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The Vintage Guitar News and Views.
Authored by Robert G. Mayo, Proprietor of Greg’s guitars.
All the girls I’ve loved (or the ones that got away).
As a vintage guitar dealer, when I am considering making a purchase for inventory, I have to speculate on what may be a strong selling instrument in the future. I have been lucky at times to have purchased guitars by just being at the right place at the right time over the years. Selling these guitars I have found it necessary in growing my business, yet at times it has been difficult to let some of them go to my clientele because, like you, I also have a special place in my life for old guitars and gear. This is probably the hardest part of doing what I do, letting some of my girls go.
So here are a few of the guitars over the years I wish I could have kept and found heartbreaking to watch them go. I started in this business with what, at the time, was an overlooked but not obscure American made line of guitars and acquired quite a collection before I started to offer them for sale to the rest of the world. These guitars were made in Nashville in the 60’s and 70’s at The R.G. and G. factory and were known as The Grammer Guitar. Although I had my selection of the various models the one that still stands out as “the one that got away” was a pristine example in Brazilian rosewood with unusually figured sapwood running along her sides and back creating a stunning guitar. But alas like I stated before, when your in business you have to meet customer demands and this was one of the last Grammer guitars I finally let go of and sold.
Then came “Priscilla”, when I acquired her she had been abused, painted with varnish to ‘protect’ her, the bridge was lifting, she needed a neckset and had some loose braces, but had the most pleasant and pleasing tonal voice, I knew she was going to be special. She had some of the most beautiful slab-cut, cross grained and figured Brazilian rosewood that I just fell in love with. I could tell I wanted her from the start. After she was put back into playable condition she never disappointed me. Everyone that held her fell in love, she just made you smile every time you played her. There was (and still is) something magical about her and to this day I hold all my guitars to the bar she set. Friends would sit anxiously in my living room stealing glances her way until I gave them the approval to pick her up. Finally a good friend on the west coast just had to ask that dreaded question “How much would she really cost me?”. Ahh no not again, why can’t you find another to love? I threw out a price and without hesitation he ponied up and Priscilla was gone. But she still resides right where I sent her and one day she may be mine once again. You’ve heard the saying “If you love something, let it go and one day it will return…” or something to that effect. Oh, Priscilla.
Then when the housing market went belly up and people started panicking, I was flooded with vintage 1950 era Gibson acoustic guitars. L-OOs, J-45s,Country Westerns, I actually ran out of money I was buying so many. Funny how over the years guitars seem to come to me in groups made by the same manufacturer, can’t figure that out but believe me I won't complain one bit.
The one I miss was a true road warrior worn, scarred and ohhh so sweet. I had a client trying various J45s seeking one to add to his collection so naturally I showed him the best ones as I knew he had discerning taste and thought we had finally found the one he desired, when he glanced over to the corner of the shop and there framed in sunlight resting on a guitar stand was “Melinda”. I tried to ignore his flirtatious glances in her direction and keep him focused on the guitar in his hands, as I wanted Melinda all to myself as long as possible, but to no avail. He insisted to see her and I tried kind of nonchalantly to let him know she was in battered and worn shape, rode hard and put up wet and was not in near as good a condition as the guitar he was playing…...it didn’t work, once he strummed her he just gave me that look of discovery, you know that moment when we play a guitar that just has "it" and just like that, Melinda was gone. But like the other guitars in this article ,she is still with my client and, in his own words, "she will be till his dying day". But that is what I do.."I sell Keepers".
As for the “older Ladies” this old gal had it going on for sure. Made in the 1890s by Washburn guitars, she was delicate, ornate, intricate and yet plain all at once. She didn’t have the best voice I have ever heard, but the sheer craftsmanship dedicated to her build was something to be desired.(In a letter from Washburn it was indicated that she was not even the most ornate guitar line they produced during this time period). She was lovely, almost breathtaking all dressed up to the nines and it showed. All her trimmings were done by hand, no CNC machines back then boys. I know I can never replace her, but I may have the option to buy her back as once again she still resides right where I shipped her. After all , “I do sell keepers’.
After my earlier heartbreaks of doing what I do you may be wondering “what about those electric ladies”? Yes, I have also had my share of broken hearts with these girls as well, but my heart has always had a certain fondness for vintage acoustics since that is what I started Greg’s Guitars with so many years ago. I guess the old saying about that first love still holds true.
I would say the first electric guitar I really did not want to part with as soon as I had to was an obscure late 1960 Ibanez electric. She was small, sleek and packed a punch with just the right combination of what were inexpensive parts to make everything fall into place just right. A cheap top loading ashtray bridge, body mounted single coil pickups with slugs of cobalt infused alnico magnets to really cut through a mix. Her neck profile was 50’s chunky and the slab or Brazilian rosewood for her fingerboard was at least 3/8ths of an inch thick. Several friends also agreed that she was the most “in tune” guitar they had ever played all the way up and down her neck. This girl went to the M.I.M in Arizona where she resides for all the world to see.
