Category Archives: X – CAN'T PIDGEONHOLE IT

Stuff that doesn’t fit in any other category

Tribute Bands – friend or foe?

Let’s Face It

Let’s be honest the best thing about a tribute act is often the inventive and amusing names they dream up for themselves, like ‘Björn Again’, ‘By Jovi’ or ‘Fake That’.
My partner Sue and I often lay awake until the wee hours giggling as we make up pretend ones, like ‘UR40’ or ‘Poxy Music’, it’s all just a bit of fun. Isn’t it?

1472733973_original_1There is nothing worse to me than someone who could be writing their own tunes and performing them instead playing someone else’s once famous tunes badly to a crowd of pissed up fat 40 to 50 year olds, out for a night, and a bittofalaff. The very same people who should have celebrated talent in their local pub at the age of 20 and helped propel a local band to the stardom they now celebrate second-hand, with some flaccid version of David Bowie or Pink Floyd. The same people who missed a decent band the first time around when they were occupied with  lusting after Nick Beggs of Kajagoogoo.

To be fair, I’ve been, I went to see the ‘Australian Pink Floyd’. I thought, after years of anti-tribute venom I should experience what I intrinsically knew I would hate. I went with some lads from work too as a social thing. Open minded believe it or not.

Walking out of the gig was an experience of feeling like I was amongst people who had never been to a real gig.

The only time in the performance where anything real and true happened (a visual moment of anti – Trumpism during the song ‘Brain Damage’) became the highlight of the whole night. Instead of coming away from a concert where significantly more of it was ‘real’, performed, and no doubt repeated, but at least of their own songs and with their own hats, and haircuts, their own faces, and the guitar brand they really liked to play, I was leaving un-elated after seeing just what exactly?

Frank fucking Zappa people!!

I walked away confused by the experience. I wanted to shout, ‘I saw Frank fucking Zappa at this same venue in the 80s’, ‘The real Frank Zappa‘, but frankly, I wasn’t sure anyone there would have known who Frank Zappa was. Pink Floyd post Syd attracts a certain T-shirt wearing flabby version of Dave Gilmour in my opinion. You know, people with a Dark Side of The Belly and a membership of Camra, the real ale club, a certain balding type of gentleman sometimes accompanied by a long-suffering Mrs Gilmour. The kind of chap who was studying for his A’Level Chemistry exam when you were getting stoned and err…. listening to Frank Zappa. 😉

These are the same people who are all singing along to the two tunes they know at the tribute concert, the same people who stay in a Travelodge that night and catch a train back to wherever in the morning, because the term ‘partying all night’ was never, let alone at the age of 50, in their vocabulary. It’s ALL worse than an 80s night at Butlin’s Bognor Regis, and believe me, that’s my idea of a waking hell. Very few of these people are musicians, or care about the state of popular music. They have lots to answer for & let’s face it, the musicians who pander to them have plenty to answer for too.

11221936_421091188094281_832833973013815742_nIt’s understandable though, if you can’t get your latest project off the ground and you’re not a progressive house DJ, what chance have you got but to play to a series of Wednesday night crowds on the ‘Converted Toilet Block’ circuit up and down the nation for ‘eff all monetary recompense but a whole heap of pain? OR you could earn some proper money playing drums for the new Def Leppard tribute band now gigging to large crowds, large tasteless but wealthy crowds up and down our fair country. Oh and I bet you’re thanking your lucky stars for the accident you had with that Flymo 18 years ago now aren’t you!!

This is the crux of my unhappiness, though musicians earn good money at this, they are in effect, doing others out of the support that could come their way by pandering to a PUBLIC that if it only HAD ANY TASTE and could access and see and hear a local band, they might support that instead of this tribute band fakery. And let’s be honest, it’s not a tribute to their band of choice, it’s a money earner.

Do you think The Doors or The Velvet Underground, or the The Sex Pistols want their memory diluted by watered down versions of themselves? I doubt it. If you were a true fan surely the last thing you would do is create a shit version of your favourite band, the band you mythologise, and all copyist versions, will, therefore, by default be, shit.

