I Need to Practice

I haven’t touched a guitar in 20 days. I need to carve out some time this weekend. I have been thinking about bringing my Vox AC15 amplifier to the next Lizardfish practice, whenever that is, and I need to see how loud I can get it before the tone breaks up. I know my other 15 watt amp, the Fender Bassbreaker 15, can’t get terribly loud before it distorts. I think the AC15 handles it better, but if I can’t get it loud enough to compete with a drummer while still staying clean, then I can’t use it at practice. Really, I just want to bring my Fender Deluxe Reverb home again.

Speaking of Lizardfish, Mike the Bass Player is in Cleveland today. He sent us a bunch of pictures from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To quote Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Alex Lifeson, blah blah blah. Mike sent me a picture of the BB King display. It’s awesome. Thanks, Mike!

At our last discussion, Mike said he’d be away for a couple of weeks. After that we can try to set up a rehearsal date. I really want to play. I really want to play. I’m still scared shitless of getting sick, but I really want to play.

It’s going to be a couple of weeks before the kitchen updates are finished. Once that’s all done I am going to start looking for a guitar tech to hire to work on my stuff. I’ll go with the ES-335 first. Check the frets, check the neck joint, rewire the whole friggin’ thing. Four new pots, a new jack, maybe a new pickup switch, and all new wiring. Don’t touch the pickups, they are gold and need to live forever. Everything else that lives under the covers, replace.

I’m worried about the neck joint. It’s clearly pulling away from the body, but it’s been doing that at a glacial pace for at least 22 years. I’m worried, but I’m not that worried. I am really worried about the frets. I’ve never had a guitar refretted. If they need to be replaced, is it still going to feel the same way it did before? No, clearly, but will it be so different that I will fall out of love with one of my two favorite musical instruments on Earth*? I hope not. Especially given that the frets on my other favorite musical instrument, my Les Paul Custom, are in worse shape. We’ll find out.

Right. Lunch break over. Time to read that huge email a coworker just sent me. I’ve got some back story to get filled in on.

*Technically I should say it’s one of my three favorite musical instruments. My ’78 Les Paul, my ’79 ES-335, and the Selmer Mark VII tenor saxophone I played in high school. I haven’t seen that instrument since 1989. That sucker was in bad shape when it came to me, but it was glorious. Epically glorious. I loved that horn. It was brass magic.

Les Paul Mods: A Fantasy

If I were to mod my 1978 Les Paul Custom to make it act more like a late ’50’s Les Paul Standard, this is probably what I would do.

Brandonwould 1959 clones. The question would be do I get nickel pickup covers, which would be correct for a Les Paul Standard, or gold pickup covers, which would be correct for a Les Paul Custom. Gold is more appropriate for my guitar, but they are also super expensive.

For changing out the pots and the switches and the wiring (my ES-335 needs this more than my Les Paul does, but I’m fantasizing here so leave me alone) I would get a wiring harness. The question then becomes, do I get a 50’s wiring harness or do I get a 50’s wiring harness that includes the Peter Green out-of-phase mod? I think I’d do the Peter Green thing. If so, I’d probably go with Gunstreet Wiring Shop- Les Paul Standard – 50S Out Of Phase – Wiring Harness.

Obviously I am way too much of a wuss to even daydream about installing any of this stuff myself. If I do it, I’m getting an experienced tech to do it. That goes without saying.

On a similar topic, when I bought my Les Paul in 1990 it was 12 years old and it was seriously modded already. Both of the original pickups were gone, and it had a Bigsby vibrato. The pickups bothered me. The neck was a DiMarzio which sounded nice. The bridge was a Jackson that was crap, although it had a seriously high output that I liked. I removed the Bigsby within about 10 minutes of bringing the guitar home, but it was years before I did anything about the pickups. I had always thought about trying to bring the guitar back to stock, or at least as close as I could get them. In 2006 (I think) I had Larry replace both pickups with Gibson Classic ’57s. Again, the Neck was nice but the bridge wasn’t. A few years ago I had Guitar Center swap the bridge for a Gibson Dirty Fingers reissue. Again, a really high output.

