You are on page 1of 14

Mountainview Publishing, LLC

Are you making it as a
guitarist? It ain’t up to
“them” – it’s up to you…

Why great chops, all the
gear, a solid resumé, cool
The Player’s Guide to Ultimate Tone
$10.00 US, September 2005/VOL.6 NO.11 Report TM

songs & a great recording
still may not get you
noticed in the music biz
Johnny A
The Johnny A Interview
“When you strum a guitar you have everything – rhythm, bass, lead and melody.”
9 – David Gilmore
Is this love or confusion?
The Marshall 30th Of all the guitars you have ever owned, has one seemed to suit you more than all the others? Did
Anniversary Amp – you keep it, or has your memory of perfection only deepened with every guitar that failed to
blue, brass-plated, 3 measure up to the one that got away?
channels, and why it’s the
only amp in Johnny A’s

Marshall’s Nick Bowcott
on the 30th Anniversary

Gibson’s Johnny A
Signature Guitar
This one does it all

The Gibson ‘57 Classic
humbucking pickup with
original designer
J.T. Ribiloff

The new Eric Johnson
Signature Stratocaster…
Long time coming,
affordable, and the
pickups rock…

16 Most of us have been guilty of letting great guitars go due to a temporary cash crunch or the
The mythical low-power fever that clouds rational judgment when we impulsively sell an instrument to acquire the next
brown Twin Part III… one. How many players traded a vintage goldtop, ‘59 burst or ‘50s Strat or Telecaster for an acrylic
Why it never existed and Dan Armstrong, Kustom tuck n’ roll PA gear for the band, a Sunn head, or simply for the sake of
how to build your own! change?

and Elvin Bishop put the spot. played through the direct XLR out straight into the specifically because a successful. B. finally resorted to contacting the product manager at Marshall light on Gibson ES*** guitars. N11. teenager. sparkling Twin tones play without the advantage of actually seeing the fingerboard and magnificently distorted. chart-topping hits? Johnny realized two truths that Perhaps you are already familiar with Johnny A. while Anniversary 6101 combo. Pauls. and secondly. depth and fidelity through an obscure. but we’re would have to be betting the things you don’t know about him will give you dealt with if he was reason to pause and reconsider just what it takes to be a truly to continue making unique and inventive guitarist today while surviving the radio a living in the and record industry’s gross indifference to talent. but the story behind the music reveals a rare deter. but how many has since become the only amp he has used for the past ten of us can claim to have stopped playing a certain guitar years. Mick Taylor. He has playing on the guitar. During reinvent yourself. guerrilla marketing. B. his disability became an asset as he learned to yes. classic humbuckers. cover story Consider the fickle. Stills. complete guitarist no longer depend- Afflicted by ent upon working scoliosis as a with a front man. amps and effects. it’s the music that ultimately defines Johnny A’s creative First. and it was pound body going to be up to Johnny alone to make that happen. on-again-off-again stops and starts typical of the various Fender. cast for 14 months and a Today. Gibson and Martin guitars among rock music scene in the ‘70s. Gretsch. Johnny vowed to stop playing his vintage Stratocasters Stratocaster or Tele in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s while rather than being perceived as a “Stevie Ray wannabe. it within the community you build around it through live per- was impossible for him to turn his head to see what he was formances and grass roots. and that sound can continue to evolve… And Ultimately. Peter Frampton. Listen. Joe Walsh and Jeff Beck were playing vintage Les become his signature tone. It popularity of various guitars. you can even play gloriously clean. national. Freddie King. bought it again. and Johnny has proved that you can that. Johnny bought what he believed to be the state-of-the- allure. Nash and (sometimes) Young propelled art in amplifier design for the time – the Marshall 30th Martin D45’s and big Gretsch’s to must-have status. and Alvin Lee. he would prowess. Vaughan was tearing up the rock and blues world on his #1 ing what and when. signature sound. and guitar fashion would flip again in favor of vintage Fenders while Les Pauls. music business. Suddenly jobless ing personal preferences to have successfully developed the with no prospects specifications for their own signature guitar and sold a major after six years with manufacturer on the concept despite having recorded no J Geils’ Peter Wolf. Johnny A is living proof of just how times have rigid neck changed. He returned it. SG’s and 335’s suddenly lost their In 1993. and enjoy… -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. You could barely give away an old Strat. have to become a mination and creative flair that is instructive and inspiring. same instrument? Indeed. blue Marshall amplifi- er and a fully hollow Gibson guitar loaded with stock ‘57 Johnny’s career progressed with the frustrations and all-or. You can create and market your own music this time. Crosby. and his tone is stunning. shifting fads that have alternately placed nothing. practicing proved that you can evolve as an artist and develop your own was one of the few activities he could pursue at all. but given the circumstances. how many players have become so obsessed with the subtle nuances of guitar design and evolv. ‘80s and ‘90s. celebrated artist played the house sound system. Thinking outside the traditional box has become an brace for two essential skill for all guitarists seriously pursuing a career in years after the business of music. high-gain brain-smack with of his guitar. Duane ing up a Gibson to develop and refine what would ultimately Allman. Of course. no Johnny was one was going to required to do anything for wear a 40 him or his career unless helping him was profitable. While Stevie Ray the most desirable instruments solely based on who was play. September2005 2 .” pick- players like Jimmy Page. Fads have always affected the to help him decipher how the amp was supposed to be used.

