Stewarts guitar arrived safely in the UK. We just got a clip of him playing some Grady Martin licks. It looks like its in good hands. Stewarts using Thomastik .012 flatwounds, a Tweed Bassman amp and an Alter Ego delay pedal.
January got off to a great start when Tommy and Nico stopped by the shop. We sat down for a little impromptu jam session.
Happy New Year everybody! Its been a while since we’ve posted but fortunately, the last few months have been really busy in the shop. We have a lot of things to share coming up but in the meantime, Sean Mencher recently sent me a link to this interesting blog post on guitarist Jimmy Raney that he wrote himself in ’93.
This is a direct re-post from a blog called Prepared Guitar. There are a lot of great interviews featured on the site like Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow to name a few, so when you have time, check it out. More links to Prepared Guitar at the bottom of the story. Thanks Sean for sharing with me.
Friday, January 2, 2015
Things Downbeat Never Taught Me by Jimmy Raney
Our bassist was another young bebopper named Gary Miller, and Max really gave him a hard way to go for reasons I couldn’t fathom. Max would play some figure in his left hand and glare at Gary saying, “Dig this riff.” Gary, who had absolute pitch, would pick it up instantly. After a few bars Max would shout at him, “Get off my road.” And so it went. No matter what Gary did he couldn’t please him. It ended finally when a Downbeat writer came in to see name was Malemud, said, “He’s my father,” and the writer printed it. C’est finis pour Gary.
After about eight or nine months on an old bus I was ready to cry uncle. They never told about this in the Glenn Miller movie “Orchestra Wives.” There were a lot of disillusioned orchestra wives with us too.
Unfortunately, the people didn’t care only about the music. In fact, they didn’t like what we were doing. They wanted to see the man who had married so many movie stars, and hear “Begin The Beguine” and “Frenesi.” He broke up the band and I was back in my furnished room with a somewhat smaller stash of 1949 dollars. I was getting a little better known around town by now. I worked once a month instead of every three months. I was starting to get calls from people from out of town and Europe wanting to find out which of the glamorous Manhattan night clubs I was appearing in nightly. My first telephone was my one tangible sign of success and adulthood, but I began to hate it. I started answering my phone by saying, “Grand Central Roach Control.”
I played and recorded with Stan Getz in 1950,’51, and ’52. Then I did a one-and-a-half year stint with the Red Norvo Trio. After that I got married and settled down in New York City. I found out soon enough that you can’t make a living playing jazz in one city. Not even New York City. So I started doing other things in order to get by. TV jingles, club dates, recordings-both commercial and jazz-along with other stuff. I even played the full run of two Broadway shows. That’s the nearest thing in music to stuffing mattresses for a living.
I never did get my penthouse, and I never met another jazz musician who had one either. I did see a few now and then. They belonged to millionaire stockbrockers and the like. Perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t; I most likely would have fallen off the terrace when I was drunk.
See you in the funny papers–or maybe Downbeat.
I first heard the Sammy Masters 45, Pink Cadillac/ Some like it Hot, on a visit to Levi Dexter’s apartment in L.A. some time in the mid 80′s. I remember being completely blown away. The guitarist sounded like Jimmy Bryant but at the time, I didn’t know it was him.
A year or so later while in London with Big Sandy, I bought the Rockin’ Red Wing LP on the German label Hydra. It had Flat Feet, 2 Rock-A-Four and Whop-T-Bop, along with Pink Cadillac and Some Like it Hot. The funny thing is that the session details on back of the LP listed the guitar player as Ralph Roe. I was so enamored that for a few years I looked everywhere for more recordings of Roe! haha.
I can’t remember how, but eventually I found out that it was Bryant on the recordings. I really love his playing on these five because they are so full of great ideas. It sounds like he had complete freedom to play what he wanted and he went for it.
I know these recordings are easy to find now with the Internet and all, but thought I’d put them up just in case some of you have never had a chance to hear them.
Later, around 1998, I got to meet Sammy Masters and play a few songs with him at a club in Hollywood which was an honor. If you have a few minutes, take a listen.