Clangers not Bagpuss
Awwww, look it’s Bagpuss!

It’s the Bagpuss Effect

The whole nostalgia trip, of going to see a poor copy of something you once thought you knew is like those conversations about the 70s cartoons you once loved; ‘Awww, do you know Bagpuss’?.. or doing that impression of Ivor The Engine to the guys at work.

These are conversations that leave everyone smiling and that leave you feeling warmly smug about your past life, yet that also leave you knowing, you ain’t never going back there and that looking backwards is like eating air, namely extremely un-fulfilling.

Going to see a tribute band is like that. You know it’s not Mötorhead up there on stage, because environmental health won’t let them play at 140db anymore and even in the low light you can see that the lead singer has stuck that fuckin’ wart on with blu-tack! What is the point of not seeing Lemmy, Lemmy WAS MÖTORHEAD!! Well him and Philthy Phil and Fast Eddie were the true Mötorhead in my opinion, but that’s another argument for another day.

Never-vana?? The rather chubby, I definitely never lived under a highway flyover, Nirvana tribute band. Jesus Wept!!!

I don’t mean a Covers Band.

There is nothing wrong with playing someone else’s songs as cover versions in your set, but dressing up like them, or having plastic surgery to make your face look like the plastic surgery Paul McCartney once had, just ain’t on. It’s about as honourable as playing army in your back garden and then wearing the uniform and medals of a real soldier on Armistice Day at the local war memorial.

I care about music and it’s place in our hearts and Tribute Bands make a fuckery of all that is important to me, and I think should be to you if you as I do love popular music.

However Sue, my partner, whose’ opinion I trust says that the Bowie Tribute she went to see was very good. They were called Absolutely Bowie.

But they weren’t were they, and that I guess is my whole point.

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 17.42.57

How to write a song – a personal view

Writing a song

I grew up around music, and people who could really play. I never excelled at any individual instrument but after I got my first guitar I did plug-in a microphone and record myself singing and playing almost straight away. I guess in an effort to make these recordings more interesting to my imagined listenership I wrote some words. At some point I must have realised that I might need to theme the ‘song’ or somehow tell a story, or make it about something, people might get bored if I didn’t. I think this is pretty much how I’ve continued with song-writing; the rest is just adding a shine or emoting more effectively in my opinion. The core to writing a decent song is storytelling, but using the extra power of music to support the words you want to deliver. You can get all fancy about it, use the music to express a subtext, play with the form in some self-conscious way, but in the end it’s about packaging up and sending off as much connection and emotion with the song as you can.

During the process of writing connecting one’s heart and soul to the words, the music and to the playing of your song are for me all essential elements of successful song-writing. I feel that this is the key to creating something with longevity, a song which will speak both privately and in a wider sense to your listeners. I always hope that the resultant song, even though it is only words on a piece of paper will have a hint of the spirit and magic of your emotional connection with it, somehow captured in the moment of your writing of it, if you keep live that spirit of emotional engagement present when creating it. Basically I believe this is what separates a good song from a bad one.

Here’s how I try to do it.

There are lots of ways to get to the point of having created a finished song and some work better than others, I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way; there is only your own way to get to that point. A few ways work better for me than others, I’ll list them here.

1.       Starting with the title! – Probably the worst way to begin the process and normally the precursor to a world of pain, struggle and multiple re-writes. However there are times when you just can’t ignore the idea or concept expressed by an imagined title popping into your head. Sometimes the title alone can summarise the concept of the song, and so makes a decent point at which to kick off the process. A good trick is to let this happen, but keep yourself open to letting the concept drift, or to throwing the title out of the mix at some point. I guess the trick here is not to hold on too tightly to your original concept as prescribed by that wonderful title idea you came up with. This is a sort of upside down way to do things, personally, more normally I would write the song and go looking within it for a catchy one liner that echoes the song’s concept, but was arrived at by way of creating the body of the song. I have heard it told that titles are very important to publishers and to anyone touting your tunes, frankly I think you should call it what you want, after all as the writer, you’ve probably got considerably more creative nouse than someone who sits behind a desk.

