JR’s Search for “The One”

Looking for the Holy Grail?

Is one of these guitars “The One”?

My pal John Rollins recently posted something that I think you might want to read…

“You know, I will be 69 next month and have had so many guitars go through my hands. I have owned many of the old instruments when they were not old. I love old guitars, though – even though many of them have been at best “so-so.” Many were simply worn out and played to death. Some were heavy as tanks. The frets were too small. The radius was small. There was no “magic”

in many of the old guitars. But from time to time, a special guitar would come along – usually an old strat or tele for me … light, wonderfully resonant, guitars that had that “dry and airy” tone with a tele that was slightly microphonic and made me think I was Roy when I turned up the little 5-watt tube amp to the max. I had a brand new 1964 strat that was heavy as hell and I loved it. But my love came not from the fact that this strat had “magic,” but simply from the fact that I did not know any better. I kept that guitar close to me and actually fell asleep with it very close on a couple of nights. The Black Diamond strings were railroad tracks.

Over the years, I have come to realize that I am always looking for and will never find “the one.” Many of the new guitars that I have played are wonderful in so many ways. Very gifted people have learned to make what are, in my opinion, “better” guitars. Frets. Radius. Pickups. Wood selection.

Tones. Woods. I keep looking for the “the one” and now know that it is the quest, not finding “the one,” that is most important. I also realize that I have made some fine friends along the way. I expect that it is the friendship that is more important. Along the way I have had conversations with trading friends about family and life and loss and joy. As I grow older, I appreciate more fully the importance of such friendships.

It is a joy to be part of a community of people who love guitars and who are looking for “the one” and really do not want to find it. Such is the journey.”

Amen! Thanks to Johnny “Purple Hayes” Rollins for his well formed and eloquent musings!

 

Re-visiting The Dark Side… The Creations of The Gov’nor

Marshall Love in 18 watt Clone & The Real 1974X Deal

When I was a young man… actually, not a man yet… I somehow found myself eyeing a Marshall Major (200 watts!) amp and an 8 X 10 cab at my local store. “This would look great in my basement!”  And it did! Unfortunately, something was wrong – the amp was about as loud as the TV set! “This is not right!” I thought. Anyway, I have no idea what happened after that, but the amp disappears from my gear chronology soon after. I did other questionable things (like we all did) – like trading the ’57 Strat I had bought for $200 (I bought it because I had spent endless hours looking at the maple necked Strat on the back of the Layla album) for a “Mansfield” SG copy. Ouch! But I digress!

Anyway, back to those amps created by “The Father of Loud”, Jim Marshall (BTW, I am sure you know that Jimi Hendrix was always amused by the fact that his first 2 names were the same as Jim Marshall’s… but I digress…again!). I have always had a love/ hate with Marshall amps. Especially the big ones. Now that I play a lot more classic rock, they seem appropriate. But I often find 2 issues with the big boys… they’re too loud for any of the bars that we play in and often the bottom end is just too big to sit right in a 3 piece classic rock trio. My 18 watt 1974X (with replaced Mercury Magnetics trannies) is not particularly glorious on it’s own, but there’s something about that smooth break-up and narrow frequency response that just works with a band! I also have an 18 watt Retro King “Plexi 18” that I have used for a few years… and it just kills!

 

For Those Who Like To Rock…

It now seems appropriate to “feel my way” back into the Marshall 50 watter waters – although I might need an attenuator to play them. I have a very meticulously wired JTM-45 “Offset” clone on it’s way to me. This is the very early Marshall design… with a tube rectifier rather than the slightly later diode rectifier design that was in those classic Hendrix amps. The JTM-45 will be tubed with Kt-66 power tubes – and that essentially makes it the same amp as the one that Clapton made famous on the “John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers” album (also referred to as the “Beano” album… look at the cover… Clapton is reading a Beano comic). Anyway, GET THIS RECORD if you don’t have it! But you know that anyway!!!

JTM-45 Offset Clone in all it’s Vintage Goodness

Meticulous Wiring That You Might Not Even See In An Original!

So this will be an experiment… but that’s what it’s all about anyway. As long as you’re learning and practicing your instrument, these gear excursions just feed the fire and act as catalysts and inspiration to learn and practice even more!

