Tools of the trade… wood choices in Strat-land.

The two "chosen ones".

The two “chosen ones”.



After owning a few “uber” vintage Strats, I’ve found a couple of great guitars that sit with the “good ‘uns”, and I think that my ears have really become sensitive to the differences between individual guitars of this particular model – now that I’m a Strat Cat again. A big reason for the re-visiting of my once favourite model, is that I now have the tools in the amplification department to get good gain at lower volumes – pretty much any sound that I want (thank you, Two Notes Torpedo and QSC!) – handy, or even necessary, in a 3 piece setting.

I have owned a couple of real ’56 Strats in the last few years, and while both were magical guitars, they were a little strident – in fact, they could shatter glass if you cranked ’em up. My beloved 64/65 Strat, which now resides with my best pal Pete F., on the other hand, was balanced across the range. Why was this so?

The beloved 64/65 "Troiano" Strat

The beloved 64/65 “Troiano” Strat

Well, the acoustic properties of an electric guitar are well known to us all – that’s why YOU could hear the difference between a guitar with a loose truss rod and the same guitar with a straight fingerboard and a tight truss rod – yes, you could! So to over-simplify a bit, maple board Strats are brighter and thinner sounding than rosewood board models… often clearer and more articulate too. Ash bodies are also brighter – and if they are light-weight – thinner sounding. An Alder body has a more even tone, with lots of mid-range and smooth highs and big smooth lows. Sure there are other woods, but these are the typical configurations.

Maple Neck / Alder Body

Maple Neck / Alder Body

So what I didn’t like about the ’56 Strats was the ash body/maple neck combo. Not to run that sound down – a killer tone you’ll hear on many records – but not MY sound. And it certainly works for Teles!!! In early to mid ’56, the bodies changed to alder, and to me, the ’56s with an alder body and a maple neck sound killer! I have this combination in my current maple neck Strat – and while it’s articulate, it has a smooth top end. My LSL Rosewood board “Strat” is a bit different… it has a gorgeous rosewood neck with rolled edges – a very similar neck to the 64/65 – but a little bigger… however, it has a lightweight swamp ash body that helps give the guitar it’s 6.7lb weight. This guitar rings! I swear you can hear the trem cavity / springs / control and pickup routes … very nuanced, very lively… real “cluck” and just killer… and the rosewood neck tames it just enough! This guitar “talks”! I LOVE it!

LSL Saticoy "Strat" gut shot

LSL Saticoy “Strat” gut shot

One last thought… well, two actually… I’m a big fan of a slightly hotter bridge pickup in a Strat. It takes the edge off and balances well with lower output N and M pickups – 6.5k – 7.5k is ideal. The “Troiano” has that ( a lucky accident?) and so do my Strats featured here. Secondly, I always wire a tone control to the bridge pickup… like a Tele… and just as usable!


Stratocaster® Setup Part 2

Sherwood Green Metallic Sounds Best!

Sherwood Green Metallic Sounds Best!

Thanks to Alex D. for alerting me to the Carl Verheyen Strat Trem setup… Here’s the Dean Markley © C.V. setup off their Balanced Bridge string pack:

Carl Verheyen Stratocaster® Full Floating Tremolo Bridge Setup. For the last 30 years the Fender® Stratocaster® has been my main guitar. When working with the bridge setup I always strive for the most musical and in-tune mechanical operation I can find. I’ve asked hundreds of players about their setup and over the years I’ve come up with my own method that always returns to pitch and has many musical benefits as well. The method described works best when the tuners are working properly, the nut has been properly cut so strings don’t bind,  the neck truss rod properly adjusted and the six (or two) mounting screws that fasten the bridge plate provide proper freedom of movement. At the heart of the setup is balancing spring tension with string tension by adjusting the two long spring tension adjusting screws at the “claw” to which the tremolo springs are attached to the steel tremolo block. Use three springs from the tremolo block to the claw: furthest position left, furthest position right and center; do NOT set the outside springs at an angle. 1. Begin by adjusting the two screws of the claw so that when you pull UP on the tremolo arm and the bridge is in contact with the body the G string pulls up a minor 3rd.This will make the B string rise a whole step and the E string a half step. The mechanics of the system should first make musical sense. When done correctly, you will end up with an “Angled Claw”—which is exactly what you’re looking for. (Balancing the Tension.) 2. You may have to go back and forth a few times between the two adjusting screws until the bridge is stable and the intervals described are true. And you’ll need to correct the intonation by adjusting the bridge saddles. This takes a bit of time. But when done properly, you will enjoy it. 3. When all is right and balanced between springs and strings, the Am7 barre chord on the 5th fret should sound like it is descending musically to an Abm7 when the bar is slightly depressed. It won’t be perfect but it’s a very musical sound you’re after and should achieve.This effect is ideal for “shaking” chords and applying a manual tremolo to your voicings. 4. An important point is to lubricate string contact points. I use a Teflon® lubricant by Dean Markley (Dean’s Tuba Luba) under the strings at the nut slots and where the strings contact the string tree(s).You only need to use a little lube; wipe away any excess. 5. I try to use the minimum windings on the string posts, preferring just one if possible. My bass strings leave the post at the top; my trebles wind down and leave the post at the bottom. 6. There is a short video of me explaining the whole process at: All the best, Carl Verheyen Fender® and Stratocaster® are registered Trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Teflon® is a registered Trademark of DuPont™.


