Claescaster

Month: November, 2013

Guitar of the day

Peter Green 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Peter Green 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

One of the most famous and highly collectable vintage guitars of all time, the infamous Peter Green Les Paul. Most Blues fans will know that as well as being revered for his amazing tone and unmistakeable vibrato, B.B. King once remarked “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He’s the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”, over the years Peter’s Les Paul has built up a similar legend in guitar folklore. Now in the hands of a private collector, it made it’s journey through Peter Greens hands and into the arms of Gary Moore who put it to good use on a number of his albums and live shows. Earlier on in his career, Peter Green played a  Harmony Meteor, a cheap hollow-body guitar, but quickly started playing a  Gibson Les Paul with  The Bluesbreakers after he replaced Eric Clapton in the band. Green’s guitar was often referred to as his “magic guitar”. “I never had a magic one. Mine wasn’t magic…It just barely worked” said Green in 2000. “I stumbled across one when I was looking for something more powerful than my Harmony Meteor. I went into Selmer’s in Charing Cross Road [central London] and tried one. It was only £110 and it sounded lovely and the color was really good. But the neck was like a tree trunk… It was very different from Eric’s Les Paul, which was slim with a very fast action.”

In part, his unique tone derived from a modification to the neck  pickup which was reversed and rewired, a modification made after 1967. For anyone looking to modify their guitar in the same way, we found a link to a nice blog here on how to perform the tone mod in detailed steps http://www.geetarz.org/axes/green.htm

It was in the early 70’s when Green passed the guitar over to Gary Moore. Peter was suffering from mental health problems and would put his guitar down for the best part of 8 years. At the time, the Irishman was a friend and close neighbor of Green’s in London. Green initially tried to give the Les Paul to him on the understanding that he could ask for it back when he was well enough to play again but Moore insisted on paying the £110 that it originally cost and Peter Green never did ask for it to be returned. Once in the hands of Gary Moore, the guitar went on to be used on a number of recordings, most notably the ‘Blues For Greeny’ album of Fleetwood Mac covers dedicated to the orginal owner. Green used it extensively until he sold the guitar in 2006.

Peter Green and Gary Moore with the 1959 Les Paul Standard
Peter Green and Gary Moore with the 1959 Les Paul Standard

Gary Moore explained why he parted ways with the iconic instrument: “It’s a long story. The instrument itself was a very special instrument, obviously. But it got to the point where I couldn’t take it anywhere. I didn’t want to sell it. I had to sell it for various reasons because I injured my hand a few years ago and the insurance didn’t pay up, and I had to cover the tour costs for canceled shows with my own money, and I didn’t get paid for any of the shows, obviously, or for anything. I ended up with debt. So it was kind of a financial thing, really, and that was the quickest way to do anything about it. So I never wanted to sell it. I mean, why would I? I kept the other ’59 Les Paul and I sold that one. That guitar was played by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher played it, and I’ve played it. It was a very special instrument. Les Pauls are all so different. That one is a big old battle axe. Peter Green never really liked that guitar because the neck was too big. He wanted me to have it because he said he wanted it to go to a good home.” Taken from Interactive Guitar

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Photo of the day

Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly in 1959
Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly in 1959

“Buddy was the first person to have faith in my music. He encouraged me in my music and my writing. He was my friend. If anything I’ve ever done is remembered, part of it is because of Buddy Holly.” – Waylon Jennings

