Who Are Mr Hughes And Mr Kettner?

Introduction

Don’t those blue lights just look cool? If only more companies understood that an amp not only needs to sound great, but its got to look great as well. So who are Hughes and Kettner? No one. Wait, what?

Hughes and Kettner, A Brief History

Hughes and Kettner was founded in Neunkirchen, Germany in 1984. I must admit that as I began my research for this article I was quite surprised to learn that Hughes and Kettner were a 34 year old company. The company was founded by Hans and Lothar Stamer. Why then is the company called Hughes and Kettner? Well, quite simply because Hughes and Kettner sounds way cooler than Hans and Lothar. It was a strategic, well thought out name. In fact from day one Hans and Lothar set out on a journey, a mission if you will, to create an amplifier that combined a set of specific tones. Such as the chime of a glockenspiel, the snarl of a junkyard dog, the seductiveness of a sirens song, the rush of a freight train, well, you get the idea. The bottom line, they wished to create an amp with soul. They also dreamed of an all in one amplifier that offered great tones and programmable onboard effects. In 1985 this dream was realized with the very first Hughes and Kettner amp, the AS64. The AS64 was a technical marvel for its time. Not only did it offer a wide range of tones and digital effects, but it was also a tube amp. Upon hearing the AS64, it‘s astounding how great it sounds. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it could easily compete with many of today’s hybrid amps. 

Throughout the years Hughes and Kettner have continued to blaze a trail of innovation and great tone. However, in 1995, a major breakthrough was made when Hughes and Kettner released the Triamp MK1. It offered 13 tubes and sought to combine three amps in one. Offering the player a vast range of tones, from blues to metal. 

The 34 year history has not only been a journey of technological innovation , but more importantly, it began as a labor of love for great tone.

Red Boxes and Pretty Blue Lights

As we’ve learned Hughes and Kettner have earned a reputation for innovation and great tone. There are however, a couple other innovations that stand out. The first is the Red Box. Released in 1989, the Red Box was the very first guitar cabinet simulator to enter the market. It was an instant success. In fact, the term Red Box became synonymous with similar devices that followed from their competitors. Guitarists were known turn such phrases as, “I Red Boxed my amp.” The Red Box has been in improved over the years and is still sold new to this day. 

Now, about those blue lights. I mean come on. It doesn’t get much cooler than that. The amazing glow of those amps almost make you want to purchase one just for the cool factor. The very first Hughes and Kettner amp to feature the now famous blue glow, was the 2002 Triamp MKII. Since then the blue glow of Hughes and Kettner amps have said to all, we are here, and we are cool.

Name Dropping

Now if I’m honest, this is one of the reasons I was so excired to write this article. As regular readers of The History Of Gear know, Rush is my all time favorite band. You guessed it, Alex Lifeson of Rush has used the Hughes and Kettner Triamp since 2002’s album Vapor Trails. Other notable users include, Tommy Thayer, Nuno Bettencourt, Tony Mecalpine, Alan Holdsworth, and many more.

In Closing

Throughout their long history, Hughes and Kettner have made a statement. That statement is this, “We have heart, we make great sounding amps, and they look super cool." There is nary a guitarist who hasn’t been enticed by the great tones, and the warm blue glow of a Hughes and Kettner amp.


As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.


Contributed by: M. Saweyer

Down The Rabbit Hole With Alice

Introduction

This week on The History Of Gear we are doing something a little different. Sometimes the gear we use, or dream about  owning, has an origin story. Today we take an in depth look at ”The Godfather Of Shock Rock,” Alice Cooper, without whom, an entire genre of music, and tons of gear may not exist today.

Who Is Alice Cooper?

Well first of all, Alice Cooper was originally the name of a band, not an individual. Alice Cooper, the band, began in the 1960s. A group of high school track stars formed a Beatles parody act called the Earwigs, who later became The Spiders. The stage theatrics of Alice Cooper such as the guillotine, actually began during these formative years. After conquering the local club sene, the band caught the eye of the legendary Frank Zappa. Zappa subsequently signed the band to a three record deal. It was at this time that the name, Alice Cooper was born. There is much lore and debate on the origins of the name. One source stated that the name came from one of the band members speaking to a witch doctor through a Ouija board. However, the name was actually said to be chosen because it sounded sinister. 

Alice Cooper the band were extremely successful during the early 1970s, with hits like, Schools Out, I’m Eighteen, and No More Mr.Nice Guy. During those early years the band developed their Shock Rock persona. In fact, many believed they were down right evil. When I was a young music lover I remember folks actually burning their ”satanic“ rock record albums of bands such as The Beatles, Kiss, and of course, Alice Cooper. 

In 1974 the lead singer left the band, but retained the name Alice Cooper. 

But who is Alice Cooper really?

Alice Cooper, the man, was born Vincent Damon Fournier in Detroit, on February 4, 1948. His father and grandfather were both evangelists. This Christian upbringing would have big influence on Alice’s life. 

