Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Wood & Wire

l to r: Mid 60s Gibson Explorer, MIM Nashville Tele, MIM Strat, Silvertone 1482

Well, Christmas Time is here again - its been a fun three months that we've been open here, and we're looking foward to a full year of cool gear and even cooler music. We're still stocking up - vintage tube combos, pedals, and guitars, from freaks and oddballs to true classics. We're also working on carrying a few newer lines that fit in alongside our old favorites - check back soon for some big announcements. Everybody have a happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Resophonics and exotica

Here's another one we're trying to research. It's an old resonator guitar - and that's all we know. Just how old and what brand are a mystery - can't really even say when the metal body got painted black. If we can figure out what its worth the owner wants to see about putting it in the shop on consignment. It is worth mentioning that this one seems to be set up for regular, Spanish-style playing and not just lap slide stuff. Also, whoever tried playing it last strung it up with nylons!

There's no name on the headstock, just a serial number on the very top - 896. Or, um, 968. Gee, does anybody out there have any special tricks for dating and identifying old resonator guitars? We were thinking of dis-assembling the cone and looking under the pan, but any advice is welcome. We're going to have to spruce this one up a bit (fresh strings, set-up, etc.) before it goes on consignment, anyway.

Speaking of resonators, here's a Republic concert ukulele with a metal body and resonator cone. Very, very loud for the size, but the nylon strings keep it from being shrill despite the relatively high tuning. Come to think of it, maybe that's why somebody put nylons on that guitar. In any case, given that resonator guitars usually make me think of Son House, and ukuleles usually make me think of Tiny Tim, my brain just doesn't really know how to fully process this thing yet. A strange beast indeed.

The same guy that brought in the resonator guitar also had this odd bird to show off. A Japanese-made Firstman "violin" guitar from the sixties. This things has character!

The pickups have a great weedy twang, and the vibrato begs to be abused, Takeshi Terauchi-style. The lack of nutty switches and superfluous knobs is countered by the just-complicated-enough-to-be-useful bridge, as well as a liberal application of tortoiseshell.

The freaky "hammerhead" headstock is a nice touch, also.

Be sure to check back next week, we'll (hopefully) have some really cool news to share...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mystery Guitar No. 2

Here's another mystery guitar. This is actually in for repairs; the guy bought it for his daughter at some kind of estate/auction-type sale and wants to try and make it playable. From the sound of it, most of the stuff at this sale was of the rundown, hang-it-up-at-cracker-barrel variety. From these inauspicious coordinates comes this extremely um, orange guitar. Its a no-name that suggests an old Harmony Stratotone, but the build quality veers towards hillbilly homebrew territory.

Once there was a name on the headstock, but now all that appears to be left is epoxy residue and some truly hellacious cracks along the tuning posts. This thing looks to be made of...what, is that pine, maybe? From the feel of the fretboard, splinters might be a concern. The neck is in rough shape (no truss rod) and the action is a mile off the neck.

The pickup looks like it just might wail, though, if we could just get it to work. Getting this thing to play conventionally might not be feasible - but it might make a wicked cool guitar for slide if the electronics and the headstock cracks are addressed. A fine instrument it is not, but who can argue with that nifty pearloid pickguard?

Plus, it's got a cool case. We'll have to see what the guy wants to do with this one. Anybody that recognizes this thing feel free to chime in - I'd be interested in the story of this one.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'56 Supro/Valco Comet

Here's a 1956 Supro/Valco Comet, covered in glorious, glorious tweed. Our book says this is the only Supro amp with a ten-inch speaker that they made in the 50s. Not as clean as our blackface and silverface Champs, but very cool and practically dripping killer tone.

We're going to very carefully and respectfully try to freshen up the inside of this amp. As with most well-used gear from the fifties, this thing looks like it has seen the elephant, and all his children. Plug in your guitar and it'll tell you all about it.