The Strat Whisperer?

Da New Aquisition

Da New Acquisition

I’m a bit of a “punter” when it comes to guitar repair. Don’t let me touch your frets with a file…  But I do have a good “feel”, as a player, for assessing a Stratocaster (I’m back into Strats in a big way!) very quickly, and with a bit of intuitive information becoming available to me. So today I got this 50s style Strat… rings really well with it’s Alder body and overall weight of just under 7-1/2 lbs. – a perfect weight for an Alder Strat. But more than that, this is a NICE piece of wood! With the right pickups (I haven’t plugged ‘er in yet) this will be a killer Strat!

So the next question is (here’s the voodoo): “how does the Tremolo WANT to be set up?”. I play the guitar – never plugged in at this stage – and try the Trem. It can feel stiff or loose, stay in tune or go out of tune… all relating to the type of bridge, action height, setup of 6 bridge screws, # of springs, lubrication, position of the Trem claw… this is all after I have lubed the nut and stretched the strings – the #1 cause of tuning issues for a Stratocaster. I play with these variables. Some guitars seem to play, sound and feel best with a floating bridge – and some are best with the bridge flat on the body. Sometimes I use 3 springs, often 4, and rarely, 5. There are different ways to set the springs on the claw. There are some different and unusual ways to set the depth of the 2 claw screws… it goes on and on! Of course these “best” ways for a particular instrument are just my opinions, and it’s really a subjective thing. But for sure, once I have set up a Strat the way that it feels right to me, I never seem to have to fight the guitar or the tuning when I play it live.

There are a few other things I do with a Strat – even a vintage guitar. One trick is that I always flip one wire on the switch so that the 2  Tone controls function on the neck pickup and the bridge pickup. The middle pickup is straight through, with no Tone control. I used to hook it up with the second Tone control functioning on both the middle and bridge pickups, but now I like the middle pickup to be straight through – it works really well when you use the notch position between the middle/bridge pickups. PF and I did a Strat shootout recently and we found that the Tone control on the bridge pickup in some configuration is really a “must” when you get used to having one and hearing the strident tone of even the best Strat bridge pickups when played straight through.

Flip that Middle Pickup Tone to the Bridge Pickup!

Flip that Middle Pickup Tone to the Bridge Pickup!

Since I am a bit of a “hack”, if I detect some binding in the nut after I have properly lubed it, I take it to a luthier. Same with fret issues…

Here’s some eye candy for you… David W.’s ’65 Strat that I owned for many years…




Da ‘Cheap n Cheerful’ Mexican Strat… no ’55 Tele Content!

Heavily Modded Strat from South of the Border (2 borders, actually)

Heavily Modded Strat from South of the Border (2 borders, actually)

I just couldn’t resist when my pal Ronnie Dee offered me this Mexican Strat that he modded with 6100 SS frets, Mojotone steel pole pickups, new pots, blender wired, and locking Gotohs. Just a great axe! In fact, I’ll set up a 2nd pickguard so that I can use this guitar as a platform for my Fishman Fluence pickups. I heard Greg Koch play the Fishmans in a very intimate 20 person demo, and aside from his astounding playing and marvellous/gentlemanly personality, these pickups rocked… plus there was an absurdly low “show special price”… heck I woulda bought them anyway at twice the price!