Alice Cooper is nothing more than a character being portrayed by a relatively normal everyday humble guy. However, He‘s been called a satanist, evil, and disturbed, among other things. His songs and concerts have been boycotted several times over the years. Interestingly though, Alice doesn’t mind the negative attention. In fact he once said, “The more people hated us, the more kids loved us.”

Alice Cooper isn’t the evil madman he portrays on stage. Instead he is a professed and active born again Christian. He’s just a normal guy who’s been married to the same woman since 1976, has three children and two grandchildren. However, Cooper hasn’t always walked the straight and narrow. In the early 80s Cooper struggled with alcohol addiction that almost ended his marriage. He gives credit to God for helping him through his addiction and now councils other rock stars to help them with their addictions. In fact Cooper was very influential in helping Dave Mustaine of Megadeth get through his addictions. Mustaine now refers to Cooper fondly, as his Godfather. 

Alice Cooper also began a charitable program in Scottsdale Arizona called the Solid Rock Teen Center. The center offers music, arts and vocational programs that gives teens opportunities for fellowship and growth. Phil recently donated a guitar to Solid Rock. He has also been invited to participate further at the center. So stay tuned for more information.

What Does This Have To Do With Gear Man?

Alice Cooper basically invented Shock Rock and on stage theatrics. Cooper has influenced, and even advised several bands throughout the years. Without Alice Cooper there may never have been bands like Kiss, Motley Crue, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, and many more. Think of all the signature guitars that have been created as a result of all those bands. The Gene Simmons Axe Bass, Paul Stanley’s Ibanez, Jim Roots signature Fenders, John 5s signature Squier Telecaster. The list goes on and on. And let’s not forget Alice Cooper‘s ever popular guitarist Nita Staus and her signature Ibanez. Therefore Alice Coopers influence on the music industry, has inspired a ton of gear over the years.

In Closing

Alice Cooper may, or may not be your cup of tea. However, you have to admire the man for creating, by some, a deeply hated persona, while actually being a humble Christian and family man in real life. Alice Cooper is someone I’ve always admired, not just for his talents on stage, but also for the man he is off stage. 


As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.


Contributed by: M. Sawyer

Are you in the zone?

Introduction

Whether you love it, or hate it, the Boss Metal Zone has left its mark on the pedal industry.  What kind of mark has it left? Most seasoned guitarists turn their nose up at the Metal Zone, calling it ”The worst pedal ever made!” However, to a 12 or 13 year old with a $99 B.C. Rich, it’s a gift from God! I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. So who’s right? Is it the snobby pro who owns two Dumble amps? Or is it the budding young guitarist and future member of yet another obscure death metal band? Well, I say they are both right.

A Brief History Of Boss

Boss is a division of the Roland Corporation, founded in Osaka, Japan in 1972. The first official Boss pedal to officially be released was the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble in 1976. The CE-1 was a rather large pedal based on the chorus circuit found in the Roland JC-120 amplifier. In 1977, Boss introduced its first line of compact pedals. These included the OD-1 overdrive, the PH-1 phaser, the SD-1 parametric EQ, the GE-6 Graphic EQ, the CS-1 compressor, and finally, the TW-1 automatic whah. All of these pedals have been discontinued. However, in 2017, Boss release The Box 40. This is a limited edition reissue of the original three pedals, the PH-1, OD-1, and the SP-1. Throughout the years Boss has released several great pedals. Not only that, but there are many pedals that command hefty sums on the used market. These prices fluctuate of course, but the $50 Boss pedal you buy today, could be worth considerably more tomorrow.

The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone

The Metal Zone was released in 1991. I know this not by looking it up, but rather because I bought one when it was first released. The Metal Zone was in fact the first Boss pedal I’d ever purchased. How could I pass it up? At the time it was one of the coolest looking pedals on the market. That solid black color with striking orange lettering was simply irresistable. Not only that but it was affordable. The Metal Zone was released the same year that Metallica released the Black album. Metallica was at the apex of their career. Music teachers across the country were forced to teach Enter Sandman  until they had nightmares of their own. The Metal Zone came equipped with a volume knob on one end, and a distortion knob on the other. In the middle was a parametric eq with sweepable mids. To the right of the volume were the bass and treble controls. Next to the bass and treble was the midrange controls. Now, this is where the trouble with this can begin. A sweepable midrange means the you can set one knob to a very narrow frequency  range, and then boost that range with the other knob. The frequency range went from 200kz, all the way to 5000kz. This meant you could achieve a vast range of tones. Anything from dramatically scooped mids, to mids so high your dog will howl and beg for mercy. Therein lies the problem. The midrange controls were so touchy that a slight movement would dramatically change the tone. The other problem for some, was the sound of the distortion itself. I’ve heard it described as millions of angry bees swarming around your head. I’ve also heard described with much more descriptive terms that are perhaps, better left to the imagination. I’ve always been a tinkerer, so I rather enjoyed attempting to dial in a great tone on my Metal Zone. I’m also not as cynical as most. I always liked the Metal Zone. Do I still use it today? Well no. However, I did get hours of enjoyment from the Metal Zone back in the day.