'68 Kalamazoo KG-1

Here's another vintage piece that's under the radar for most folks. Though it's unassuming appearance suggests a cheap off-brand SG, that's not quite right - come on, who else makes guitars in Kalamazoo, Michigan? Yes, Kalamazoo was actually the name of Gibson's budget line back in the 60s. But while this guitar hasn't reached the status of a Les Paul, Jr. or a Melody Maker, this is still a vintage American-made guitar, albeit one with a bolt-on neck and single-coil pickup, both of which contribute heavily to the Mustang-esque sound that issues forth from this very Gibson-looking body shape.

Note the old-school "burn-in" logo on the headstock.

The body is made out of MDF - or "Medium Density Fiberboard" - which is super, super light, though not without a surprising amount of life and resonance. All told, this guitar plays very smooth and clean - especially compared to other "budget" electrics of the sixties!

60s Audition Guitar and Amp

Well, it looked like Santa Claus came early - we had boxes of new goodies piled up when I came in today. My boss gestures towards the tall, thin box in the corner and says, "got another Mexican Strat for you to sell..."

Grumble, grumble...

Hey, wait a minute - that's not a Strat case!

Score! A nifty mid-60s "Audition" guitar with funky, oversized gold foil-type pickups.

Audition was a brand name for guitars sold through Wool-worth's department stores in the sixties - in actuality, this is a Japanese instrument, probably built for Wool-worth's by Kawai or Teisco. The pickguard and body shape are off-kilter, the knobs & switches numerous, and the neck is as thick and heavy as a Louisville slugger. In other words, a perfect example of mid-60s Japanese guitar design.

The gigantic gold foils alone are worth the price of admission - sweet and twangy at the same time. These look very, very similar to the one that the great slide guitarist Ry Cooder slapped into the neck position of one on his famously hot-rodded Stratocasters (along with an old Supro/Valco lap steel pickup).

The "Cooder-caster." No, really.

But, just as every old low-watt Supro amp is the "one Jimmy Page used," I'm well aware that every Japanese gold foil pickup is the "Ry Cooder" pickup, especially when it pops up on the interweb. I say use your ears - mine tell me that this guitar is cool either way.

Also, we have the matching amp that goes with it. It's a 1x12 tube amp, and though it sounds like about a watt-and-a-half of volume, it gets nasty and crunchy very quickly.

Just for fun, here's the chassis/guts of that amp. This has built-in tremolo, but otherwise its about as bone-simple as can be. Yes, that's a Hitachi brand tube there in front. My boss says that the pots date this setup to about 1966, which sounds about right. Stop by and check these out soon - the funky stuff seems to practically fly out the door these days!

We've got plenty of other cool finds on way for the holidays - check back soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Showing Off

See, this is why you need to hang out at the guitar shop all day. About once a week or so somebody brings something in just to show off. Case in point: this amp, a Fender "Pro-amp" that the owner dates to 1953. 53? Where's the tweed? What's with the funky diamond pattern tolex? Gee, I dunno - I plugged our '59 Jazzmaster into it and from then on I was too busy drooling to nitpick.

I gathered that the current owner acquired this baby in a swap a long time ago, but I didn't hear the whole story of why it isn't a conventional tweed amp. It certainly isn't a blond, brown, or blackface, either, so I'm stumped. For all I know this was a one-off, a custom job, or some kind of prototype that's worth more than my kidneys.

I think it melts Nazis, too.

Tolex mysteries aside, this thing is sweet. Dig the "Mic" inputs next to the instrument inputs! I think that these things were designed to power whole bands full of hillbilly boogie cats back in the day - guitar, bass, singer - hell, that drummer don't need his own microphone! What are you, crazy? Yep, this is another piece out of history, from a different place and time. And even though this one isn't "ours," I think its well worth sharing. The same guy that owns this has quite a stash, so hopefully I'll have another chance to post a few more pieces soon..

In other store news - check out our raffle this month! Buy a $5 ticket and this PRS SE could be yours come Christmas Eve. A great surprise present for your favorite guitarist (or aspiring guitarist). Right now your odds are pretty good, and really, for five bucks, how could you go wrong?