Now, after doing some research I know that the correct pickups I would need to get back to 1978 stock would be TTops. I can get clones of those too, even with the gold covers. I think I might have a good chance of getting actual 70’s TTops on ebay rather than clones, but if I am going to do this I am going for some really sweet PAF clones. Screw period correct, I want 50’s everything. I wonder how much it would cost to get the body refinished and painted gold like a 1957 Goldtop Standard. I bet that would cost a small fortune. Then again, if I wanted to be Les Paul Custom accurate I would have to paint it black, not gold. Prior to 1958 standards were gold and customs were black. Black Les Pauls look awesome, but nothing beats the old Goldtops.

Suffice to say, if I ever hit the lottery for hundreds of millions of dollars, the first thing I’m buying is a 1957 Les Paul standard. The second thing I’m buying is a 1959 sunburst Les Paul Standard. A ’57 would be insanely expensive. A ’59 would cost me pretty much all of my lottery winnings. Totally worth it though.

ADDENDUM: I tried to write about the Peter Green “out of phase mod” and typo’d it to “out of phrase mod”. I am clearly mentally defective. I fixed it though.

Guitar Maintenance Day

My Les Paul had a maintenance day. I cleaned it up a smidge and put on new strings. I also plugged in the headphone amp I got for Christmas. It really does sound like a Vox AC30. It’s such a groovy little gadget.

Every time I look at either of my 40+ year old guitars I start to think of the work they need to do and I get scared. This guitar needs fret work, and I think one of the inlays might be coming out. Yikes!

I’m also thinking of maybe changing the pick ups again. Maybe get a couple of boutique PAF clones and a 50’s style wiring harness and try to make my 70’s Les Paul feel a little more like a 50’s Les Paul. Maybe that could be my 50th birthday present to myself? Assuming we are post-Covid, of course.

Just a little fantasy.


I did some recording. I changed things up and used the Les Paul instead of the ES-335. I used the extension speaker instead of the built in speakers and I stuck to the 18 watt channel. I used the Ryra Klon clone and the Wampler Plexi Drive Mini and it wasn’t an over compressed mess the way it was last month. It sounded okay.

I put rhythm parts onto the only two songs I have going for March, and a lead part onto one of the remaining songs from the last round of re-recordings. I still have one song that needs leads but my hands were really tired and I was pretty well done so I didn’t even attempt it. That project has two songs ready to mix now.

Really looking forward to getting my mitts on that little attenuator. It is cheap and overly simple but when I used one with my Deluxe Reverb it worked really well. Hoping for similar results this time. I really want to make that 30 watt channel happen. Fingers emphatically crossed.


I’ve been playing a Gibson Les Paul Custom since 1990.

Before that I played a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (before it was stolen and my heart was crushed).

I’ve never said this before…
I’ve never thought this before…
I never dreamed this before but…

I think I want a Gibson Les Paul Junior.

Partly because a vintage Junior is cheaper than a vintage Standard and my chances of actually owning something from the 1950’s is a lot higher.. but even just in terms of the current models…

I think I want a Gibson Les Paul Junior.

More Serial Number Fun

After all the fun I had with the serial number on my Strat yesterday, I figured I’d try Googling about serial numbers on Gibson Les Pauls.  I learned a couple of things, but most of what I found I already knew.

It was just a few years prior to my guitar’s creation that Gibson switched to the eight digit serial number format.  I knew that the first digit and the fifth digit combine to form the year.  That’s how I figured out my guitar was from 1978.  I also knew that the other six digits represented the rest of the date and the production count for that day.  I didn’t quite know how though.

The pattern is this: YDDDYRRR

YY is year
DDD is the day of the year
RRR is the counter.

From that, with a little Googling to figure out what day the date counter corresponded to, I learned that my guitar was made on September 18, 1978.

So what does the counter mean?  It turns out that three digit counter is actually two counters in one.  Numbers between 1 and 499 are for guitars made in the old Kalamazoo, MI factory while numbers from 500 to 999 are for guitars made in Nashville, TN.  The actual number represents the number that was stamped that day.  So a guitar stamped with 123 was the 123rd guitar to have it’s serial number stamped on that day in Kalamazoo, where the number 623 would be the 123rd guitar to have it’s serial number stamped on that day in Nashville.

My guitar was made in Nashville.  I never knew that.  It doesn’t matter even the tiniest bit, but somehow that little fact made this whole pursuit worthwhile.