I have also been lucky enough to have more than my fair share of 1950 era Gibson electric guitars and the one that still haunts me to this day was “Jenny” a 1961 Gibson ES 345 Stereo model that was as near mint as I have seen and she did put the A** in P.A.F.
Smooth little lady here guys, very articulate voice and well rounded just like a fitness model in a small bikini, she made you breathe just a little heavier and she made my heart skip a beat every time I held her! These don't come around often and how I wish she would have been able to stay.
I knew just as soon as I saw this next girl that she was not going to stay very long and that saddened me to the nth degree.
She was too perfect, too complete and well, just way out of my league. I fell in love the very first time we met and she had my heart and knew it. She was blonde bombshell with all the right accessories and straight out of a 1960 centerfold.
She was gone before I even had time to kiss her.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not complaining about how fortunate I have been with my girls and I am humbled by those of you whom I have dealings with in helping you to locate that perfect girl for your very own stable. It is all part of what I do and I am fortunate to have owned or sold so many fantastic guitars over the years, but from time to time it is nice to kick back and reminisce, lost in yesterday and all the girls that I have loved. So until the next time, may all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killa. Greg at Greg’s Guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views.
What’s with brands branching out to reach potential market shares?
I understand most companies try to diversify to grab their share of customers in an ever
decreasing market base, but when companies diversify too much, stray too far from the
products that made them stand out in the first place, I don’t understand. With that said, I think
the opposite to be more productive as far as instruments go, specifically guitars.
To illustrate this think back to a time when small independent luthiers started making stringed instruments here in the U.S.
Concentrating on their strengths some also produced banjos, mandolins, and violins as well as performed repair work on these instruments, but I don't believe they diversified so much by also producing pianos, harps, harmonicas and other instruments now did they? No, they stuck to what made them successful and to their strengths as stringed instrument builders, even as the market shifted and new products became available.
As time marched on, these small shop luthiers were employed by larger companies as skilled craftsmen and smaller or faltering companies were purchased to decrease competition by what would eventually be a limited number of larger more focused instrument manufacturers.
Then comes the other revolution in the marketplace, the electric guitar. With the upstart of that west coast guitar maker, suddenly instrument manufacturers were faced with a choice, stay with what made them who they were or continue to diversify to fill the growing demands of consumers. Some companies stayed with the tried and true and continue to this day, while others started branching out into the unknown (for better or for worse as time would tell). Understandably this was a new market and certain failures were bound to happen as strategies were tested and products were designed to hopefully meet the consumers needs, but that is where I believe things started to go wrong. Over time, with increasing competition from within companies in the United States and then from overseas competition, companies started losing their focus on what products made them stand out and be successful and started trying to capture a shrinking market in a crowded field. By this I mean that some manufacturers make phenomenal electric guitars but have no business in the acoustic market and vice versa. Companies that started with stellar, sought after instruments suddenly started making cheaper versions to fill the consumer gaps and in effect started diluting what made them stand out in the ever increasing competitive market. This mudpuddle of choices, where many companies started offering too many choices of often very similar products, had them losing their status of what made them who they were in the first place. I understand manufacturers wanting to offer what they see as a demand from their customer base but I do not really understand the mindset of trying to offer everything imaginable under the sun just to compete. This was one lesson I thought would have been learned during the import invasion of inexpensive guitars, when we almost lost what is undeniable an American institution (guitars) by companies trying to compete and diversifying so much that all was almost lost. It is in my humble opinion that history seems to be repeating itself in the present guitar manufacturing market, With each company offering a limitless choice in similar products and these same companies seemingly forgetting what made them stand out from the beginning of their inception. It appears to me that more and more smaller manufacturers and failing companies are being consumed by larger manufacturers and then the continued effort by these fewer large instrument manufacturers vying to compete in the market offering too many ingredients in an ever decreasing slice of the pie. But this after all is my opinion, so in closing, “May all your day be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer” Until next time, Greg at Greg’s guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views © by Greg’s Guitars.
From the very beginning there has been change in the guitar industry, some of these changes are for the good and some not so much. This month we will explore some of these changes and what impact (if any) they may have had. First let us look at some changes (or evolutions) undergone with Fender guitars in their early days. As noted in historical accounts, Leo’s single cutaway, non-contoured body, double pickup electric guitar underwent changes, through user input as well as R&D, to evolve into what later, would not just be a refinement but also a separate guitar altogether. The contoured bodied, double cutaway, triple pickup electric guitar named the Stratocaster. Be it by design or mistake, Leo and company, in changing their product to meet the needs (and input) from various sources both inside and outside the fledgling company, undoubtedly created two of the most iconic electric guitars still being copied to this day.