And on a final note, I picked up a Marshal JCM2000 DSL50 – at one time favoured by Jeff Beck amongst others – for less than $700. Now that’ll be a fun romp! Just gotta wait for the man in the little brown shorts to show up with it!!!

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

Gibson Nails It with the ‘Collector’s Choice’ Les Pauls

It’s taken a while to sink in, but I must say that the Gibson company seems to be really pulling things together to challenge the companies like Historic Makeovers – a talented bunch who can pull apart your Historic LP and put it all together, age it, and come up with a much better guitar! What I’m talking about is the “Collectors Choice” series. These guitars are not cheap! But the level of accuracy and realistic aging has really started to come together. We’re at CC#8 right now (“The Beast”), and it’s dead cool! In 2012, Gibson went briefly to the much maligned 2 piece “lam” rosewood fingerboards… what was that all about….??? But now that we’re into 2013, we’re back to 1 piece boards – more than that actually – hide glue neck joints, truss rods with out the rubber sheath that is thought to deaden tone, really great Alnico lll pickups, and a few other changes – well, the game just got taken up a notch. I should note that new R9s also have those changes.

I just bought back a CC#3 “The Babe”, that I had owned briefly, and although it’s a 2012 and therefore probably has a 2 piece board (I don’t care!), it sure plays and sounds as good as virtually any LP I’ve played. The Custom Alll Buckers sound just tremendous. The aging on this is cheesy – looks like someone just dulled the finish with steel wool – you can see the swirls. But it’s a tremendous instrument… and I’ve owned lots of Les Pauls from every era!

Here’s Pete Faragher’s lovely picture of my CC#3 – AKA: “The Babe”

A couple of my pals have the “Sandy” – also from the CC series, and they are also wonderful instruments! I am currently lusting after the recent CC#7… aka: “Shanks”… and the aging on it is anything but cheesy… Gibson really has the aging down now. It looks pretty real and doesn’t have the “razor blade look” of some of Gibson’s earlier work. The Shanks also has those delightful, articulate, detailed, lively & balanced sounding “Custom Buckers” – just like the Babe and most of the others in the series (for some reason, CC#8 “The Beast” has Burstbuckers 2 and 3) – so I’d bet the “Shanks” would sound great! Gibson also implies that they are sourcing old growth woods. I don’t know exactly what they are doing, but it’s ALL good, methinks! Better materials, more accurate design, spot on aging, super high quality – what’s not to like? Historically, we all love to hate the big G – and there are many good reasons – like their aggressive and un-justified lawsuit against PRS and their Single Cut guitar – it didn’t do the guitar community any good at all – and it showed us Gibson’s greed and disrespect – when it’s all about “the LOVE” for us guitar geeks! But all that aside, it looks like Gibson has raised the bar!!! And that’s good for US ALL! Now we just have to figure out how we can afford one!!!

Choose Your Weapon!

I’ve been through many, many guitars in my day… and many have been the coveted vintage instruments that are so treasured today. First thing, I should say that we are definitely in the midst of a Golden Age of instrument building! 80% of the higher end guitars are great – plus there are some absolute gems out there! We even have an advantage over the guitars from the 50s in that, these days, rather than just making guitars (like they did in the 50s), builders actually think about the design of what they are building and the effects on tone and playability. I believe that, while they did design guitars in the 50s and 60s, it was more of a “shoot from the hip” approach. I’m one who believes that the big advantage of the “good old days” was the proponderance of old growth, toneful wood stocks. I think we can take a different example – pickups to illustrate the point of “intention” in guitar building. In the early days, it was just a matter of winding a bunch of wire on a magnet. These days, we really think about what makes a great sounding pickup, plus there are many, many different flavours available. And even in the case of old pickups – say PAFs – there are lots of “duff” sounding examples (I know, I’ve owned some!), while there are some amazing sounding ones too! (my ’61 ES-335 has a killer set. But even in the case of pickups, it’s speculated that the materials were of much higher and purer quality. My pickup making pal, Mike Turk, says that he finds it much easier to make a great sounding pickup with old wire, whereas it’s a trickier (but very do-able) proposition with most new wire. The old wire just defaults to a great tone. Let’s take a picture break…I think I’d better throw in some guitar porn … so here’s a vintage treat for ya…

A pair of Gibson ES-355s from the early 60s.

