Al Willis-Sixty Minute Man

It’s amazing that for someone like me who originally never wanted a cell phone and just started using email a few years ago, that we can ship a guitar to France and a few short days later get back a video of it’s new owner playing a great version of Sixty Minute Man. I really like Al’s picking style. There’s a lot of drive, I can almost hear an upright bass player and a snare drum with brushes in the background. Technology has made my world much smaller in a good way and introduced me to some pickers that I would have otherwise never known. Thanks Al for sharing!

Dan Nosovich-Sheik of Araby

A few weeks ago we sent a box down to Brisbane Australia that included two C.A.R. pickups, a custom pickguard, a chopped B-16 and one of my bridge bases. I got this great clip back in the mail this morning. Looks like Dan and his Dad did a nice tidy job of putting everything together.

Change

TK Smith

If you’ve visited our site before, you may have noticed some changes around here. TK’s focus has shifted in the past four years from general fabrication to almost exclusively focusing on custom guitars, guitar parts and all that goes with the design and manufacturing process of these products. Therefore, we wanted our website to better reflect what our business is about today. With the help of our friend Ryan over at Atomic Industry and of course The Jalopy Journal, we’ve been able to do that. (Thanks Ryan!)

A few things that won’t change:

TK and team will continue using our vintage American made tools to fabricate the highest quality guitars and accessories, at times in our somewhat hillbilly methods, because we feel that made in America does matter and new is not always better. There are faster and cheaper ways to do things but that’s not who we are.

We will continue to share music from, and stories about some of the best players from today and yesterday, from all over the world, who continue to inspire us to be better at what we do and to keep practicing every day.

We will continue to share photos, stories and videos about architecture, art, cars, tools, other interests and the crazy and beautiful desert we live in because these are the things that make life interesting to us, and hope that you may find something interesting in these stories too. There really is no separation in our work/life so we share it all.

When you love what you do as much as TK does, it’s a gift to be able to go to a space everyday and create something with your hands that another guitar player gets to eventually enjoy for many years to come. You know the difference when you hold and play an instrument that has the soul of the maker in it. Thanks so much to everyone who stops by from time to time and for your comments and conversation!

The California Playboys

I saw this short film recently and really got a kick out of it. It’s great seeing all the old Fender guitars and amps. Thought some of you might like it too if you haven’t already seen it.

Monthly Motivation-Art Tatum Trio

Art Tatum

Of all the bands I wish I could have seen live, the Art Tatum Trio with Tiny Grimes and Slam Stewart is at the top of my list. They were only around for a couple of years, ’43 to ’45. I really like the contrast of Tiny’s playing against Art Tatum’s insanely fast and accurate improvisations. It wouldn’t have been an easy job for any guitar player and I think what Tiny plays fits perfectly.

Here’s one from the  EP above that I found years ago.

Art Tatum Trio Topsy

And here’s some great footage of them playing 52nd street at the Three Deuces Club, N.Y.C. Hope you dig it as much as I do.

My friend Tommy Harkenrider has some great instructional videos on youtube including this one on Tiny Grimes chording.

Monthly Motivation-Johnny Smith

TK Smith

I thought Johnny Smith would be appropriate for this month’s motivation.  His 1953 LP Moonlight in Vermont gets a lot of play around here.

 Johnny’s playing is so far over my head I rarely attempt to work any of it out, but years back I did work out his chord melody to Moonlight in Vermont. Of all the chops/licks I’ve stolen from my musical heroes, I’ve probably gotten the most mileage out of the seven bars below.

His chord voicing’s are a bit of a stretch at first but after doing them for a while they’ll start to feel natural. So if you want to sound like a jazzer, take the time to work this out, you’ll be glad you did. RIP Mr. Smith

TK Smith

Alexander Construction Co. Palm Springs, CA

TK Smith

We never get tired of driving around Palm Springs looking at mid-century architecture. Last week I was feeling un-inspired so once again, TK suggested we go take some photos of both the Twin Palms and Las Palmas neighborhoods. I don’t know if it’s the timeless beauty of the clean, simple architecture against the beautiful desert backdrop, or the thrill of standing in a strangers front yard taking photos of their house like a stalker, but  as always, it was a mood changer.

Read The Rest

Monthly Motivation-Knock Out The Lights

TK Smith

I recently heard a Jack Hart and his Hired Hands tune named ‘Knock out the Lights (and Call the Law)’. I don’t recall ever hearing it before. The recording features a great solo by Jimmy Brant that reminded me of a musical break through I had years ago after learning his solo on Tennessee Ernie’s Rock City Boogie. It was the first time I realized you could solo over chords that the rest of the band wasn’t actually playing, especially if the rhythm section is just bass and drums. For instance, the solos in both songs are over the basic three-chord 12 bar blues form.  On both solos at the ninth measure, Jimmy plays almost the same lick that’s basically a IIm7 arpeggio. Then over an altered V7 chord in the tenth measure.  It’s a useful trick if you’re a wannabe jazzer like myself.

Knock Out the Lights (and Call the Law)

Rock City Boogie

The C.A.R. Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of working on a vintage Bigsby pole piece guitar pickup for Deke Dickerson. I’m not sure where he got it but it’s going on the “Butterball Paige” guitar that is currently being restored. The work that I did required the pickup to be fully disassembled. At that time I was able to take notes on how it was constructed, accurately take all the measurements of the magnets, bobbin, base plate and aluminum housing. I think it’s obvious that I’ve been a Bigsby nut for a long time now, so with all of this information, the next logical step was to make my own reproduction of this legendary guitar pickup.  Now I’m offering it for sale as the C.A.R. Pickup.

TK SMITH C.A.R. ROUTER SCHEMATIC

The first step was to make the wood patterns for the aluminum pickup housing and trim rings. (I’m offering the trim rings in two sizes at this time, a 1/8’’ flat one and a 7/16’’ raised one). Before I started I calculated how much aluminum shrinks in the casting process and added a few thousands for clean up and polishing to my measurements. I used some mahogany I had laying around to make the patterns. Then I found a source to make the magnets for me to the exact dimensions and material as the originals. All of the other parts (bobbin and base plate) I fabricate at my shop with my antique tools and somewhat hillbilly fabricating methods. The clean up and polishing of the cast aluminum pieces is also done at my shop so I can ensure a nice fit of the trim ring to the pickup housing.

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

It took a few months to get all this to happen but I finally got a few assembled and mounted on my Telecaster. It’s a great pickup that I’m completely happy with. Perfect for anyone playing traditional Jazz, Swing, Rockabilly, Travis picking or Blues. Mounted at the bridge position it’s perfect for that ‘’Grady Martin” sound. At the neck, it’s a great pickup for Jazz, Swing and Blues. It has that distinct hollow, wooden, almost buoyant tone that floats so well on top of what a good rhythm section is doing. Here is a quick demo of the C.A.R. Pickup at the bridge position.

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