I Finally got my old Les Paul… Oh My! It’s a PRS!!!

Once again G.A.S. has gotten the better of me, and thanks to the “facilitator” extraordinaire: Brandon at Willcutt’s Guitars, it came in the form of a McCarty Burst DGT model… behold:

Brand Spankin’ new DGT in McCarty Burst

I’m a traditionalist by nature, but these dang DGTs have sort of “chosen me”, if you know what I mean. They are 90% of what I play in my 3 piece band, and for good reason. We cover everything from Stray Cats to Elvis to AC/DC to David Wilcox to ZZ Top to Stones to Black Crowes to country… and the versatility of the DGT with extraordinary tone can’t be denied. The 3/4 coil taps are super useful and, again, toneful! I use the whammy bar in some form or another on just about every song, and the DGT Trem just stays perfectly in tune… even after some sporadic dive bombing. Heck, I don’t even bother to lube the nut slots! So anyway, I have a couple of all “hog” DGT Standards that I use, but my hankering for the “‘Burst” of the DGT world led me to this spectacular McCarty Burst 10 top DGT.

Bee-you-tee-full and Toneful 1 pc mahogany back!

Notice the beautiful mahogany grain… PRS seems to get incredible, and incredibly resonant, wood! I saw a youtube clip of them randomly pulling neck blanks at the PRS factory – when they tapped them, the mahogany neck blanks rang like friggin’ marimbas!!! A pure musical note rang out! Now let me pull you aside here and say… “I am NOT a PRS guy!” by nature. Plus, I don’t work for the company or have a dealership! I’m not into “lawyer guitars” (apologies to any lawyers who may be reading this blog entry!:-) … as I said before, the DGT has sort of chosen me. I think that happens when you invest a lot of psychic energy in something… like being a student of the guitar, for example. I am playing and practicing a lot right now, and these guitars have come to the fore. I remember hearing the story about Stevie Ray that, when he saw the Strat that would become his #1, in a shop… he KNEW – without even touching it. Now, I do not put myself in the same company as Stevie (try working “Scuttle Buttin'” up to speed – I’m currently trying, me and my ol’ metronome – if you want to see where his technique was at!), but “as above, so below”.  But I digress… So maybe I’ve found my “‘Burst” with a PRS headstock?! I should also mention that I did buy one of the rare, maple necked DGTs (for sale on my site as of this writing), but even though it sounded great and played great, it was a little too “blingy” for me… JR calls it the Blingster!

The Blingster

Now before you start recommending an “intervention” for me, let me say that I still love Gibsons and Fenders… and Gretsches, for sure… and then there’s that old Eastpointe Reverend that I just got – and am re-visiting after inexplicably selling the last one I had (a great slide and jangly “Stones” geetar)… and obviously Gustavsson guitars… as well as those high end boo teek guitars like Suhr and Anderson and Grosh and Baker and McNaught and Underwood… and is there anything better than a good Telecaster??? A GOOD GUITAR IS A GOOD GUITAR! It just needs you to play it… here are a few from my past…

2005 The Herd Turning the Clock Back

The Herd from 2009

Notice the “un-tarted up” Gretsch Billy Bo in the second row… fated to become the “Blue Hugh Music” guitar after a makeover by Dave Connery of Connery’s Custom Paint!


A Tale of Two Wraptails or a Wraptail Tale

Two ’55 Series Gibson Les Paul Wraptail Customs… relaxin’

NO… don’t “adjust your set” … as they used to say… These are two eerily similar guitars from 2011. It all started when I purchased the “’55 Series Les Paul Custom Wraptail” from Wildwood guitars in 2011 (oh, thank God it’s not a 2012 with a 2 piece lam fingerboard!!! Well I have news for you… I have a LP from 2012 … CC#3 “The Babe”… and it KILLS!… there are no rules!…but I digress…). Well, this ’55 Wraptail guitar “has the magic”! It went back and forth between my pal Pete F. and I until, when the music stopped again, it had landed back with me.

’55 wraptails close up and personal

So, to pick up the thread, next thing I know, Pete has tracked down a second Wraptail at a music store in USA… it’s used… and it’s ostensibly the same DNA as the beast that I originally bought. Well, Pete was scooting off to his day job at the Juno Awards (yes, I do sometimes rub shoulders with the rich and famous – or in this case, not so rich and only moderately famous… but rich in spirit and famous amongst his peeps) ( … did I save that???), and since I owed Mr. F a large sum of money, I purchased the guitar for him, took delivery, and began my mad scientist experiments.

