Category Archives: Guitars

I Must Do Something Creative

 

I spend a few weekends a month gigging out. It’s really fun, and I get to play my electric guitars loud…which I love. Every now and then though I get the itch to do something creative for myself. It’s a demand from my wiring, really. If left un-quenched, it can turn into an almost neurosis-level rattle that makes me insane. It’s like having a ball baring rolling back and forth inside the dashboard of your car with every turn you make. Eventually the want and need to solve the problem heats to the fire of a nuclear blast. In the past, this has usually translated into me writing/recording music.

So, this very thing happened a few months back and I decided I wanted to learn one of my favorite songs. Then I decide to make a video of me singing and playing it. This really isn’t something I do regularly, if at all, much less share it on the blog…but hey what can I say? I’m getting older and care a hell of a lot less what people think…but as a musician I still crave peoples attention…life is messy, right? Here’s me, exercising creative demons and covering one of my favorite songs, “All Night Long” by Peter Murphy.

 

The Road To Minimalism II

Since the last post we have been busy, each weekend, hauling loads of stuff to Goodwill. It’s pretty incredible how much we have accumulated.

For me, I think my minimalist tendencies started a few years back, when I looked around me and realized I had something like 20 guitars. Simply keeping all these guitars around in a little 800 square foot house in south St. Louis was a challenge in itself. What happened was I began to realize, even playing multiple gigs a week, I couldn’t possibly utilize all of them. I got to a point where I stopped going to vintage guitar shops to look around, realizing I had way more than I ever needed, or deserved really. I then began getting rid of them.

Now, does this mean I’m cured? Not by a longshot. Take, for example, my pastime of building guitars (I really just part them together). The pic below is of 2 such guitars I’ve made since we got to Phoenix. One is my beloved pine Barncaster, the other is a highly functional and very playable Strat. It was a blast putting them together, a fun and intricate process. The problem is….I have managed to replace buying more guitars than I need with building more guitars than I need.

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Pine Barncaster, Superstrat. Sorry for the shitty pic

So now the idea is to get down to just a couple guitars. I already have a 95 Les Paul that my father gave me for graduating university. That one stays with me forever….so the question now is what else to keep? Is 2 or 3 guitars overkill for someone that wants to be less burdened by their belongings? Does my gigging regularly justify it? Hell I have no idea. Still adjusting to this whole thing.

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My 1995 Gibson Les Paul, equipped with 2 high-output Seymour Duncan pickups

The other thing I have focused on lately is selling all the little guitar parts that I have accumulated over the years working on guitars. None of it is worth a ton, but when I added it up, $10-$20 a pop, I had at least a few hundred bucks just laying around. I sell all this (along with the guitars) on my Reverb store. I’ve already sold a ton of stuff this way in the last few weeks, and I have a lot more to get listed!

Shop My Store on Reverb

Another major we are moving toward minimalism is getting a stall at the Thieves Market in Tempe, on December 3. This will be a great way to get rid of a great deal of the vintage stuff we have laying around. Expect a full report here soon. Alright, JT signing off. Stay sleazy.

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Paint It Black

I’ve made no bones about my love for the Rolling Stones.  Well, the time has come for me to see them live (while they’re still alive!!) when JT and I plus some friends depart for Desert Trip.  To say I’m excited does not do justice to the range of emotions I am experiencing … I am ready to dance my ass off and jump up and down until I can’t walk the next day (wouldn’t be the first time, might be the last time).  Living a five hour drive from Southern California has been pretty sweet.

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So, I have been cranking the tunes and getting some projects done around the house in advance of our friends’ arrival (they’re flying into PHX and we’re all trucking it out to Indio)  While we were working on some projects in the music room hanging shelves and artwork, “Paint It Black” came on our feed and I though it might be the perfect song for our new lounge.  While I know this is actually a song about a young girl’s funeral, I just think the Rolling Stone’s and Charlie Watt’s drum beat were guiding me to the perfect color for this room.

So, as a refresh, we started here:

That was sort of around move-in mess, I guess…. those were some of the only “befores” I kept around.

And now, here we are:

 

It’s like a little aerie as the windows wrap around the corner and it sits on the second floor facing towards the street and above the front door.  The side window has a great view towards the mountain and we originally had the desk right there but it gets too hot.

