Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Avett Bros. Meet Randy Travis

The earliest memories I have of country music are going to my Uncle Kenneth's bluegrass shows that he held in his aircraft hangar in Sadler, Texas. I got my proper country music education from a 20 record set that spanned the progression of country music from the early 1920s to the then current date of the 1970s given to me by my Grandpa. I was 5 years old at that time. I distinctly remember singing "Hey, Good Lookin" to a girl in first grade. That song convinced her to "go with me." My Dad always liked to ask where we were going...HA!

I'm not sure when I became aware of Randy Travis but I do remember the song that got me. It was "He Walked on Water." That song will actually give me chills. I was pretty close to my Grandpa growing up, and that song takes me back to that time. I miss him a lot. So I "get" Randy Travis, and man he was huge back in the day.

A few years ago after the Nashville flood the wife and I were just about over the edge with getting the house back together, spending money we didn't have and trying to put things back to normal. Each night that summer we would sit on the porch, drink a little wine and listen to Pandora. Every so often a song would come and I would say, "Who is that!" It was always the Avett Brothers. So we decided we needed to own their music and that was the Avett Bros. summer. We listened to them every night. We went to see them at the Ryman. Then we started traveling to see them. This was an actually living, breathing band that was alive and writing new songs that I loved. A rare thing for me.

 Fast forward to last week. A good friend of mine that I went to college with and later art directed country music videos for, invited us to the taping of CMT's Crossroads. This episode featured The Avett Brothers and Randy Travis. I knew the wife was going to be excited. She clapped her hands, jumped up and down and said, "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" So I guess she was excited about getting up close to the Avett boys.

I had just finished redoing the interior of the Caddy, and it was just days before the weather changed into being too cold, so we dropped the top and headed to Franklin, TN. About half way there I realized that Ang really wanted to see the show, and taking the Caddy might have been a risky choice. I just had tons of mechanical work done on it but I was still concerned. What if she blew a hose, or threw a belt? I tensed up. The good news is that the Caddy did fine, and we made to the show.


Ang admitted she was pretty nervous. "Nervous about what? Watching a show?" She couldn't really explain why she was nervous, she just was. We met Thom and Beth for drinks and dinner. I got lucky; the restaurant, Saffire, had chicken fried chicken, and they knew how to do it. 5 stars!! I also had a martini. I think a good martini should make you want to cry...just a little. This was one good but no tears were shed.

 Luckily we had VIP passes. The line was long but we slid in and took our seats. It was great to get to see Randy and the Avetts be themselves between songs. The first 3 or 4 were Avett songs. The last 3 or 4 were Randy songs. I'm not sure if Randy actually learned the words to the Avett songs but he did seem to know how they went, so that was good. Seth and Scott seemed natural and friendly on stage and laughed at the stories Randy told between songs. Randy said that due to recent events he was petty sure they pulled the sign down that said "Home of Randy Travis" in his home town. The Avetts said their sign was down as well, but probably because it was made of cardboard and they had put it up themselves. They were having fun up there.

It was interesting hearing Randy try to use his 80s vocalizations on the Avett lyrics. I will say that when he sang in his natural voice he sounded pretty damn good. It made me want to hear a Randy Travis album with no super low/super high notes. I know that is his signature sound but I think he would sound good singing in his own voice. He blew a few lines but joked with the crowd telling them he was doing pretty good for a guy that had 7 concussions!


At one point Randy was trying to figure the key of a song on his guitar. Scott Avett walked over and took Randy's capo off the head of his guitar and clamped it on Randy's guitar two frets from the top. Randy smiled and Scott smiled. They genuinely seemed to get along.

The mood shifted gears when Randy's band came on stage for the second part of the show. Randy was in his element and they blew most of his classics with one take. I know some folks would say the Avett Bros. are country but they are not on any country spectrum that radio would consider. Scott Avett sounded great singing to Randy's songs. I'd hate to see it happen, but if he had to, I think he could sing "country" music with the best of them.

The show concluded with "Forever and Ever, Amen." It was at the end of this song I realized I was going to get to hear Randy Travis do the ending of that song live. When the time came he worked it! I mean he he took the "Amen" up and down! He took it North, then he ran it South. I never knew you could get so much out of such a small word, and was over. Randy shouted, "GOOD NIGHT!" Everyone was big smiles and we left the building.

PS - Here is one of my favorite Avett Youtube videos.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tres P90 "Hell" Paul!

