“Jason Becker – Not Dead Yet”

Who is this man? Why is he not dead yet? And why did Carvin just issue a Jason Becker Signature model guitar???

The Carvin Jason Becker Model guitar.

I have waited a long time – relatively speaking – to write this post. I guess things just had to “ferment” in my brain. It’s been about a month since I saw the movie: “Jason Becker – Not Dead Yet”. I highly recommend it! It was life changing for me! So let me fill you in. But before I do, I’d like to dedicate this post to S.L. – she reads this dang blog, and doesn’t play guitar, or know about all this techie rubbish that we get SO into here (not your average “gear-head” profile – which we sometimes joke as being a 40+ year old male who still lives at home with Mom and Dad)! This woman has courage!

So let’s back up a bit… in the 80s there was a young man who really didn’t want anything else in life except to play the guitar. He was a shredder, but the scope of his knowledge and technique went WAY beyond that. Call him a genius, a savant, … something like that. He’s probably best known as the guy who replaced Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band (big shoes to fill!). It was around this time that Jason began to experience the early symptoms of ALS – or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Unbeknownst to the band during the recording of that album, Jason Becker went from a “one take” player to needing a couple of cracks at it. It’s heart-wrenching that Becker – on the verge of reaching his goal, his dream, had to abdicate from the David Lee Roth Band, due to the advancing disease. Fast forward… Jason Becker became virtually immobile – unable even to breathe on his own. But the story doesn’t end there. Given only 3-5 years to live, Jason Becker has gone way over 20. He communicates, composes music, teaches, releases albums, is very involved in the Yogananda spiritual community… he’s a FORCE!

Let me stop the narrative here to just say that you really have to see the movie (it’s out and for sale on December 18th – and I’ve pre-ordered 3 copies!). The movie wasn’t depressing for me, and it, and it’s star Jason Becker, are a total inspiration! How so? For one thing, personally, it embarrassed me that I invest so little time in becoming a better guitar player. Even the modest gift that I have, should be nourished – the universe knows when we squander these talents. So now, I practice a lot more! Also, I love Becker’s sense of spirituality and the unseen world. I’ve done a lot of reading and some spiritual “practice” – so I “get it”. The people I chatted with, as I left the cinema after our screening, all seemed energized by the movie! That’s a good sign. So rather than more blah, blah, blah from me, just watch the dang movie when you can…

Next time, we’ll talk about gear… oh, hang on, I think I hear my Mom yelling at me to clean up my room… gotta run…





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

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