2.       Rolling with a riff – This approach works well for me as I love to just sit and noodle on my song-writing instrument of choice, the guitar. I’m always on the search for a new set of chords that work nicely together, or create a vibe. Sometimes this atmosphere gives rise to some thoughts and words, a theme and the start of a song. Get it down; keep a scrap of paper, your writing book/pad or a portable recorder with you when you play in case you need to get some ideas down when you hit a creative patch. Often I find this method of playing the guitar and just opening up to saying or singing words a wonderful way to get things flowing, you just never know from one second to the next if you are going to spark the next million seller, or just mumble incoherently for the next half an hour, until you give up and go off do something useful. It’s probably not the sort of advice to give, but I find that a glass or two of red wine in particular just lets me take the edge of self-conscious efforts to verbalise my thoughts. Of course it can lead you up the garden path too, so in moderation and carefully if you want to utilise any stimulants to your writing.

Generally, once I’ve got some of these ideas down, I leave it, pursuing the finished article at this point can cause problems I think. In your enthusiasm to complete your work it’s easy to distort the ideas you’ve got down in that moment of clarity and creation. This sort of energy is worth holding on to and it’s all too easy to iron then out, edit them away as you try to impose ‘the song’ on the nascent ideas you have now committed to paper or tape. So go back to it later, it’s like reviewing a song you’ve recorded, last night after 9 hours of trying to perfect the Bongo take you thought it was utter rubbish. Then the following evening you spark up the mixing desk and play the rough mix, and it sounds great. Song writing is a bit like this too, so going back to review your work at a later date can give you the editorial distance to see things clearly and work towards the finished product. If you like I find it very difficult to see your work from distance and judge it accordingly; this is a worthwhile ‘trick’ to employ.

3.       Write about what you know – This is really simple, no one wants to hear a song written by an eighteen year old about the travails of a long-term relationship breaking up. But they would listen to an eighteen year old telling them about divorce from the perspective of a teen whose parents have split. Authenticity is important. Not to say that I’m not guilty of going against my advice in the pursuit of some goal I feel is worth it, it’s all about balance and you’ll be the one that knows where that balance is struck, listen to your heart, and trust your instincts. For example I’ve written a song about Black Rhythm and Blues performers from 40s and 50s New Orleans, I’m not Black, I’ve never been to New Orleans and the closest I’ll get to a direct experience of this is listening to old 78 records of the original artistes, but the story I want to tell is about how their music and culture was taken and used by later White artistes and the parallels with White abuse of Black people. I decided that this was something I could tell from my perspective, I’m not speaking for anyone, and my general knowledge of the subject is good. It’s personal, writing is, trust your position and know in your heart that you can trust your judgement.

Write about what you feel – As distinct from the above, writing about something you have an emotional engagement with is important too. Of course if you are going to write professionally day in and day out you may want to ask yourself to write about any old thing, the latest thing or someone else’s perceived ‘thing’. But hell, let’s be honest, what of real worth are you going to create doing this? It won’t mean anything to you, it won’t engage you, and why did you start doing this in the first place? Wasn’t it to express yourself and to give your version of events, your view of the world? Isn’t it a bit of immortality that you are seeking with this something that you may leave behind you when you’re gone? Well what’s the point in spending your hard-earned time and energy on anything but something that is meaningful to you?

4.       If something isn’t right, you’re right, it’s wrong – Basically don’t let your standards slip, if you aren’t happy with an element of what you are doing, then you’re right, it’s not right and your song isn’t finished yet. There is a point though where a balance is struck and you will adjudge it to be ‘good enough’. If you get to this point you might just have a finished song on your hands. You might also get to a point where you keep on polishing but the sheen you’ve created isn’t getting any brighter, the song isn’t improving, in fact it might be getting worse. Careful, you’re probably overworking the tune.

