April 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part II

posted in: History, Introduction | 0

Introduction

Hello and welcome back to the second part of what is turning out to be CRAVE Guitars’ magnum opus for this year. You can revisit Part I by clicking on the link below (it will open in new browser tab):

After posting Part I in March 2019, I realised that the intended approach wasn’t going to work as I’d originally intended, especially as the series would progress. The idea for this year was to present each section in two parts, i) a short narrative setting the general historical context through global political, technological and economic events of the time, and ii) the list of music facts covering the same period. That worked well enough for the first article, which briefly covered 250 years (1650 to 1900) as a precursor to ‘modern’ musical times (from 1900 onwards).

Now… after a bit of reflection, this posed a few problems once we get into the 20th and 21st Centuries, as the number of facts and the historical context expanded in quantity and complexity. Not only this, there was a noticeable disconnect between the context and the musical facts that seemed to leave a hole in the story. While not a huge problem, I wasn’t happy with the result. The course of events needed something additional not only to make the story more coherent but also to become more interesting.

So, as it’s ‘early doors’ in the project, I decided to revisit the deferred piece of research that I was going to publish this year. This brainwave enabled me to adapt that other idea and to combine it with the historical context and musical facts. It isn’t quite what I was thinking of but I reckon it will work quite well. This extensive new piece of work involved documenting the development of relevant musical genres that took place over the same time period as the rest. This move, however, will negate the original idea I had for 2019. Oh well, never mind.

Unfortunately for me, this presented another issue which was to undertake the background work needed for it to make sense and this was on top of the other elements I was already working on. If that was the end of the story, that would be enough. However, it also meant that the length of each section would then not only become too long but also too ‘chunky’. The answer to that is to split the sections into decades, each comprising three parts – historical context, musical genre developments and music facts. That’s where we are this month.

As music is an art not a science, the approach is, to some extent, necessarily arbitrary. In an attempt to avoid repetition, each genre is only covered in the first period when it became popular. As you might expect, history, genres, artists and time periods are not always neatly organised, so there is often overlap and a degree of ‘fuzziness’ around the edges. I hope, however, that the structure is relatively easy to follow and makes some kind of sense.

As previously mentioned, this is not a detailed, comprehensive academic exercise. It is purely for entertainment and each snippet of information barely scratches the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you want to know more, I’m afraid you’ll have to go and explore where it takes you for yourself.

Finally, before we get started with this month’s part of musical history, I also have to say that the starting point of the series is from the perspective of the guitar and guitar music. If you are reading this, then you probably already appreciate that anyway, however, it does need to be said. This means that, while other aspects of music are covered, it will have a definite and obvious guitar bias. As the author, that’s my prerogative and I’m not apologising for that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this part of the story because this is where things begin to get enthralling.

The Story of Modern Music Part II  – 1900-1919

Musical Context

This is the new bit of the story added to cement the whole together, so a quick recap is needed.

Popular music of the early 1900s was very different from the predominantly highly structured classical music genres that preceded it. Starting around 1870, the catalyst for the emergent modern styles led to a seemingly miraculous eruption of musical innovation, creativity and experimentation during the 20th Century that was unlike anything that preceded it and probably unlike anything we will see again, at least in our lifetimes. Blues, jazz, gospel and folk were becoming particularly prominent and relevant in the western world.

In order to appreciate where modern music of the 20th Century began, we need to take a brief look at the origins that began to appear in the late 19th Century, even though they were still not necessarily prominent at the turn of the millennium. In these sections it is important to recognise that musical genres did not appear from nothing and neither did they disappear overnight. In addition, many musical genres endured and morphed over decades and many have seen periodical revivals. The categorisation of music into decades for the sake of this article is simply a convenient device to provide a frame of reference within which the ‘facts’ can be readily accommodated. Similarly, genre boundaries and musical styles emanating from particular geographical territories should be seen as fluid and constantly cross‑pollinating, and should not, therefore, be taken as definitive. Where appropriate, relevant notes will be included. Nothing in music, it seems, is simple or straightforward.

