Riff Notes: A New Series

This Fall, Hal Leonard Books will release three new publications as part of the new Riff Notes series. Acoustic Guitar Basics, Electric Guitar Basics and Guitar Strings Basics are designed to teach readers all they need to know about choosing a guitar or guitar strings strings and how to perform proper maintenance on their equipment. Authors Phill Dixon and Chris Jones tell us more!

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Many shoppers can be overwhelmed by the size, selection, and noise level of a guitar shop. New players and even experienced players can sometimes be unsure about which questions to ask, or are hesitant to ask too many.   Just curious about guitar strings? Interested in the acoustic guitar, but maybe just the electric? Riff Notes offers a simple but thorough introduction to each topic, giving the reader enough information to help him or her feel more confident but not over-loaded.

Authors Phill Dixon and Christopher Jones have years of experience at Guitar Center helping thousands of new and continuing musicians explore, play and take home their first, second, and ultimate dream instruments. Riff Notes puts that knowledge into writing giving readers easy, quick-to-read expert advice in a series of short and fun, topical reference guides all about guitar-related musical equipment.

Designed to easily fit in guitar cases or gig bags, these booklets introduce the guitar world with simplified terminology and explanations, practical applications and tips, and are written in an easy and conversational tone to engage the reader. Perfect for both novice and experienced players alike, the series includes shopping advice, fun facts, and trivia to engage readers of any playing level. Coming this November: Riff Notes, published by Hal Leonard.

Bill Wyman’s Vox Amplifier

Contest Slide 770x420

Guitar Player and Rolling Stones Gear have teamed up to give you a chance to Win the Brands of the Rolling Stones! Now you can own some of the major brands of equipment the Rolling Stones played including Fender, Martin, Framus, Zemaitis, Gretsch, and Vox in this exciting new sweepstakes! They are also giving away the new book Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio by Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost. Now you have a chance to win this top-notch Vox amp! Read this excerpt from the book about how the band used to worship these amps!

Solid Senders

Bill Wyman officially joined the group on January 5. Apparently, Mick, Keith, and Brian had finally decided that Bill was in after what could best be described as a trial period. Bill explained: “They didn’t like me, but I had a good amplifier, and they were badly in need of amplifiers at that time! So, they kept me on. Later, when they were going to get rid of me, I think I clicked or something and I stayed. I must have just fitted in.” Ian Stewart later commented, “There is a certain amount of truth that Bill was taken on for his equipment, but Bill was very good.”

VoxAmpThe group immediately incorporated Bill’s amplifiers into the backline. While the Watkins Westminster, a 10-watt amp
that came with an 8-inch speaker,
two inputs, a volume control, and a
tone control that also acted as an on-
off switch, was a nice addition, the 
real prize was Bill’s Vox AC-30.

Keith, more impressed by this 
particular amp than he was with 
Bill, later commented: “Bill had
 amplifiers! Bill came fully equipped.
 A Vox AC-30 amplifier, which was 
beyond our means to possess. Built by Jennings in Dartford. We used to worship it. We used to look at it and get on our knees. To have an amplifier was crucial. First off, I just wanted to separate Bill from his amplifier. But that was before he started playing with Charlie.” Watkins, later WEM (Watkins Electric Music), was a London-based company started by Charlie Watkins that specialized in amplification.

The Vox AC-30 was considered the best and loudest guitar amplifier on the market in England at the time. Bill’s AC-30 was tan or beige, commonly referred to as “fawn-colored.” The official model name for the amp was the Vox AC-30/6 Twin Normal; “6” meaning six inputs, “Twin” meaning two speakers, and “Normal” meaning the guitar rather than bass version. The AC-30 was equipped with four EL84 power tubes, five pre-amp tubes, and a single GZ34 rectifier tube. Jim Elyea’s definitive book Vox Amplifiers The JMI Years states that: “Bill’s original ‘fawn’ AC-30 was built in approximately February 1962 and was purchased from the Art Nash Music Shop. Bill’s is a Normal model with a brownish copper panel with no Top Boost circuit. The two original leather handles have been replaced with newer Vox SBU handles. The amp is equipped with a pair of Celestion Blue T.530 12-inch speakers and has a sticker inside the amp indicating that the amp was serviced by Alan Pyne.”

