heights (RD’s treble pickup was lower), and guitar weight (RD’s was a pound heavier).  Also – and you only really notice it when the guitar is turned down – I took out the 2 treble bleed caps because I felt that they imparted a tinny, thin tonality. 2 minute job, big improvement IMHO.

So that’s the latest foray into the bottomless pit of guitar tone… please enjoy the “guitar-porn” featured below… and maybe I’ll be up to 5 readers by the time I’m ready for my next post!!!

Sea Foam Green PRS DGT Standard

Here’s the maple topped DGT Custom… a little more top end and a little more bottom end than the standard! This one’s for sale on my site!

“None More Black” PRS DGT

Here’s the original “None More Black”…

The Original “None More Black” ’55 Custom Wraptail LP




Gibson’s “Silence of The Lam (2012)”

For those who are concerned about the minutia of guitar construction, the 2 piece laminated rosewood fingerboard that has invisibly crept into the 2012 Historic Les Pauls (and many other Gibson guitars as well) seems to be a problem. It is a damn shame that Gibson can’t use a thicker 1 piece board, but the scuttlebutt is that the raids from the US Department of Fish and Wildlife have left the company no choice, with stocks of permissible rosewood depleted .

I know I really may be “flogging a dead horse” here for those of you “in the know”, but this may be a shocker if you’re hearing this “2 piece fingerboard thing” for the first time. There’s lots of talk amongst the dedicated Les Paul junkies that it’s all being done wrong anyway – the thin top piece leaves 30-something individual pieces of rosewood once you cut the fret slots – the glue used to laminate the rosewood is yellow glue (and that’s just wrong!) – etc. I think the easiest way to know if you have a 2 piece laminated rosewood board (the “Lam ” fingerboard, as they call it) is to remove the nut and check the end grain. Some say that it’s done pretty well – under very high pressure. Well, whatever! Can you HEAR it? Does it really affect the tone? I think most who know good tone would argue that it does NOT!

I’ve had two 2012 Les Pauls in my possession and they are both superb sounding and playing instruments. To me, there are other factors that are WAY more likely to have an effect on the tone than the 2 piece rosewood board. So let me mention a few factors that I think are on the “A list” for killer tone… and perhaps amongst the reasons why Gibson 2012 Les Pauls seem to sound consistently great (or so I hear, anyway).  1. I always think about the neck angle to the body. The old ones almost always had a very shallow angle – and I think this is part of their tone-recipe! (and playability too, I might add).  2. In a Les Paul, where the bulk of the wood is mahogany, the quality of the wood in the mahogany back (and neck)  seems to be a significant tone-factor. There’s actually a rumour that in the last year or so, Gibson sourced some AMAZING (and legal) mahogany from a country previously unknown for it’s instrument grade wood.  3. Let me keep going here…a third factor … the pickups. Those Burstbuckers just seem to be getting better all the time… more clarity and percussiveness in the neck pickup… an aggressive but less brittle and harsh bridge pickup. As a matter of fact, thanks to my pal PF, I now have a 2012 “Collector’s Choice #3” Les Paul – also referred to as “The Babe” (horrible name!) – and it is absolutely superb. One of the best sounding guitars I’ve had – 2 piece fingerboard and all! The pickups are referred to in the literature as “Custom Alnico 3 Buckers”. Whatever! They sound great!!! It has a Bigsby, but mercifully, it only weighs 8.85lbs. Hey! – I thought that Bigsbys were “tone-robbers”!? There are NO RULES on a feature-by-feature basis, IMHO – it’s just how everything adds up! Here’s a shot of “The Babe” relaxin’ Two piece board and all!!! Doesn’t seem to bother HER!!!…

Gibson Collector’s Choice #3 “The Babe” Les Paul…only 8.85lbs!

Have You Heard The “Gristle King”?