Well it was a pretty long journey to this guitar. It all started because of a single P90 pickup. That sparked a guitar build project that took on a life of it's own. Here is a journal of how this guitar was conceived and created: 01-27-2012 06:24 PM 1 LP Body, 3 P90s and a Bigsby
So here is what I'm thinking: Black Les Paul style body 3 P90s - GFS Mean 90 6 way switch or 3 volume knobs and 1 tone or push pulls B70 or B7 Bigsby All chrome hardware (not gold) Chrome knobs Chrome trim rings Chrome locking tuners GFS roller bridge I'm basically going to pull everything off and rewire/rebuild the whole thing.
01-29-2012 11:23 AM Here are some Photoshopped mockups I have made:
02-10-2012 12:33 AM I have decided the Gibson '60's Tribute had everything I want - flat laquer black paint, chambered body, routed for two P90s, perfect candidate for a Bigsby and Vibramate and it's a real Les Paul! I purchased one site unseen from a shop off the web and I'm hoping for the best!
03-04-2012 03:00 PM So The Bigsby is done. I ebonzied the neck to get it closer to the black body. I ground down a mexican peso until it was thin enough to work as a poker chip. Next week I'm supposed to get my dogear routes. I may go soapbar is the dog ears are going to be a pain to adjust but I love the look of dogears. Some photos (the peso pic is before i dyed the neck)....
Painted the Bigsby red:
My mock up with dogears:
After I ebonized the fret board to get the neck to be as black as the body:
My Peso poker chip. This was a coin my Dad brought back from one of his many Mexico trips: [hr]
Also - I was wanting some silver/chrome for the poker chip and could not see paying someone $15 for a chrome washer. After I had the peso idea I was on ebay and it hit me that after my Dad died I found a bag of coins in his closet. I dug it out and found a nice peso in there. So now there is part of my Dad in the guitar. Nice.
03-05-2012 10:49 AM Pickups I'm pretty firm on going with the VintageVibe P90s set of three. I like the whole magnet concept:
03-07-2012 02:18 PM Routing the LP Where it's at! So I dropped her off at Glasers today. 3 soap bars coming up. About to order the Vintagevibeguitars p90s.
I just got back from Glasers Instruments - the best luthiers in Nashville! They said it would be 2 weeks but it was only one day. The only thing left is for my VintageVibe Guitars P90s to show up. I'm going to bolt on the Bigsby and start the wiring this weekend.
03-09-2012 12:55 PM Nick from Glasers did the routing:
The LP with the P90 covers slid in. I had to route the existing holes corner radius for the non Gibson P90s to fit:
There is no sign for Glasers but the mailbox gave them away: Wiring (Les Paul, 3 P90s, 6 way rotary switch from Stewmac, push pull pots: So Deaf Eddie came through again! I know I like P90s but I have never had 3 to play with before. Deaf Eddie hooked me up again! Go check out his site. Here is the schematic:
and here is what it does ala Deaf Eddie: PULL the bridge volume, and it puts the bridge pup out of phase. This will affect throws 2, 3, & 4, you can make them spikey and/or sweet, but also nasally and thin, DEPENDING on how you balance the volume of the bridge pup with the other volumes. Lots of tonal variations here from working the volume knobs.
PULL the tone control, and it puts the bridge pup in series with the neck pup. This is a "brute force" tone (usually). This will affect throws 1 and 2, and the series combo should be BIG and FAT, and probably a tad louder - some players think they hear a little high-end rolloff, but it's just the bass coming on gangbusters. A side effect of series combos is that the bridge pup will "disappear" from throws 3 and 4, as it is shunted by the presence of the neck pup.
PULL BOTH, and the bridge is in series/out of phase with the neck pup. On almost all the axes I have - single coil or humbucker - throw 1 will be a stinging solo voice, and I like it a lot. Sounds best with some overdrive/crunch. Throw 2 will be a tad mellower, and the other four throws will again be missing the bridge pup.
The red chicken head will point down at the neck pickup. With this wiring here is how that works ala Deaf Eddie: "the sweep is all on the "neck" side of the arc, with "up" as the neck and go clockwise "down" as the bridge"
03-10-2012 10:48 AM I put the Bigsby on and the knobs just to see how she looked. I think the Bigsby bar looks better than the Chet bar but I have found a Bigsby with Chet bar is a lot more controllable for me. It comes close to Strat trem with the Chet bar. The Chat bar also stays in the perfect place for me. I don't have to go hunting for it when I need it.
03-15-2012 10:02 AM 1. She looks killer! 2. For the first time ever I got the wiring right on my first try! (I had one ground that popped off but after a resolder all was good!) 3. Where the Gibson P90s were like, "that sounds pretty good!", the P90s were like, "WOW!" 4. I got to play it for a while with some throw away strings and now it's off to my friend and luthier JFK at Virginias Music Center. He is going to make sure the frets are good and round them off, do a setup and make her right. 5. I'm going with .10s
I should have her back tonight!
Changes - The volumes are dependent so I think I will rewire it to be independent this weekend.
To do: If I can bring myself to do it it still needs to be pinstriped but man it's looking good the way it is!
(She isn't fully put back together in this photo but she is fully functional!)
03-25-2012 12:41 AM She is finished just in time for guitar night. The only thing left are the pinstripes and I'm going to have to warm into that idea. I like so much right now I don't think I can stripe it just yet!
It was passed around quite a bit at my guitar pull last night and even the guys that didn't want to like it ended up playing it for a long time. The chambered body of the '60's Tribute seems to really add to the tonal characteristic of the guitar. You can almost get an acoustic sound out of it but it will also get severely gnarly as well. I was afraid after all the thought, time and money I put in the guitar I might end up not liking it but man do I love it. The action is also great - super fast. The B70 with Chat bar is also very smooth and responsive. And totally by accident the balance is perfect. I don't know the actual weight but after adding the extra p90 and Bigsby it is still lighter than my Epiphone Pro FX but now feels substantial like an LP should. My luthier commented that the combo of the chambered body and the Bigsby somehow really opened up the sound. Audio clips soon but today I have to do my first mow of the season!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Painting the Bigsby

Bigsby's are cool, but how could they be cooler? By painting the black part red of course!

Here is what I did:
First I tried to do it with One Shot enamel and my squirrel hair pinstriping brush. That did not work. I found a can of red spray craft paint that worked with metal and applied light coats.

Then I hit it with my head gun and sprayed it again. I put on four coats. My Bigsby cut out left a lot of black around he letters so I shot some of the spray paint into a plastic cup and then got my pinstriping brush out and painted around the Bigsby logo until it was pretty perfect. I'm excited that it came out so nice.