The Vox factory was located in Dartford, where Mick and Keith
grew up, and the primary Vox amplifier showroom was the Jennings
 music shop on Charing Cross Road in central London. Jennings Musical
 Industries was established by Tom Jennings in 1958. In 1962, the
 operation further expanded its horizons with the introduction of Vox 
guitars The company’s Vox amplifiers were devised by JMI’s chief design
engineer, Dick Denney.. Denney, who was also the creator of the AC-30,
started the Vox amplifier line with a 15-watt unit. He then reasoned that
what musicians really needed was a twin-speaker amp with six inputs.
Denney remembered Tom Jennings’s reaction to the concept: “He said to
me, ‘Well, you do what you like Dick, but if it doesn’t work, your head’s
on the chopping block.’ As it turned out, the AC-30 became the jewel in
 Vox’s crown; it’s what put Vox on the map. I made the amp so that it
sounded good to me. It was old technology, and I think old technology
still prevails.” One of the design oddities of the AC-30 was the situation of its control panel at the back of the top of the cabinet. Denney explained that his fellow guitarists at the time often sat behind their amplifiers, which projected a reverb-type effect into the hall from the front and a “dry” sound from the open back. Wyman’s Vox AC-30 amplifier cost £105, about $300 then, the equivalent of about £1,340 ($1,870) today.

On January 14, 1963, Tony Chapman was fired at the end of a gig at the Flamingo Jazz Club in Soho, London. The January 14, 1963, entry in Keith’s diary reads simply, “Tony Sacked!” Bill Wyman remembered: “Tony was told that his services were no longer required. He was furious and said, ‘Come on, Bill, let’s go and start a new band.’ I told him I was staying with the Stones, and Tony just upped and left.”

C. Eric Banister on Cash

On this date in 2003, the legend that was Johnny Cash sadly passed away. Johnny Cash FAQ author C. Eric Banister reflects on the legacy of the Man in Black and how, even after his death, his artistry continues to have a powerful impact upon his fans.

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It seems odd to say someone died in their prime at age seventy-one, but it’s true of Johnny Cash. It might be more accurate to say it was one of his primes, since Cash had a habit of fading away and then making a comeback of sorts. When he passed away on September 12, 2003 his newest album, the fourth in the American Recordings series, was not a year old yet and was on its way to a #2 peak on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (and #22 on the Billboard 200). Just after his passing the boxed set Unearthed was released, and along with the two remaining American Recordings albums released in 2006 and 2010, showed that he was still in a creative upswing even though his health was in a down period.

The sales numbers of these final projects showed that Cash still had legions of fans and the world would miss him immensely. Even now, eleven years after his death, Cash still claims large numbers of fans. In March of this year a “new” Cash project was released in the form of Out Among the Stars. Based on recordings made in 1981 (and 1984) with legendary producer Billy Sherrill and later shelved, the album wasn’t what fans of American Recordings had grown used to, but the fans took it to #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and #3 on the Billboard 200.

Cash’s legacy remains a driving creative force, as evidenced by the recent release of Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited. Fifty years ago, Cash released the masterpiece Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It was a bold move for a country musician and one that saw him shift a bit in the eyes of many to a more folk-centered singer. It didn’t matter how others saw him, Cash was doing it because he cared about the cause and he liked the songs, many of them from the pen of Peter LaFarge. At a time when many were picking up the banner for civil rights, Cash did so as well. Except where many picked up on the struggles of the African-American in the South (and rightfully so), Cash was drawn to the “Red Power” movement.

Even with the shift in tone for Cash, the album still topped the Country Albums chart and broke the Top 50 of the Pop chart. Its lone single, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” peaked at #3 on the Country Singles chart, but it was a battle with disc jockey’s to accomplish that. (Cash famously put an ad in Billboard calling them and other industry folks out for cowardice).

Throughout his life Cash was often compared to Hank Williams, both in terms of artistry and in self-destructive behavior. Like Williams, Cash’s creative art will continue to inspire musicians even another fifty years from now. Eleven years gone, and never forgotten.

The Beatles at the Chicago International Ampitheater

50 years ago today, the Beatles took to the Chicago stage. This was no ordinary concert; in fact it was one of the most bizarre shows that Beatles reporter Larry Kane had ever seen! How many time have YOU seen cuts of beef thrown at a concert? Larry recounts his experience in his book, Ticket to Ride:

Chicago: What a city! Clean, organized, another great American melting pot, glistening on the shores of Lake Michigan and, with its great Midwestern flair, absolutely ready for the Beatles.