How to… Repair lacquer damage

I really like worn guitars, well it’s hard to avoid when most of my guitars are 30-40 years old, the oldest guitar I got is my little Levin from 1942. However, there is one thing that I can’t stand, marks and dents on the back of the neck. Some little imperfection that you feel every time you move you hand up and down the neck. I’m not sure if it’s related to my slight OCD but it annoys me so much that I tend not to play any of my guitars that doesn’t have perfect smooth necks. The worst used to be my Greco Les Paul, it had a dent in the neck and I complained so much when I bought that I actually got it cheaper. When I received my Goya T-18 and my Morris W-40 and realised that they both had really bad marks on the back of the neck I just wanted to cry. Then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I can’t be the only one that has issues with this, so I checked some Youtube videos to learn how to fix it and then ordered everything I needed. It’s actually really easy to fix yourself, well as soon as you find good lacquer and sandpaper with a grit fine enough, that turned out to be impossible around here. I managed to find a eBay seller that sold Nitrocellulose lacquer fairly cheap and was willing to ship to Spain. The sandpaper I had to order from China, I couldn’t find anything finer than 800 in Barcelona. After a months waiting and some feeble practice runs on less loved guitars I was finally ready to try to fix all dents, marks and imperfections on the back of my guitar necks. It went really well, or as well as it could with just 2500 grit, ideally I would have liked to have something much finer for really getting the shine back, especially on flat surfaces like bodies, the necks looked pretty good anyway.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
Before I started on any necks I decided to practice on the fairly roadworn body of my old Claescaster. The sandpaper I ordered from eBay came in 1500, 2000, 2500 grit and actually turned out to be made in Japan. I cut wine corks in half and glued sandpaper strips to them to get a straight sanding surface, remember to mark the grit on them otherwise it gets a bit confusing. Next step, apply the lacquer. It dries pretty fast, about 10 min, which is good because you normally need to apply lacquer more than once to really fill the dents. When it’s dry just cut off the access with a razor blade until the surface feels smooth. It’s good to tape around the blade, not only to avoid cutting yourself, but also to not scratch the surrounding surfaces.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
Remember to dip the sandpaper in water before you start sanding, you can really feel the difference especially with the finer grits. I used 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit on my little wine cork sanding blocks. I would have loved to have something even finer. I tried everything I could think of that could have a bit of sanding effect but was finer than 2500 grit. Pencil eraser, sponges, different cloths, in the end I rubbed really hard with metal polish which seemed to work a bit. As a last step I applied a bit of Carnauba wax and a lot of elbow grease and then buffed it up with a fine microfiber cloth.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
This is the back of the neck of my Morris W-40. The seller didn’t even bother to mention that it had deep cuts in the neck. This took quite a few fills with lacquer to even out the dents but in the end it worked pretty well. You can still see a slight colour change but you can’t feel the dents, which was the main thing for me. The last photo is not of the final polished result, it’s in the middle of sanding, I forgot to take a picture when I was done. I’m very happy with the result on all of the guitar necks I tried to fix. It was also a lot easier to get the sanding smooth and unnoticeable on the back of a neck compared to a guitar body.

Movie of the day

Dolly Parton 1970's

Araceli and I watched this documentary about Dolly Parton last week which was quite good. We also decided to watch Nine to five after which was even better.

Photo of the day

Neil Young in 1967 by Jini Dellaccio
Neil Young in 1967 by Jini Dellaccio

Morris

Morris WL-35 and Morris W-40
1970’s Morris WL-35 and a 1973 Morris W-40

I’m still trying to figure out what I like and what I’m after when it comes to acoustic guitars. It’s a quite new thing for me, to play acoustic. I mentioned in an earlier post that it’s a bit like understanding and appreciating fine wine, you need to train your pallet and know what you are looking for, otherwise wine just taste like wine and acoustic guitars sounds more or less drang drang. I’m not sure if all Morris are as good as the two I got but these sounds better than pretty much anything I have ever heard before. I love the look of the Morris W-40 but it’s not as well sounding as the WL-35. I guess the W-40 has that typical Martin D-45 sound, a really dark bass and still nice highs, but a bit weak on the treble side for me. It’s not that good for finger picking, it’s lacking a bit of volume on the high E and B string, something that might be because of the light string gauge, I’m using 11’s at the moment. I’m going to string it with 12’s and see if the volume improve. The Morris W-40 still has one of the best sounds for open chords playing that I’ve ever heard, so much warmth and body, I guess because of the Brazilian rosewood. The Morris WL-35 is probably a better all-round guitar, finger picking, chords, solo playing, everything sounds good on it. I’m just struggling a bit since it’s so big. I think it’s based on some old Guild model, at least the head looks very Guild inspired. Anyway, I can strongly recommend Morris as a brand to anyone looking for a good sounding high quality built Japan made acoustic.

Morris W-40 1973

Moridaira (Morris Guitars)
Founded in 1967 by Toshio “Mori” Moridaira, the Moridaira factory produced high-quality guitars, including the infamous Morris badged guitar. Moridaira also produced badged guitars for Hohner including Coronado, Futurama, H.S. Anderson, Lotus (some) and Sakai.