Name Dropping

There are several well-known artists who use the Metal Zone. For example, there’s... and there’s... Well, ok, so there aren’t many famous guitarists using the Metal Zone. In fact the Wikipedia page for the Boss brand lists several artists who use Boss pedals, but not one of them listed the Metal Zone.  However, Mark Holcomb of Periphery once did a YouTube video where he spoke fondly of owning a Metal Zone pedal. I would bet that there are many famous guitarists who once owned a Metal Zone. I imagine they have fond memories as well.

In Closing

As I said in the introduction, whether you love or hate the Boss Metal Zone pedal, think about this: the Metal Zone has been in production every year since it’s introduction in 1991, and is still available to purchase brand new to this day. As long as there are young guitarist looking to learn to play Metal, the Boss Metal Zone will be there to create all new memories for an all new generation of guitarists.


As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.


Contributed by: M. Sawyer

Iconic Guitars Part 2

This time on the History of Gear we take another look at some of musics most iconic guitars, and the musicians who played them. This time however, we have a treat for our Know Your Gear bass players, as the first three selections are bass guitars. Enjoy bass fans! 


As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.


Contributed by: M. Sawyer

Iconic Guitars Part 2

Geddy Lee - Rickenbacker

When I was 10 years old, I heard Rush for the first time. As a result, my life, and my perception of music, were forever changed. Today, bassist Geddy Lee, is perhaps more known for playing a Fender Jazz bass. For me though, Geddy‘s earlier works featuring the Rickenbacker bass were nothing short of mesmerizing.  Geddy Lee began using the Rickenbacker 4001 in 1974 in the studio, and for live performances. He stopped playing the Rickenbacker in 1984, after the Grace Under Pressure tour. The Rickenbacker 4001 model was introduced in 1961, and ceased production in 1983. It featured a neck-through maple neck and body with a rosewood fretboard. With this Rickenbacker bass Geddy Lee demonstrated how intricate, and complex, a bass guitar part could be. Lee made the bass guitar fit beatifully, and masterfully into the music he created. As a guitarist, when I listen to music, I most often find myself concentrating on the guitar parts. However, when listening to Rush, I listen to the guitar and bass equally.  


Paul McCartney - Hofner

The Beatles changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll forever.  Paul McCartney is a legendary bassist, and a two time inductee into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Interestingly enough though, in 1957 he joined John Lennon in the then Quarrymen as a rhythm guitarist.  In 1961 the original Beatles bassist Start Sutcliffe, decided to leave the band.  As a result, McCartney reluctantly took over the position. However, he needed an instrument.  While playing some gigs in Hamburg Germany, McCartney discovered a small shop with violin shaped guitars. He then purchased his first Hofner 500/1 bass. As a left-handed player, he  particularly liked the symmetrical shape of the guitar because it would still look the same being played upside down. This particular Hofner bass was later stolen in the late 60s. The Hofner 500/1 is a hollow-body, and essentially an acoustic electric bass. It was inexpensive, light, and had a rich tone similar to a double bass. Hofners violin shaped guitars were introduced in 1956. However, they did not become successful until Paul McCartney began playing them. Because of this fact, Hofiner violin shaped bases can still be purchased new today.

Gene Simmons - Axe Bass

When I was 9 years old Kiss was all the rage. I used to stand in front of the mirror, with fake blood running down my face, pretending to be Gene Simmons. If I’m honest though, I don’t really like Simmons as a person. Therefore, when I got older I stopped listening to Kiss. Years later, in a moment of nostalgia, I listened to their first several albums. In many ways I was disappointed. The guitars at times sounded sloppy to my ear. Then I realized something, Geme Simmons, whom I’d previously dismissed because of his brash personality, was actually a great bassist. His bass riffs were tight, and added much needed depth to the music of Kiss. He’s still not my most favorite person in the world, but I most certainly had a new found respect for Simmons as a musician. In 1978 Simmons was in search for a bass guitar design that would go well with the rest of his stage costume. He had the brilliant idea to have a bass made in the shape of an axe. In 1979, Simmons began appearing on stage with the all new Axe Bass. The first bass was built by luthier Steve Carr. To a 9 year old Kiss fan, the Axe Bass was just about the coolest guitar I’d ever seen. The axe bass became synonymous with Gene Simmons, and can still be seen strapped around his neck to this day. Would I purchase an axe bass today? Probably not. At 9 years old though, the Axe Bass was a twinkle in this future rock stars eyes. Well I never actually became a rock star, but, thanks to Kiss, I do have very fond memories of pretending to be a rock star in front of my bedroom mirror. 