There are some guitar players who just inspire one to pick up the guitar and play… and then there are the kind who make one say: “why do I even bother?”. Jeeze, I don’t want to sound negative, but Greg Koch is one of the second kind… he’s just a “savant” – and he is not only a technical master, he plays with humour, and musicality! Greg Koch is “on the radar” alot these days – perhaps because, other than being a “Fender Official Clinician”, he’s just done a whole whack of on-line guitar demo videos for Wildwood Guitars… and a bunch of shows with Joe Bonamassa. You just have to watch this youtube video… the Led Zeppelin stuff is hilarious. Mercy! The sounds Mr. Koch gets out of his Fender Telecaster! (he unabashedly refers to himself as “Greg Cock” – rather than taking  the easy way out and pronouncing it like it’s spelled… “Koch”). Just check this out…

Oh my!!! Steve Vai hailed Koch as a genius… I love that Tele tone! Really edgey and nasty. Certainly not “thin” – a potential pitfall for those of us who fancy the first production solid body. When Koch spanks the plank you get the feeling that there’s nothing he can’t do – and on a Tele too!!! What’s with that? If you’ve never thought about a “B Bender”, Koch might inspire you to go in that direction. Recently, I’ve been spending at least a 1/2 hour to an hour every day just working on my banjo rolls – pick and 2 fingers – with the logic that, while perhaps not immediately applicable to my playing, it can’t hurt. It will certainly increase the facility of my right hand – even while playing Albert King licks. I think Greg Koch is a testament to that theory. He’s got a bitchin’ right hand roll that he seems to have incorporated heavily into much of what he plays.

I encourage you to check out Greg Koch futher. I find him to be such a musical player – even though he has a ton of technique. Oh ya… I love what Greg Koch says about Eric Clapton… and I am paraphrasing here: “even if Clapton hasn’t learned a new lick since 1979, his foundation as a player is so musical – look at the Beano album and Cream and the Dominoes – that he can still play a few notes and it’s better than someone who can play 32nd notes with precision…”. Given what Koch is capable of, I have to respect his opinion as an educated opinion with alot of weight.




A Tribute to Eric Pykala

Eric Pykala at the ’93 NAMM show

I didn’t want the opportunity that Hugh has given me here to pass and not fulfill what I think is the smallest of tributes to a friend and musical companion.

My pal, former business partner, repair guru and my sometime musical co-conspirator Eric Pykala passed away recently.

This Sunday, a few of Eric’s family, friends, former co-workers and ex-bandmates will gather in a small room in Newmarket to celebrate the life of a well-liked soul.

We will play and sing, tell stories of Eric to use as a balm on our own souls to ease the grief of his sudden passing.

Eric was part of the fibre of the southern Ontario music scene for decades. Whether it be by playing and singing his heart out at a gig, providing sound and lights to touring bands, serving customers at the 12th Fret in Toronto, repairing guitars at The Arts in Newmarket or arriving at your door with his roving “Guitar Doctor” setup to massage your beloved instrument into a finely tuned, purring baby. Eric literally was everywhere. A couple of years ago, he had moved to London to be near his parents and help them out in their day to day needs. More recently he was employed by Walter’s Music in London as their tech.

Eric and his brother Paul were best friends and musical partners for their entire life. They had a band for any type of gig required and a song list that numbered in the hundreds. Eric and Paul were the guitar, bass and voices of the band and then they would fill in the blanks with talented players that fit the gig.

We have lost some of the glue that binds us as a community of musicians and music lovers by Eric’s passing. Eric was always promoting and supporting his musical friends and colleagues. Giving them respect, promotion and admiration that is all too often lacking in our circles. I have to add a anecdote of my own here. A couple of years ago, my nephew Chris, went into the Arts with a couple of guitars to be setup and repaired for his boss at the time. Chris was directed to the basement of the store where lessons and guitar repairs resided. Not knowing each other, Chris handed Eric the said guitars to be worked on. Chris looked up and saw a picture of myself posted on the wall in the shop. He asked Eric, “Do you know that guy in the picture?“. Chris told me he said, “Of course I do and that my boy is one of the best guitarists in this country”. To which my nephew said, “That’s my uncle”. 

