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.

50’s Wiring

I am still planning on getting my old Les Paul, the 1978 Custom, some work. As in possibly a complete makeover.

When I do, I am absolutely doing this:

Add in a couple of 50’s PAF clones for pickups and some new frets (if necessary) and it’s going to be a brand new baby. After that I get the new Les Paul done in the same way and I end up with two spanky guitars. Oh yeah, then there’s the ES-335 and the SG to consider too.

Sorry… nerding out in a major way right now. I’ve been watching all sorts of Les Paul videos on YouTube while I try to finish my exercise for the day. I’m almost done. Maybe one more video. Let’s go.


The YouTube file wouldn’t embed on my first try. I tried a second time, but if it still doesn’t work you can click here to see what all the fuss is about.

Chasing the Green Sound

Prior to the 50th birthday super gift, a new Les Paul Standard 50s, I was thinking about the future, post Covid and post college bills, where I was going to modify the shit out of my ’78 Les Paul Custom. I was going to go full blown boutique, cork sniffing snob on it. I was going to find the best sounding clones of original Gibson PAFs possible and put them in, and replace the wiring with a 50’s style harness and basically try and make my Custom as 1950’s-ish as possible.

Now that I have the shiny, wonderful new Standard, I’ve changed my plans to updating the holy hell out of the Standard and leave the Custom alone (except for the frets… and maybe the wiring harness). The question then is, do I try to turn my guitar into a modern knock off of a Les Paul from the late 50’s, or do I go for a modern knock off of Peter Green’s Les Paul?

I don’t know. What if I go for Peter Green and decided I don’t like the out of phase stuff? boutique, cork sniffing pick ups are expensive. I don’t want to have to play this game twice.

So we’re being goofy on the youtubes today, checking out some pick ups. I am going to say without a doubt that I will not be buying a set of Monty’s Guitars Bethnal Green PAFs. Partly because they don’t seem to be available yet, and also partly because the website makes me think they won’t be available in the US. That’s okay though. Let’s file this under research and Gear Acquisition Syndrome and just being a totally unabashed guitar nerd.


ADDENDUM: So I wrote the post while watching the video for the first time. After I published the video mentioned that you can buy them from Andertons if you’re in the US, and it’s not that they aren’t available yet, it’s that they are making them in small quantities and running out.

Snuck in Some Playing

I wasn’t planning on any guitar playing tonight. Mostly because I didn’t have songs ready for any guitar parts. So what did I do? I started a new re-recording just so that I could have something to play.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to have something to record to play. If I want to play I can just play. No big whoop, right? It’s just that I wanted to play and I wanted to record something so I came up with something to record, that’s all.

I didn’t play for long, and I didn’t play well, but I did play and that’s all that I care about.

Eight Months

Eight months ago today I turned 50 and my wife got me an amazing birthday present. She bought me a Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s and I absolutely love it. I adore it. It gets me and I get it and we’re besties now and everything is perfect.

I haven’t played any other guitar since that day, even though I own a small but growing army of electric guitars (five, and my teenage self is in awe).

Well… I just broke the streak. I’ve been thinking of a gimmick for the RPM Challenge. Instead of just double tracking all of the rhythm guitar parts (which I always do), why not double track with different guitars? Maybe even different amplifiers? Sure it will make mixing more complicated, but it could be fun. If I do this, I expect the two guitars to be the new Les Paul and the SG Standard that I bought myself in 2018. Unless of course I finally brave the Covid and go somewhere to trade in my Fender Stratocaster for a Les Paul Junior, in which case the Junior would be the other guitar. That’s not likely to happen though, so it will be Les Paul in one ear and SG in the other.

Tonight I decided to break out the SG and use it on a Record Every Month song for January. I’ve got two songs going right now. They both kinda suck, but I’ll finish them. Now the song that has the working title of REM JAN 01 Mac has SGs where everything else since May has Les Pauls.

Retail Therapy

It took me 50 years before I had a year where there wasn’t a christmas. This is it, folks. The year without a santa claus for reals.

On Saturday it will be pretty much a normal Saturday. Jen and I are planning on a nice dinner together. Maybe we’ll play some Mario Kart and watch a movie or maybe binge watch some TV or something. We’ll just spend the day together.

I was going to write this post about how I wanted to take my frustrations out on capitalism by buying a new guitar. A Les Paul Junior to be exact. I jokingly asked the love of my life if she would be okay with me buying yet another guitar and to my shock and amazement she said yes! That’s twice she’s said yes to me! Once in the backyard at the duplex when I was on my knee, and then again today. How wonderful!

That’s when she told me she was doing the same thing. Maybe a Nintendo Switch or a PS5. We had a good laugh. I’m not going to buy a $1,600 guitar, especially when it’s only a few months after Jen bought me a much more expensive guitar for my 50th birthday. There is a chance though that I might magically (though probably not christmas magic, given the circumstances) upgrade a pedal or two in the coming days. You know… magically.