Neil Young - Old Black

Neil Young is a unique guitarist with an amazing raw tone. One of the ingredients in his magical  tone, is a 1953 Gibson Les Paul gold top, named ”Old Black.” No, it’s not a misprint, Neil Young’s black guitar began its life as a gold top. In fact, in 1953, the gold top was the only color available on a Les Paul. Young aquired the Les Paul in 1969, through a trade with Jim Messina of Buffalo Springfield, and Poco fame. In exchange for the Les Paul, Young gave Messina one of his Orange Gretsch Chet Atkins guitars. When and how the Les Paul received it’s crude black paint job is unknown, as it had already been painted by the time Young aquired the guitar. Old Black originally came with two P90s in the bridge and neck positions. The bridge P90 was first replaced with a Gretsch Dynosonic single-coil pickup. It was later swapped out for a mini humbucker from a Gibson Firebird. The P90 in the neck position has never been changed. One of the best examples of Youngs amazing tone can be heard on the song Cinnamon Girl from Young’s debut solo album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. First of all, Cinnamon Girl has one of the most amazing riffs I’ve ever heard. What really makes it special though, is that heavenly tone. It has a growling, rumble that’s infectious. Neil Young and “Old Black“ have a unique tone all their own. Never to be duplicated, and never to be forgotten.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Fender Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughan, that’s all I need to say. What guitarist doesnt Know this emfamous guitarst? Throughout the years there have been a handful of guitarists I never enjoyed listening to. Vaughan was always one of them. Why? Because Stevie Ray Vaughan was always a constant reminder to me that I would never be that good of a guitarist. Vaughan was special. A rare gift to the world of music.  Vaughans main guitar was his now famous Fender Stratocaster he dubbed, his “Number One.”  Vaughan also referred to the guitar as the “First Wife.”  Vaughan aquired the guitar in a trade at Ray Hennigs Heart Of Texas in Austin. The Strat was an amalgamation of years. The body was a 1963, the neck a 1962, and the pickups were dated 1959. The guitar began its life with a 7.5” radius, but after years of refrets, and sanding of the neck, the radius  was wittled down to 10 inches. Because of Vaughan’s constant playing, the guitar was forced to receive many repairs throughout the years. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Fender Stratocaster was a part of him. Because of his rare gift and his passion, his music will forever be a part of us. 

Kurt Cobain - Jag-Stang

I’d be lying if I said Nirvana was one of my favorite bands. However, I have mad respect for Kurt Cobain as a guitarist. Nirvana, seemingly single handedly, changed the face of music for the next decade. The 1980s hair metal sene was rocking and rolling along until the 1991 release of Nirvanas album Nevermind. The song Smells Like Teen Spirit suddenly began to dominate the radio. Seemingly overnight, hair metal vanished, and grunge was all the rage.  For me, being a child of the 80s, it was a devistating loss. Grunge? What’s that? As the years passed though, I embraced the change and learned to enjoy, not only Nirvanas music, but much of the grunge rock that was virtually inescapable throughout the 1990s. Cobain not only changed the way the guitar sounded, and was played, he also designed one amazing guitar. The Fender Jag-Stang. The Jag-Stang is just what it sounds like, a combination of the Fender Jaguar, and the Mustang. The photo above shows a drawing Cobain sent to Fender to illustrate his ideas. The Jag-Stang was originally equipped with a DiMarzio H-3 humbucker in the bridge, and a Fender Texas Special in the neck position. The guitar was originally built by Fender Custom Shop Master Builder, Larry Brooks.  Kurt Cobain with his Fender Jag-Stang became one of music histories most influential guitarists of all time. It is sad indeed that he left this world at such a young age. However, the impact of his time on this earth will forever be felt in the music he left behind.

Gettin' Satisfaction

Introduction

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones has one of the most iconic riffs in the history of rock 'n' roll. The riff was written by Keith Richards. Richards has always claimed that he recorded the riff in his sleep. He says he woke the next morning, listened to the tape, and heard three minutes of acoustic guitar, then the sound of a pick dropping, followed by forty minutes of snoring.  I’ve often wondered if there weren’t other ”influences“ involved. Or perhaps he passed out from exhaustion? Considering Mr. Richards reputation, it’s unlikely. Nonetheless he made three notes one of the coolest, and most recognizable riffs ever written. One of the most astonishing facts about this iconic riff, is that it almost never happened. Richards recorded the riff in the studio as a scratch track. He originally intended for those three famous notes to be played by a horn section. However, the producer and engineer of the song, convinced Richards and Mick Jagger to use the guitar tracks instead. One has to wonder, would satisfaction be the iconic song it is had they used the horns  instead?

 What made those three notes so amazing, was the unique fuzzy tone of the guitar. How did he achieve this fantastic tone? Richards stated once that he had only used effect pedals a couple of times. However, for the Satisfaction riff, he in fact used the Gibson Maestro Fuzz - Tone.