The Searchers. Glenn Miller and Count Basie – and my player didn’t show up that night – he had a fight with his girl- mom was a big blues fan. my dad was a lover of jazz and big band music pizza joint in Saugus. The first instrument that I really took up seri. so I really heard all kinds of music friend. then they TQR: Was the guitar the first instrument you picked up? taught me more during each break. I did that for and about a year and eventually dropped out and went to Berklee rhythm School of Music for almost a year. The Dave Clark 5. It’s funny to realize how obstacles and ously was the drums when I was about seven years old. Crimson and but as a Gentle Giant. I still have it. but the other The Stones. The Beatles. September2005 3 . Every weekend we I was playing drums in a band and still learning how to play would have these guitar when all the guys in my band left to play in another huge. I have also always about great been fascinated by marketing and the concept of developing drummers something from nothing and making it viable. getting a ment musical edu- because I cation. and this great Turkish dumbek player named brace for two years. That was the first time I ever played guitar with a band and they asked me to join No. I eventually Greek family saved enough to buy a Vox Clubman guitar that I saw in the where there was a window of a music store in 1965 for $88. and I still At the time. but I was real- where all kinds of ly working hard to teach myself guitar and learn all the songs Middle Eastern of the day from the Invasion stuff to psychedelic music. they asked me if growing up. lessons and played the drums for quite awhile. I had to wear a 40- house. and I was theory class- a huge fan of the British Invasion – bands like Gerry and the es at Berklee. During high school I also developed scolio- player. He wasn’t really a them that night. I finally picked did like the up the guitar when I was about 11 or 12 years old. music would be blaring – Armenian. That body cast forced me to practice Ronnie Kirby gave me a solid silver dumbek. and I would without being able to look at the guitar or see what I was bang on that. I was things they -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. I went home and got my amp and guitar and we played the ten songs I knew. The Kinks. but were hairdressers and I would sweep up the hair off the floor I did grow up in a in their beauty salon on Saturdays to earn money. Also. N11. Well. My dad was also a bartender at night at a Middle pound full body cast for 14 months and after that. The first guitar I owned None of my family was a $49 Lafayette guitar and amp. player. doing with my hands. and also the Everly Brothers. deep appreciation and passion for TQR: When did you finally switch from drums to guitar? music. so knowing that I could play a little. and I always had melody running through my head. I I’m not sug- was frus. gesting that trated by I’m against the instru. I took limitations like that can make you stronger. crazy parties one. The guitar – Tommy Dorsey. My mother and aunt are musicians. a back Eastern club. which is a curvature of the spine. I would fill in that night for him. but he had one and I would play with it around the sis. Pacemakers. it was my grandfather’s bouzouki. the curriculum was all jazz-oriented and I was own a into more progressive music like John McLaughlin. cover story TQR: How and when were you first exposed to music? still playing drums in a band at the time and I didn’t even know how to tune the guitar at first. MA and I went to see them. I had been taking drum lessons all along. I love the drums and TQR: So you continued to play in various bands through I’m still out high school and… very pas- sionate I graduated and went to a business college. King drum kit. Turkish and Greek the guys that had left to play with another band had a gig at a music. but I didn’t dig that at all.

The band members were like “Aerosmith meets the Beatles. That lasted for and try to come up with my own style. In hindsight. Jimmy called Hidden Secret. there wasn’t much happening with the kind of ed as one. and it was the first band of mine that seemed to have a to put a rock band together with a lot of melody – kind of very tight focus since The Streets. there was some and I’d like wonderful stuff that came out of that period from The Cars. and aggressive then I went to England an auditioned for Bill Bruford from edge. Then I came back that band was called Hearts on Fire. September2005 4 . Brothers. It began to sound a little too contrived and fabricated. I began to wonder about the whole music thing. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. Jeff Beck. who is to say what is “right?” after the drummer got I’d rather have it great than be perfect. Joe Pass. Then I went to California where I hooked up with even though the style we were playing was what Americana Bobby Whitlock and played with Bobby and Doug Clifford turned out to be – kind of like Lone Justice before their time. Clapton. continued to play. Then I put that really have a personality and a voice. we had some great songs. Take Keith Richards. And again. cover story wanted me to do. That was a really good and played in local bands around New England. sometimes your limitations can help define kind of un-together – what becomes your unique style. There wasn’t a lot of guitar-oriented True artists. I do regret not having acquired a Clearwater. the with Everly- Geils Band… All the big guys that came through town would style har- go there – George Benson. I had gotten married in 1983 and I was work- music – it ing for Tom Scholz (guitarist with Boston) at the time with chooses you. music being recorded or played. Hendrix. TQR: How did your career develop? At that point. throw it in a blender and hit “puree” player. When so many people we eventually broke up wind up emulating that style. I’ve also always had the usual a certain slant toward country music that dates back to my stuff with early interest bands and in The Everly music in jun. I from Credence wasn’t into. The Cars. for so I came back home example… a phenomenal rock player who is emulated by to play with my band how many people? Here he is playing 5-string open tunings The Streets again. area.” That was a band called really good. but signed to a major label and we toured with Aerosmith in as good as we were. around 1982. so I got to know rock band everybody – Joe Perry and the Aerosmith guys. went out to the with a more Midwest for a while to start a progressive rock band. guitar I wanted to hear. the Rockman Company. but scattered read music earlier. N11. whether it be Chet another band together or Wes. Vaughan… It’s not necessarily the guys with the greatest which was more of a chops. and I have always tried to grab the a percussionist and sax nuances of those styles. Billy Gibbons. It was real- formal understanding of music and developing the ability to ly good. but that wasn’t what I wanted to do at the and lacking focus – time. I really wasn’t even playing that don’t choose much at home. to think that I Talking Heads. I have always been intrigued by the things that make keyboards. and Yes/King Crimson (I didn’t get that gig). Roxy Music… but as far as the guitar was can be count. and I was playing a The Streets. pop rock thing with tate to. I mean. like transcribing and learning standards. But then I started to get the itch So I did all again and I began writing a lot of songs. and we were pretty successful in the Boston Tele somewhat in the style of James Burton and Albert Lee. but and his limitations created that style. so I ior high and had this idea high school to put togeth- Bill Bruford & Johnny and I also er a country worked in a big music store in Boston. Steve Howe… So I monies but worked there for a while. a couple of years before I began to stop feeling what we were doing. it’s the guys busted. two guitars. For me. but those with the strongest personalities that I gravi. I couldn’t get arrested playing this stuff 1978-79. We were getting tons of radio airplay without being We recorded a demo and we had a manager shopping it. and I wanted band. concerned. someone’s voice print.