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The Danish Daybeds make a perfect spot for lounging and I love having them side-by-side.  I added a few blankets and cover for dog protection as this is one of Shenanigan’s favorite perches.  It’s hard to believe these daybeds are the same ones I scored off Mister Modtomic all those years ago.

MR MODTOMIC DANISH DAYBEDS

JT installed guitar “swing” hooks into the stud for secure guitar storage/display.  He still has a bunch of guitars in STL that need to make the trek to PHX … anyone up for a drive?  The wall shelves are from Ikea, the “Skogsta”.  The wood tones help warm things up against the blue-black walls.  This is the darkest wall we have done to date.  I thought about doing the ceiling too but my arms just weren’t up to it.

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We have a lot more space than our first house, that’s for sure … remember that music room?

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I sure do miss those fans though!  We still have the ugly ones upstairs in the new house…

So, there just seems to be something about a music room and a moody wall color that works for us.  It’s helped to have a dedicated work space also for days when JT remotes in from home or when I need to work late and would rather be in my pajamas.  The TV is mounted on a swiveling wall mount and so it can be pulled out for watching TV/playing Playstation from the daybed or we hook the computer into it and use it as a second screen (like now, as I type).  It’s turned into a very flexible and multi-functional room, which is great.

Next stop, Rolling Stones!!  Paint it Black!!  (Something about WordPress is not letting me link to the YouTube song and I can’t find the song in our iTunes library either).  Go forth to the internet and search up some Rolling Stones! I’ll leave you with my other favorite:

Cheers!!!! CT

1975 Fender Precision Bass with Jazz Bass Neck

Sometimes getting clear dates on vintage guitars and basses is a mess. It’s an easy enough question; “what year was this made?” It’s not unreasonable to think doing a little research for about 20 minutes on the internet will answer it for you, but in a lot of cases (especially this one) the ride towards the truth is damn bumpy.

I came across this on craigslist, which was advertised as a 1976 Fender Precision Bass with Jazz Bass neck. Lot’s of parts had been replaced years ago, but with the first look I knew I could sell it. Sometimes mojo and sheer coolness make up for a ton of non-original parts. I’ll pocket that one for a future blog perhaps.

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The Story:
I was told that the original owner ordered this bass from Fender with an ash P-Bass body and a Jazz Bass neck. The previous owner took the bass to a reputable, Fender-licensed shop to have a new identical label placed on the headstock. Before Fender would release the label, the guitar had to be verified to be original, which it was, based on the details and serial numbers present.

I come across intriguing stories like this all the time. I know that back in the day you could call up the factory and order guitars however you wanted them. The major Detroit car makers did the same thing at the same time.

My thing is (I guess it’s a thing? What’s a thing, really?) I can’t really believe these things until I investigate myself. In a lot of cases these dudes don’t want you popping the neck and pickguard off to look at dating codes, so when negotiating a price you have to take that into consideration. I got a great deal on this one so I sprung for it.

The Facts:

Here’s where I turn into Professor Propeller-Head and you’ll have to pay attention to the details.

Around 1976, Fender started what we consider today to be the modern serial number system. It’s pasted on the headstock and the first two characters tell you the year (S7 = 1977, E1 = 1981). This is generally accepted to be the year the guitar was made, and you have little to worry about unless the neck doesn’t match up with the body or other shit like that.

So the guy whom I bought it from claimed it was a 1976. Great. That means the serial number is on the headstock….but wait…he didn’t like how “old” it looked so he did a pro refin job on the headstock, and had the label replaced with one identical. Nothing against this guy- he was nice…but why oh why do people to this?

So here is a pic of the “identical label” that was replaced. Notice anything? The label is actually a label from the early 70’s era (up through 1975).

Early 70's Era Label

Early 70’s Era Label

This led me to think that what I had here was not in fact a 76, but likely a 75 or earlier. Time to pop the neck off, and look at the date code on the heel:

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The code on the neck heel reads (from what I can tell) 02011713

Generally this means:
02 – Jazz Bass
01 – Rosewood Fingerboard
17 – Week code
1 – 1971
3 – Wednesday

1971. What the hell?

Here’s where you start banging your head against the wall.