The flight from Milwaukee was the shortest on both tours, but we didn’t land where we expected. Scheduled to land at O’Hare Airport, the American Flyer’s turboprop touched down instead at Midway Airport. But the airport switch didn’t fool several thousand fans who had 00128670been alerted by a local radio station. The Beatles, all nursing sore throats and looking wan and exhausted, moved quickly down the steps to the waiting limousines. Our motorcade moved swiftly to the Stockyard Inn, a restaurant famous for its steaks. The inn was an old building with a variety of rooms. Four of us from the press corps enjoyed a meal down the hall from the Beatles’ private dining room. For once, we got to avoid the hot dogs and French fries of the concert halls.

It was looking like a pretty good day in Beatle-land until we arrived at the stage entrance to the Chicago International Amphitheater, which was adjacent to the restaurant. By September 5, it was obvious that jelly- beans, stuffed animals, flowers and stick pins were the most likely objects to fly in the direction of the Beatles. But how often do you get struck in the chest by a slice of raw filet mignon thrown by a young hurler in the tenth row? At least Paul McCartney saw the beef missile coming at him and avoided the surprise, if not the impact.

Correspondent Art Schreiber remembers the beef incident: “McCartney was just standing there, doing his thing, when the meat hit the left side of his jacket, splattering a bit of beef juice but falling to the floor, where George sort of kicked it out of the way. The most dumbfounded of all was Ringo, who stretched his neck out over the microphones on the drums to see what the hell it was. It was funny, and it was weird.”

The kids in the crowd were too occupied shrieking and crying and pulling their hair out to see the UFO (unusual flying object). In the crowd, people like Barbara Singer were swooning with delight:

“I had just turned fourteen. Miraculously, my father managed to snare a pair of tenth-row tickets to that concert for my sixteen-year-old sister and me. My sister and I were ecstatic when we took our seats on the night of the show. We were so close to the stage that we could almost touch the microphones that had been set out in front for John, Paul and George. The air was thick with anticipation as we waited impatiently for the music to begin. Finally, the Beatles took the stage to a chorus of screams thirteen thousand strong. My sister joined the frenetic crowd and began to shriek loudly into my right ear. I realized with dismay that the pandemonium around me was drowning out the sounds coming from the stage. Frantically, I begged my sister to stop screaming so that I could hear the Beatles. My pleas fell on deaf ears. My sister continued to squeal with the crowd throughout the set. Fortunately, somewhere between ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout,’ my sister overcame her frenzy just long enough to take a photo of the Fab Four with her Instamatic camera. We still have treasured copies of that singular snapshot, reminding us of the great- est concert that we never heard!”

Barbara’s sister and the thousands around her provided us with the loudest reaction yet to the Beatles. The amphitheater was small, and the screaming seemed to resonate as if it were projected into a canyon. I heard not a word of lyrics. I did get an eyeful of Beatles— though I had to venture into the crowd to get it. But soon I found myself pinned between the crowd and the stage. The situation was so very tight that I had no choice but to stand in place and watch. It actually turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to take in the scene. Here are my notes, which I scribbled on the plane later that night:

“Ringo. Beating the drums so hard. Wonder how he can hear what’s going on with the crowd noise. He keeps on putting the stick to the drums. Looks around. Smiling. George kicks the slab of meat off the stage. McCartney and Lennon face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek, almost in perfect harmony on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Girl behind me puts arms over my shoulders, reaching out to try and grab Paul’s shoes. Her face is pressed against the strap of the tape recorder. Cop has arms spread out to prevent movement toward stage. Paul looks down at me with an expression that reads, “What are YOU doing down there?” He smiles. Wonder if I’ll make the motorcade or get squeezed to death here. Breathing difficult. Sweating loads. Girl in rear crying. Is it pain or pleasure? “Hard Days Night” playing. This was a hard night. Being in the middle, between Beatles and fans, makes me feel closer to it—what- ever “it” is. Clarence Frogman Henry is standing near the stage, taking it in. When “Hard Days Night” is over, I start pushing and shoving to get out, but some private guard holds me back. I move to the other side and reach rear entrance. No chances here. I get to the cars before the Beatles. Neil brings boys to limo. Ringo jokes about flying meat. Derek looks pissed. Hope I never see this place again. It’s too hot and sticky.”

Coming this Fall – 108 Rock Star Guitars

Jack White - 1963/64 Airline Guitar

Hal Leonard Books will release a softcover edition of 108 Rock Star Guitars by photographer/author Lisa S. Johnson on November 11, 2014. This exquisite book, originally issued as an embossed, red leatherette-bound hardcover in limited quantity that USA Today called, “…a monster of a coffee table book…” will now be available to a much wider audience at a more affordable retail price of $54.