A Brief History of Distotion

As guitarists, we all know what distortion, overdrive, and fuzz effects are. However, we may not all know how distortion came to be, or when it began. Distortion was first created by turning the volume of an amplifier past its designed limit. Interestingly though, distortion was first used by blues guitarist, not rock guitarists as one might expect. What’s crazier, is that guitarists began experimenting with distortion as early as 1945. Early blues guitarists were looking to create a grittier sound to match the gravely voices of blues singers such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. They were also looking for ways to cut through the mix in loud bars and clubs. In most circles at the time though, overdriven amps were considered undesirable.  It wasn’t til the 50’s with artists such as Chuck Berry, and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, that distortion became more acceptable.  

The Gibson Maestro Fuzz - Tone

In 1962, Gibson released the very first distortion effect unit to ever be mass produced.  However, the iconic fuzz  tone, just like Keith Richards’ iconic riff in Satisfaction, was developed as a matter of happenstance. In 1962 Marty Robbins was in the studio recording the song “Don’t worry,” with session musician Grady Martin, and engineer Glenn Snoddy. Grady Martin was playing a 1956 Danelectro 6 string bass, through a Langevin amp with a bad transformer, that created a fantastic fuzzy tone. If you’ve never heard the song before you should check it out. There is a bass solo in the middle of the song where the amazing fuzz tone can be heard. 

Upon hearing the song, Nancy Sinatra wanted to use the amp for her own project. Unfortunately, by that time, the amp had stopped working completely. Glenn Snoddy, knowing he was onto something good, enlisted the help of former colleague and engineer, Revis Hobbs. Together they created the germanium transistor driven Maestro Fuzz - Tone. After it’s release it was a hot seller. However, after the release of Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, sales dramatically increased. It became extremely popular. Not only with professional musicians, but also with  amateur garage, and psychedelic bands. One interesting thing to point out, is that since the Fuzz Tone was originally discovered while recording the bass guitar, the Maestro was originally developed with the bass in mind. However, it was soon discovered by guitarists to be an amazing effect.

In Closing

Other than Keith Richards, the Gibson Maestro was used by several other guitarists such as Les Paul, and Pete Townshend. To this day, the Maestro Tone has been copied by other pedal makers hundreds of times througout the years. 

However, I can’t help but ponder the what if’s of this story. For example, what if Marty Robbins had never recorded the song “Don’t Worry," with a session bassist, using a faulty amp, that created such a wonderful fuzzy tone? Or, what if the Rolling Stones had decided to use horns in the song Satisfaction instead of the guitar? One thing is for certain, I would be writing the final sentences of a very different article.


Dont forget to check out the photos below.


As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.

Article contributed by: M. Sawyer

The History of Gear

This week we are doing something a little different. Below you will find some short articles about some of histories most iconic guitars. I know there are many iconic guitars missing from the list. Perhaps we can cover more iconic guitars in the future. If you’d like to see more let us know. Btw don’t forget to check out the pictures below the article. 


As laways, thank you for your time, and know your gear. 

Article contributed by D.L. Pratt

Some of Histories Most Iconic Guitars

Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstrat

In 1974, Eddie Van Halen decided to build a guitar that combined the Gibson Les Paul, and the Fender Stratocaster. He achieved this by adding a Gibson ES-335 PAF humbucker to an ash body and maple neck he purchased from Wayne Charvel. He painted the design using masking tape and a couple cans of Schwann bisycle pair. This is the guitar that was used to record eruption. Perhaps the most famous guitar instrumental in rock history. Thousands upon thousands of guitarists have been inspired to learn to play the guitar because of eruption. The crazy part is, that it almost never happened. Eruption was not originally supposed to be on the debut Van Halen album. Eddie Van Halen is perhaps the most influential guitarist in the history of rock music. It’s hard to imagine the music world without Eddie and his Frankenstrat.

Randy Rhoad's Polka Dot V

Randy Rhoads, having only appeared on four studio albums, has left an indelible mark on the guitar community. When I was young, Kiss made me dream of being a rock star. However, Randy inspired me to learn to play the guitar. His polka dot V guitar was one of a kind. While touring with Quit Riot in L.A., Randy met George Lynch of Dokken fame. One night George showed Randy his new V shaped guitar. Randy fell in love with it and went to builder of the guitar, Karl Sandoval to have one built for himself. The guitar was made with a danelectro neck, a mahogany body, and a fender tremolo bridge. The polka dots were Randy’s idea. Randy Rhoads still inspires guitarists to this day. It was a tragedy to lose such an amazing man and guitarist at the young age of 25. I often wonder what wonderful and amazing contributions he would have made to the world of guitar had he not passed at such a young age. 