Now in meandering ’round to my point, I can safely say that lots of new guitars have found their way into my Classic Rock band. I still have a few great vintage instruments, but most of what I play is from this century! For example, somehow, the Paul Reed Smith DGT “found me”. I feel like those guitars found me rather than the reverse. I’ve never been a huge PRS fan – and they have all come and gone – at least until the DGT! I have 3 and a 4th on the way! Great pickups that sound like over-wound PAFs, great (the best, actually, IMHO) coil taps (3/4 taps – 1-1/2 coils), 2 volumes for easy blending, super-smooth playing, a traditional trem that stays perfectly in tune for me, uber-resonant all mahogany or maple topped mahogany body, plus a comfy clubby medium rounded neck profile with big frets – what’s not to like!? Here are my 3:

3 Paul Reed Smith DGTs Relaxin’ – 2 Standards and a Maple Top Gold Top.

I also play a great 1 pickup Les Paul that was recently built for guitar man Jimmy Wallace. I have one other Les Paul… a black wrap-tail Custom (recent build) with humbuckers and a ’55 style “V” neck… lightweight at only 8.3lbs …add a couple of Underwood Teles and a Relic Strat (all my vintage Fender stuff is gone)… plus a 1960 one pickup single cutaway Melody Maker for slide… that’s about it… But I can’t really play the Strat after the DGTs… a traditional Strat trem just dosn’t cut the mustard after a DGT trem…

Oh yes, I do still have the Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird Billy Bo that is part of the banner on my site (beautifully designed by guitar player extraordinaire and artiste Pete Faragher)… the one that Mr. Dave Connery of Connery’s Custom Paint pinstriped… BTW that guitar has been modded to death… big stainless frets, TV Jones Filtertrons, added Bigsby,… and of course, the added paint. I love that guitar! 🙂

Fragment of a Billy Bo geetar

Leaving That Old Guitar Better Than You Found It… Paying It Forward!

Call me crazy, but there’s something invigorating about respectfully restoring those vintage instruments for the next generation! As I move through middle age, I finally realize that these wonderful vintage instruments will be around alot longer than all of us. It’s partly a tribute to future players and collectors to make sure that these instruments are left in better shape than we found them – at least, that’s my view. If you have taken a vintage Tele (this was long ago, I assume!) and routed it for a neck humbucker or a middle pickup (I know I have…), don’t feel disheartened. We didn’t know! That was the time! One of my first projects was to take a 1959 Gibson ES-345 that had been mercilessly hacked under the Varitone knob and to have it properly restored with a proper, matching, circle of wood grafted as invisibly as possible. Not inexpensive. But a joy to see it through (sometimes it’s as simple as finding the “right” vintage knobs or tuners or plastic for a guitar – so it’s not always a monumental task)! BTW, that was a GREAT 345… maybe THE best… I wish I still had her! Here are the before and after shots… thanks to Russ L. for the work… it might not look like a big change to you…

1959 ES-345 With Nasty Work

1959 Gibson ES-345 BEFORE…

1959 ES-345 mod after Russ' repair

1959 Gibson ES-345 AFTER…

The Varitone ring ended up concealing 80% of the damage… so even what you don’t see at least has a measure of CLASS to it!

Another cool thing I had been inspired to do concerned yet another ES guitar. I found an absolutely killer 1961 ES-335 that was perfect from the 2nd fret down… but the rest of it… broken headstock, plain black overlay glued over the face of the headstock with no logo or cutout to access the truss rod, non-original tuners… yuk! So I had a new neck made and relic-ed. We used the original Brazilian fingerboard, binding, and truss rod from the old neck! A brilliant job by Gord B.! Also a great, great, guitar!…

1961 ES-335 re-neck

1961 Gibson ES-335 re-neck… with the old neck in the foreground.

'61 ES-335 Headstock

’61 ES-335 Headstock – new construction but aged to look authentic and fit with the rest of the guitar.

