Jessica is a favorite. She is a 2014 120th Anniversary Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus model. Gibson has offered a variety of finishes over the years but this my favorite. Some are subtle, some aren’t. Some pronounce the tiger flame and some gloss over it. Some Les Pauls are solid colors, and the most expensive, like the gold-tops, which many guitarists painted black. The solid colors are ho-hum to me, even with their patina and cracks. And to downplay the beauty the wood can offer is boorish and a tragedy to me, who loves the earthiness and organic qualities that acoustic guitars have. I prefer acoustic guitars in fact and only got back into electric with the acquisition of Jessica.
The brilliance and seriousness of this instrument are what set it apart, to begin with. I keep the pickguard on it because I find myself having a stronger attack with the pick that would blemish the finish, to use poetic words, which is appropriate when describing this masterpiece. Known for eternal sustain, and a thick, fulfilling sound thanks to the humbucking pickups, I can’t imagine the experience of playing an electric guitar being any greater than with Jessica. If that weren’t enough, she has auto tuners which I hadn’t ever even considered before but adds a magical concierge characteristic that eliminates the worry of ever being out of tune, which should be a primary concern for any player. No matter how good you are, you won’t sound good if you’re out of tune. And the electronics that go into play and are precisely perfect are a wonder to me. To tap a button and have the tuning keys wind themselves into tune with a small buzz like that of a Shakespeare fishing reel when a fish strikes are very cool and satisfying. It tunes each string, then flashes in cadence to say “All set- Go!” is awesome and a really nice little situation.
There’s no way I’ll ever let this guitar go. She has great sustain, but I have greater. And if you couldn’t figure it out, her name is derived from the equally untouchable Dickey Betts song of the same name, written about/for his little girl.
Said Red Molly to James: “That’s a fine motorbike.”
Richard Carpenter is an excellent songwriter, and like most songwriters, goes through life not getting the recognition for his work. But the royalty payments help ease that suffering of the ego. One of the main reasons the Grateful Dead have been so successful was their association with prolific genius-level lyricists from the very beginning. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh weren’t slouches by any means, and their solo albums prove that, at least with Jerry and Bob “Ace” Weir. But for the main complex arrangements that were meant for public consumption John Barlow and Robert Hunter, as well as a few others in the circle, were there and ready all the time, and quietly helped produce some amazing work. Barlow had an exceptional life beyond his insane success as a songwriter.
Richard Carpenter is another prolific wordsmith, and artists regularly dip from his well. Del McCoury is a fine man and artist and songwriter, but his touch on 52 Black Lightning is indelible. And as good as it is, I think it would even be better done with a baritone or meatier instrumentals. I’d like to hear Eddie Vedder give it a go.
So anyway, that brings me around to this guitar of mine, whose name is “Red Molly.” A 2018 Fender Telecaster Professional electric guitar with a maple neck. No tremolo. I am the original owner and will care for it as such.
I’m not a maniac about Fender guitars, electrics or even certain models. But this is a guitar I’ve always wanted for several reasons. It’s bright red, which is a given. But it also takes me down roads that have been walked by The Smiths, and a zoo of other notable players of varying genres that have used this make and model. The sound and tone is unmistakable, and with a beefy maple neck, it’s super-fun to play. You can do anything with it. It’s also pretty light, compared to my Les Paul. But the build quality, fit and finish, sound, playability, and craftsmanship make it a stunner. It plays itself, and it takes you for a ride you don’t forget.
One of my favorite guitars I have is a limited edition 2016 Fender American Standard offset Telecaster in Lake Placid Blue with a maple neck.
All of my instruments I have are favorites or else I wouldn’t have them. I don’t have the budget to own anything like that aren’t favorites. But I have reasons to acquire the instruments I do, and the reasons are pretty concrete and sound. This one fits them all, and it’s an amazing guitar to play and hear.
The first thing about it is that it’s American-made. I don’t necessarily have anything against foreign made-instruments – I own a few. But the market itself treasures American-made. Go figure. Secondly, It’s perfect for getting a certain sound for the persuasive ways I’ve gone about learning music, and the people whose style and technique and sound I like to emulate most on guitar. Those people are Jerry Garcia, Dickey Betts, Jack White, and of course Johnny Marr. And a few others like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Bob Weir, and so on, depending if I’m trying to play rhythm or lead or whatnot. Each has a distinctive style and is a master of the instrument with discernable techniques that they employ either physically or with electronics or gear or with the actual instrument itself. But this guitar is a tool to pay tribute to Johnny Marr.
Garcia has played Stratocasters, Telecasters, and ended up mostly playing custom instruments that allowed him to do what he wanted optimally. Bob Weir owns over 100 guitars, but sticks to several that give him a certain sound, and Dave Matthews likes Taylors and Jack Black has a truckload of different impressive guitars as well. They all do, but they usually grab just a couple when they head out onto the road.
Johnny Marr uses Rickenbackers a lot, and I’m in the process of having one built for me, and it will be my crown jewel and hopefully in my possession in May 2019. A black Jetglo 360 12-string with maple neck, of course. But he also plays telecasters and acoustics to get that signature Smiths sound, along with some masterful tweaking of pedals and effects, as seen in the above link. I could watch that video for days.