But for me, there was a “deal-breaker” with this Strat… the impossible orange Urethane neck just felt horrible… sticky, and very unfriendly. Now, being a plastic finish, the only way to deal with it is to get out the sandpaper! So I started with the 100 grit and after 2 hours and 1 water blister later, I was down to a light sanding with 400 grit. So what we have here, if I may jump the gun a bit, is a pretty authentic looking – and feeling (smooth as a baby’s bum and really fast and friendly) “aged” neck. How did I do that?…

The Impossibly orange Urethane Neck Gets a Makeover

The Impossibly orange Urethane Neck Gets a Makeover

So here’s what I did to finish the back of the neck… I went out to the “back 40” with the Strat, and grabbed some wet earth… rubbed it into the neck… then I got some dirty grease from my garage door rollers (no word of a lie!) and rubbed it in… next, a single drop of brown Stew Mac stain… all massaged into the neck. For finish, I used Tung & Teak oil from Home Depot… being careful to let it dry… and then lightly steel wooling (#0000) and polishing between each of the 5 coats. And that’s it! I think it looks pretty authentic… but more importantly… it FEELS great!!!


So My Accountant says: “It’s called a ‘hobby’, not a ‘business’ when you don’t make any money!!!”


Pete, Chris & Hugh sharing the love1

Pete, Chris & Hugh sharing the love1

Having a site to buy and sell guitars has always been a labour of love for me. I’ve met some really cool people and had a chance to lay my hands on some pretty cool geetars and amplificators, for sure. First and foremost, I have always tried to facilitate the deal – to make it happen! I experience these acquisitions vicariously through these deals… and maybe I make a little “scratch” along the way. But the big problem with this is that I love the guitars, the people, and the music they make… too much!  And I just love to play…

So I just haven’t made any money for my time and effort!

For Those Who Like To Rock...

For Those Who Like To Rock…

Anyway, I’d just love to stop and tell you about a new/old “game changer” for me, my recent acquisition, my all original 1955 Fender Telecaster, but we’ll do that in the next post. Where was I?… So anyway, once I buy boxes and pay for the website updates, and pay all the costs… ebay, pay pal, Brokerage fees, etc., I found that the balance sheet… well, had NO balance at all!!! And that doesn’t even include my time!!! So I’ve decided to pack in the sales portion of Blue Hugh Music and to expand the Vintage Gallery and Blog over the coming months… so I can still share the love! And, by the way, the email will remain active and you can still contact me at

In winding down the sales portion of the site, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank a few people: Pete F. for the great logo, Robbie F. at Positive E (and the whole gang at Positive E Solutions) for helping me to make this site a reality… and all the “horse traders” who have made it fun… I can’t name ’em all, but I can name a few… PF, Johnny R. from the windswept prairie as of late, Nige, Ronnie D., Tony F., Chris A., Stephen S., Steve “Rigbyburst” R., Mike B. Tony F., Brian and Richard from the sandbar, Jason “Lemmy” L., Todd L’E., AD, Bill MacM., Brent B., Peeter K., Chad Underwood, Dave C., Esse, Gary C., Jordan J., Kim Lafleur, Mark G., Mike Turk, Peter Swanick, Russ L., Ron Ellis, Steve P S, Ed P., Tony B., Charlie Gelber, Matte H., Walter MacM., Claude on GC, and to James N. for that 55 Tele (I did re-fret and pot the neck pickup, Jim), and to anyone I carelessly left out: Thanks, A. Nonymous!

Now on to geetars! … I always wonder about the comparison between great old vintage guitars and amps and the quality new stuff. We are definitely in a Renaissance period with respect to “new builds” – what with all the introspection regarding pickup construction, wood and design analysis, aging techniques, etc. But, dang!, it’s hard to equal a great – should I say “magical”  – old vintage guitar for the tones they create. My personal collection is about 1/2 and 1/2 vintage to newer builds. And just in case I have to hit you with a ballpeen hammer to point you back to the top of this Blog entry to figure it out… I have recently acquired a stunning 1955 Telecaster that plays 10/10 and sounds 11/10!!! Here’s a little eye candy… and I’ll see you on the next post…

Da '55 Telecaster

Da ’55 Telecaster

Nice wiring there, Gloria!

Nice wiring there, Gloria!