So in this case “change” was good. As time progressed and guitar companies morphed into things larger than expected, other changes were on the horizon. With the sale of Fender and production on a larger scale to meet the demands of orders, some cost cutting procedures were set in place. Now on paper and in a production setting, with the introduction of CNC machines, these changes appeared to solve one problem, yet they created others. Since CNC machines were in their infancy, the programs and tooling did not exist to produce guitars that were true to the earlier models and the result of body contours, neck pockets and even routing changes were drastic. These changes although good in some respect for being able to meet demands, were not good in the final product, and it would take decades for the machinery and programs to catch up to what was expected in quality of the final product. Today almost all large guitar companies employ the use of CNC machines in one aspect or another to mass produce their basic stock for final products and this today is seen as a good thing by most, but its lineage can be traced to the earlier days of change when things were not so good.
At Gibson, under Ted McCarty, there were also changes in their solid bodied electric guitar evolution. The first versions had a trapeze style tailpiece that were used on their other Gibson guitars in production, in an effort to catch up with those California guys.This change was to the dismay of most players. The first change to address that was the installation of a tailpiece that acted as a string anchor as well as a bridge, or the “wraptail” as it is referred to today, an improvement? Yes it was, but was not a final solution as the next change was the advent of a string anchor tailpiece and a separate bridge that could not only be adjusted for height but also had individual string saddles for setting intonation or the “ABR” as it is called.
For the most part the latter change is optimal for the Gibson guitars, but to this day many players still prefer the one piece “wraptail” bridge system. We also see a change in pickup configuration and design, from a single coil P90 to the advent of the hum canceling double bobbin or “humbucking “ pickup to a more drastic change (due to availability ) the “mini” humbucking pickups and then back to the traditional size humbuckers, all changes to their guitar to meet the needs of players and in some cases to meet the needs of production (management).
Other changes that were not as well received (again due to a change in ownership) was the introduction of maple necks not traditionally seen on the Les Paul model, multi-piece necks (which for the most part had always been used on higher end guitars produced by Gibson, but again a non-traditional look for the Les Paul), and changes to the pitch angle to the headstock, I assume not because of breakage problems but more for efficiency in production and using smaller pieces of stock wood inventory. There were even multi-piece or “sandwich/ pancake” bodies where several piece of mahogany (and sometimes maple) were glued together to construct the main body before the maple veneer top was applied. Why this was done is still in speculation. I speculate that most of these changes were due to cut waste as the guitar boom was in full throttle mode and I assume woods were becoming harder to secure. Therfore instead of scrapping unusable wood, these procedures were installed to utilize all of the natural inventories into the production of a finished product. Today that could be seen as “staying green” or conserving natural resources, but when they were first introduced it was more of a WTF moment for sure.
So in change we can look back nostalgically on the boom era as dark days in terms of “purity” but we also have to consider that sometimes change comes about in order for survivability for a company and it takes time for an initial change to become practical in terms of technological advances in the production areas to catch up with the visionary outlook of things to come.
In my own mind, yes I would love to see the days of human hands producing every part of every guitar that is sold, but I also know in today's market that is not a possibility in means of cost per unit, which is what brought about many changes in the past. Staying alive meant change.
So until next time... May all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true, and all your riffs be killer. Greg at Gregsguitars.net
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars.
A Look at Fender amps.
Most of if not all amps produced either in the past or present owe a majority of their lineage to the amps first created by Leo Fender. Many people already know this but there are always new members joining the ranks of guitarists and collectors who may not. I will provide a basic timeline for some of the changes that Fender amps underwent through the years. There has been a large volume of material that covers this subject and while by no means is this article meant to be all inclusive I hope to provide the basic information, the meat and potatoes if you will,so that you may at the very least be familiar with the subject.
In 1946 Leo fender starts the Fender manufacturing company and in 1947 was renamed The Fender Electric Instrument Company.By no means was this the first attempts by Leo in electronics but this is where we will begin.Leo's first amps of this era were made of wood without any outer cabinet covering and earned the name "woodies" in collectors circles. Made from leftover wood including the handles, most of these amplifiers have 2 to 3 inputs and 2 volume knobs with 1 tone knob.
The next improvements were made during 1947 when an outer covering of white material that was used to dress up the cabinets. This progressed to a yellowish covering that we now refer to as "tweed".Several variations of "tweed" were utilized at Fender. The earliest was a lighter color and is seen on the "TV panel" amplifiers and two tone covered amplifiers built by Fender and continued in production until the mid 1960's.Most of the control panels were located on the rear of these amps and subsequently moved up to the top of Fender amps.
During 1953 Fender placed upper and lower front panels on their amps with a wide tolex covered strip above and below the speaker grill cloth, these amps are commonly referred to as "wide panel " amplifiers.It was during this time period that yet another update to the outer covering of Fender amplifiers were made.Leo was never one to be completely satisfied with his products and always strived if not to reinvent them , at least redress them to keep his products fresh in the consumers eyes.During the mid 1950's he once again changed the front panels of his amplifiers . Replacing the wide upper and lower panels with a narrow panel strip thus enlarging the grill cloth areas to possibly make his amplifiers appear to be more powerful and larger .It was also during this time that Leo released a very rare version of his amplifiers referred to as the "White " amps. A rare steel guitar , amplifier line that also included the name badge "White" as opposed to the normal Fender badge.This was a line meant to pay homage to a friend of Leo Fender's.