Which brings me another enduring quality of my pal Eric……..colourful stories. Eric could tell ’em with the best of them. A raconteur of the highest level. Mr. P could keep you enthralled for hours telling tales of ……life on the road, rare sitings of vintage instruments that he held in his hands, playing dates with rock deities, new gear love, custom builds and thoughts on their improvements over stock and how he had just got off the phone with…….well, anyone from Paul Reed Smith, to Aspen Pittman, to Sterling Ball, to David Gilmour and on and on. He could command a room for hours and you would vary between dis-belief, jealousy (oh how I wished it had been me that did/saw/held/played that) and hilarity.

Eric and I shared a passion for music, guitarists and guitars. We were even business partners for a while. He was part of a small team that brought PRS guitars to prominence in Canada, Soldano amplifiers into the country, that made Groove-tube and Hipshot products accessible in Canada, and more quality high-end products available to Canadians.

He was a totally positive fellow. Always thinking about the good side of things. He could elevate the mood in a room with his booming voice and infectious laughter.

One of my favourite memories of Eric was from the 93′ NAMM show. Eric was a huge rockabilly fan. We had tickets for the Fender Concert one night with Buddy Guy and Danny Gatton. He was so excited to see his hero, Danny Gatton that night. Well, not only did we see Danny but as it turned out, Danny came and sat right beside us for Guy’s set. We introduced ourselves and I took a picture of him and Danny together. The smile on Eric’s face was incredible. I’ll always remember that.

Eric had a few lines that are like signature phrases for him. One I love is….”We’re having WAYYYYYY too much fun“.

Well, we’ll try Eric, to have WAYYYYYY too much fun in your honour on Sunday. I’ll be bending a note for you.

Pete Faragher

Help! The Reverberocket 2 Just Ate My ’64 Deluxe Reverb!!!

1966 Ampeg Reverberocket ll

Ok, here’s the little devil here! Ampeg’s Reverberocket ll from ’66. I think I paid about $400 or so for this 1 X 12 combo about 5 years ago. Since I’m always keen on the trivia aspect, I should point out that “Ampeg” stands for “Amplified Peg” – a pickup for the upright bass – this was the 1940s… but you probably knew that! It was the company’s first product. But I digress…

Anyway, this little combo, which looks WAY cooler than a Black Face Deluxe Reverb, also, IMHO, sounds cooler! When I first got this little Buck Rogers inpired (well, the “LOOK” rather than the guts, we can assume) combo amp, I also had both a 1964 Fender Deluxe Reverb as well as a ’65 of the same model in the house. I have to tell you that while Leo was saving dough by buying particle board pressed wood, Ampeg was putting together very high quality little amps that included plywood cabinets… take a look…

Back of The Reverberocket… a thing of beauty!

Now isn’t that checkerboard Tolex just an eye-catcher!

Anyway, my point is that there are alot of these little “sleeper” amps around – just killer amps that are “off the radar”, that absolutely kill! My pal PF (Ok, you figured it out… Mr. Peek Frean) just picked up a Gibson 1 X 12 Lancer Combo – and there are lots of other killers out there! This Reverberocket ll has a wonderful open tone, that, I feel, is more inspiring to me than the aforementioned Deluxe Reverb… the Ampeg ‘ll get nasty or stay clean, it has a glorious Reverb… just awesome. It’s around 20 watts – a really BIG sounding 20 watts, I might add! It has 2 weird power tubes – a little like EL84s – that are rare, but findable. I think they are “7591A”s. I put my favourite 12 in there – a Celestion G12H30. If you didn’t experiment with this little beast, you might dismiss it – not all amps work the same – and this one has a few of it’s own quirks. For example, it’s not voiced like a Fender. Set it up like a Fender and you’ll shatter glass. But roll the treble back to 1/4 and it’s gorgeous. Another thing I discovered is that while this amp sounds magnificent through the “Guitar” input, I think it sounds even better through the “Accordion” input!!! A little more gain and richness. That’s hilarious to me! OK I’m a bit weird… So in closing, how ’bout a pic of the “Control Panel”? A look and feel that Buck Rogers himself would be most comfortable with.

A look and feel that would do Buck Rogers proud!



Who The Heck Is Jimmy Wallace?


…oh, no, that’s right… that’s Jimmie Walker!