Eventually I sold about 10. I had a lot of friends over the years that I had -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. with no stylistic or techni- The cal compromises. MA audition for Peter. how am I gonna do this? local label with national distribu- I had this tion. The band was called Peter Wolf & The players. either. The question was.000 copies stop somewhere and learn how to read that song – chords and as it was picked up by radio stations in the six-state New melody at the same time. TQR: All through your own grassroots marketing It took about three days. and at first I didn’t even know what they were. They had a shitty sound system. but ground vocal part and the rhythm section as I hear a song and that really didn’t feel honest to me and I eventually broke the play it on the guitar. but I accomplished what I had intended to do. Street Bar & Grill. a back. I only wanted to do it if I could make a record- given me. and we talked. I had sung lead to work for before and I wasn’t that bad. ing the notes in these strange chord structures that I had never played before. So I got a 4-star review in Rolling Stone for the album and we played there every other Monday night and that’s where I toured all over the US and Japan. you set years. ing to the best of my capabilities. great keyboard players… tremendous whole thing just exploded. and the place held about 80 people. Polygram Records. Now. and the some great guitarists. so Wolf decided to line up some was a passionate music lover who had grown up during the gigs for the band to enable us to make a little money for the whole punk scene in Boston and he knew all the bands and time we had put in. He brought a more complete guitarist and put a new project together to in a guy who had a feed my family. we went over Complete budget before the project was finished. he liked what I was doing. ing they would sell them. I decided that my goal was going to be to become record. Out ed to make a of survival. know- notes on the staff rather than the chord symbols. So we went into the studio. when I play. money. I put out the record. whole thing up. It got to the point where I would drop off CD’s from the play The Music Man. TQR: And this all came about as a means of survival… Later on around 1993. crafted this new thing. I realized that I had been playing guitar for 30-something He was blown years and I couldn’t play a song by myself. so I’m play. I put a trio together in Salem. I ended up getting the gig and we where I live. we hadn’t been paid around on the off-nights because the kid who booked the acts for any of the rehearsal time. I wound up co-producing one album for him and we up on the floor. they booked a half a dozen gigs. radio station during this free-form lunch-time show. Eventually. He didn’t pay you shit – $60 a night – but he had House Party Five. Well. It was at that point that I had an epiphany… One night a guy I was sittin’ on my bedroom floor with my guitar when I real. I try to emulate the vocal melody. I told him I music book wanted 100% complete creative control with no compromis- that a es. and he ran out of Beatles. it got played on a local the pages. The six shows turned into seven players all around. came in who used ized that I was at the mercy of lead singers. The song was “Til There Was You” England area.000. N11. but it wasn’t my strength. and it got randomly crazy phone requests. I couldn’t deliver away by what we the melody and the chords at the same time because I had were doing and he always backed a singer as a lead/rhythm guitarist playing asked me if I want- rhythm behind the vocals and occasionally taking a solo. September2005 5 . n’t really want to tour anymore and that left me with no day job and no band. my left hand and the efforts… How much did it cost you to make this muscles in my forearm were sore and on fire by the time I recording? was done. cover story So we changed the band to more of a hard rock thing. I was determined to read the at stores and they would pay me for them on the spot. and we played this little place called the Dodge rehearsed for a couple of months before that gig was can. Sometime would flip Tuesday Morning and I sold it at gigs. and my fingers. About $37. because I wasn’t interested in just making a record to hear friend had myself play. a friend of mine was working on a concert project with Peter Wolf (J Geils) and I got called to It was all about survival. I had to borrow money from all kinds of and I people and buy the tapes back from this guy and finish the decided I recording with my own funds. But by early ‘99 Wolf did. They had some of the best local talent celed because of permit problems.

September2005 . Rickenbackers… But to me. you need to have a live show story and you on me in -continued- 6 TONEQUEST REPORT V6. nothing would have just the way I had hoped and even when I listen to it today happened. types of guitars TQR: But bottom line. I of my eventually first great guitars was a goldtop Les Paul in 1969. I got a little bit of press and the radio airplay ing. ally and the song “Oh Yeah” became the highest charting you’re really into Stevie Ray. So when Stevie Ray began to tal version of “Wichita Lineman. the other epiphany that occurred in addition to my real. and hear again. saw Jimi plete melody was that no one was going to do anything for Hendrix. One Well. you need to influence have a sales story. “Oh.” It was released internation. and then a months. I mean. I developed the live show and we started favors. you recorded music that people when I wanted to hear. all dif- But now with the Internet. passionate player. a 21-store CD chain across New England for three ing for people at The House of Blues in Boston. Strats and Teles for a long. too. ences may cians who may be struggling to get exposure. tone on a Strat is Jimi Hendrix. was a kid. cover story done a ton of favors for.great for guitar… an incredibly that album and explosive. I had old guitars – a 1964 factory black and a ‘65 Lake Nations record Placid Blue Strat – and then Stevie Ray Vaughan hit really label as a result big.” So I took those four bullet points and I record I asked everybody for everything and called in all the worked on them. a profound what do I do? She said. Morning to the two great guitar companies are Gibson and Fender. Get Inside. me. N11. It turned out making this a viable commercial product. I called an attorney to get a record deal and she told me and he had that attorneys don’t really make record deals anymore. He was a little younger than Ah Via Musicom. so we followed. a PRS when they first came out. When I was in The Streets and been some of those other bands I played in during the ‘80s. I izing that I couldn’t play a song by myself and deliver a com. Well. residency there. I got a couple of shows open- Comics. have paral- leled mine. I also was given a listening post spot in Newbury playing shows in the suburbs. con. if you playing didn’t have a record deal you weren’t even in the business. but I was never passive about any of this.000+ copies and that me and I made it possible to cut the latest CD. yeah. and I had a licensed ‘68 Paisley Telecaster back then. a Tuesday Jackson when they were cool. I had a BC Rich when Sometime they were handbuilt. and I Steve Vai’s had been playing Les Pauls. man. I think someone who is not in the mainstream has a much better shot getting somewhere doing it that way than I had through regular channels. so when it came time to finish that need a radio story. people would come up to me and say. I’m still happy with it. I’m not even sure you want a ferent record deal today (laughing). “You need a press story. just been a guitar player that didn’t take any responsibility for sequently there is a lot of space in that album. the band hadn’t played a lot of gigs together live. And the the instrumen. which helped immensely. huh?” Well. If I had didn’t take a lot of liberties with the songs in the studio. long Favored time. We went on to sell 80. He got a great tone… great player… great for the of him hearing blues… great for music…. honestly I hadn’t instrumental on AAA radio since Eric Johnson’s singles from been influenced by Stevie Ray. At the time of that record. think some of his influ- TQR: That story is such a great example for any musi. TQR: Let’s review the chronology of the gear you’ve TQR: Do you think you could duplicate that grassroots played as well as the development of your signature formula today? Gibson guitar… Yes. and he had the tone. Well. hit big.