Angus Young's SG

Angus Young’s first high end guitar was a Gibson SG. Because of Angus  Young’s small stature, the light weight SG suited him perfectly. I believe Angus is a living legend. He is also one the humblest and nices guys you could  ever meet. Which is astounding when you consider the enormous impact he has had on the rock music world. Angus and his SG created a unique sound that has never been duplicated. As soon as an AC/DC song begins, you immediately know it’s them. Even if you’ve never heard the song, you still know It‘s AC/DC. There sound is unmistakable. It all began with Angus young and his Gibson SG. Not only that but ive never seen anyone as active as him on stage, yet he never misses a note. 

Eric Clapton's Blackie

Eric Claptons fender stratocaster, named blackie, not only had a huge impact on music, but also became the most expensive guitar in the world when Guitar Center paid $959,500 at a charity auction in 2004. Blackie was built out of three 1950’s fender strats by a luthier named Ted Newman Jones. Then Eric Clapton made history. He is undeniably one of the finest guitarists to ever play. More than that though, he took blues music to a whole new level. Clapton’s brand of blues music broke into the mainstream. His songs were played on both rock and pop radio stations. His best selling single was ‘Tears In Hevean.’ This song was written as a tribute to his son, Conor, who died tragically at the age of 4. The song went on to win 3 Grammy Awards. One of them was for best pop vocal performance. Not bad for a blues rock guitarist.  

Jimi Hendrix's Monterey Strat

With this fender Stratocaster, a legend was born. It was June 18, 1967. Earlier that day Jimi Hendrix was preparing for the Monterrey pop festival. He took one of his fender strats and painted a now infamous design on the guitar with finger nail polish. At the time no one new what Jimi planned to do to the guitar. That night Jimi treated the crowd to an amazing performance. For the last song, ‘Wild Thing,’ Jimi strapped on the hand painted guitar. He gave an electric performance, however, the real fireworks were about to begin. At the end of the song, Jimi infamously lit the guitar on fire. The crowd went insane and Jimi’s popularity went into the stratosphere. At the height of his caree, Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27. Like Randy Rhoads, I love to imagine how much more Jimi could given the world of music had he not died so young. Nonetheless, Jimi’s mark on history will live forever.

Willie Nelson' Trigger

Back in 1969 a young struggling country singer was in search of a new guitar.  He ended up with a Martin N-20 nylon string classical guitar. He named it after Roy Rogers’ horse “Trigger.” Wilie Nelson has stated that it is the best sounding guitar he's ever played. The top was made of Sitca spruce, the back and sides of Brazilian Rosewood, the neck of Mahogany, and the fingerboar and bridge were made of ebony. Trigger has been used in over 10,000 concerts, recording sessions, and just jamming with friends. With the help of Trigger, Willie Nelson also broke through the music genre wall. Throughout the years several of Willies songs have broken through into the world of pop, and other genres of music as well. Willie once indicated that once Trigger was done, he was done too. He developed a bond with his guitar. Something I’m sure many of us can relate to. There’s always that one guitar we would never sell because of the connection we have with it. As guitarists, our intstruments become a part of us. Just like Willie Nelson and trigger. 

The Gibson Flying V

Introduction

The Gibson Flying V is one of my most favorite guitars of all time. As a budding young guitarist I spent many hours thumbing through gear magazines dreaming of the day when I would own one of my very own. Over the years the Gibson Flying V has become an iconic image of rock and roll. What many of you might not know, is that the Flying V didn't exactly fly off the shelves when they were first released in 1958.

The 1958 Gibson flying V

In !958 the cold war was growing colder, Hoola Hoops were all the rage, and Elvis Presley was making waves in the music industry. Rock and Roll was in its infancy. In 1957 Gibson, led by Ted McCarty, designed the modernist series of guitars, to signify Gibson's image as an innovator. The modernist series consisted of the Flying V, the Futura, (later called the Explorer) and the Moderne.  The Flying V, and the Explorer were both released in 1958. The Moderne, however, wasn't released until 1982. The 1958 Flying V was a Beautiful guitar made of Korina, with gold hardware, and a shape that was literally out of this world. The Flying V was set to take off into the stratosphere. However, it crash landed as production ended in 1959, after only an estimated 200 units were made. As Marty McFly would have said at the time, "I Guess the world just wasn't ready for the Flying V, but your kids are gonna love it!"

The Flying V2 and Beyond

In 1978 the newly hired Tim Shaw was tasked with designing the Flying V2, which was to be the counterpart to the newly designed Exploer2. The basic body design was the same, however the similarities end there. The V2's were constructed using, as Gibson called it, the "sandwich" technique. This consisted of 5 layers of sculpted walnut and maple. The other major difference was the V shaped "boomerang" pickups. These distinctive pickups were only used in the V2's from 1979 to 1981.

Throughout the years there have been other iterations of the flying V. Most notably the Reverse Flying V. The Reverse V was released in 2007, and was limited to only 400 hundred units. Love, or hate the design, it is an interesting part of Gibson's history.