5.       Sometimes fresh is better than perfect – It’s easy to think that everything you write has to be a heavily worked example of song-smithing, the truth is sometimes awkwardness, less than perfect alliteration, poorly chosen rhymes or previously well-trodden themes can all be easily ignored or forgotten in the face of a raw rendition of something emotional played out on paper when you’re writing. Sometimes it just so happens that you’ve got something urgent and real on paper, on your guitar and in your heart and working on it will destroy that reality, urgency and soul. Learn how to recognise this, integrate it into your work and to trust your instincts. You may want to take this energy and refine it somewhat; this I think works very well if done carefully and sensitively. Let it go, let it flow, get it down and then refine it, trim it, compress it. But be careful, again, not to overwork it. It’s a fine balance.

6.       Try different mixes – Play around with what you have, move lines, keep trying new ideas, particularly in the early stages of piecing something together. Just like recording, you can with writing a song keep more than one take, write the song out on another sheet of paper and then go and destroy what you’ve written elsewhere, you can keep going and going until it all just slots into place.

As an aside to this, I find often that my first verse is weaker than subsequent verses. I think this is probably because when you write this first verse it’s the one that establishes your idea for the song as you begin the creative process, it is this verse that is the point where you originally negotiate the idea. Because of this it can be less well-formed or complete than the rest of the subsequent verses. It’s a cheap trick, but you could try moving this verse further down the line. Sometimes it’s not worth keeping at all, so chuck it out and try again, but if you like it, but just not enough for your strong opening verse, as I say, move it on down the line and replace it with a later verse. Only if this works of course, in many cases this won’t work within the structure of your song.

7.       Sing as you write – You won’t thank yourself for making it impossible to breathe when later performing your masterpiece, and if you are lucky enough to find someone who feels like creating their own rendition of your hit song, don’t make it impossible to sing. A good way to create a song that is comfortable to sing is to sing while you create it. This way you won’t create any passages that lack the natural resting places a singer needs to find their breath. This way you will naturally integrate resting places, and doing this may also inform the way the song is written, the structure of it and therefore, sometimes, the very essence of the song.

8.       Write stuff down – Keep a pad, write anything down, if it’s a line, an idea, a title, a rhyme, a concept, whatever, loads of these ideas will never come to anything, but, and this is born of experience, years later you may be looking for that one idea or line to complete your song and fall across the answer you’re desperately looking for in your notes.

9.       Play with your friends – Play with other people’s songs, look for tricks of the trade, ways they get round problems, themes, ideas. Every song that needs to be written, probably has been, in the end the only thing that will help your song to stand head and shoulders above everything else out there is YOU. Your way of doing and seeing things. On the way to finding out how to do this, it’s not bad idea to copy others, play with their ideas, nick them, purloin them, steal them. Don’t feel bad about being a copyist, it’s part of the learning process, and lots of fun. Most people’s songs are copies of other people’s songs, it’s really really hard to come up with something truly fresh and new.

Good Luck


Review – The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll – Preston Lauterbach

chitlin circReview – The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll – Preston Lauterbach

I’m always on the lookout for a new book to help indulge my musical interests and a friend recently recommended this to me. I’ve been in love with Black Rhythm and Blues for a number of years and that genre had its dancing feet firmly stuck in the backwoods mud of the Chitlin’ Circuit; the mildly derogatory term for the network of Black music venues littered about the (mainly) Southern states of the U.S.A.

This book seeks to tell the tale of these venues creation, a response to a virtually new phenomenon, the disposable income of a self determined Black population. It sets out to tell tall tales of the musicians and gig goers, the ingenuity of the venues creators, the shadowy background of their financing, stories of the back handers given to a white controlling force of politicking and policing. The book is littered with tales, lacework links, and histories of all those names you’ve come to know and love such as Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, Jimmy Lunceford, Amos Milburn, Dave Bartholomew, and Roy Brown.

These places, the timber frame buildings of Chicken Shack Boogie fame are where Rock n’ Roll was birthed. Louis Jordan once said that Rock N’ Roll was only a poor imitation by Whites of Black Rhythm and Blues and the more I listen and the more I learn, the more I’m agreeing with that statement. Lauterbach’s book just confirms it … yet again.