absolute -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. I saved some money and then I found one of have four of them. plus. and I was ment to me about Stevie being an influence and I knew I had using the 295. I was lov. They asked what I was thinking. The neck Five… Smokey Robinson’s guy played a Black Beauty… If placement between an ES 335 and a ES 295 and a Les Paul you listen to Gibson Les Pauls pre-Led Zeppelin in popular are all different. and I guess because have it. So when you think about contempo- ed something they rary players that have signature guitars like Joe Perry and would build them Peter to my specs and I Frampton – paid artist prices. Stevie was strong enough with what up steam and he was doing to make me say. and that was the tone that. if I was Gibson really playing a Strat. it wouldn’t have it was picking been good for my career. my approach to effects. and that’s when I got that hollow tone I was looking for. but I still didn’t have those ‘59s at a shop in Bangor. So as soon as I heard that comment ture thing came about Stevie being one of my influences. not now. received. They learned about what I liked as far as guys that color and neck shapes and all of that. and the histo- sue ES295. But I didn’t want to be compared to a liked the record. and they made me another. my How the signa- approach to phrasing. 2001. That’s what happened. I still about this guitar. thank you. “I’m getting out of this game. I got. but I’m not really getting 100% of what said yes and the I want. and we developed a have sold great relationship that continues today. and it was just when they launched the Custom me a ‘59 flame top with a Bigsby. So I called Mike and I asked him if he could make a Gibson. So we did some proto- absolutely unbe. and I didn’t want to get into that Brian Setzer thing. Someone made that com. This guy was the guys at taking it to the pinnacle. The thing I was missing with the Les Paul was the hollow ing the Custom tone of the 295. 335 and a Les ized that a lot of the R&B guys he listened to were using Paul live to sup- Gibson guitars. types and it was a year in R&D and we were all very excited lievable. contemporary. I decided I had to get about was that another guitar. They were all great. at the lineage So I started looking around for guitars and I fell into this reis. Maine. And you’re tars for free. I loved the tone of the 295. It didn’t quite sound like I then looking wanted. and I told them first guitar I got what I wanted was a guitar that was a little bit bigger. I may never be. they were as into it as much as I was. When my first solo millions and album was about to be recorded. and I think I flame top (‘59). The Jackson port that record. So we had a talk during summer NAMM in interested in 2002 and I was telling Mike and Rick Gembar that I love the endorsing me? He Les Pauls. and one that a ‘95 ‘burst that is could resist feedback but still rock. I was playing with Wolf. They made me one and I Shop in 1993 and I got a goldtop because I couldn’t afford a loved it. live. none of these tones were really dirty. That did. I knew I wanted that romantic Bigsby sound and my records – and Gretsch wasn’t working for me. September2005 7 . in touch with Mike McGuire at the Custom Shop. cover story terms of my approach to tone. But I didn’t like changing guitars.” getting airplay in 2000 and Two things happened at that time. I was hunching Shop stuff and over that 13" body for 90 minutes every night and my back would they be was killing me. I put a set of flat wound strings on it and that was ry of Gibson the tone. With all due respect to Stevie. but I couldn’t music. I couldn’t play Fenders anymore. a to make a change. N11. I was looking for a new millions of tone. of the music I was playing and the critical respect the CD had n’t mean I got gui. I told him who I was and that I was playing with Peter Wolf. but they were playing clean. but they were turn the thing up loud enough and scream on it because of the pure and they were pretty and really great. that from Gibson was was hollow to emulate the sound of the 295. but right – I’m not a household name – I wasn’t then and I’m still every time I need. So I decided to get feedback. and I real. and another. Seventy percent of the Sometime Tuesday Morning and the record was cut with that guitar. and since I sit on a stool.

Tal Farlow. The engineer thought I was crazy. and that’s why I had brought all the other stuff in. it was like that 295. but it’s not. It always seemed crazy to me a Vox AC30. It has three channels and MIDI channel neck with an ebony fingerboard for a bright attack. but I never wanted to do it unless bought a couple of combos and I just fucking hated them. Then I started playing with everything else. They even let amp. It did everything I sented another set of problems live. but it also has a built-in speaker emulator in it – of the P90’s. I haven’t used a speaker on that was really very important to me.. He asked me what kind of tone I was look- neck has to feel like that. too. I scrapped all the tracks and did them over. so I me name the color. I told him who I was and 1959 Pontiac Bonneville. a Marshall Plexi. I meets the body – all different. check early at a Wolf gig and I asked the house sound guy if we could try the direct out and compare it to a Shure 57 on TQR: What type of pickups did you choose? the speaker. I wanted it to feel and that I had bought the amp twice because it was supposed to look like a guitar that could have come out in 1961. more pronounced than it has been in modern times. If you look at the thickness of the peg. so from that head. it has to be respectful of Gibson’s ing for and he told me to start with the second channel. it’s tapered very much like a ‘40s or ‘50s Gibson and point on that’s what I’ve done. That’s the way it’s done. and A lot of people think that my guitar is when I just a modified 356. because Gibson. going back and forth and it sounded pretty good. One day I went to the sound the 295 and yet. I panies had approached me. but I couldn’t keep the P90’s because they pre. To Gibson’s credit. I certainly the Marshall 30th Anniversary amps almost since they first never even imagined having my own signature guitar with came out in 1992. and I had to be able to get several sounds out of one loose with it. a Deluxe. like having a key that unlocked the amp. That guitar can come very close to the sound of an XLR right out of the back. the The toggle switch functions at a 45 Marshall degree angle so that I can flick it with and my pinky finger without moving my brought in hand. I of an old guitar but also to give me do love access to the entire fingerboard. where Golden Age. all direct. a Super. The sounded horrible. Matthew Klein calculated how to come close sound. and I bought the amp again and I still didn’t like it. out of ten times I liked the direct sound best. I actually bought that amp twice. it was something that I really would prefer to play over They just didn’t sound good. We used a 25. Live. The went to do body length is different. and it am a vintage guitar guy and I love that look and feel. We did a blind test and eight to that old style dish. Aesthetically. and tonally… well. I tried it. Chet and Wes. Other com. but I’m old school.5" scale wanted it to do. called “Sunset Glow” after my dad’s old called Nick Bowcott at Marshall. There abandoned are a lot of little subtle differences. and I brought in all these things and got a great vertically up and down on a 335 sound – they were good tones – but they didn’t sound like when the natural sweep of your hand me. I really wanted it to sound to set the controls. but I’ve been using Marshall direct for six years with Wolf and I wanted the same -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. a that those toggle switches functioned VibroKing. It was the farthest thing from my mind. it can also really scream. and as soon as he told me that. the neck joint where it album. the first time I brought it home I hated it and took it back. running the amp direct into the house system could sound I’m a vintage guitar nut. and I couldn’t believe that The ‘57 Classics – those are my favorite Gibson humbuckers. Although the body of my you put a mic on a speaker cabinet on stage to get your guitar is larger. I was down there all the time. but I had been using the There are a lot of great amps out there. because I be the flagship amp in the Marshall line at the time. etc. the neck the first scale length. We had first tried the Marshall direct and it wasn’t working – it sounded thin in TQR: Let’s talk about amps… the studio. September2005 8 . a totally switching. vintage tones. And I wanted the The funny Florentine cutaways to be reminiscent thing is. I mean. they really turned me Wolf. but they didn’t feel unique to me. It’s thinner at the top stage since 1993 and I’ve recorded both my albums with just than it is near the nut and is much that one amp. so is more like 45 degrees. I was micing the amp just like you would hollow body and we used humbuckers to eliminate the hum normally do. cover story giants such as Les Paul. They sounded good. so another thing I looked at was the better than micing the cabinet. N11. that’s what you do… dish (top carve) of a ‘50s Les Paul.