So who is Jimmy Wallace?… Legend in the Les Paul Guitar community, fine player, vintage dealer, organizer of the Dallas International Guitar Festival, early friend to SRV, member of Bugs Henderson and the Stratoblasters (later just the Stratoblasters)… Here’s a youtube clip of Jimmy (while it’s up..) and he’s really got the schiznitz!…

Anyway, the thing that started all this was my “accidental aquisition” (dang ebay auction!) of a guitar that Gibson made for Jimmy in 2011. It was his demo guitar for the “Jimmy Wallace PAF” pickup ( although, regretfully, at this point in time, they seem not to have gotten off the ground). This guitar is a beast! A little less than 8lbs of pure tonal bliss with one single Jimmy Wallace PAF pickup mounted in the bridge position only (the Rev. would LOVE this guitar!) – and quite a “looker” too.

Gibson Jimmy Wallace Les Paul 2011

This all started for Jimmy Wallace in the early 80s when his store special ordered Les Pauls to his specs (he took Gibson his ‘Burst as inspiration) … all the resulting guitars had “Jimmy Wallace Model” on the truss rod cover and the serial numbers were done in a vintage inked-on style – and starting with an “8” (representing 1958) or later, a “9”, on some examples. Features like thin cutaway binding, bigger necks, ABR-1 bridges, beautiful figured tops (you get the picture) were standard. These guitars were made right up until the mid-1990s. Here’s a picture of the first one, a 1980. It’s recently been for sale for $15,000 on Ebay and at Route 66 ClassicGuitars:

First Jimmy Wallace LP from 1980



Two Canadian Guitar Heroes and their Guitars

Through the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get my mittens on quite a few cool and iconic guitars. Two of the most interesting have been the mongrels “played to death” by two of my favourite guitar players: David Wilcox (’65/’56 Stratocaster) and John Bride (’62/’56 Stratocaster).

If you’re a Canadian (and you’re old enough), you might remember John Bride tearin’ it up with the Cameo Blues Band in Toronto at the Hotel Isabella’s Cameo Lounge in the late 70s/early 80s. John set the tone (quite literally) for rockin’ blues at that time, and as a twenty-something kid who tended to follow the Cameos on a weekly basis, I was mezmerised by JB’s sound – the blue ’62/’56 Strat through a Black Face Pro Reverb and an Echoplex. A huge part of his sound was the Alembic Strat-o-blaster (I think Alembic was the Grateful Dead’s business venture… but I digress…) – an on-board pre-amp that replaces a Stratocaster’s output jack without modification. You can see the Strat-o-blaster on John’s blue guitar in the picture, and there’s actually a newer reissue version right there on David Wilcox’s guitar – but I don’t believe he ever used one. Some people would argue that John Bride’s Strat – a 1962 body, 1956 neck and a mix of 50s parts and 60s pickups – is worn out! It’s pretty badly beaten up, definitely, but you just plug the guitar in, flip on the Strat-o-blaster(which has it’s trim screw set all the way up!) and go to John’s favoured bridge/middle notch position, and the sound is ALL THERE! Such a full and punchy sounding guitar – but very much a pure Stratocaster in tonality! If you want to check out the Cameos on CD, not too many years ago they released their “All Play and No Work” – you can get it on-line at CD Baby. They’re all fine, fine musicians… I really recommend it! (Hey, where’s my royalty cheque?) 🙂

David Wilcox’s 1965 Strat was a guitar that I gigged with solidly for about 10 years – that was after Wilcox (aka: David K. Wilcox – so we won’t confuse him with his US namesake) used it for at least a couple of decades – and recorded many of his hits with it. It’s pictured on the covers of the albums: “Bad Reputation”, “Out Of The Woods”, and “The Best of David Wilcox”. I had a chance to see Wilcox live again a couple of years ago, and he’s still a “force of nature” –  a master of that fingerstyle roots & boogie tradition. Why is he not world famous? At some point, I sought out a 1965 neck – actually, a “Dec65B” big headstock neck – to replace the ’56 neck that Wilcox had played the guitar with for all those years. I thought the ’65 neck made the guitar sound better (maybe a bit myopic on my part, considering that changing the player back to David Wilcox would also make the guitar sound better!!!), so I left it there!Below are a couple of pics with each of the necks…