Back(s) In Black

You know, you can’t really isolate a single factor and say that’s why a guitar is magical. Some are and some aren’t. It may be somewhat in the ear of the beholder – it’s a tough thing to analyze. Anywho, getting the two geetars together, Pete’s is a bit heavier (8.7lbs vs 8.3lbs) and they both sounded 90% similar and 10% different – if that makes sense. The Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups just sound killer (another prejudice trashed!) – spec-ing out around 8.2k for the bridge pickup and around 7.55k for the neck (similar in both guitars). Initially, Pete’s guitar lacked a certain “immediacy” and “presence” that mine had. Well, I had taken the covers off my pickups – that not only gets the gold plated covers (gold covers=loss of tone=evil) out of the way, it also allows one to lower the screws in order to bring the slug coil closer to the strings and more even with the screw coil. This is a fairly strong modifier of the tone – at least on the subtle level that we are listening here. By the way, there is speculation amongst the Tone Police that the worst effect on a pickup’s tone can come from the gold plating on the covers… just sayin’. With permission, I removed the covers on Pete’s guitar and set up the pickups the same as mine – better. My wound strings seemed to have more twang and spank… “I know, I’ll put the same strings on Pete’s guitar as I have on mine!” Again, the two guitars moved closer together in tone… more spank in the low end from Pete’s guitar with the perky Cobalt strings. I should say that some of the subtle character difference between the two guitars did remain – Pete’s guitar had a tiny bit more sizzle in the high end and a little more response in the low end. My guitar had a tiny bit more in the mids and upper mids. But basically, these guitars are now 98.5% similar… or was that 97.9%… or 99.2%? We’ll have to check these two out at the next Tonefest!!!

Not exactly consecutive serial #s!





Les Paul Madness

Five years ago, I never would have predicted this… a Strat was the only geetar that found it’s way around my neck! Now I can hardly tolerate them! (OK, Strats are great guitars, classic guitars… but I’m going for a sense of the dramatic here!). What were you thinking, Leo!? The addictive and cool thing about these Lesters, is that there’s no “Les Paul sound”. They are all different. And that’s the magic! Right now I have a CC#3 “Babe” with a Bigsby… and then a ’55 series Wraptail all mahogany Custom with humbuckers… and a 1 pickup Jimmy Wallace Les Paul (oh, dang! Pete’s got that one now!). Anyway, for me, it’s the humbucker guitars that turn my crank, and I am just starting to feel shameless about “converting” older models to ‘buckers. At least I’m currently confined to “rescuing” guitars with “issues”… rather than assaulting “cherry” vintage instruments (but that could change!). There’s something about the old growth 50s wood that makes a great starting point for a killer guitar – although there are no rules – my ’55 wraptail is a couple of years old and it sounds as good as anything – new or old!

So the latest project (and I might add that by tomorrow, I will probably have a 2nd vintage project in the works) is a ’52 first year Les Paul that I got with a bad refin and a repaired headstock break (known as the “Gibson smile” due to the shape the break line most often takes) – a perfect candidate for a “Conversion”, methinks! Behold…

1952 Les Paul 8 months ago… in need of help!

The “Gibson Smile”!

Now you should understand that I am currently crazy enough that I’ll probably buy a few early 60s SGs – just for their glorious PAF pickups! I have 1 set left for one more LP… and after that… I’ll need more! But I digress. Anyway, the above pictured “piece of work” was beautifully converted by the luthier extraordinaire, Mr. Russ “Rusty” L. He kept the neck angle low enough when he reset the neck that the guitar just “has the magic” now – and rings like the proverbial “bell” that all guitar players speak of. Here’s a picture after frets, neck reset, new bridge and stop tailpiece, plus a route for “them” true toned vintage Gibson pickups!

The 1952 Les Paul begins it’s “transition”

I stripped the finish myself – great on the front, not so great on the back when I ran out of patience and energy! Another thing that’s cool about this 1952 Lester, is that it’s an “export” model from that year (’52s had NO serial #, by the way) – we find a “Made In The USA” stamp engraved in the wood on the back of the headstock… what we have here is a Canadian guitar, eh!!! Cool!

1952 Les Paul – It’s a Canadian guitar, eh?

So where are we “at” with this beast? Well, the most excellent Kim Lafleur at Historic Makeovers has taken our mongrel into his care for a complete restoration to a distressed “Gold Top” – probably very much like the guitar was when it was 20 years old. Kim has done work for the likes of Joe Bonamassa … as well mere mortals. Here’s a pic of one that Kim did for our pal Steve Rigby in Sunburst. Close up, it looks like the “real deal” – a 1959 Gibson Les Paul – if you don’t have $300,000, this one makes a great substitute. Even if you do have $300,000, this one STILL makes a great substitute! A great example of Gibson’s second golden age and HM’s great aging and finishing:

Gibson Les Paul Sunburst Makeover – dubbed “The Rigbyburst”

A closeup of The Rigbyburst’s superb aging and distressing.

My next project is to get an original Gold Top pre-1957. If it has the original finish and is from late 1953 up to 1956, then all I will need to do is route for humbuckers… and possibly do a re-fret… the neck angle and bridge will already be correct.  Donations gratefully accepted! 🙂

Sounds like a plan!!!