It’s known that sometimes with these Fender neck heel date codes the last two numbers were transposed, so there’s a good possibility that the “3” actually represents 1973. It’s also possible that the numbers are faded enough that I’m reading them wrong. Take a look at the picture.

The neck plate serial number reads 508162, placing the date around 1973, 1974. I’m not a huge fan on relying on a removable part to determine the date of the guitar body, but in this case the date matches up to the era of the neck.

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Going a little further, the neck pocket, while not having any date codes to read, does have period-correct quality assurance markings. The name “FRANK” is the name of a dude that worked in the Fender factory and shows up on other period-matching guitars and basses.

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This is a huge hassle, and you might wonder, as I have, why Fender didn’t take better care in providing trackable dates?

Look- the answer is that these guitars were made in a mass-production factory environment. The folks putting them together grabbed parts from boxes, and it wasn’t uncommon to have a year-old neck slapped onto a new body. They worked with what was around. They also didn’t know that there would be nerds like you and me desperately working to curate and determine specific years of manufacture. They simply weren’t in the business of making that clear and traceable.

The bottom line is I could determine with some certainty that this was a body and neck from the same era. For Reverb posting purposes I called it a 1975, but the the fact is I don’t have a clue exactly what year it was assembled and sold.

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Why go through all of this? Well for one I can’t assess the value and place an accurate and fair price until I play this “who-the-hell-are-you” game. The biggest reason though is this is EXACTLY what sellers like me are responsible for. You have to commit to due diligence and make sure people know the full story. The folks I sell to aren’t collectors or high rollers- they’re dudes and ladies like me who don’t make a ton of money, but want and frankly deserve to play cool vintage guitars.

Just call me Ray Zalinsky: I sell guitars to the American working man because that’s who I am and that’s who I care about.

I sold this via my Reverb store to a fellow in Georgia, seemed to really like it. He asked for a copy of the research, and I was happy to comply.

Thompson Thrift Comes to Life

Happy Tofurkey Day to all!

I think I’ve mentioned it here on the blog before but JT and I have always dreamed of one day doddering away our time in a joint venture, “Thompson Guitar and Thrift” – a store full of amazing guitars and vintage furniture and objects – kind of just a place you would want to hang out in all day.  Add in Sophie and Shenanigan as two lazy shop dogs and you’re painting my dream picture.

At any rate, a brick and mortar store isn’t something we’re ready to commit to at this point in our lives.  We both have full time day jobs and frankly like the security and 401ks those bring.  But we still dream of the shop and so we’ve both taken (online) steps to make our dream a reality.

JT has been doing the guitar thing for a while now, first on eBay and now on Reverb.  Reverb has been great for him – the percent they take from your sale is way less than eBay and Reverb is geared right at him and his fellow musicians.

Reverb Store

JT has his very own Black Friday sale running until Sunday evening.

Reverb Store Inventory

He’s got some good stuff squirreled away — the ’78 Fender Telecaster, a whole Strat or just a Strat body and pickguards galore.  You can see his store here.  He has 24 reviews right now and I think they’re all five star – he’s a responsive seller and he knows his guitar stuff.

Etsy Homepage Screenshot

Not to be left behind, I decided to open my own store on Etsy, focusing on the vintage goods side of things.  It kind of grew out of necessity as I was bringing so much stuff home that the house began to feel like it was overflowing.  The online shop became a reality last week and I already made my first sale – you can find me at Thompson Thrift!Shop Inventory To DateBoth JT and I have the same philosophy when it comes to curating our shops – we make it a point to only offer items that we would buy for ourselves.  In fact I keep making side eyes at the copper colander I have up right now … maybe I will set it out as part of my Tofurkey Day table setting.

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I made a little photo shoot spot in the breakfast nook window as it faces north and gets nice diffuse light.  The Ikea faux sheepskin has been working hard as a nice wintery neutral background for my photos.  I’ve actually been photographing everything with my iPhone using the Camera+ app – it has great controls for focus and brightness along with handy little grid lines to help center things up.  I also started using the Google photo drive to quickly send all my photos to the computer where I can edit and upload them.  I don’t think this Etsy venture is going to be a path to quick riches but it’s a fun hobby and helps justify my weekends spent at the thrifts.