I haven’t got more than a third of the way into this, and I’m here telling you all about it, because it’s that good. It’s oozily wet, not dry,  teeming with tales and hearty history. It beats with the sort of knowledge only an insider can ever get the low-down on, and luckily for us, the reader, it has been passed on with ’nuff style. Preston Lauterbach (I don’t know nothing more about him) is obviously a fan, and has a fine twist and turn of phrase. It feels like he won’t let stuffy academic research get in the way of a good story and the telling of it. I haven’t got a problem with that, let’s slightly suspend our sceptically critical natures and just wallow in the world that was the Chitlin’ Circuit.


Mike Murphy on Reverbnation

Go to Daddy O's in the US of A for the shirts.. me a love dem shirts..
Go to Daddy O’s in the US of A for the shirts.. me a love dem shirts..

A while back I wanted to share some old songs I’d written and a friend told me about Reverbnation, I just wanted to host some files that would widget into Facebook, so put them up there, since then the reaction has encouraged me to get some old equipment working and start writing and recording again, you can catch the old tunes, and some new ones here if you so wish >

Gretsch G5420T Electromatic, Set Up & Review

The Gretsch Electromatic G5420T an independant review

I’d set my little heart on looking the part, I had the wrap round shades, the 50s style shirts, now all I needed to complete the look was the right guitar..! Well not quite, even if there are some half-truths in there.

I have a nice 80’s JV series Japanese Telecaster, a 50s repro/re-edition.. whatever, that plays great, but a little too bright and snatchy and without the overtones of a hollow body, no trem, and it’s never going to flat pick or finger pick like an acoustic/6 string.

So I went in search of an affordable, okay build quality, name guitar with the right sound for 40s and 50s R&B and Rock N’ Roll / Rockabilly. On reading a few online reviews (though ones not published by Gretsch are hard to find; actually some of the best are on their own website forum) I came to settle on the G5420T in Aspen Green, a beautiful colour.

next.. price research..

0211I searched hi and lo in the UK and abroad for the best deal and it became quite obvious early on that Gretsch (owned by Fender) fix their prices fairly hard, and balancing the import tax on buying from the States, or the price from Germany (Thomann) or finding one in the UK, an average lower end price of £632 seemed reasonable if you wanted to find somewhere close enough you could return the guitar or walk in with it unhappy (for what reason I don’t know/yet know) at a later date. I came to rest on my local city Brighton’s GAK centre just off the North Laines. I phoned them to get the one Aspen Green G5420T they had out of the warehouse and to the shop and they were most helpful. And I arrived early on a Saturday morning to check it out.

I wanted to try it out with a heavier gauge string set on it, but they come from the factory with 10s on and they don’t re-string. Quite possibly because stringing it for a floating bridge un-initiate is a pain in the arse, but more of that later. Obligingly they provided a Blues Junior for me to play with (that’s the amp I use at home) and off I went noodling. My friend Des Day of Des Day promotional associated plc ltd. arrived to help me sort out the amp sound and give sage advice and off I went. BUT… it was no good, I just didn’t like the guitar, it felt all yuck.. no good at all. I could have wept,,.. oh well.

Classic Orange

Rowan, the very helpful shop assistant with side-show Bob curls and a jaunty salesman’s pitch suggested I tried the Orange version of the model hanging in the store. This was more like it, a joy to play, and someone had done a bit to set it up in store. It needed some work to get it set right but… hmmmm, thinking about it now, starting respond, good, getting in gear.. lovely but… not sure…

Des suggests market research..

With wads of cash burning a hole in my britches Des, and rightly so, decided I needed to try a few alternatives out and we left to check out a couple of second-hand places and other solid bodies. No good, the orange one was a callin’, eventually I went back and purchased.


0161On return

Returning home, I decided to change the strings for the heavy gauge I had originally wanted to try the guitar out with, and put a set of 11s on it. If you change the strings be careful, this guitar has a floating bridge and if you remove the foam under it and/or change the strings it comes with, you will need to make sure the bridge goes back to the factory tuned position it came in. As the intonation will be out if you do change the bridge position.

