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!!!





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.

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.

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.