because that just mov- Doyle Bramhall’s stage rig. I of the guitar (or any instrument). And honestly. that would seem to open up a host of unwanted variables… No. The signal comes have to be practical. it seemed when I was micing a cabinet was that my tone was never the only fitting that we query the man who guided Johnny in his same – it was never dead nuts on. night before? Is it two inches? An inch and a half? Is it a 45 Nick Bowcott. because one of the things that always drove me crazy regarding the Marshall 30th Anniversary amplifier. and an Echo Park pedal. Little Feat. I’d also enjoy playing and touring as a sideman for taining clean sound. When I record. I want total control for how I what he was hearing without speaker cabinets. All he could see on stage was one of the 30th because I don’t want to be committed to anything but the Anniversary heads and he still couldn’t believe I was getting pure guitar tone when I record. I would love to use a blackface Fender for this Replifex. and opment and inner secrets of the 30th Anniversary amp… -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. a Boss tuner. It’s more consistent than Once we heard Johnny’s tale of woe and ultimate salvation micing. amps tone on the record that I had been getting live. off-axis rejection. this is really a lot of work. every night there will be at right out of the back of the amp into my old Neve preamp least three or four guys that will tell me they can’t believe and I plug that directly into the input of the tape deck and I’m not using speakers on stage – like Paul Barrere from record direct to tape. a couple of Lexicon sound and something else for that sound. the product manager for Marshall. That would be like a vacation for me compared don’t like to feel compression or hear it grab or pump. Sometimes after a gig I work without me hearing it work. Sure. because the solo thing is very best pedal-type compressor I’ve found because it seems to demanding and emotionally draining. TQR: When people consider that you are running direct into a different house system every night. It’s the to what I’m doing now. September2005 9 . it’s very basic – a Dunlop 535Q Wah. N11. TQR: What would you like to accomplish in the future? As far as my pedalboard goes currently. good sounding dense reverbs. TQ also use a Radial Engineering A/B/Y Switchbone and an www. and for distortion I always use the channel Fender Twin sound on one song and a Marshall Plexi for switching in the Marshall.johnnya. get the perfect Jam-Mans. If I was in a Black stuff like Crowes type of band. which is an envelope filter. I’d like to write for Factory optical compressor when I want a more even or sus. it’s just the opposite. along with continu- do run in stereo live. but I’m riding in a van with three or four guys. as a half an inch TQR: What has been your history with effects? off axis totally When I changes was with the tone Wolf. film. but the Intellifex consistency from night to night outweighs the things I don’t and like. I would probably never go used a lot back to using speakers in a traditional way unless I was in a of rack different band playing different music. But it’s fun. I like this compressor a lot because I other artists. I came across a couple of feel like. You gotta rely on guys quest to embrace the amp that has become so important to using different mics every night. Thanks to TQR advisory board member close is it to the cone? Is it in the right spot compared to the Mitch Colby at Korg USA. a Boss OC2 octave pedal. another. might wish to manipulate the tone of the guitar later. 2004 had become my sound. I Making money might be nice (laughing). I I don’t even record through the Xotic Effects RoboTalk. no reverb. and I occasionally use an Aphex Punch ing to play live and making more records. and how his signature tone. graciously brought us up to date on the devel- degree or a 30 degree angle? I used to sell microphones. I record totally dry. We kept working on it and tweaking ing a mic it to get the tones I wanted. No compression. I see what happens. We’ll which is where the signal splits. “Wow.” because the con- the new Line 6 Tone Core pedals… a stereo pan/trem pedal centration level for me has to be so high. and that was the only amp I used as little on both records. actually. I might… Don’t get me wrong – I don’t the think I have the greatest tone on earth and there are things Rocktron about my tone on stage that I don’t particularly like. no EQ.