Most recently Gibson made waves in the gear community when they released photos of the Modern Flying V. The Star Trek shaped guitar dismayed many, but delighted some. Once again Gibson is trying to bolster they're image of being an innovator. Only time will tell if Gibson's latest attempt at innovation will be successful.  

Name Dropping

Lonnie Mack and Albert King were two of the first artists to play Flying V's. Other notable artists include, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, K.K. Downing of Judas Priest, Michael Schenker, Rudolf Schenker, Grace Potter, Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfield.

In Closing

Throughout the years innovation has been a double edged sword for Gibson. Along the way there have most certainly been failures. I need only mention the robot tuners, and several Gibson traditionalists will be ready for a heated debate. However, I believe the Flying V is one of Gibson's greatest triumphs.


As always, thank you for your time, and until next time, know your gear.


Article contributed by: M. Sawyer 

History Repeats (1982 Squier JV Series)

Introduction

Gibson has been making headlines recently because of their major financial problems. Gibson's problems are so severe that many are questioning whether or not they will be able to survive. Will Gibson go out of business? Hopefully not. In fact I'd go so far as to say that Gibson will most likely be here for many years to come. To illustrate this point we need to go back in time to the early 1980's. At this time the United States was in a terrible recession. Also at this time Fender, much like Gibson is today, was in dire financial straits. Part of Fender's solution to their economic woes was to begin making a cheaper line of guitars to import. The first product to be produced as a result of this new venture, was the 1982 Squier JV series guitar.

A Brief History of Fender

Clarence Leonidas Fender was born on August 10, 1909, in Anaheim, California. After high school, Leo ran an amateur radio station and built public address systems. In 1938 he opened a repair shop called Fender's Repair Service. It was during this time that Leo began making musical instruments. By 1949, Fender was an established brand in the gear industry. In 1956 one of Fender's most successful guitars, the Stratocaster, was born. About a decade later Fender was bought out by CBS for 13 million dollars.  Throughout the 60's and 70's, the Fender Stratocaster grew in popularity. By the mid 70's it was the go to guitar for many famous artists. However, because of their growing popularity, and pressure from CBS corporate offices to produce more guitars, the quality of the instruments began suffering. In responce the declining quality of products, and a declining economy, Fender was in serious financial trouble. Not only that but Fender's reputation was also suffering. in response to Fender's woes, CBS hired John McLaren, William Schultz, and Dan Smith, three top executives from Yamaha Musical Instruments. They were hired to improve Fender's waning reputation, and to make the company profitable once again. One of their answers to Fender's problems was a line of less expensive instruments made in Japan. Thus the 1982 JV series Squier guitar was born.

1982 Squire JV Series

Squier was originally a guitar string manufacturer who was bought out by Fender in the 1960's. Fender decided to use the Squier name on the new line of import guitars. That way if the new line of guitars was a failure, Fender could distance itself from the line, thus protecting the Fender name. In 1982 the first Squire guitars made in Japan were reissues of the '57 and '62 Stratocasters. The serial numbers all began with the letters JV, hence being referred to as the JV series. The two reissues were offered at several different price points. The price  depended on several factors such as type of paint finish, the body woods, and the neck profiles. All of the earliest guitars were equipped with USA pickups. The very first Squiers were only released in Japan. The headstock however, only had the Fender logo. The word Squier was nowhere to be found. The earliest Squiers exported to Europe had the Fender logo shown predominantly and a much smaller Squier logo off to the side. An example of this is pictured below. All of the guitars exported to the USA had the name Squier shown predominantly with a much smaller Fender logo underneath. To this day the early Japanese imports are highly sought after.

In Closing

Much of the story of Fender during the early 1980's sounds very familiar. History is essentially repeating itself, with Gibson as the one struggling today. Much like Fender was able to rebound from their near failure, it is my hope that Gibson will be able to do the same. It is difficult to imagine the gear industry without Fender and Gibson, two of its most iconic brands. One of the results of fender's hard times was the Squier guitar brand. The Fender Squier has become a trusted brand that appeals to all levels of guitarists, from beginner to advanced. Perhaps Gibson could take a look back at their own history, learn from their mistakes, and secure its future much like Fender did.


As always, thank you for your time, and until next time, know your gear.


Article contributed by, M Sawyer

The Marshall Super Lead Model 1959 - June 12, 2018

Introduction

The past few years we have seen guitar amps get smaller and smaller. However, there was a time when bigger was better, and most guitarists dreamed of owning a Marshall 100-watt head with two 4x12 cabs. It was called a full Marshall stack. The amp that started it all was the Marshall super lead model 1959.