I moved mine slightly while changing the strings (more of that in a bit) and so once tuned to concert pitch I gradually adjusted firstly the main bridge and then the individual adjustable bridge pieces for each string, checking note accuracy with a good quality chromatic tuner as I did so. Once I’d done that I marked the bridge position, something which may have invalidated my warranty, but which makes future string replacement a doddle compared to this occasion.

All you need do is compare accuracy on individual strings with your opened but tuned note, then at the 12th fret position (pinging the harmonic helps this too) and then with a chromatic tuner above that if you feel it neccesary. It follows that a higher pitch than is desired requires you to lengthen (though only minimally) the scale length of the string, or in the opposite case, shorten it.

Once the main bridge is as close as possible to the correct position, you can use the fine bridge adjustment to acheive a really accurate result. I worked this out, and it’s logical, but, if you need, there are step by step guides of how to do this online I’ve since discovered. You can also find some set up guides on You Tube, which are handy.

Advice on string change

Don’t take all the strings off at once!!

This will leave the bridge to urrr… fall off. I did not do this, luckily someone in the store said not to, so I changed each string one by one.

String changing on this type of guitar and with this Tremelo design is a pain in the arse. This is mainly because each string loops round a post on the underside of the tremolo and unless tension is maintained … it pings off. It took a short swearing session to bring about a practical solution. USE YOUR CAPO TO HOLD THE STRING on the fretboard once it’s on the post, this will keep it there while you measure out and clip the string to wind on the tuning head. Wind it on, and once there is enough tension in it, take the Capo off and the string won’t come off the post at the bottom behind the bridge. If you don’t do this, find another way, or you will murder your best friend through frustration. It’s a down side to be honest, surely there’s a little practicle and cheap way to overcome this design flaw?

Just as a heads up Stewart McDonald do a piece of kit called a Vibramate Spoiler that can help you re-string easier. Check out the link. I don’t know if this affects the tone, as the strings don’t on use of it wrap round the tremelo fully, but it’s worth a go if you find it hard to re-string. I for one will stick with my own little workround of the problem for the sake of an entirely imagined tonal benefit.

Ideas.. and set-up

…currently to string up with flatwound heavy gauge strings for that mid rangey plunky and smoother sounds for picking and chording respectively, good for that 40s and 50s R&B and the hick-town chunk that is truest rockabilly guitar.. (*see bottom of article for update)

017Set up

I’ve lowered the action a little more just by lowering the bridge a tickle more and it’s good, rings true and slick, the neck seems to be taking the heavier gauge strings well and there is no need for truss rod shenanigans .. yet.. I’ll keep an eye out to see if there’s any movement over time, but to be honest it shouldn’t move too much as the Rockabilly style of guitar tradition, (as it’s often finger and flat picked in development of a steel strung 6 string acoustic) calls on a heavier gauge and if their axe is designed properly for the purpose it appears to be built for, it shouldn’t ‘mal-function’.

I’ve also raised the front pick up’s ‘pole-pieces’ which sit under the 6th string to hopefully give it some extra ‘twang’ in it’s proximity to the string. As it was slightly lacking in this when playing. I’ve yet to make a decision on shifting any of the other pick up’s set up as the sound so far works well and pleases my ear. I might experiment later.

Strangely I’ve noticed that even with the floating bridge in the correct position the rear pickup does not line up correctly with the strings! This is concerning, but it doesn’t seem to affect the sound of the guitar, so I’m not going to allow myself to fret (gettit!! fret… get it !!??).

Tonal controls

Not being used to this sort of guitar the tonal controls were exciting to me. There are independent volume controls for the two pick ups, one master volume control, and one master tone control. There are three pick up positions, back, middle and front, but with the independent volume controls I know I’m going to have fun when I get to find the time to play about with it, and not just play on it.


Simple, so far and considering the overall price, market, build quality, niche, and all that ‘jazz’.. the tremolo is disappointing. Not for the sound it makes (for it is that classic 50s tremmie wang not the ear bending Little Stevie Vai variety, but the mellow vibrato of Cochran, or Eddy), but that the Trem takes the guitar way too far out of pitch if anything but the lightest indulgence in ‘Tremming’ features in your playing.