these of a modification in 1994 that gave the channel even more amps were gain. making this spanning the previous 30 years – from the original JTM45. MIDI channel VPR is an acronym for Virtual Power Reduction and when switching. sive. when given the task of coming up with a unique to that pair of amps and while it a very cool feature. this changes the amp’s cious few. the power stages are voiced in such a way that the Clean Channel ever. all-dancing TSL100 and TSL122 (as already men- with more gain than ever before. and with the universal gift of 20/20 hindsight. a sophisticated this switch is engaged it kicks in a clever little piece of cir- Series/Parallel FX loop and no fewer than four output power cuitry that lurks between the Phase Inverter and output valves options via Pentode/Triode and High/Low Power switches on which modifies the power stage. did find their way into the hands of sound and feel – pentode mode is brighter and more aggres- artists whom Jim felt had played a notable role in his compa. flexibility and features.” In Anniversary” truth though. and a Lead Channel singing. yes. it what they considered to be the ultimate Marshall – the most does have one major negative – extended use of the “Low” comprehensive valve amp to ever bear the company’s famous option causes uneven wear of the output valves due to the script logo. especially when the deep switch through the Plexi and early MVs. the answer the “30th would have to be. causing it to emulate the the power stage – 100-watts pentode. sort of switching redundant.00. Gary Moore and Zakk other power-halving switch on the 30th Anniversary head and Wylde. This said. VPR achieves this by doing two things: 1) It attenu- ates (reduces) the post Phase Inverter signal by approximately The resulting 3-channel beast boasted no fewer than 17 con. Jim’s R&D team decided to build especially when combined with the Pentode/Triode option. lowering the power amp’s output. a Crunch Channel capable of sounds amps start to “fatten up” at much lower volumes. September2005 10 . an upgrade designated by an LM (Lead Mod) prefix on specifically the model numbers. The number of valves 100W to 25W. Watts). not only in terms of tone but also in terms of fact that only two of the four are used. lowers the damping factor of the -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. triode is smoother and boasts a silkier high end). 2) It alters the negative feedback circuit of the its chassis housed? A Nigel Tufnel-approved 11 (7 x 12AX7s power amp and. switchable speaker damping. and right the way up to the on the EL34 powered models is employed. sound and feel of a much lower powered amp (approx. from The majority of these highly coveted amps were sold via an Pentode to internet lottery for £5000. The ny’s history – such as Eric Clapton. as impressive sales in spite of its lofty price tag. as a result. In order to attain this lofty goal. 30th Anniversary amplifier. 50-watts pentode. This one is Not surprisingly.00 (approx. depending Triode operation was nothing new for Marshall at the time as on exchange rate) with the bulk of the profits going to worthy both the Silver Jubilee amps (1987) and also the then-current causes (Jim Marshall has been a generous contributor and JCM900 Series boasted that feature. In the JCM2000 series of all-valve amps that followed in the pendent channels – our best sounding and most versatile late ‘90s. A pre. the triple channel successors of the 6100 and 6101) amp should be loaded to the gills with modern features do boast a unique output stage switching feature named VPR. They also determined the tioned. the all- high gain of the then-current JCM900s. including comprehensive tone shaping options. part of their while Channel 1 and Channel 2 were truly breathtaking. $8750. “at the time. thus effectively reducing the amp’s output power from trol knobs. in the minds of many. power by tinued in 2002 with an extremely limited run of only 40 1962 switching JAGs – a gold plated 1962 “Bluesbreaker” combo covered in the output white leather by the legendary Jaguar automobile company. 50. 6dB. however. amps At the risk of and 4 x EL34s)! Was the amp worthy of its “ultimate stating the Marshall” tag? Judging by the critical acclaim it attained and obvious. Channel 3 didn’t quite hit the mark – even with the addition gests. (Note: in addition to active member in various charities for many years). 25- watts triode and 25-watts triode. designed to celebrate A High/Low Marshall’s Power 30th year in switch that business – a landmark which occurred in 1992! This tradition halved the began in 1987 with the Silver Jubilee series of amps that amp’s output marked the company’s 25th Anniversary and was further con. N11. 22 switches and 3 trim pots. it was decided that the amplifier should have three totally inde. name sug. combo – the one marked High/Low Power worked by switch- ing off two of the amp’s four power valves.

the only manufacturer making an EL34 worthy of the Marshall logo in sufficient quantity was the Tesla factory in the coun. we do believe that artists for whom start using Russian-made 5881’s. black vinyl models of 1993. reliable EL34 was once more available in brass-less. both the 6100 and 6101 did in fact remain in Lead channel was hot-rodded for even more gain – and production all the way up until 1999 – by which time public upgrade designated by an LM (Lead Mod) prefix on both demand for them was no longer present due to the unparal- models. the USA-sold combos were loaded with an Electro-Voice While the 6100LE and 6101LE numbers were obviously EVM 12L speaker while the rest of the world got a special. as Marshall history buffs are Unfortunately. Marshall listening to the more reliable transistor. radios. by the launch of the DSL100 and DSL50 bunch of brass-less. from 1994 until the discontinuation of the leled success of the three channel TSL100 head and TSL122 amps in 1999. Limited Edition 30th ing closely with the Russian valve manufacturer Svetlana and Anniversary amps covered in blue vinyl of 1992. guitars output stage so that the speaker is less damped (i. hands-on tually nothing in the autumn of 1994. used American-made 5881 power valves. the‘60s and ‘70s.marshallamps. supply of great EL34’s continue! absolutely nothing. telephone exchanges). the JTM45 was born in success of the much smaller. scale length. and finish color options. they sucked!) so the up specs and tone. in the public’s mind the term “signature guitar” Because of this. So. extremely limited. as already mentioned earlier. the valve was no longer used in desires of the young rock guitarists in his shop…43 years many of the everyday. “If it ain’t 5881’s for a period in the mid ‘90s. companies stopped making the things and before long www. cheaper. the very first Marshall. good quality valves of all flavors were in dislikes. September2005 11 . there was a Chinese signature models have been developed are consulted during factory churning out EL34s at the time. neck and fingerboard pro- Sovtek 5881 was the only option. that changed when the year of 1992. Jim and his troops saw the writing on the wall. there were also a plentiful supply. an ironic twist of fate because. pretty much every implies that either the artist’s most treasured instrument has Marshall valve amp that once boasted EL34’s was loaded been painstakingly reproduced to exacting specifications with with 5881’s instead and bore a “Marshall 5881 Power Valve no compromises. hi-fi systems. that was not done out of broke.: is and availability forced the company to find another power allowed to “flap” more). haps you share our misgivings based on personal. this was ated with extraordinary passion and obsession for detail. but out of necessity… Back in the good ol’ days of ponent of his company paying careful attention to the likes. Marshall had been work- In-between the brass-plated. or the artist’s “dream” guitar has been cre- Equipped” sticker on the front panel. Long may the difference between these three? Aside from aesthetics. Thus.g. cool-running and vastly 1962 as the direct result of most of the Western manufacturers had disappeared. electronic applications it once was later the song remains the same! TQ (e. the EL34 valve crisis was over. some output emulation as an all-tube 25W output amp has a lower thirty years later history effectively repeated itself. in truth. As the saying goes. In 1994 howev. By the mid ‘70s however. So. the numbers were far from limited! 6100LM and 6101LM respectively. So. ones limited to only being produced during the anniversary er. the marketing story often fails to accurately always quick to point out. but they were far R&D and various phases of pre-production concerning pick- from satisfactory (technically speaking. when designed around the preferences of major players. we had no choice but to experience. but price rip tide of hype surrounding a new product launch. Then disaster struck when that are marketed as having been inspired and meticulously the fall of communism caused that plant to close. don't fix it!” Jim Marshall has always been a huge pro- choice. from late 1994 on. In some ways. fret size. avail- ability diminished dramatically and prices sky-rocketed. then the EL34 by the mid ‘60s). We’ve had mixed feelings about many “signature” guitars try once known as Czechoslovakia. As is now rock folklore. and per- Marshall’s once huge mountain of EL34’s was reduced to vir. stock-piled like crazy and worked closely with the few remaining suppliers to ensure quality and quantity. the JTM45 reflect reality for discerning players capable of resisting the of 1962. So. Sure. demands and wishes of his users and reacting plentiful supply. TVs. except that for tonal preference reasons. the head and combo were known as the combo. and the a good sounding. The heads in 1997. blue-vinyl models made in 1992. files. This adds to the realism of the 25W valve (the KT66. in reverse! Thankfully. N11. Of course. time. we always strive to learn from our successes Regarding the changing of the output valves from EL34’s to and our occasional failures too. wiring layout. As a company. The problem is. but this damping factor than a 100W all-tube power stage. due to continuing accordingly. by the time the JCM2000 series was ready to roll a few years later. Given the -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. As a result. and the blue covered.e. By the early ‘90s however. non-brass plated ly designed Celestion G12 “Gold” speaker.