Photo of the day

Leonard Cohen blowing smoke rings by Jim Wigler
Leonard Cohen blowing smoke rings by Jim Wigler

The smoke ring photograph of Leonard was taken in New York City in the 60′s. I lived at 377 Bleecker Street and Mary Martin, his manager at the time, lived beneath me. I had, a few year earlier, left the Austin Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (an open psychiatric treatment center). One day I heard this awful singing and guitar strumming beneath me and I put the speakers of my stereo face down on the floor and played Mormon Tabernacle choir music. Mary immediately ran upstairs and confronted me. We instantly became friends. She was living with Bob Dylan’s cat, Lord. Through her, I met Leonard and Sheila Campion (who worked with Bob Krasner at The Realist) and the Zappas, Zalman Yanovsky and other 60′s rock luminaries. My father had just sent me a Nikon camera and a few lenses as I had expressed an interest in photography when I left the mental hospital. Mary asked me if I could take some pictures of Leonard, which I did. The first edition of “Spice Box of Earth” has one of my photographs on it, and I did a whole shoot for some German magazine, but they retained the negatives. The smoke ring picture was taken at Peter’s Pot Belly (or something like that) a coffee shop in our neighborhood. The shot was simply serendipitous. It wasn’t planned or anything, I was just taking pictures as he was smoking and talking. – Jim Wigler

Conan O’Brien

Jack white playing mandolin wearing a hat
Say what you want about Jack White but he loves old guitars, wearing hats and dressing up and so do I so at least we have that in common

I quite often watch Youtube clips while I eat at work and lately I’ve seen quite a few clips with Conan O’Brien. I’ve always thought he’s been quite good but now I found out that he is doing these 1-1.5 hours shows called Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O’Brien where he interviews his friends. It’s just him and a guest in a black room and since it’s made straight for the internet there are no commercial breaks and people are allowed to smoke and drink alcohol. Here is one with Jack White that I thought was pretty interesting.

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart drinking Hein

I was raised on Rod Stewart. It’s the only music that was ever played out loud in my house when I grew up. Weekend mornings back in Södertälje and my mum would dazzle my young innocent mind with the raspy voice of Rod Stewart while she was cleaning the house. I guess I kind of always liked it but since she preferred the late Seventies stuff I didn’t fully understand how good he was until I decided to find out for myself. I bought his 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story when I was about 17-18 years old and was hooked straight away and bought everything I could find, both Rod Stewart solo and with The Faces. Well everything I could find up until his 1974 album Smiler, after that he left The Faces and moved to America and made Atlantic Crossing and the Rod I knew and loved was gone. Out of my old heroes I guess it’s just Rod Stewart, with and without The Faces, and Crosby, Stills & Nash that I still really care about. Here is a longer post about Rod Stewart that I wrote for my other blog.

Rod Stewart - Every picture tells a storyThe record that changed my life, Rod Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story

One of the reasons why I love Rod

Grab yourself a drink and start the night with this concert

If you would like to get to know Rod a bit better

The Faces live at The Marquee Club 1970

Alhambra

Alhambra 1978
Alhambra, Made in Spain in 1978

This beautiful old Alhambra arrived to the office yesterday. It’s a present for my father-in-law, Marcos. He picked up a guitar for the first time a couple of years ago when he was in his late Sixties, which proves that it’s never too late. Now he felt that he had outgrown his beginners guitar and wanted something else so Araceli and I bought this one for him. He really wanted an Alhambra, not only for their reputation but also because they are built in Muro de Alcoy, a small village in the mountains north of Alicante, not far from where Marcos grew up in Cartagena. The only problem is that the second hand markets for guitars in Spain is pretty bad and even worse in the South so his only option would have been to spend 700€ on a new one, the prices are quite high down there since there isn’t much competition. So we decided to help him out and found this fairly cheap from Germany on eBay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, nowadays Alhambra is one of the worlds best and biggest guitar builders known for their great quality, but how were things 30-40 years ago? I had only played one once, a beat up Alhambra from 1976 that I found in a Cash Converter. It had a terrible belly and the bridge was coming off too but they still wanted 120€ for it and refused to lower the price since it was an Alhambra. These Seventies models doesn’t seem to have any model indications so it’s hard to know if a certain guitar was made for the tourists in the 1960-70’s or if it was made to be played properly. The machine heads, fretboard and frets are on the cheaper side but the wood is amazing and they have really great tone. So even if this was made fairly cheap for a tourist to bring back home to Germany they still knew how to build great guitars because the volume and tone is far better than on any modern Spanish guitar that I have played lately. I levelled the frets a bit, crowned them and softened the edges and then polished everything. I also sanded down the saddle since the action was a bit high but now it feels nice and plays really well, maybe not as nice as my Francisca Montserrat but still. Now we just have to wait and see what Marcos feels about his new guitar, hopefully he will like it as much as Araceli and I do.

Alhambra 1978
The frets felt pretty uneven so I levelled, crowned and polished them and then sanded down the saddle a bit

Alhambra 1978

Alhambra 1978
Alhambra built in Muro de Alcoy in 1978