The ’63 Blonde Bassman … the “Setzer” Amp


Famed 1963 6G6B Fender Bassman amp

Famed 1963 6G6B Fender Bassman amp

Being a huge Brian Setzer fan, I have always been interested in the early 60s Blonde Bassman with the solid state rectifier – the 6G6B circuit – the one that Brian Setzer has always favoured. Apparently, the 6G6A circuit had a few bugs, and it is the “B” circuit that fixes all that. I really didn’t expect to own one of these great amps for a while, but it’s certainly been on my radar. The fact that Mr. Setzer has publicly stated that these are his favourite amps, aided by the fact that “his people” buy as many as they can get their hands on, has driven prices up. So I had little hope… Anyway, the other day, one of these amps came up on ebay, and it was located only an hour drive from me! I put in a low bid (the ask was 4k!). Needless to say, I was successful (thanks, Gord!), and in a couple of hours from auction end, I had the the new (to me)amp home!

What I almost always do with old Fender amps, is to take them apart, grab my nylon brush, some Armour All RIM CLEANER, a bucket of hot water, and scrub the Tolex and the grille cloth. The grille actually comes out really well, as it’s a tough synthetic material and it cleans up like new… most of the time, anyway. It’s great to do this on a sunny day so you can dry the cab and head box quickly – particularly the grille. You don’t want this stuff wet for too long. And be careful not to get the paper tube chart wet! Anyway, after an hour or two, my 6.5/10 condition Bassman was now 8/10!

So what’s the story with these amps? Well, you can see from the next pic that there’s a plug where the rectifier tube should be. The SS rectifier gives us a tighter, cleaner tone. I should add that the amp had already been gone thru (and re-capped) by the most excellent amp tech, Tim Dudley at Superfuzz Audio, so I was really pleased about this – added value and a promise of reliability.


Plugging into the Bassman, I was struck by how HUGE the tone was… basically clean at 3-4… BUT HUGE SOUNDING. Of course, the closed back 2 X 12 with a pair of Weber speakers (at 4 ohms) didn’t hurt. Now something I found out was that the “Bass Instrument” channel is basically different in that it has an extra stage of gain, and that some guitar players (yes, this is not considered a bass amp by today’s standards) prefer that channel for it’s lower volume (dunno why it’s quieter, but it is), slightly mushier, rich (cholesterol laden) tone. The “Normal” channel is the classic Bassman sound – nice and tight and chimey and on the clean side – until you get over 5 on the dial… and LOUD (I use an attenuator to knock it down just a tad – maybe 4-8 dB). Another known fact about these amps is that the Treble and Presence controls are very interactive. I found that moving the Treble control from 6-7 changed the whole character of the amp… very useful – and really a huge addition to the versatility of this bad boy!

You can actually get these amps to scream as well… a very convincing AC/DC sound is easily do-able. I’m mighty impressed and I keep saying “best amp I own” with each new acquisition (I said that with my red 1969 Tremolo 50 Marshall – thanks, Nige!)… but, man, this time I MEAN IT!… this may be the best sounding amp I own!!!

Gut shot of the 63 Bassman

Gut shot of the 63 Bassman






Letters From The Tonal Edge – Two “Babes” Get A Makeover

My friend Pete and I just had two Gibson CC#3 Les Pauls made over by Historic Makeovers – in very different ways – here’s our email exchange, with a little Tele love thrown in (Pete traded me a “69” Masterbuilt Paisley Tele with a real ’68 neck that he had installed)…

Two Babes on a bench!

Two Babes on a bench!

Hey Hugh,  A quick review….

Plugged into the Medvick modded Keil.

Looks and finish…..perfect. Nothing much more to say than perfect. This is exactly what I wanted. And it’s got that greenish tinge in person.

Playability……like an old glove…superb !!!! Very similar neck to the Rigby burst but slightly larger…maybe more like the 56′ conversion in size but the carve is the R-B. The action is low and completely even with no buzzing anywhere. It’s so easy to play.

Definitely a big change to the original feel. Not that I didn’t like the original, I just prefer this.

Sound…. Here’s the best part….they don’t sound like Throbak’s. They don’t have that grainy-ness that I’ve heard before. These Throbak/richards pickups are complex. I definitely do not have a set like them. While the readings are 8.0 and 8.3, they sound lower output than that. They have a more low 7’s sort of vibe. And they have their own thing going on. Which is something I like when pickups have a definitive/original signature sound. Their low output allows for sweet chording. And for soloing, they are right on the edge with the Keil turned up to 12 o’clock. You can hear their microphonic nature which allows you to sustain just about any note but, they didn’t squeal. Really nice.