Hailed as “impressive,” “jaw-dropping,” “masterpiece” and “elegant” by media and artists alike when it was released in October 2013, 108 Rock Star Guitars received widespread accolades for its overall design and the artistry of the images—up-close portraits of the cherished guitars belonging to some of the world’s most iconic players. American Photo magazine named it one of the “Best Photo Books of the Year” for 2013, while Brian Setzer called it, “The classiest guitar book I have ever seen.”

Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Slash, Carlos Santana, Jack White, Ronnie Wood, Lou Reed, Ace Frehley, Billy Gibbons, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Winter, and Les Paul, who also wrote the foreword, are among the rock stars whose instruments are featured.

The softcover, with French flaps, includes many of the same features of the original book in a slightly smaller size (9”x10.5”): 396 pages, 486 gorgeous color images, reproduced using a six-color printing process, on high quality paper, and cover art that replicates the hardcover’s award-winning design.

“I am thrilled that Hal Leonard, with its global distribution channels, will publish the softcover edition of 108 Rock Star Guitars,” Johnson commented. “Even at a lower price, it was essential that this version maintained the style and beautiful quality of the hardcover edition, and I think anyone who sees this book will appreciate the care and detail that went into the new presentation.”

 

In 108 Lisa Johnson by Ewasko TIFF format (135 of 229)Rock Star Guitars, Johnson’s extreme close-up images capture the intimate details of her six-string subjects in a fresh and distinctive way revealing the beauty and art in these magnificent instruments, and giving insight into the personality of the musicians who play them. Additionally, she provides personal anecdotes describing her 17-year quest to photograph these guitars and documents her travels from the backstage hallways of some of the world’s most famous venues to the artists’ private homes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa S. Johnson grew up in an artistic family, where she fell in love with melody and imagery and pursued a career in photography. After a successful 10-year stint working at Eastman Kodak, she met the owner of a vintage guitar shop in Memphis, Tenn., and began exclusively photographing guitars. She lives in Las Vegas.

 

Win Bill Wyman’s Framus Star Bass

Contest Slide 770x420Guitar Player and Rolling Stones Gear have teamed up to give you a chance to Win the Brands of the Rolling Stones! Now you can own some of the major brands of equipment the Rolling Stones played including Fender, Martin, Framus, Zemaitis, Gretsch, and Vox in this exciting new sweepstakes! They are also giving away the new book Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio by Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost. Now you have a chance to win this stunning Framus bass! Andy and Greg wrote about Bill’s decision to play a Framus in Rolling Stones Gear.

 

BILL WYMAN’S FRAMUS STAR BASS

During August and September, the group began doing more shows on the ballroom circuit. Crowd hysteria and chaos grew with their popularity. Bill was no longer comfortable using his customized fretless Dallas Tuxedo bass onstage, fearing that it might be damaged or, worse yet, stolen. So, he went to the Art Nash music shop in Penge on September 2 and purchased a Framus Star F5/150 bass. He 152147-FR05150 STARB SH V11remembered: “I decided to buy a new bass guitar. I helped finance my purchase by selling my old bass cabinet and amp to Tony Chapman for £25. He had put together a new band with Steve Carroll and some friends. They called themselves the Preachers.”

On why he decided to go with a Framus Star bass, he explained: “I never really settled on
anything. About the only thing around at that 
time that was suitable was a Framus Star—you know, with the big cherry body. I played it
 upright because it was still quite a long guitar and 
my arms are short as well. I found it physically 
easier to stretch up and down than sideways. I
 played one of those up through 1968. I tried a 
few Vox guitars, some Gibsons, and various
 Fenders, because of the sound. The boys always 
used to say, ‘Why don’t you try a Fender—you
 get a really good sound and it’s easy to record 
and all that. I would agree, but I could not play
 the bloody things. I tried the Mustang, the
 smaller version, and there were a couple more I
 can’t remember. I actually did an album with the
 Mustang, though I can’t remember which one.
 After that I tried a Gibson for onstage, but the 
bottom strings were really dull sounding.” He
added that, “It was better for what we were doing then. My bass [the Dallas] was wonderful for the blues—you know the real down-home, earthy blues—, because I got a fantastic sound with that. When I went on to the Star Bass, it became more R&B, when the Stones became more R&B as well. I got that in the when we started to do ballrooms. The endorsement came after we started to become popular.”