During 1959 tweed covering on Fender amplifiers started a transition into a covering more durable and is commonly referred to as tolex.From the early days is was a light brown (almost pink) covering and transitioned into a darker brown color with a darker grill
cloth. These amplifiers are now referred to as "Blonde" and "Brownie" amps.The amps also started appearing with round control knobs and a rubber "dogbone" handle. Never satisfied Fender also started producing separate "piggyback" models where the chassis and controls were placed in a separate unit to sit on top of stand alone cabinet speaker enclosures.Controls for most amplifiers began migrating to the front panels of amplifiers from the top of the amplifiers.
During the early 1960's the plate of the control panels for most amps begin to be made with black backgrounds,black knobs and white numbers and lettering as well as changing the outer covering once again to a black tolex material.A more silver colored grill cloth is used during this time frame as well as "dogbone" handles being replaced with a flat rubber handle with silver end caps.These amps are commonly referred to as the "Blackface " Fender models.
Along this time ( 1964 ) Leo Fender sells his company to "CBS" . It is argued that the changes that occurred after this time were not as well received , but that is another story. In approximately 1966 solid state amplifiers begin to appear in the Fender lineup. Changes made to the outer cosmetics also being to appear, the most common is the change from black control faceplates to a silver faceplate control panel with blue lettering and numbers, hence the term "silverface" comes into being. Also skirted knobs and a blue and silver grill cloth is utilized to aging separate the new line of amplifiers from the older lineups.
Fast forward to the 1980's and Fender almost ceases to exist. In 1985 Fender is bought back by a group of investors led by William Schultz and employees at Fender. The move is made to Corona ,California ,red knobs appear on amp control panels,blackface amps make a comeback, solid state amplifiers resurface , albeit for the better.During the 1990's push buttons,gain channels,on board effects,push pull knobs and master volume controls in one configuration or another appear on Fender amplifiers. In the later part of the 1990's Fender revisits their own roots ,question themselves and reissues the amplifier models that made them the leader to begin with. Both as a means to reestablish their leadership role and regain control of the amplifier market that Leo and family had built to begin with.Fender comes full circle back to their roots and the beginning of a new era.
Now I know I did not include schematic changes,tube changes and other applications in this article,nor did I even begin to scratch the surface in amplifier models that were produced by Fender, this is just a basic time frame reference to initiate the beginner or re educate the seasoned collector and other articles will follow on specifics in the future.Fender amps have evolved ,some for better some for worse, but I am truly amazed at the products that Leo has given us ,their history and heritage as well as the multitude of spin off products that they have inspired and will continue to inspire in amp builders both yesterday and tomorrow.
As always this is just my news and views .So until next time, may all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer, Greg at Greg's guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars.
The Les Paul
With the introduction of the solid body electric guitar by Fender ,CMI was now faced with competition not only in the archtop line of guitars with rival Epiphone but also by the solid body guitar as introduced by Leo Fender and his upstart guitar manufacturing facilities located in California and making inroads into the "new" solid body electric guitar market in the early 1950's.
I think it t can be safely said that the iconic guitars developed by both Leo Fender and CMI and Ted McCarty along with Mr. Les Paul are today still the most copied guitar designs ever produced.By just glimpsing the silhouette of the Telecaster,Stratocaster and Les Paul model these guitars can be identified by most players and collectors today which in my opinion states that they must have gotten something very right from the onset .
The Les Paul Model electric guitar although it has gone through several design changes as well as upgrades still retains in most models the same characteristics as the originally designed model(s). So lets take a peek at some of the known historical facts on these iconic American electric solid body guitars.
The Les Paul model was first introduced in 1952 with a scale length of 24 3/4 inch and still retains that scale today.It is a single cutaway body with a mahogany back and carved maple top. Interesting enough it should be noted here that the first prototype versions of CMI's design were not produced with a carved top and resembled what would eventually become the Les Paul junior with a flat faced design. CMI is noted as experimenting with many different wood combinations and grain cut construction finally deciding on a mahogany back and set mahogany neck with what CMI referred to as a carved maple veneer top, both for favorable weight as well as more sustain. CMI along with Ted McCarty approached Les Paul with the idea of placing a carved or bellied top on the guitar to keep in the Gibson tradition of producing an elegant and more sophisticated guitar ,that and Ted noted the Fender electric guitar was deemed a less sophisticated body style featuring a bolt on neck and rather plain flat faced or slab bodied guitar and that would resonate with players as a more quality instrument. The choice to retain a set neck on the Les paul was another stab at inferior quality and construction as well as keeping the image of CMI and Gibson as a more quality instrument.
The first variants of the Les Paul were produced in gold top and all gold models that were offered colors up until 1958. They had P90 soapbar single coli pickups as well as a combination bridge tailpiece or trapeze tailpiece. Earlier versions of the P90 covers saw diagonal screws on the bridge cover. The earliest versions had unbound necks and all had the crown inlays.By mid 1952 the neck was bound and the pickup cover screws were located between the pole pieces of the pickups.