There have been countless other “interventions” on my part!… piecing together a ’59 Fender Esquire from all the right parts, re-doing worn-through neck block inlays and binding on a 1964 ES-335 and then finding the right knobs and plastic, finding the “right” period correct neck for a 1965 Strat, poperly re-setting the neck on my ES-350 (it had been re-set slightly out of alignment), … Re-setting the neck, converting to humbuckers, re-finishing and aging a 1952 Gold Top Les Paul (currently in progress)…and finally (there are many other projects that I haven’t room to detail here)… fixing, as invisibly as humanly possible (thanks Gord!), the baby fingernail sized “bo-bo” on the back of my 2011 Gustavsson Bluesmaster… behold…

2011 Gustavsson Bluesmaster "bo-bo"

2011 Gustavsson Bluesmaster “bo-bo” on the headstock back.

2011 Gustavsson Bluesmaster front view

Ahh!… now that’s better… the sunny side up pic of the glorious Gustavsson Bluesmaster.

 

 

 

The Great PAF Pickup Debate

Here’s the culprit… a Gibson Humbucker (or 2)!

DISCLAIMER: Before we get too far down the “rabbit hole” when discussing the ins and outs of humbucking pickup tone, I would respectfully suggest, should your head start to spin when overburdened with all these bizillions of small details , that you set it all aside for a bit and learn how to play the guitar. The best tone isn’t worth #$@% if you can’t play. I might add that I am currently looking in the mirror as I type these words!!! Ultimately, it’s about THE MUSIC! …END OF DISCLAIMER!

OK … got that over with, now let’s talk about humbucking pickups. I have really been exploring the tones for a couple of years now. To get the ball rolling let me start by saying that it should be noted that certain sets of pickups mate well with certain guitars. For example, the PAFs that were in the “Stills” Les Paul when I got it – a set of ’61 (ish) short magnet PAFs sounded fundamentally different when I swapped them to another LP. Short magnet PAFs do tend to sound quite bright. I had some in my ’61 SG/Les Paul (they were original to the guitar). Now in the case of the SG, I tried a set of Sheptone Tributes. These are a bit darker sounding, and they sounded stellar in the SG – a guitar that is “bright” by design. Those Sheptones actually sounded better to me than the short magnet PAFs – go figure! They also sounded amazing in my 1994 McCarty. But the Sheptone Tributes really did not “turn my crank” in a single cut Les Paul. So there’s one thing… it very much depends on the marriage of guitar to pickups!

 

I recently installed a set of long magnet PAFs in my 2011 Gustavsson Bluesmaster. Tone chef Pete F. and I noticed that these pickups had…  1. A percussive quality and…   2. And ability to “clean up” extremely well with a lighter attack. These qualities really weren’t as present in the other Gustavssons that we used for comparison. Those other two guitars had Peter Florance Voodoos in one and Duncan Seth Lovers in the other – both superb pickups in their own right. But definitely not “PAF” clones.

 

One of the advantages of modern boutique pickups is that you can get away from that typical range of PAF tones… plus, you can split the coils. We all remember the coil splits that have (to quote JR from The Sandbar, Canada) that “doink-doink” sound. Not so good. But my beloved DGT Standard has killer splits… pretty much like a Tele when the bridge pickup is split. I might add that I compared my DGT to my ’61 ES-335 with PAFs and the DGT sounded tonally very, very similar – but just louder and more gainy – kinda like the 335 on “11” or maybe “12”! Then I remembered that Paul Smith and David Grissom used Grissom’s beloved 1959 ES-335 as a benchmark when designing the pickups in the DGT. Makes sense – another piece of that puzzle!

 

I tend to agree with PF’s assessment of the pickups that he has evaluated in his post, but I’ll give some opinions… forgive the repetition…

Mike Turks – big and clear – best of both worlds. Neck and bridge are perfectly balanced. Neck pickup is warm, yet it “cuts” and is great for soloing!

Haussels – bright and clear. Almost single coil in character.

Throbaks – quite bright and often microphonic to the point of being a use-ability issue.

Voodoos – lots of heat and compression, I like ‘em. Nasty!

Burstbuckers – these are a moving target. They keep changing the formula. The “Bloomfield’ LP pickups are a case in point… amazing! I have BBs in my ’55 Wraptail LP Custom and I wouldn’t change them. Early BBs can sound overly thin, bright, ice-picky IMHO

Duncan Seth Lovers… great but bright… sometimes not the best in the bridge, but sometimes just dandy!

Duncan Antiquities – like a funky Seth Lover pickup!