First, a bit about Jim Marshall

To tell the story of the Super Lead, I have to begin by telling you a little bit about Jim Marshall. Ironically, Jim Marshall wasn't even a guitarist. He was, in fact, a drummer and a sought-after drum teacher. In 1960 he opened a drum shop in Hanwell, London. This brings up an obvious question: how did a drummer and drum shop owner get into building amps? First of all, If you were a guitarist in Great Britain during the 50's and 60's, most tube amps were costly imports from the U.S. Therefore, one of Jim's goals was to build a more affordable amplifier. Second, Jim's shop became a hot spot that was visited by the likes of Pete Townshend and Ritchie Blackmore. Townshend and Blackmore urged Jim to build an amp that was louder and grittier than other amps available at the time. In 1962 Jim developed, and began selling the first Marshall amp, the JTM 45, with the help of Ken Bran, Dudley Craven, and Ken Underwood.  The JTM 45 introduced a new sound to the world of music. It had a fat, gritty tone that drew the attention of many popular guitarists of the time. The rest is as they say, history. On a side note, can you imagine how amazing it must have been to have the likes of Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hedrix hanging out and playing guitar in your shop? What an incredible time it must have been.

The Marshall Super Lead Model 1959

The Marshall Super Lead Model 1959 is an iconic amp that came to be because of a request from Pete Townshend of the Who. As the Popularity of rock music grew, the size of concert audiences also began to grow. This prompted Pete Townshend, who already loved the sound of Marshall amps, to ask Jim to build him a louder amp that could handle the larger crowds and venues. Due to this prompting, the Marshall 100 watt Super Lead model 1959 was born in 1965. To build a louder amp, the developers doubled the amount of valves, and added a larger power transformer. It was a two channel, all tube amp with four inputs. The front panel was elegant and straight-forward in its design. It had two volume controls and four other knobs that controlled the bass, middle, treble, and  presence. Pete Townshend also requested a massive cabinet with eight twelve inch-speakers. Ostensibly to save the backs of roadies, this was later changed to two 4x12 speaker cabs. It was then that the iconic Marshall stack captured the attention of guitarist everywhere. 

A bit about the term "Plexi"

Throughout the years we have all heard the term "plexi" when talking about Marshall amps. The nickname plexi originally applied to many of the Marshall amps produced between 1965 and 1969. During this era, the Marshall nameplate was made out of plexiglass, hence the nickname plexi. As the Years have passed, it has become associated with the Marshall Super Lead. More often though, it refers to the Marshall sound that has permeated music culture throughout the years.

Name Dropping

As mentioned earlier, the Super Lead was used by legendary guitarists Pete Townshend, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. It was also used by many others such as Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Ace Frehley, Randy Rhoads, Billy Gibbons, Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, and last but not least, Slash. 

In Closing...

As a young guitarist in the 80's, I was one of the many who dreamed of owning my very own Marshall stack. It was such an iconic image of the time. Concert stages frequently had a row of Marshall stacks from one side of the stage to the other. It was an amazing sight to see. More than that though, it was an amazing sound to hear. So many legendary Guitarists have stood in front of a row of Marshalls to perform, but there are none more memorable than the historical moment that Jimi Hendrix stood in front of a row of Marshall Super Lead stacks and played The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969. It's impossible to imagine where the history of rock music would be today without Marshall amps.

As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear. 


Contributed By: M. Sawyer

The History of Gear

Introduction

The History of Gear is a new feature we are adding to the website. Each week the history of an item such as a guitar, effects pedal, amp, etc. will be featured. This week we are going all the way back to 1946 to learn about the DeArmond Tremolo control. 

We hope you enjoy this new feature and we welcome your feedback. Thank you!

The DeArmond Tremolo Control

This is the 1946 DeArmond Tremolo Control model 601. It is the first stand-alone effects device to ever be mass produced. It was first released in 1946, but wasn't widely available until 1948. It was simple to use, with an input on the front of the unit along with two control knobs. The right adjusted the intensity, and the left knob controlled the speed.

How It Works

This unit may look simple on the outside, but the inner workings are fascinatingly complex. Inside the unit is a small motor, that shakes a small canister filled with a water based, electrolytic hydro fluid. Inside the canister is a pin that grounds the guitar input signal. When triggered, the motor shakes the canister, causing the fluid inside to move back and forth splashing against the pin, thus creating a smooth, watery tremolo effect.  There are still several examples of the DeArmond tremolo control being enjoyed to this day.

Name Dropping

Throughout the years many famous guitarists have used The DeArmond tremolo control for recording and performance. The first guitarist of note was Bo Diddley who used it on his 1955 number one hit, "Bo Diddley." Other legendary guitarist who used it include, ZZ Tops Billy Gibbons on, "Zipper Job," and "Hairdresser,"  Muddy Waters on "Flood," and Duane Eddy on "Rabel Rouser."

In Closing

The DeArmond tremolo control is an amazingly unique device. It is a wonderfully warm sounding tremolo that is both mechanically complex, yet simple to operate. The DeArmond tremolo control also helped pave the way for all the amzing effects pedals we use and enjoy today.

As always, thank you for your time, and know your gear.