By 1953 the trapeze tailpiece was replaced by the stoptail or "stud" tailpiece/bridge that Ted McCarty patented. The neck angle on these models was still slightly shallow and was not properly corrected until the early part of 1954 and this variation was produced up until 1955.
In late 1955 the stoptail piece was again replaced by the now ever present Tune O Matic bridge and stop tail which many consider the most collectible of the early Les Paul as far as vintage guitars are concerned (1955-1959).
In 1957 aided by Seth Lover the first "humbucking" equipped Les Paul guitar entered the market. Several of the guitars have been noted as being constructed with a mahogany carved top as opposed to the standard maple carved top.
1958 saw the end to the "goldtop" finish and a more traditional Gibson trademark sunburst finish was applied. Also the body and neck received a red stain. In 1960 the single cut Les Paul was discontinued as a regular production guitar and was replaced with a double cutaway redesigned body that would eventually become the SG.The Les Paul single cut would once again be produced as a reintroduced model in 1968.
Now it should be noted that the Les Paul Custom, which is the black finished single cut Les Paul model still was produced with roughly four different variations in design.
From 1954 through 1957 the Les Paul Custom had 1 alnico neck pickup and one P90 bridge pickup.
In 1957 the Les Paul Custom received three humbucking (P.A.F.) pickups.
In 1961 the Les Paul Custom also received the double cut new body design.
In 1963 the guitar was renamed the SG Custom.
In 1968 The single cut Les Paul Custom again was produced.
Again this is not a definitive all inclusive history of the iconic Les Paul solidbody electric guitar and this article has been compiled from various online and printed publications.For more in depth reading I suggest Gibson Electrics "The Classic Years" by A.R. Duchossoir as well as Gibson Guitars "Ted McCarty's Golden Era by Gil Hembree as well as many other fine publications on the history of CMI,Gibson and the Les Paul. With that being said as always Keep your riffs killer...Greg.
When most people think of amps of any era they usually think Fender, with that said let me introduce to you a lesser but in some ways better amp, Gibson amps. Many may not know that Gibson began producing amplifiers in the 1930's 19 or so years before Fender even existed. With their line up of the "EH" amplifiers starting in 1935 Gibson produced amps ranging from 8 to 15 watts with 10 inch field coil speakers and no volume or tone controls,later in 1941 the wattage was bumped up to 15 watts with 12 inch speakers and controls for both volume as well as tone,the bass control was also added during this time.After world war II when material restrictions were lifted a new "BR" series amp was added to the Gibson lineup,these amplifiers were produced until 1954 - 1955.
Then we enter into what I like to think of as the golden age of Gibson amps ,starting in 1949 with the production of the GA series amplifiers.The Ga 18,Ga19,Ga20,Ga40 and GA 200 being personal favorites of mine from this era, These Ga Gibson series amps are often less expensive than their Fender counterparts of the era and offer tight,clear response with excellent breakup when cranked past 5 on the volume control,whereas Fender amps often remain cleaner the Gibson amp offers the growl and roar that many players seek.
The 1960's Gibson amps had names such as "Raider", "Skylark", "Lancer",and "Maestro" attached to them and even though they were not (IMO) as killer tonally as the 50 era Gibson amps they still offer great tones with minimal modifications and hold their own in the players world.
Some of the drawbacks to the Gibson line of amps are the facts that many changes occurred often within not only the same years they were produced but also within the same model lines and these changes often go unnoticed and not even promoted with Gibson literature and sales brochures.
Hundreds of Gibson amp models have been produced over the last 78 years and I have found the most extensive list of these amps on the internet located at the "Gibson Garage Amps" website. Although not all inclusive a further attempt at documenting Gibson amplifiers ha been undertaken by Wallace Mark Jr. in a recent book he has written on Gibson amps.
Gibson amps pretty much went to obscurity from the late 1960's until Gibson relaunched their "Super Goldtone" line in the mid 1990's. These Super Goldtone amps are some of the best amps(IMO) to have been produced as of late, The halfstack Super Goldtone with a head featuring a clean as well as a gain channel and a cabinet featuring 2 ten inch speakers open backed and 2 twelve inch speakers in a closed back configuration simply rock ! The combo versions have two different speaker configurations , one being 2x12 and the other 1X10 and 1X12 with the control panel on the top of the amp and the chassis layout similar to the Bassman amps are hard to beat, with the optional and very much needed 5 way control switch allowing the blending of both channels is what makes these amps open up and drip with tone(s). I have seen several combo versions where the control panel was located on the back and bottom of the amp as well as the chassis ,I do not recommend these versions , in my opinion they are inferior amps, I have also seen single speaker smaller amp versions of the Goldtone series and these also are not in my opinion desirable as far as their line goes.
Also noted is the Epiphone versions of the vintage Gibson produced amps (Gibson owned Epiphone), These amps are the same as their Gibson counterparts with just the Epi badge and some cosmetic differences and usually cost less than their Gibson counterpart and should not be overlooked when your in the market for a vintage amp .I personally favor the 1950 era Gibson amps or their cost as well as their tone and have several in my collection as well as several of the Super Goldtone amps from the 1990's. So if your looking for a vintage amplifier that is less expensive and offers great tonal variety ,look no further than the Gibson and Epiphone amps.