Sheptone Blue Skies – balanced, lovely, great middle position tone

Duncan ‘59s – the clarity and balance of Alnico 5. A great buy on a budget. Can sound stellar in the right guitar.

Duncan JB – I love them… supposedly “hot”. With a 250k pot in the bridge position of a Fender … “yes!” Like a hot PAF.

PRS DGT – Like a hot PAF although the neck pickup is very traditional in output and tone. Great splits!

Duncan Bonamassa’s – Great vintage tone. A bit understated. No ice-pick. Very easy on the ears. Patterned after one of Joe’s favourite vintage sets.

 

I could go on and on with more pickups… but I think that’ll do for now!!! Time to practise (or maybe I’ll just have a nap!)

The Vintage Les Paul ‘Burst … What Does A “Real” One Look Like?

Here’s a recent email from my pal Todd L’Ecuyer:

I rediscovered a site that I’ve picked through in the past.  Odds are you are all aware of this place, but it never hurts to be sure.  I was picking through the gallery of ’59 LPs and reached a rather interesting conclusion.  I have this idea in my head of what looks old to me.  For example, my Beano looks like an old LP to me.  9 0328 confirmed this point as it shares some resemblance.  I’m not saying twins (in fact, mine has a little more flame on the lower half of the top, but most of the figuring looks very similar.  Now super flame tops, thin pin stripes, and straight flame (1/4 sawn tops) never looked vintage to me.  If I was to see a RI, I’d often conclude that it didn’t look like an old one.  When I looked through the vintage gallery, I realized I was wrong.  I found many 59s that did not match my so called burst criteria.  In fact, judging by the pics,  if I didn’t know those bursts were old, I’d think them new RI.  I think you get my point.  I’m really rethinking this whole preconceived notion of the “vintage look”.  I want to put this to you guys.  Thoughts?  So the Kossoff reissue all of a sudden looks a lot nicer to me!  I’ve yet to see one of those that fit my previous vintage mindset.

http://www.burstserial.com/site/gallery.html=

Here’s that “Beano” Les Paul. Mmmm … subtle and warm…

Well I agree… we get this idea of what’s “old” and what looks “right”. A lot of the time, we’re way off base. I think we can say that there were many, many actual vintage ‘bursts that were either:  1. Not properly book-matched or irregular …or  2. Very subtly flamed… Of course, the whole plain top reissue phenomenon of recent years has been created in order to cover those bases. It can also be noted that if you look at some of those famous ‘bursts as they were back in the 60s or 70s, the sunburst finish is often dramatically different. The Peter Green / Gary Moore / Melvin Franks (who?) ‘burst is a case in point… started as a cherry ‘burst and ended up as a lemon “un-‘burst”. I realize that you aren’t talking about the ‘burst so much as the figure in vintage Les Pauls, but I think it’s worth covering the question: “what is the colour that seems “real” or vintage?”. I mean, without the colour seeming correct, it doesn’t matter how authentic the figure is! Of course, a 1960 ‘burst should have red in it – because the dyes were changed to a formula that does not fade easily for that last year of the Sunburst Les Paul. I have actually faded a couple of Les Pauls that I knew to be finished with unstable dyes (don’t worry, not vintage Les Pauls)… from cherry ‘burst to iced tea in 1-3 days poolside!

But let’s face it, we do love that worn in look. For me, I also feel like a super flamey/quilty top is completely untypical of a vintage “look”. I also prefer a subtle degree of figure. Historic Makeovers in Florida tries to recreate vintage spec and “look” Les Pauls out of modern Gibson Historic Les Pauls. Their work is stunning, they keep up-leveling the game, and some of the aging work that the big “G” is doing now looks silly by comparison. Now it’s interesting that Kim and his team at H.M. can take what looks to me like “definitely not vintage” figure, and work their magic… and presto… it does look “real”. So there’s something to consider!!! Maybe that “old” patina and lacquer checking will make an uber flame top guitar look “real”???  Check out their site (Google Historic Makeovers)… and no, I don’t work for them! I know Kim personally and believe me, he has an insane commitment to making sure each guitar is “right”.

Gibson Les Paul that has been aged and had fairy dust added by H.M.

 

Here’s a close up of that Historic Makeovers Les Paul. Looks “real”, doesn’t it???

Another Gibson Les Paul R9… this time beautifully aged by RS Guitarworks.