Here’s the rub…..after playing the LP for a while, I plugged in the Lonnie V….I had not plugged it in since getting it back. I was completely bowled over. Why did I ever sell that guitar before ?!?!?! Still has the Sheptone BK’s in it.

Then I plugged the historic Explorer…..I was maybe even MORE knocked out.

So those pickups may not last long in there. I’ll use it (along with the V) tonight and maybe think about alternatives.

Interesting to note the original pickups from the Babe have no markings at all on the bottom. But their propaganda on the Gibson site says they are custom buckers….

“Gibson Custom has accurately recorded the specs of the original PAF humbucking pickups on ‘The Babe,’ and used them to recreate a pair of Custom Buckers used on Collector’s Choice™ #3 1960 Les Paul ‘The Babe’ “.

“Made with Alnico III magnets and accurate numbers of turns of period-correct coil wire, these pickups meticulously recreate the specifications, look, and—most importantly—the tone of the original late-’59 PAF pickups, offering all the characteristic warmth, depth, edge and clarity of some of the greatest pickups ever created.”

Pete's Babe with Horseshoe Bigsby

Pete’s Babe with Horseshoe Bigsby

Here’s my response:

Hey Pete,

Thanks for the review… Here’s mine…

Well, the first thing I have to say is that I can’t put the Paisley Masterbuilt with the real ’68 neck down! The choice of 6100 frets was definitely the way to go! And Russ has created an uber playable neck! I was a little hesitant to put the Duncan Tapped ’53 in the bridge position of the Paisley, but it was definitely the right move! The 5.53k Abby wound pickup had a great Tele twang, but now I have the 6k and 9k bridge – which would sound stellar even with one sound – it’s the Shiznitz! Jeff Beck used that pickup on Guitar Shop – so there’s an endorsement!

The Abby neck pickup is clear and yet punchy, and it works well with the Tapped ’53 – plus it was in phase! Bonus! No work necessary at the pickup wires.

The RS kit with POI cap and great pots gives a nice gradual tone spectrum – a no brainer. Why do they use a crappy ceramic “on/off” sounding cap and a treble bleed cap originally in a very expensive Masterbuilt guitar? But I digress… This is supposed to be about CC#3 “The Babe”.


As you can tell, due to my Tele interest, it’s been tough for me to get to the Historic Makeovers “Babe” RDS Les Paul.

Like your Babe, Pete, the neck on mine really has a silky playability. I did not have the neck carve altered, so it’s the original fatty neck carve – with shoulders – and I love it! – supposedly an accurate repro of the original – so they did make a few fatties for the late 50s Lesters!

The finish and aging are spot on – I’m still fresh from assessing my pal’s REAL ’59 Les Paul, and comparing the two, they have similar vibes. Nice to see an original “in the flesh”. It’s been a while!

I find the Custom Buckers that Gibson put in this Babe to be superb. Of course, I’d heard them prior to sending my guitar to HM, and they seem even more percussive and clear in the newly made over Babe. Like the “Beast” there’s something about the bridge pickup that will do Tele tones, and yet nasty and aggressive ZZish sounds are all there too. Great pickups!

I absolutely love the guitar – Kim and the boys at HM keep up-leveling their game – but you know that!

Since we’ve completely modded these guitars, I figured I’d add a 5 latch repro Caligirl brown case – with the lovely faded pink lining – and I’ll sell the 6 latch custom shop brown case with the hot pink lining!

I have a second Caligirl case for you, Pete, if you want to flip me your custom shop case?

Hugh's finished Babe

Hugh’s finished Babe


Detail 1

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 2

Detail 3

Detail 3

Detail 4

Detail 4

That’s all folks… a tale of 2 Babes!




Finding Your Voice… The RIGHT Guitar

OK, we’re into serious “guitar geek” territory here. But I am talking to the right people here… “singing to the choir” – as they say. Sometimes I forget that not everyone cares about this stuff! After years and years of listening to me go on and on about this stuff, my wife still got the following question wrong in a game of Trivial Pursuit: “The Les Paul is… (a) a Gibson guitar (b) a Fender guitar.” … so not everyone cares about this stuff!