Bill’s Framus Star F5/150 bass was a single-cutaway, 18-inch wide, thin hollow body with two white-bound ƒ-holes. The bass was finished in a red-to-black sunburst and had white binding, two pickups, and a black pickguard, on which the Framus logo was embossed in white. The white volume and tone controls were mounted directly on the pickguard instead of the body of the bass. The adjustable bridge was made of rosewood, with a Framus trapezes tailpiece engraved with “Star Bass.” The bass was fitted with a very thin, multi-laminated, long-scale, bolt-on neck with a bound rosewood fingerboard and a two-per-side headstock with white plastic-shaft tuning pegs.

Fred Wilfer founded Framus in Germany in 1946, at first concentrating on acoustic instruments. By 1954, Framus had started adding pickups to their guitars and was making thin body, semi-acoustic guitars and basses by 1958. Framus was known for their multi-laminated necks and their unique pickups and electronic designs. With the help of the escalating beat boom, the instruments became very popular and were distributed in Great Britain through the London-based Dallas company.

Bill first used his Framus Star bass on stage the same
day he bought it, at Studio 51, the group’s Monday 
evening residency. He remembered, “That night I used it
at Studio 51 and had to admit it was much better than my
homemade bass.” He used it for the first time on television when the Stones mimed “Come On” on ABC-TVs “Lucky Stars Summer Spin,” which was filmed on September 8, 1963, and aired on September 14.

Q&A with Harvey Kubernik (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of an interview with Harvey Kubernik, author of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows at Heck of a Guy — The Other Leonard Cohen Site.

00126365Q: Of all the stories you’ve heard through the years about Leonard Cohen, which strikes you as the most moving? funniest?A: To this day I still find it strange and funny, and still can’t comprehend on some level that in 1967 Leonard Cohen had a full length mirror in the Columbia recording studio so he could watch himself play and sing during his initial LP sessions. If he got lost in the creative process he could employ the mirror to keep him on track or remember lyrics or chords.

I also found the quotes from Nick Cave on Leonard very moving. In the mid-eighties I produced a Nick Cave spoken word reading at the Lhasa Club in Hollywood and we talked about Leonard Cohen around settlement. We were all in same frame game together. The impact an early Cohen LP had on him four decades ago was immense.

Q: You wrote that “this book is neither definitive nor encyclopedic.” How did you decide which content made it into Everybody Knows and which didn’t make the cut?A: Many of the choices were influenced by the supportive working relationship that developed among myself,  publisher Colin Webb, and UK editor  James Hodgson.  After I put together a formal proposal with areas of interest and interview subjects, we had many discussions. Both Colin and James were easy to work with. They were pleased to see names that had never been in a Cohen book and often emailed me about getting a photo to accompany a given quote or section of text. Sometime a photo would trigger a text to be written or a pull quote or a sidebar I would want inserted. Or they would ask if I was interviewing someone and I’d respond, ‘just ran tape on them.’

I also made the musicians a top priority way over the women or lovers in Leonard’s life, none of whom I even spoke to. It wasn’t that sort of biographical examination. If organically something is revealed, fine. But on this Cohen book I felt Leonard’s creative life needed to be re-defined partially by my own hand-picked west coast team of friends and musical associates as well as worldwide interview quotes I gathered to inform the text and enhance the visuals. “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

After my brother Kenneth, my regional editor, reviewed the initial large sections, he made some first look observations, namely that my manuscript had to be condensed from 100,000 words to 60,000. That was a stressful and exhausting process for me. You edit alone.

Authors, including Andrew Loog Oldham, gave me some important interior editing tips. Poets and writers Harry E. Northup and Jimm Cushing provided especially helpful feedback, reinforcing that the new data and photos were as potent as I hoped.

I wouldn’t have bled for this book if its pages didn’t contain extraordinary, important insights and observations.

Any major Leonard Cohen project demands certain essential voices and interview subjects. There are, as well, specific subjects and a biographical chronology the reader has to know. That being acknowledged, it was my responsibility to incorporate these obligatory elements with new material to create a portrait of the man from a unique perspective.

There is a bit of redundancy, such as citations and quotes from other publications, but as UCLA basketball coach John R. Wooden once explained to me, life, like hoops, is a game of repetition – as long as it moves the ball to the basket it’s OK.

View the rest of the interview HERE!