Dusty Hill

Dusty Hill, the bass player from ZZ Top died. I cannot say that I was ever a ZZ Top fan, but I can say that I have been thinking about them a bit lately.

ZZ Top to me was the awful cartoonish characters from the ’80s. The beards, the terrible videos, the over produced synthed up crappy songs. I had no interest at all. The small number of earlier song that I knew were okay. Tush (which Lizardfish was playing when I joined), and Cheap Sunglasses were good songs. There were a couple of others that I liked too. They were really just a blues band, which might be why I was so put off in the 80s, but I think maybe they were a little too Texas and not enough Chicago for me. I never really thought of it that way before, but that might be exactly it.

Over the last few months I have been wondering to myself if I should go and give their first few records a try. The main reason being my recent obsession with cool guitar gear. That’s kind of embarrassing to say out loud, but there it is. ZZ Top’s guitar player, Billy Gibbons, is a Les Paul guy. He’s known for playing a 1959 Standard that he named Pearly Gates (apparently after the car he was driving when he went to pick it up? Is that true?). Seymour Duncan sells a set of pick ups called Pearly Gates that are supposed to be cloned from the PAFs in Gibbons’ Les Paul. Hearing other people talk about his guitar and the gear based on his guitar, and knowing that they weren’t absurd comic characters in the 70’s, and also knowing that the band existed for over 50 years without ever having a line up change (which is pretty amazing), has been making me think that their first 2-3 records might be worth a listen.

And then yesterday it was announced that Dusty Hill died. I gave Cheap Sunglasses a spin in the car on the way to work today in his memory. There was a quote from Billy Gibbons saying that Hill wanted the band to continue without him and they will honor that request. So I guess they will finally have that line up change after all. Maybe I’ll give Tres Hombres a spin today too. Maybe it’s worth it for this Chicago (albeit via London) blues fan to dip his toe into some Texas for a bit.

Rest in Peace, Dusty Hill. Someday when my band gets back together I’ll see if they want to play Cheap Sunglasses.

Bursts

This videos is a commercial and it’s getting on to two years old, but it’s also a nice little history lesson and the three guitars it’s selling are absolutely glorious.

Gibson Les Paul Standards made from 1958-60 are called Bursts and they are the holy grail.

Take a Holiday

Yesterday was the 4th of July. Independence Day in the USofA. Today is the 5th of July which, thanks to the 4th falling on a Sunday, is the day we celebrate the holiday and have a day off from work. Amen to that, brothers and sisters in the American workforce.

I haven’t really done anything. I unclogged a drain in the bathroom sink. I finished watching Black Summer. I put guitars onto a couple of new song ideas. I’m up to six songs now.

I haven’t spent much time with heavier “rawk!” sounds with the new guitar. That changed today. I had some crunchy goodness going on. The bridge pickup on the new guitar is kind of in love with the Bassbreaker 15. The neck pickup is jealous of that love and therefore kinda bitchy. They aren’t playing all that nicely together. I’ll work it out. If not there will be a new pickup. Something swanky and boutique. Probably not until the kids are done with college though. Money? What’s that?

How about a little love for leather guitar straps. I’ve never owned one before but when the new guitar came (I still can’t believe Jen bought me a Les Paul for my birthday. Best birthday gift ever) I needed a new strap and I found a reasonably priced one on amazon.

One thing I learned, the cloth straps I’ve been using since day one back in 1987 play nicely with clothing. Meaning that when I need to adjust the strap’s position relative to my shoulder, it will slide around easily and not try to bunch up my shirt. Not so with the leather strap. The leather strap grabs hold of my shirt and drags it along with it everywhere it goes. I never thought of that before. No one was more surprised than me.

Anyway, are you having a happy long weekend? I am having a happy long weekend.


On a sadder note, Mary Weinrib passed away at the age of 95. Who is Mary Weinrib? Well pop culturally speaking, she’s Geddy Lee’s mother. Now giving birth and raising the greatest bass player in history and the frontman for the greatest rock band in history is a legendary accomplishment. That’s great. It’s also not the most amazing thing she’d ever done. Mrs Weirib, as a young woman, survived the Holocaust. She survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, among others. Rest in peace Mary Weinrib. Your kid done good.

I should also mention that I did not mention when Neil Peart’s father passed away a couple of weeks ago. Sorry about that.

Play

I did it. I snuck in some guitar playing. Dinner is going to be late tonight so I went straight from work to the new Les Paul.

I worked on rhythm parts for two really terrible songs. Les Paul Standard 50s into a Rock Your Repaired Amp The Klone overdrive pedal into a Vox AC15. Life felt good for a few minutes there. Excellent.

Up next is some hamburgers cooked on the grill where life will continue to feel good for a few more minutes.

Baby steps, babie. Baby steps.