Oddly, the tremolo takes the guitar UP in pitch, not under, the first guitar I have ever experienced doing so. Now this may be because the bridge needs a little polishing by the strings’ movement before it releases a wound string properly (I’d be interested to know if the flatwounds might fare better in this regard), nevertheless, if you end a live tune with more than the lightest tremolo at its ceasing, be prepared to re-tune while you try to keep the audience engaged, and let’s face it talking, cracking a joke and re-tuning all at once is more than most multi-taskers can take alongside performance anxiety!


If you guitar tuning gets out of shape, and particularly if you notice it’s going up in pitch, then give the offending string a nice mild yank, and this should put it somewhere nearer pitch and in tune with the other strings I have discovered.


The tuning heads/tuners and gearing could be of a better quality overall, but the guitar holds pitch fairly well, though if you’ve left it 018in case for a couple of days expect to retune. Obviously it’s a less stable guitar overall than a good solid body. The volume knobs/tone controls could be of a better quality, to be fair you’re not sure if they are chromed metal or plastic, I’m still not sure.

The paint finish is good, purfling a little boring but suitable and what grain you can see is also very plain, being ply of some sort no doubt.

The fretboard is well made and adequate and what detailing there is, is simple but neatly done.

I don’t like having a plastic nut, I don’t even know what the material is that they’re using, but it seems less dense than the Ivory or Bone I’m used to, and I can’t help think that it may be dulling the tone somehow, probably not the case at all though, but only Gretsch know.

I also wish that the pick guard / scratch plate was more easily removable so I could adjust the front pick up more easily, though maybe I’ve just missed a trick somewhere..

And that’s about it..

Overall verdict 7.5 out of 10 for impression overall
9 out of 10 for value for money
10 out of 10 for falling in love with my first hollow body

… but watch out for that tremolo, it’s a bit of a problem, though perhaps it’ll settle in.


I finally go round to purchasing that set of flatwounds. These started at a .11 and including a (flat) wound third.

The results are great, easier bass runs and audible results in the ‘sounds like it should’ category. Obviously a lot of those 50s cats were using flatwounds, because it kind of just completes the sound, particularly through a nice valve amp (I set mine literally down the middle on all EQ and don’t put too much gain on the signal either.


p.s. Looks like this has become one of the most popular Gretsch setup and floating bridge set up sites on the web! So please post your cures and headaches here, there are hundreds looking at this page every week.

Thoughts on Rockabilly and Sun Records.. 5 points to ponder upon?

I’ve been getting into Rockabilly for a short while..

And I have some thoughts about what I’m hearing.

Now, I’ve been into music in a big way all my life and I’m getting good at recognizing the next listening and collecting sensation as it approaches. I still love my Reggae, but for a while 40s and 50s Rhythm and Blues and then late 50s Rockabilly has been featuring heavily on my Mp3 player, cd player and more infrequently on the turntable/s here at Murphy Towers.

Just recently having listened to Warren Smith’s Ubangi Stomp and Miss Froggie I purchased Essential Rockabilly – The Sun Story on the cheaper than cheap One Day Music label. It strikes me that you can hear some interesting stuff on it. I have listed five of them below in order of interest to me.

1. Elvis Presley was trying to cover the bases with his first release ‘That’s All Right Mama’  b/w  ‘Blue Moon’ (of Kentucky). Interestingly he seems most comfortable singing the Crudup classic, rather than the country number Blue Moon.
On the country/bluegrass tune he sings in a lower register superimposing a character on the song that isn’t like anything you’ll ever hear again. He’s playing, pretending he’s country, giving it some, hamming it up just a touch. Listen to it, check it out and you’ll see what I mean. In the first few bars you’ll not even be sure it’s him if you listen with open ears.

Of course this isn’t anything that isn’t already know. But you can really hear it on the shellac, it’s there audibly, history in the recording. Elvis on his first attempt and record release was trying to find his feet. Sam Phillips was trying to cover the angles by putting out a two sider, one R&B tune and one Country; in the hope that if the Black crowd or God help 50s ‘ society’ the teenagers didn’t like the Bluesy number their white and parental counterparts might prefer the 4/4 re-working of Monroe’s classic ode to Lunar tint.