Parts is Parts ?
Why are some guitar tops painted and some guitar tops plain? Why do some builders use polyurethane paints and some guitar builders use nitrocellulose paints? Is the reissue bug just a fad or craze ?Are older guitars really better? In the later issues of The Vintage Guitar News and Views I said to ask questions and boy have I been hammered ! It has been a phenomenal response from you the readers and I thank all of you for your questions.So as to some of the questions you the readers have asked ,let me try to give what I believe are reasonable answers.
Why are some guitar tops painted and some not ? I believe it has nothing to do with tone or sound (duh) it is about the aesthetics of color for the buying public as well as a way for builders to hide imperfections in the wood and to be able to splice several pieces of wood together to complete a top. I know ,your top should be 1 or 2 pieces of wood joined at the center seam but even as far back as the 50's companies have had to use all the wood they could for their products ,they never imagined that we would be all freaky about this sort of thing 50 years later.It just make plain good business sense to utilize all the woods available and to hide these seemingly imperfections with paint. Personally I covet the mismatched, wood grained, mineral stained, unflamed tops myself.
Now "pretty" wood such as flame, fiddleback,curly,bear claw and the like are perceived to be more pleasant to look at and (now at least) they are not covered up with paint. At one time though some of the prettiest tops I have seen were "uncovered" during a restoration or conversion and rescued from under the painted tops that were hiding them.
But these types of tops can now command a higher price tag and are displayed behind a clear ot more transparent finish rather than hidden away never to be seen. All at the same time by creating a larger buying market and even so much as creating smaller "divisions" among the market base of clients .I will leave that subject alone for now and leave it to many a articulate or even imbibed discussion amongst yourselves.
Poly finish or Nitro? To me the best ,well one of the best smells there are is when you pop open a guitar case and the smell of nitro permeates the room. That unmistakable smell is what makes this question kinda hard, you see nitro never really cures fully and is in a constant state of evaporation from the moment it is applied to the day it returns to sawdust with that old guitar.
I like nitro on all my acoustics as I do believe it does, as time passes contribute to the opening up of the tonal qualities as many people subscribe to. On electric guitars I think the switch to a poly finish was as mentioned by others before me a decision to make the finish on the guitar harder and last longer without fade, a protectant and a cost cutting decision for the production plants as poly dries faster and more guitars can be made to sell.As far as sound qualities on the electric guitars? Well there have been a whole lot of sweet sounds and great players that played those poly coated beauties now haven't there? Some poly coats seemed to fare better than others and the reissues from overseas tend to age and pock just a little differently than their American counterparts. Why? I do not know, they just "relic" differently.
Which brings up the next topic,the relic craze. Nostalgia? The bygone days of youth when you first started playing ? From the mildly and elegantly understated aged guitars that are made by master builders and custom shops which are limited in run and will possibly retain and gain in value to the obviously overdone relics that look "cookie cutter made" all intended to stir these emotions in the consumers.
Truthfully, do some play better or sound better than others? You bet they do. Limited runs and custom reliced guitars are more hand crafted and have more attention to detail even when it comes to aging the parts and pieces that make of our lovely ladies. Where the mass produced guitars all look the same and are more budget priced, they seem to just use the standard parts and pieces, and if one plays better or sounds better ,lucky you.
Which brings us to the next subject. Are old guitars better? Hmmm ,gotta pick my words carefully here.Well some of the appointments look better, I mean I'll take cloth covered wiring and paper caps over plastic any day, but today's wiring is probably better made and the shielding is superior but then again isn't it the quirks that make guitars so lovable? Pickups are next, I mean a good pickup will make any guitar sound better and a bad pickup will make good guitar sound lousy and I am sticking to that statement.I prefer older alnico magnets to today's blends and ceramics ,nope ain't gonna do it. Appointments? well the old parts do seem to get real brittle and crumble to dust and often need replacing, personally I prefer steel tuning keys over others and multi-ply covers and guards over the older single ply material,but that is just my preference.
Which brings us to the bare bones of any guitar,the wood used. I do think older wood is better, and older guitars are made of superior wood in my opinion, not that the wood is actually better but more the process of air drying for years wood that gets cut and air dries for years more stored on racks and shelves then is made into various parts of a guitar and again sits until orders are placed or new models are designed and then the wood was hand caressed into works of art, that's what I mean by old wood. Todays guitars are being shaped as the axemen strip the branches from the trunks of the trees, green wood being forced kiln dried and mass produced to be shaped and shipped to the consumer. I cringe every time I see a "modern " guitar assembly plant in operation on tour videos, I understand the economics and the tighter tolerances touted, but it just ain't the same as far as I can tell. The marriage of certain parts and pieces seem to be another quandary to amuse all of us guitar nuts.Think about it , most of the guys we idolize play guitars that are made from several different guitar, which dispels the myth of certain era guitars being better than others now doesn't it? Take "Blackie" and Duane's Burst , parts guitars........We all know that certain points have counterpoints and in the guitar world the greatness lies in the diversity, we as guitar lovers want to spend our money on something we can hold,touch,feel,smell,play and admire for all our own reasons and that makes us all part of this huge family no matter what we think individually about certain brands,makes,parts or pieces,diversity is the key because if all guitars are eventually created equal then we would all own the same guitar and it would be like every other guitar on the planet, well except for the color..........Till next month may all your days be memorable ,all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer.