The only other outstanding question for me is, what kind of pickups did it have when it left the factory?  I bought the guitar in 1990 and neither of the pickups were stock.  In 2006 (I think), in an attempt to make the guitar sound more like a stock Les Paul, I had Larry install a set of Gibson Classic ’57’s.  Gibson was marketing those pickups as being close to the original PAF pickups that were first added to Les Pauls in 1957.  (PAF stands for Patent Applied For, and they were Gibson’s first humbuckers.  Prior to that Les Pauls had single coil P90 pickups).  It turned out that I didn’t really like the sound of the Classic ’57 in the bridge position and a few years ago I had a tech at Guitar Center swap it out for a Gibson Dirty Fingers.  I was familiar with those because they came stock in my ES-335 Pro and I love them.

But that doesn’t answer the question… what did my Les Paul originally come with?  I Googled that too and was pretty surprised to find that there is almost no definitive information online.  I did find a couple of forum posts though that said a 1978 Les Paul Custom would have come with what Gibson called “Original Humbuckers” which unfortunately is a name that they’ve used for a few different models of pickups.  To the general public though, the pickups in my guitar would have been known as T-Tops.

I don’t know anything about them except that some people like them and some people don’t, and lots of people were swapping them out for non-Gibson models anyway.  The two pickups in the guitar when I bought it were perfect examples of that.

So now I have to dig into T-Tops and see if I can score some on ebay.  Insert maniacal laughter here.



Poor Sick Little Baby

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with my step kids, niece, nephews, family, or any actual people. Don’t let the next sentence or the title fool you.

My poor baby is in the hospital!

Translated from guitar nerd to English, I put one of my guitars in the shop today. I have used a soldering iron in the past, but I have no confidence in my abilities so when I want work done I have to outsource it.

I took a ride over to Guitar Center in Nashua, NH today and dropped my Les Paul off at the repair desk. I was nervous, but the repair guy put me at ease by telling me my guitar looked exactly like his. Hopefully he will treat it with the same respect.

*Robert wipes away a tear*

I took it in for two things. One repair and one modification.

(Why did this picture bring out every spec of dust?)

First, see the little switch in the bottom left? The one labeled Rhythm on one side and Treble on the other? That switch selects which pickup is active. The pickups are the two gold rectangular things with the six flat head screws. When the switch is on the Treble side it’s the pickup on the right, next to the bridge (commonly known as the bridge pickup). When it’s on the Rhythm side it’s the pickup on the left, close to the neck (commonly known as the neck pickup). When the switch is in the middle, both pickups are on. I bought this guitar in 1990 and through all that time the switch has never gone into the Rhythm position. You can push it there, but it doesn’t catch. I am getting the switch either fixed or replaced. Whichever gets the job done.

The second thing they will do is just a modification. I am getting the bridge pickup replaced. When I bought the guitar in 1990 it had two after market pickups. From day one I had wanted to replace them with the closest I could get to the stock pickups that would have come with the guitar when it was made in 1978. That would be Gibson Classic ‘57’s. I think it was 2006 or so that I finally did it. Larry installed them for me (he also fixed the bridge pickup’s tone pot which had never worked. He tried to fix the pickup switch but was unable to. That’s why when I dropped if off at the shop today I had a new switch in the case). The pickups sound okay, but they were a little disappointing. The tone is a little on the trebly side, and the output level is pretty low. The stock pickups on my ES 335 Pro are Gibson Dirty Fingers models. Those suckers sound incredible. I am replacing the Classic ’57 Plus pickup in the bridge position with a Dirty Fingers.

Those are the two reasons I brought the guitar to Guitar Center today. While I was there and talking to the repair tech, I added a third job. This one is a repair.

See the hole in the finish there? That’s been there since the day I bought the guitar. As I was looking at the guitar sitting on the counter while the tech was filling out the work order, I couldn’t take my eyes off the hole. I am 100% positive that it is much worse than it was in 1990. What I am not 100% sure of, but what my gut feeling is telling me, is that it is worse than it was three weeks ago at the last Lizardfish gig. I feel like the pace with which that hack in the finish is growing is accelerating rapidly. The tech is going to do a repair on it. It won’t look the same as the finish surrounding it, but it will stop it from getting worse. That’s all I care about. That repair is going to take a couple of weeks and it will cost about as much as the other two combined. It will be worth it though. For some reason it jumped out at me today as something that needs to be taken care of right now. No more waiting.

So my poor baby Les Paul is going to be at the doctor’s for two weeks or so while it gets all fixed up. I am going to miss her, and I am going to worry about her. I wish she had a cell phone so I could call her and check in on her every couple of days.

Please please please please please let my baby come home in one fully functioning piece.