“What’s in there?” we asked. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. like it a lot. and amps to Midtown Music. The ‘A’ was Just this week as we were returning a couple of new Gretsch specifically designed to avoid being a one-trick pony. “Oh. We reproducible level of crafts. but quite another to backdrop of the entire achieve and maintain a Gibson heritage. in a rejects. and some Les Pauls when a song calls for ballsy sustain. sketch out a prototype yet still unique when based on individual specifi. right place. beckoning us within. The ‘A’ can of the good ones aren’t going to age particularly well. hollow humbucker tones required by jazz and swing tunes. with none of the funky quirki- last for decades. stable and controllable hollow body electric guitar tone than nary 2002 ‘58 Custom Authentic Les Paul lay nestled in its the typical ‘ES’ plush womb. clean. torically utilized tar craftedin the image of a moderately figured and faded to plywood construc- amber-butterscotch vintage Les Paul with aged hardware) we tion with or without took it home to be re-strung with fresh Pyramid wire. Once we recovered from design that has his- our initial shock (it’s a shockingly attractive and unique gui. 25. An extraordi. As described. we spied a Gibson Custom Shop nearly every stylistic variation on the electric guitar can be case on the counter (a sure sign that a fresh trade has just authentically explored with it by degrees. and there were no Johnny can be moved with A’s in production at the time this article was being developed. played and prodded. which may Trini Lopez and a Les Paul. It’s one thing to very old school style. and it has now earned a per- manent home in our music room after some quick horse-trad. Right time. or all-out screaming sustain. guitars number of such instruments so we prevailed upon that are produced (in a fac. although we can’t say precisely why. The key contribut- gone down). set up. N11. as the manship throughout the look seems to have entire run of a signature been inspired to some extent by a vintage Barney Kessel. if the artists whose promptly sent us a names appear on many sig. luck of the draw. The Gibson Custom Shop doesn’t keep a wide variety of the toggle switch completed guitars sitting around. it’s stylish. cases. September2005 12 .” Pop go the clasps. a center block. and we have out by design to owned a dozen Les Pauls that couldn’t come within a mile of provide easy and this one on all counts. bluesy tones with just the right hint of among all types of guitars – signature models and otherwise. and we lift the top of mahogany back and sides carved from a single block of wood the case with the same anticipation that has plagued us for and joined to a solid maple top. inspected. viewed against the cations. rest assured that can describe the there would be bounces and ‘A’. The ‘A’ is also laid ing. it remains up to you Even more significant are the practical design features that to find “the good ones. In all ness of a Barney/ Lopez. girth and dirt. and it can also be We continue to experience inconsistencies to varying degrees pushed into subtle. the ever-present good- tory staffed by hourly will at Willcutt employees with quotas to Guitars and they fill). entire length of the so let’s get to it. with any guitar new or old. and the solidbody prowess of his wood.” evolved from Johnny’s wish to maintain the hollow character because as long as guitars are made by human hands and and comfort of his ES295. a guitar model. nature guitars were required to sign-off on each If there is one word and every one. which creates a much more years. a flick of the pinky. they aren’t all gonna be good out of the box. something ing factors to this uncommon versatility are the solid that just came in. but we’ve kept you in the Bigsby and the suspense long enough about the Johnny A Signature guitar. Johnny A for review. either.5" scale length neck. indeed range between the classic. constant access to We could tip you off to other finds. followed by a barely controllable gasp.