Fender ,The Company that almost ceased to exist By Greg's Guitars, The Vintage Guitar News and Views.
For the uninitiated , Fender guitars almost ceased to exist , at least a made in the U.S.A. Product in the mid 1980's. Yes that's right ,the guitars that started it all ,the guitars that most of us love almost became something of the past.How you may wonder? Well After the tumultuous 1970's and early 1980's at Fender the corporation that owned Fender (CBS) decided to sell the brand. Rumor has it after the Fender brand was offered on the chopping block there were no serious takers and the few takers that there were wanted to ship all production overseas. That's where William Schultz stepped up with a group of employees and investors and rescued our beloved Fender from virtual extinction.
William ( Bill ) Schultz was no newcomer to the guitar industry, He arrived at fender in early 1981 a veteran from Yamaha and immediately started the transformation at the then CBS factory to try and turn around a declining guitar market that had been flooded with overseas cheap instruments as well as turn around the declining conditions at Fender. So the Fender name machinery and inventory was secured but no plant to produce guitars was included in the deal. The hunt was on for a relocation of the factory from the Fullerton location to what would be to Corona California. During the move there were some inventory being sold from left over stock but the bulk of all of Fenders sales was from the Japan factory for late 1984 and 1985.
Rumor has it that Bill took some of the key employees to the Japan fender factory (who at that time was building rather good guitars) and stated" This is what we have to do back home to stay competitive and stay alive, now I can't verify that but it does seem plausible as the guitars coming from the factory in Japan were solid guitars and better than what were being produced t the time at CBS . So much so that it is interesting enough that as soon as production was warping up in the Corona factory the Japan factory produced guitars no longer carried "Fender" on the headstock as it was replaced with "Squire" .
So with the saving graces from Bill Schultz ,employees and select investors Fender remained not only a U.S. company but also remained on U.S. soil, which I hear was well received at the NAMM show at the time. All I can say from where I sit is that I am thankful that Bill and the boys had the gumption an fortitude to bite off more than what they could chew and not only save an iconic American company from extinction but restructure and resurrect the company into what it once was, a trendsetter and innovative guitar manufacturer that to this day still carries on the traditions that Leo started back in 1946.
Got Issues ?
Well you have been pouring over guitars for sale ads and trying to determine what it is you're really looking at when you're reading them . This edition of The Vintage Guitar News and Views we will try to clarify what some "issues" are and what can be determined as not and "issue". We will be looking at this from the standpoint of a guitar being sold as " an original" because you can have an original 1960 era guitar ,but it could have non original or replaced parts as well as a few repairs and still retain all it's vintage vibe.Sure it should be priced lower than a 100 percent all original model of the same make that has not ever had nor needs any repairs and these items should be disclosed or made available to you before your purchase.
First let's look at electric guitars, now I am not talking about new guitars or even custom shop or reissue guitars. What I am talking about throughout this article is guitars that are 20 or more years old. O.K. now that that has been addressed let's move right along.
In my opinion an "issue" is a major alteration or a problem that has NOT been addressed ,NOT a normal playing repair that has been addressed with the appropriate and correct solution to the problem.
You read a listing that states ...1960 so and so electric guitar for sale ,All original but...The "but " part is what you have to look at. Starting at the headstock,if the neck has been broken ,that is an issue and not a "normal" playing repair although it is not unusual for a headstock or neck to get broken it is in the eyes of the guitar world an issue. New nut ? Not an issue,this is a solid repair or needed item ,especially if the guitar is not offered as 100 per cent all original has been played and the old or original nut was slotting to deep or causing tuning problems. Sometimes the original nut slots can be filled in with bone dust and slotted which would be more desirable than a replacement nut for sure.But not an issue or deal breaker.
Frets ? I would rather have a guitar with appropriately replaced good frets than a guitar with worn out frets,so if the frets are worn out and make the guitar play poorly that would be an issue,but as for a refretted guitar I consider that a needed repair.Any routes on the guitar in my opinion is an issue.If a pot has been replaced,well electrical components wear out or go bad ,so I would consider this a needed repair and not an issue ,unless of course all the pots were changed out especially if they have several different pots or several differently dated pots,that may be an issue. What about pickup changes ? Well replaced pickups are an issue,rewound original pickups that utilize the original plates,magnets, and bobbins are less of an issue as long as they were rewound using the correct method and gauge wire as well as hopefully reusing the lead wires as well and can probably be considered a repair.