2. It’s a good thing that Roy Orbison developed that lonesome high sound of his, because frankly at this stage of his career he was on a wrong ‘un. Orbison sounds like all the rest, there is not a great deal to distinguish him from the crowd of singers. In fact he sounds pretty weak at times. Orbison you sucked big time, but you did Okay in the end, for a speccy four eyes.

3. Charlie Feathers is good and needs more listening to, write that one down in the notebook. He’s quite obviously a full on redneck.

4. Johnny Cash is about the most mature temporally transcendant sounding artiste that Sun had. There is a developed confident, ‘I’ve made it already’ sound to Johnny’s output that impresses heavily. Listening to him, even more so than Elvis you are certain that out of all the artists you are listening to, he was the one who was going to make it big.

5. A lot of Rockabilly is badly played and amateurish at best (but great for it), and many of those lauded as great guitarists of the Rockabilly age wouldn’t have been fit to tune Jimi or Jeff’s Strat.


Oh… and 6. just for fun.. Jerry Lee Lewis has the fullest and most hypnotizing energy of all of those I’ve listened to so far, and yet, he’ll worry you on record, let alone up close and personal. Christ I’d be scared to rub him up the wrong way. He sounds like a man who’d shoot first and wouldn’t ask any questions whatsoever.  Dangerous.

Blind Owl Blues – The Mysterious Life and Death of Alan Wilson by Rebecca Davis – A review


Blind Owl Blues ~ a review

Just finished reading this. If you’ve ever wondered who that quiet guy in Canned Heat was, the one standing at the back looking sheepish, playing a blinding bit of bottleneck, or singing that high falsetto vocal on ‘On The Road Again’, then read this book.

An illuminating entre into the late 60s psychedelic band scene on the West Coast and for those uninitiated into Blues music past and present.

The book suffers from the ‘relatively’ recent rash of online self publishing; it desperately needs an editor’s hand and a true story-teller at the helm, but we get the information we came for and it’s that which counts. Wilson, underrated and overlooked has his story told and we are assured throughout that the facts as they are presented are well researched and balanced.

You’ll be introduced to some of the characters in the story, Bob Hite the frontman and singer, Henry Vestine the talented but drug addled lead guitarist and Larry Taylor the driving and truly talented bass player.

Wilson and his compatriots were there right at the birth of the Blues revival and he and some of his friends rediscovered a number of the artists who would go on to lead that revival, at the same time as giving honour to the past, they blew the cobwebs off of their old  78s, re-worked the old tunes and re-dedicated their blues to the power of amplification.

Wilson wrote both of their biggest hits, ‘On the road again’ and ‘Going up the country’, they played the Monterey and Woodstock festivals and their output soundtracks the 60s as well as anything by anyone else. Many Blues revivalists consider Wilson to be THE under-rated figure of that age and the book tries to re-balance history, place him centrally as an important figure and to chart his compulsive obsessive love of Blues music as it transformed into and equally obsessive love of nature, particularly Sequoia trees. Intrigued?

Converting Lotus Approach .apr to Excel or other Database files, Music Spreadsheet Win7

This is a very boring subject…

Yes I know this is a very boring topic, but one worth posting as after 10 years of using Lotus approach to spreadsheet and database my record collection I needed to upgrade and update to something that would actually run on Win7.

Export your .apr file/database/spreadsheets as excel files using the export (as) function in Lotus and then… bascially using either the full or lite packaged version of Microsoft office which hopefully in your case came with your P.C. and bundle of Microsoft office ‘tools’ import the excel file and edit and carry on with your databasing. you will find a few annoyances such as filtered search results as of yet don’t seem to operate in the same way, but hell just having the possibility of saving years of work seems worth doing eh?

I’d searched for all kinds of complicated and costly ways to update and continue on with my database and in the end stumbled on this. Perhaps this may help you?

Hope so…