1870s

The Blues, or ‘the devil’s music’ is a major musical genre that originated in the Deep South of the United States such as Mississippi, Louisiana and southern Texas from around the 1870s and spread widely across the country changing its style as its popularity increased. Blues really came to prominence at the beginning of the 20th Century. The basis of the blues came predominantly from African American music and traditional African music, as well as European traditional folk music. The genre can be recognised often by repeating chord progressions and commonly a 12‑bar structure. The word ‘blues’ is largely attributed to melancholy, sad or depressed mental states and is often associated with trials and tribulations of post‑slavery black oppression. The development of the blues included work songs, spiritual songs, chants, and ballads. Around 1902, African American musician WC Handy, often called ‘the father of the blues’, heard blues music being played at a railway station and set about promoting the genre through early recordings. Some of the early practitioners of blues include Charlie Patton, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and Lead Belly, along with many others. Blues music has been highly influential over the last 150 years and its lasting effects can be found widely in jazz as well as later musical genres such as rhythm & blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rock music. Blues has also spawned many sub‑genres including Delta blues, country blues, Piedmont blues, hill country blues, West Coast blues, electric Chicago blues, Texas blues and blues rock.

WC Handy

1890s

While orchestral music remained popular up to the end of the 19th Century, a new breed of music was attracting listeners’ attention. Ragtime emanated from the African American communities of urban cities including St. Louis in Missouri around 1895-1897. Ragtime takes the traditional march musical style that had been made popular by John Philip Sousa and was often played by African American bands. Ragtime incorporated ‘ragged’ syncopated rhythms often reminiscent of polyrhythmic African music. Ragtime became a massively popular form of dance music up to around 1919. Ragtime, along with blues music largely influenced and evolved into Jazz from about 1917. Dance crazes inspired by ragtime became popular with contemporary audiences of the time including the shimmy, the turkey trot, the buzzard lope, the chicken scratch, the monkey glide, and the bunny hug. Predominantly white audiences first encountered the new craze at popular vaudeville shows, with artists soon migrating to the music clubs. Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and James Scott are known as the ‘big three’ ragtime composers of their time.

Scott Joplin

Right, now things are back on track, let’s get going with the early part of the 20th Century.

The 1900s

The 1900s was a decade that heralded not only intense hope for a new millennium but also further leaps of scientific and technological progress.

 Historical Context 1900-1909

1900

Work on the famous New York subway from City Hall to the Bronx began.

1901

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

The Commonwealth of Australia was created.

Hubert Cecil Booth made the world’s first commercial vacuum cleaner.

King Gillette and William Nickerson founded the American Safety Razor Company.

After 63 years on the throne, British monarch Queen Victoria died and was succeeded by King Edward VII.

The first 2000‑mile transatlantic radio message from England to Newfoundland was sent by Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi.

1902

The Flatiron Building in Manhattan, New York became the world’s tallest at 20 stories and 205 feet tall.

1903

The first powered flight was made by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright using the first heavier than air powered airplane, the Wright Flyer.

American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford started mass production of motor cars in America.

The first baseball World Series was held.

1905

Albert Einstein published his ‘Special Theory of Relativity’ proposing the relationship between space and time.

1906

A massive 7.9 (estimated) magnitude earthquake struck California, killing 3,000 people and destroying 80% of San Francisco. The Britain suffragette movement began, aiming to give women the vote.

The first Grand Prix motor race took place at Le Mans in France.

1908

Lord Baden‑Powell founded the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement.

The headquarters of the Singer Manufacturing Company in Manhattan reached 47 stories and 612 feet tall.

The American agency, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was formed.

Ford introduced the massively popular Model T motor car, which sold for $850.

1909

Explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson claim to be the first people to reach the North Pole.

Musical Genre Development 1900-1909

Blues music was beginning to spread from the rural areas of the American Deep South and varieties such as hill blues and country blues reflected the social culture of their regional origins. Church music was also prominent in the American Bible belt, as was Anglo‑American folk music with immigrants influencing home grown styles.

Although classical music began to be overtaken rapidly by more modern forms, opera became particularly popular in the early 20th Century and sustained interest until about 1960.

Jazz music, often termed ‘America’s classical music’, is another major musical genre starting from around 1900. Early forms of jazz musical expression emerged mainly from the American south and particularly around the city of New Orleans in Louisiana, often referred to as Dixieland. Jazz stemmed from existing blues, ragtime and European military band music, all of which were popular in the late 19th Century. Musician Buddy Bolden is widely recognised for fusing blues and ragtime to form the basis of jazz. Partly because of these origins, early jazz music was principally performed by African American musicians. Jazz is characterized by ‘swing’ and ‘blue’ notes, call and response patterns, polyrhythmic arrangements and extensive improvisation. Jazz rapidly diversified with forms such as ‘honky‑tonk’, ‘boogie woogie’ and simple jug band music. The main surge in the popularity of jazz music occurred after WWI and particularly from 1920 onwards, known widely as ‘the Jazz Age’. The growth of the jazz craze soon spread to dance halls and speakeasies as well as ubiquitous marching bands. Music and dancing became a significant part of popular jazz culture, including the cakewalk, the black bottom, the Charleston, the lindy hop and the jitterbug. The introduction of recording technology and wireless radio also gave much broader exposure to the exciting new musical genre. Popular jazz artists included Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Fats Waller, as well as big band orchestras led by the likes of Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Jazz rapidly diversified including forms such as Kansas City jazz, gypsy jazz, bebop, cool jazz, free jazz and fusion. Jazz and its many different styles remained hugely popular up to the 1940s and its legacy heavily influenced the proliferation of other musical genres from the early 1950s.