Refinished , stripped or just plain old painted guitar bodies (or necks) are an issue that should be disclosed as well.
How about acoustic guitars ? These are easier as far as I am concerned, again a neck or headstock break no matter how expertly repaired are issues in my opinion. Any repair that is needed and NOT addressed are issues,any repairs such as refret jobs,loose braces,lifting or reset bridge(s) or body cracks that have been correctly repaired are not issues in my book . How about replaced tuners ? Gray area here as many tuners that were replaced probably needed to be due to age or the inability to hold a guitar in tune well. It would not be an issue on acoustics or electric guitars as long as the parts were the same as the originals were,but then again most replaced tuners were different than the originals and since the 2 or 3 most widely used tuners were used on all makes of guitars at one point or another this should be addressed but not necessarily an issue,unless of course the headstock was damaged or the tuning post holes improperly enlarged in the course of the change. If a bridge has been replaced with the correct material,possibly a vintage bridge from another guitar of the same make and model ,shares the exact same footprint then I don't see an issue as long as it is disclosed,the same goes with replacing a cheaper plastic adjustable bridge with a more suitable rosewood bridge. Cracks as long as they have been addressed and properly repaired are not issues in my book. A reset neck you say ? Well I would rather have a guitar that has had an appropriate neck set myself as this is one repair that most all acoustic guitars will at some point in their life need and should be seen as more of keeping the entire guitar playable rather than a distraction from purchasing. Remember make sure any normal repair has been addressed in the appropriate manner and in the general scheme of things and have been disclosed to you and you should come out with a good purchase and a healthy guitar.Of course any items that are suspect or need to be repaired should be at the very least looked at by a professional repair person for clarification and cost(s) before you make a purchase just to be on the safe side. Most guitar dealers list an item pretty honestly and disclose what they think have been repaired as well as what may or may not be original from the factory on said guitar, but it is up to you the consumer to ask for any clarification .Most guitar dealers do ask that you give them a call,this is not a sales ploy (on my behalf anyway ) to get you on the phone but rather an attempt to be able to give you an accurate hands on description of the guitar in question and to ease any concerns and answer all of your questions honestly and not have to rely on an email that may or may not contain all the information that an actual visual real time inspection may give.
So until next time ,may all your days be memorable,all your friends stay true and may all your riffs be killer. Greg's Guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views ,Greg's Guitars.
Martin Guitar Information.
Most guitar companies have for the most part kept records of production ,unfortunately incomplete would be the best description of these records with the exception of one small but albeit giant company,Martin guitars. Martin guitar company can trace most every guitar it has made since 1898 and well, that is pretty good record keeping by anyone's standards. How important is this ? well knowing that there are accurate records of production numbers for a given model of guitar as well as since the 1930's the serial numbers are also recorded helps to establish serious provenance of any given instrument and it also helps you in identifying almost any Martin guitar ever made and how many were manufactured as well as the years of manufacturing for that model. Pretty impressive I think, as all this can come into play when you decide to sell your Martin guitar or when you are looking to purchase a very rare or limited production model Martin.
Martin has tried to keep this system relatively simple in nature with regards to model numbers and suffix designations as example the A suffix denotes ash and the C suffix denotes a cutaway body style, MB denotes maple binding and so forth. At last count I believe that Martin has or has used 43 separate suffix designations and at least 29 different model style designations, daunting but at least consistent which is more that can be said for other guitar manufacturers.
Luckily Martin guitars have a two part model designation separated by a hyphen, the first being the size of the guitar the second being the body style of the Martin guitar, where a 00-18 would be a 00 body size and the 18 being the style of the guitar followed by the suffix designation within each separate body size,i.e. 00-18C would indicate a sized 00,style 18 and C for classical guitar.Martin guitar record keeping also includes the chronology of their production for their guitar (the year(s) a certain guitar was or was not offered) .
In general terms Martin guitars can be laced into at least 1 of 3 period production areas. Period number 1 were the Martin guitars made between 1833 and 1898, these guitars usually have light tops and are not sized larger than the OOO size guitars, they usually have no serial number no fingerboard inlays and no truss rod. The second period of Martin production were from 1898 to 1931.These guitars usually have a serial number on the guitar itself and many do not have a pick guard, they also have the C.F.Martin designation on the headstock and the "D" sized guitar were not yet into production. Last but not least the third era of Martin guitars were produced from 1932 to the present day. All of these guitars were seldom made without a pick guard, they all have serial numbers and and most importantly is the fact that they all (with few exceptions) are numbered consecutively, usually stamped inside the body or neck block for flattops and the center seam for their arch top guitars.
So in conclusion it is nice to know that my 1985 D-21-LEV is made of Indian rosewood with herringbone sound hole ring complete with tortoise binding and tortoise pickguard, it has a sweet vee neck and is one of only 75 produced for that year and I know all this because of the fact that Martin guitars excellence in record keeping.So my hat is off to Martin guitars for making things a little easier when it comes to the daunting task of guitar identification. So until next most may all your days be memorable ,all your friend stay true and all your riffs be killer.