but well. the able guitar at Floyd Rose in Redmond. digested very carefully… The ‘57 Classics have remained one of our favorite humbucking pickups. 859-276-0675 plenty of crown. The fret wire feels similar to medium www. Specials and and driven to ES175’s.000 guitars. When we started to develop the ‘57 Classic I had extremes quite a few vintage pickups at my fingertips. This is the flatter Les Paul Classic one “signature” model that truly earns its name. Ribiloff is frequently- tars to be plagued with nut slots that bind the strings during mentioned as one of the most passionate. skilled innovators to have worked at Gibson in the days lead- and if you choose to use anything larger than a . I’m 44 now. There were signif- thoroughly icant inconsistencies among all of those old instruments. We were also pleased to find that the ‘A’ did not exhibit any string binding and telltale creaks During the course of our many conversations with various at the saddles or the nut. phenomenal from top to bottom. Ribiloff and Tom I’ve been a guitar freak since I was 14 years old. the thinline. pleasing because you have to remember that these factories existed inside/out primarily to make money.8 pounds. I grew up in rich. ing up to the development of the Custom Art & Historic you’ll need to re-work the nut slots on the ‘A. who continues to And now we’ve come to a part of this review that needs to be build his own signature humbucking pickups in Joelton. and George through a Gruhn was very generous in that he would let us go in and great amp pull guitars and hold on to them overnight so that we could they produce find those that really had the ultimate tone. keep material and labor costs low and build as efficiently as all of which possible. and we urge slightly more rounded than those of you who can appreciate an extraordinarily versatile an early ‘60s thin-taper or and exceptionally well-built guitar to check them out. as similar to a ‘60s ES335 toned-down look that would match up better with a t-shirt.010-.willcuttguitars. by the time I was 21 I had owned over 400 guitars… ‘57 Classics originally designed by J. Holmes continue to earn “classic” status.048 set. Gibson employees past and present. As much as we admire and enjoy the work of builders like Jason Lollar and Jim Wagner at CR Coils. and he is credited for having developed the ‘57 Classic humbucker along with Tom Holmes. We sometimes find new Gibson gui. J. very low compared to the automobile industry. some players who would otherwise really dig this guitar. Although we aren’t big fans of gold-plated hardware. They are warm and and I’m sure I’ve had over a 1. and the way to make money was to harmonics. bing the guitar of sustain or causing squealing feedback at Perhaps Gibson and Johnny A will consider an optional higher volume levels. with none of workmanship and detail on our review guitar was really quite the dive-bomb tendencies of a Les Paul teetering on your lap. now working at pair.gibson. pickups literally between notes. we contacted J. and the more variations Thanks to TQR advisory board member Ernie King at the on humbuckers we hear. the Well. very well balanced. so we had access to a lot of guitars and character. report is that the ‘A’ may simply be too pretty and flashy for style hollow body produces a great hollow tone without rob. ya’ll. but in the music industry the quantities of usage are thick stash of cash to get the tone you crave. WA. and the fret ends extend over the fingerboard binding rather than beneath it – a good move. But in all respects. the more we like them.. SG’s.T. for -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. exceptionally well-balanced with a very musical top end southern jumbo Dunlop 6105 with www. They were trying to use whatever was commercially serve to remind us that you don’t always have to lay out a available. The sole negative we can Even in the absence of a traditional center block. knowledgeable and tuning until they have been tweaked with a fine needle file. and we asked him to describe ups. TQ neck shape. N11. they are priced far lower than typical “designer” pick.T. The neck profile can best be described model offered with nickel hardware and a slightly less flashy. and we have found them to be well-suited for all types of how the ‘57 Classics were created… applications. – not nearly as clubby as a jeans and a wallet chain.T. This is also a very light and comfort. TN. September2005 13 . We do believe they would sell typical ‘50s neck shape. At $198 a Gibson Custom Shop. the ‘A’ earns an A.’ Division. very. I’ve owned lots of vintage Les Pauls.

Then. Mark Knopfler. aggressive kinds of rock music would sound way too dark tencies in through a Fender. so we were listening to a lot of different vintage guitars. Buddy Guy. early PAF’s did vary between Alnico 2 and Alnico 4. the #22 shield- developed. made. The thing is. I also left them with complete documen- really bright. TQ the Classic took place in multiples of different guitars because what I want- ed was a Over the years. rudi. one of the stipu- lations made when we developed the Classic was that there The final were to be absolutely no deviations in the production of that testing of pickup. and the pickup actually stops working on inductance and Atwood who really helped me with the development and doc- starts working on capacitance. because that’s a big part of getting that authentic sound. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. even though Paul. and it wasn’t so much due to the way they were originally ate a counterfeit PAF. at the time we were ly low-carbon steel. we were also trying to develop the historic Les ed wire was the same… The Classics are potted. including the Clapton model favored by Joe mentary pickup that worked equally well in a broad range of Bonamassa. Fortunately. September2005 14 . and most recently. Enamel wire becomes brit- tle with time. Some pickups with these umentation for the ‘57 Classic. I hope that is still true today. rod stock for the pole Gibson had just started potting pickups prior to the time we pieces in the were working on the Classic. I’m proud of the fact that breaks can become warmer sounding. A pickup that that’s where sounded particularly great through a Marshall amp for really the inconsis. Stevie instruments. N11. signature Strats. guitars example. equally great played through a Fender reverb amp or a Change the spacing of the pole pieces and you change the Marshall 100W Super Lead. The skull played through a really bright Marshall. Any time I tried to Vaughan. tation on every aspect of the pickup. and I’m sure that was the goal they had in mind Ray Vaughan. you can get little breaks in It was Tom Holmes and an engineer at Gibson named Ray it. And it’s not just about how the pickup sounds. and they had never wax-potted PAF’s was basical. you change the sound. In fact. but the way they had aged. but the magnet material in the high as 800K because of the loose tolerance in the part specs. Some of the 500K pots in the old ‘50s guitars can measure as sionally until around 1961. it would sound like a buzz saw ripping through your came in. and the very first PAF’s the value of the potentiometer you use. Rory Gallagher. and those guitars can sound cooler (laughing). That’s my rule of thumb with pickups. You can change the basically used the same magnets that were being used for the sound of a pickup just by using different values of pots. and style of playing always seemed to suffer. what types of carbon compound and grade of steel they used. The magnets didn’t really change dimen. the Jeff Beck (a favorite of Phil Brown). there is so little to these things that what little there is does a The ‘57 Classic was specifically aimed at making a “middle lot. the originals never were. but I haven’t noticed anything detri- There were some vintage pickups that didn’t sound good at mental from potting. and others become when I left Gibson. but also specifications as was physically possible. The final testing came down to sound… What we tried to really do with the ‘57 Classic was just playing the pickup through a variety of guitar bodies and to make them as close to the originals in terms of the material amps. Jimmy when the original PAF’s were designed. if you made the pickup sound super materials sweet. They One of the main factors in how a pickup sounds is also due to used plain enamel 42 gauge wire. Fender has developed an impressive range of good. If you change the of the road” version of the PAF pickup that would sound type of steel you use for pole screws. unless of course you were trying to cre- all. so all of the usual restraints and resistance to pieces analyzed to find out change had been removed. working on the Classics we were also going through a com- and I had different pole plete re-tooling. and as it gets brittle. pickups prior to 1988-89. one for John Mayer and Eric Johnson. signature models duplicate the extremes that we heard in vintage pickups. P90’s at the time. The actual grade of how it feels… At the same time the Classics were being steel was specified from the original pickups.