When I was looking for that Rickenbacker I also decided I wanted a couple of other electrics as well. I’m not much of an electric player, but this is a fun road I’m heading down. I’ve owned a bunch of electrics before but nothing to speak of at length – just pawn shop quality beaters to learn on. These guitars are for serious playing so they’re the best these manufacturers offer, and they’re either new or in mint condition. I’m not even a huge Fender fan, although I’ve owned both acoustic and electric versions before. I don’t intend to get a Stratocaster and I even still own a klunky Fender acoustic. But I did want to get a Telecaster, which I did, and I wanted a very specific one, which I found, and will write about in due time. But during the search for that, I came across this guitar, which is a mashup of a Jazzmaster, which is argubly one of the best electrics you can have, and a Telecaster, which have a long list of reasons of being great that are discussed in Facebook groups and on Guitar forums to the Earth’s end. I also have a Les Paul, which is required for any Allman Brothers song, and it’s just unbeatable to play. It feels so much more refined to me than any Stratocaster.
The deep arctic/Lake Placid blue is an awesome color for this guitar with the maple neck, and the depth of the paint job reminds me of that of a Ferrari or Porsche, with 10+ coats. Photos don’t do it justice. But with the simple singing voice of a Custom Shop Twisted single-coil neck pickup and a vintage-style Custom Shop single-coil Telecaster pickup and chrome hardware, it’s gorgeous looking and sounding. These were made in 2016 as a limited edition too, which shouldn’t hurt the resale if I ever am forced to go that route. And every guitar has to have a name, right? You’d better believe the name of this one is Stella Blue.
I run it through a Yamaha THR10C Boutique Amplifier, which is perfect for getting the Smiths sound I want without a bunch of pedals and crazy gear (even though I have a bunch of pedals and gear I do run through it when needed). I love this amp. I’ll do a write-up on it sometime too because I spent a lot of time researching gear before finding and settling on it.
Here are some things I’m thinking about as we enter into a new futuristic year, where I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like back in the 1980’s. Some things have moved faster than expected, some more slowly, some have failed to emerge and some have shifted into the still unfathomable.
I just finished cleaning the house, mopping the floors, steam cleaning the rugs and sterilizing everything in anticipation of my little girl’s next visit. She still pops things off the floor into her mouth, although she’s starting to grasp the concept of germs and get the connection between them and sickness. Thanks to my lecturing, some gross cartoons she’s found and setting examples for her, of course. She’s three, so I don’t blame her for doing it whatsoever. But knowing she will do that, I take the responsible step of always cleaning my house prior to her visits, otherwise, I’m to blame for her getting sick if she drops her pacifier and pops it back in her mouth while here. I realize not every parent does this and I’m not trying to disparage others who prefer to be lazy, let their children get sick, risk others getting sick from them, and then take their children to the doctor after they get sick and send half the bill to the other parent to pay. But those types of people do exist. And they will naturally attract other unrefined slobs who, for example, see nothing wrong with blowing their noses in towels and making other people sick that way.
While cleaning I was listening to a webcast of Bob Weir’s New Year Eve’s show in Kauai’s North Shore, Hawaii at the Crazy Rooster Ranch, which I bought the HD version of online, and it sounds unbelievable on my sound system. As good as if I were there, and a front-row view as well. I bought it because I saw the set list on Twitter, which was short, but impressive. My favorites were all on there. I’m going to try and download/upload it here or somewhere.
What a way to ring in the new year! Thanks to all who joined us for the inaugural Rising Up To Paradise concert in Hawaii.
I saw Bob play here in Louisville a couple of months ago and it was a good show. He was with the Wolf Bros, and a three-piece band at the Lousiville Theater was a nice way to spend a night and go home “early.” But this show was pretty alarming. It was bad. I wanted to give them the benefit of a doubt, but it sounded like an unrehearsed bunch of middle-aged guys trying to get a Dead cover band together for the first time. No one was leading, Bob played like he was on valium, which at his age and his schedule I don’t fault him for, but it was an acoustic mess to me. nothing jelled, nothing surged, nothing really made it special. That’s a hard thing for me to say/write, because I listen to the Dead’s play nearly every waking minute of every day in some fashion, whether it be bluegrass covers, different ensembles of the members of the Grateful Dead like Jerry and some of his friends, NRPS, or straight-up bootlegs or recordings of which there are thousands. Sure, I listen to other stuff, but I would guess it’s 80/20.
I wonder if Bob will just keep playing until he croaks on stage. I’m sure he would like to. He’s not doing it for the money, but he is charging people to hear/see him play, and at some point, it’s going to start selling a false bill of goods. People go to his shows for different reasons, but does he really want to keep doing what he’s doing until the value runs out for the audience? I would hope not. I hope he’s not that self-centered. He can still play when and wherever he wants, and he does have a young wife and family after all. I wonder what they think about it all. Personally, I wouldn’t put the music before my family but it’s hard to know what he thinks about of course. I think entertainers should go out on top, and he’s gone over the top, in other words. In any case, I still think he’s inspirational and I’m glad I got to see him play in an intimate setting like I did as well as with the Grateful Dead so many times, both with and without Jerry and with and without Brent and with and without Bruce Hornsby. All unforgettable experiences.
I also realized lately, like an octopus, I collect things. Over time I’ve gathered some weird collections of items which I’m going to start galleries of on this website. Some mundane, like baseball hats, of which I have a gazillion dating back decades. And others more interesting like watches and guitars, if you are the pawn shop type. Fountain pens, old coins, and just piles of collections of old stuff I’ve been lugging around for no reason at all. So if for no other reason than insurance purposes I’m going to spotlight some of them. And for would-be robbers, I also have started a nice collection of guns, so think twice if you’re interested in misappropriating them. A new hobby of mine.