Bashing out the tunes on a Blues gig

Being a gigging musician (when I can get a gig!), I have a chance to run different rigs all the time, and so I get a chance to hear instruments in a band context as well as in the music room. Obviously, different guitars inspire different playing styles as well as taking one into uncharted musical territory. At a recent “Les Paul Fest”, full of both vintage and modern guitars, I earmarked a certain newish Collector’s Choice “Beast” Les Paul for it’s superior tone (yup, it surprised me a bit that a modern Lester can go toe to toe with vintage wood), and I now own it. I have to say that this guitar is so solid in the mid-range (and clear) that rolling back the treble pickup a tad inspires the country boy in me – no need for a Tele! It is also, surprisingly, is also a fairly aggressive and higher output (for a PAF style set of pickups) guitar. I love it! It takes me where I need to go! It inspires a new voice!

The Beast – a new treat from Gibson

It’s interesting that for many years I used to play Strats and nothing but Strats… now I’m seen with my beloved Underwood Tele, a few Lesters, and my workhorse guitars – the DGTs. I won’t spend any more time on the DGT – I’ve done that in several previous posts, but it should suffice to say that the PRS DGT was NOT the intellectual or instinctive choice for me. But man, it sure scratches my itch!!!

I think it’s also worth saying that an integral part of finding your voice with a guitar is finding the amp that works with a particular model of guitar. For example, my Dr Z “Z Wreck” seems to be the perfect amp for a Telecaster… this is no surprise because the first Z Wrecks were built for Brad Paisley. If you are a Tele-meister, I highly recommend the Z Wreck.

Dakota Red Underwood T – as good as it gets!

Da ‘Most Inspiring’ Z Wreck Amplifier

Check out one of these Z Wrecks with your favourite Telecaster… the “Comfort” and “Speed” switch is very cool… it changes the plate voltage of the output tubes for either a stiffer, cleaner, louder tone or a slightly “browner”, richer, softer tone. No, I don’t sell these amps! And you can’t have mine! 🙂

I recently read something about how: “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a guitar… and that’s almost the same thing!”. Find your voice or die trying! Life is good!







Do Those Old Tele and Les Paul Bridge Pickup Tones Really Converge?

Nasty, nasty… Broadcaster bridge pickup

Just as nasty… Lester bridge pickup.

The other day I was watching a clip of Joe Walsh, and then I was struck by something he said: “A great old Tele bridge pickup will sound and feel quite close to a great old Les Paul bridge pickup!”. Right on, I thought! (hey, I’m a child of the 70s culture… I still say “right on”… but, fortunately, I no longer say: “solid”). Anyway, this is something that I myself have come around to over the years – a great old bridge PAF in a resonant piece of wood (that doesn’t weigh a ton!) will have single coil articulation and clarity… but with just enough “fur”. A great old Tele in the bridge position will have the same thing – the clarity you would expect, but with a nice microphonic bite, no harsh trebles, and a bit of fatness in the mids and low end.

As far as traditional guitars go right now, I use Les Pauls and Telecasters – and I think there’s no accident there. There is THE CONVERGENCE of these models. Look at the “Rev” – Lesters and Teles (or Esquires)… not a lot of Strat action there. My tone pal (and general all-round pal) “PF” agrees – it always seems to be the measure of a good Les Paul. Particularly in Gibson-land, the Les Paul sort of became something different from the 50s to the 70s and 80s… and not in a good way. A lot of the younger guys seek out the 70s Les Pauls – maybe due to nostalgia or something, but I wouldn’t seek one out. Oh sure, there are “happy accidents” where a great piece of wood came together with an unusually fussy Gibson factory worker, but generally, I believe the thread was lost (although it may have been recently found again).

’52 Les Paul Conversion with some Sweet PAFs

I guess that’s why we seek out “old wood”… and a killer pair of 50s or early 60s humbuckers… we’re not fooled! We know what a Les Paul CAN sound like! Above is my ’52 Gold Top. Converted and reset neck by Russ L. and then a very cool distressed finish by Kim at Historic Makeovers. Oh sure, it has had the mandatory “Gibson smile” (headstock break), but dang if it doesn’t sound a whole lot like my Underwood Broadcaster when I crank it up!

I should really say that this doesn’t mean that there’s no place for a good old Stratocaster… heck, I’ve had a few myself…

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.