Have a great holiday all.  Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year.  Food, family and relaxation can’t be beat.  And I’m going to try out this vegan Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe for dessert.  Cheers!  CT

 

 

1978 Fender Telecaster

The guitar in this post is available (although probably not for long) in my Reverb store. Check it out along with my other offerings at Thompson Guitar & Thrift by clicking this button:

Shop My Store on Reverb

All around the guitar-nerd thunder-dome I exist in, I hear a lot of bad-mouthing of guitars made in the 1970’s. I definitely get some of it, and anyone can see it in the bizarre offerings from Gibson especially in that era. Quality control standards and just the sad state of the economy in general are often cited as reasons for these “less-than” products.

I’ll admit I wasn’t around in the 70’s (CT and I were both born in 1980), so I’m quite honestly not sure what the big deal is? For example, I found this 1978 Fender Telecaster recently. This guitar is absolutely solid, totally playable and has that vintage look/vibe.

1978 Fender Tele in awesome brown finish

1978 Fender Tele in awesome brown finish

This is a great guitar that (as a player) I would put up against any pre-CBS era tele.

1978 Tele Close

So much value is placed around the pre-CBS (before CBS bought out Leo Fender) Fender guitars. So much so, folks like me (and likely you) have an almost impossible time buying or even playing them. The average guitar player, and certainly the average musician just don’t have the tens of thousands to get our hands on one.

What we do have however for vintage Fenders is the 70’s era guitars. As much trash talk as I have heard about them, I have yet to come across one that hasn’t been a delight to play. I played a 78 refinished tele for years and absolutely loved it. They look every bit as vintage, have the same tone as those a few years older, and are guitars that you wouldn’t think twice about bringing to a bar gig.

So what the hell is it exactly that makes them so inferior? Cheaper components?These were guitars made by hard-working Americans who I’m sure took great pride in what they were doing, and did the best with what they had. I for one would like to send my thanks out into the universe to those folks who made some great guitars. Not all of us think they’re sub-par.

1978 Tele headstock

Charvel Model 2 Project PART TWO

So I completed the Charvel Model 2 project! Totally awesome guitar, but since I started building my own superstrats (look for a future blog on this) I decided to sell it in my Reverb store. It’s on sale the weekend of October 8-11, 2015 if you’re interested- just use code GUITAR1 at checkout to save an extra 6%. Check out this and everything in my store by clicking this button:

Shop My Store on Reverb

Finished and in original case

Finished and in original case

Since it was gutted and the original tremelo was destroyed, the list of work is pretty long:

-Replaced original (and destroyed) Kahler tremolo with a Wilkinson (which fit the original bridge posts)

-Added Guitar Fetish VEH (Vintage Extra Hot) Brown Sound pickup

-New gold-plated Switchcraft input jack

-Push-pull split-coil pot

-All-rosewood volume knob

I gotta sat that guitar fetish pickups are where it’s at. This VEH has this amazing tone- just think of a hot PAF humbucker, or Eddie Van Halen’s mystery pickup he had on his frankenstrat. I loved this pickup so much I bought a white one for one of my superstrats (again- look for a future blog post).

Rosewood volume knob

Rosewood volume knob

The push-pull split coil pot was a first for me. It’s a complex wiring job, but I knew that the variance it would add to the tone would be necessary. With the split coil, simply pull the knob up and the hum bucker is now a single coil. It really sounds great and even with the single coil engaged there is minimal to no noise. This is such a great thing to have with a single-pickup guitar.

Completed wiring for push-pull volume pot

Completed wiring for push-pull volume pot

The brand new Wilkinson 2-point tremolo has a big block and keeps nearly perfect tune. What’s great about the Wilkinson is it matched the two posts that were there for the old tremelo. No drilling or filling. This is also great for anyone who would want to find an original Kahler tremelo, as it would fit right back on there.

Wilkinson tremolo mounted on original Kahler mounts

Wilkinson tremolo mounted on original Kahler mounts

This was a really great project, and a real treat to play if you’re into Kramer, Jackson, Charvel or Fender super strats.

Check out more pictures of it, along with a short demo video of me playing it at it’s listing here.