Blake Wright, the publisher of online magazine Gearphoria, recently came by for a visit. It was a pleasure spending the morning talking shop with Blake and then of course, lunch at Pappy’s. Here’s what came out of it. Thanks Blake!
Jimmie found this unfinished new old stock Trini body on eBay a while back and sent it over for a neck, paint, pickups and hardware. He also said “do whatever you want” which made it a lot of fun and challenging at the same time.
I have always wanted to do a tobacco sunburst paint job and thought Jimmies guitar was the perfect candidate. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. The tailpiece is a vintage German made Hofner unit. To add something interesting, we made the cast aluminum banner in the shop to say “Custom”. I used my C.A.R. pickups, binding around the inlaid pick guard and also inlaid a small mother of pearl diamond at the back of the neck. In case anyone is wondering, the lower switch is an out of phase switch.
I had hoped to create a really classy custom instrument that would look right at home being played by such a class act. Here are a few photos of the process.
Just got this clip from Dan Nosovich in Australia using my C.A.R. pickup along with the note below. Nice break in my day.
“Mark aka @juniorjukewalters took this clip of us doing some Johnny Guitar Watson on my tele. Bridge pickup straight into a Bassman RI. I’ve been playing my own (dodgy) takes on rockabilly and instros on the tele in other bands but enjoyed how it went in these fellas.”
We’re lucky that many players and customers come through the Joshua Tree area on their way in or out of Los Angeles, and many come to play at our great neighborhood bar, Pappy and Harriet’s. When they do, we love having them come by the shop to hang out, play and talk guitars. But we get asked all the time if there is anyplace on the East coast that someone can see or play our guitars in person. We’re excited that now they can.
We just sent Smith Special #003 to TR Crandall Guitars in New York City. Located in the East Village, Tom Crandall and Alex Whitman have earned a reputation for providing some of the best repairs and restorations available, but also for creating a completely unique experience for musicians who stop by their shop. Not only can you hang out and play their well curated collection of vintage guitars, you’ll get an education about each ones history and what Tom has done to bring each instrument to spot on condition before putting them on their wall for sale. Its not often that you’ll find a shop owner who is also one of the best Luthiers in the business. So on a quiet street away from tourists, we’re proud that our friends on the East Coast can now go to TR Crandall to play and purchase a Smith Special in person, and get the service and experience I want as a musician.
For years I’ve been a big fan of longtime friend Adrian Demain’s guitar playing, and fortunately this weekend, he had a chance to stop by the shop. Adrian lives down by San Diego but lucky for us, he now plays once a month at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs with artist Nena Anderson in a trio that includes bassist Jim Austin. A favorite way for Jill and I to start a weekend; nice dinner in Palm Springs and great Jazz in the Amigo Room at the Ace.
I have always admired the fact that Adrian can play so many styles of music on a variety of instruments really well. From Jazz to Country to Hawaiian and Blues, he might be on guitar, steel guitar or ukulele. Adrian has a solo thing called Exotica-Tronica or you can catch him in current bands Brawley, Tiki Two with Susanna Kurner, Nena Anderson or Billy Watson.
In the video above, Adrian plays “Lush Life” with beautiful restraint and a subtleness that few players can achieve. He plays with so much intent. Then I had the pleasure of playing with him on the song “All the Things You Are”. Adrian played Smith Special 001 while I played rhythm on 003 before it leaves our hands this week. (more on that soon)
Hope you enjoy this session of “In The Shop With” as much as I enjoyed spending a few hours with Adrian talking music, guitars and listening to him play.
If you’ve been to this site before, you know what a George Barnes nut I am. I’ve been wanting to work out his late 1930′s version of Little Rock Getaway for a long time so last week I spent every evening trying to work it out. I think I’m maxed out at about 80% of Barnes tempo. Any faster than that, the clams start flying, hahaha. I also played it at slow speed at the end of the clip for any one who wants to see the fingering that worked best for me. This is a really fun exercise and even though I’ll never get as fast as Mr. Barnes, I like to challenge myself to try.
First, you can listen to his original version and below that, the video where I’m trying to keep up!