Buddy Bolden

Musical Facts 1901-1909

Louis Armstrong
Day Month Year Music Fact
4 August 1901 Legendary American jazz trumpet player, singer and composer, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
21 March 1902 Legendary and influential blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Son House (1902-1988, 86) was born in Lyon, Mississippi.
9 June 1902 Influential delta blues guitarist and singer Skip James (1902-1969, 67) was born in Bentonia, Mississippi.
10 October 1902 American luthier Orville Gibson founded The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. Ltd in Kalamazoo, Michigan, now better known as manufacturer of Gibson guitars.
26 June 1903 American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Big Bill Broonzy (1903-1958, 65) was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas.
1 March 1904 American big-band trombone player, arranger, composer, and bandleader Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa.
21 August 1904 American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer Count Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey.
19 November 1905 American jazz trombone player, composer, conductor and bandleader, the ‘Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’ Tommy Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
12 January 1906 American country blues singer and guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell (1906-1972, 66) was born in Rossville, Tennessee.
12 November 1906 American delta blues guitarist and singer Booker T. Washington ‘Bukka’ White (1906 or 1909-1977, 67 or 70) was born between Aberdeen and Houston, Mississippi.
2 December 1906 The inventor of the long playing microgroove record (a.k.a. the LP) for Columbia Records, Peter Carl Goldmark was born in Budapest, Hungary.
29 September 1907 American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, rodeo performer and businessman, ‘the singing cowboy’ Gene Autry (1907-1998, 91) was born in Tioga, Texas
30 May 1909 American jazz clarinet player and bandleader, the ‘King of Swing’, Benny Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois.
10 August 1909 One of the most significant figures in guitar music history and business, Clarence Leonidas ‘Leo’ Fender (1909-1991, 81) was born in Anaheim, California.
10 October 1909 American businessman, president of guitar manufacturer Gibson and mentor to luthier Paul Reed Smith, the formidable Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty (1909-2002, 91) was born in Somerset, Kentucky.
Ted McCarty

The 1910s

The 1910s was a tumultuous decade and one that would leave the world on a watershed, with positive and negative implications for the ones that would follow.

 Historical Context 1910-1919

1911

Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.

The Chinese Revolution led to the formation of the republic of China.

The first Indianapolis 500 motor race took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

1912

The so‑called unsinkable ocean liner, the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York after striking an iceberg, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.

1913

The first crossword puzzle was published in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World.

1914

The Panama Canal in Central America opened, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The First World War (WWI) started between Germany/Austria and Britain/France/Russia, which lasted until 1918.

1915

A German torpedo sank the British ocean liner Lusitania off the Irish coast, killing nearly 1,200 people.

1916

Albert Einstein published his ‘General Theory of Relativity’ proposing a unified description of gravitation as a geometric property of space and time.

1917

The Russian Bolshevik Revolution took place, led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

America joined WWI on the side of the Allies.

1918

The British Royal Air Force was founded.

Women over the age of 30 were given the vote in Britain.

A deadly influenza pandemic infected c.500 million people around the world and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million, equivalent to 3-5% of the global population.

The armistice between the Allies and Germany ended WWI. Approximately 17 million people were killed during the conflict.

1919

The infamous Chicago Black Sox baseball match fixing scandal, when 8 members of the White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the World Series to Cincinnati for money from a gambling syndicate.

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was created.

After WWI, the League of Nations was established, intended to ensure world peace, lasting until it was abandoned in 1946.

Musical Genre Development 1910-1919

By 1910, blues music was migrating into urban areas and would have a major influence on all forms of music. Jazz particularly New Orleans Jazz maintained its popularity during the 1910s. Religion was of great solace to the oppressed black communities of southern USA and unaccompanied singing of spirituals grew in popularity, eventually morphing into gospel by the 1930s. Social development in America and particularly Europe during the 1910s was heavily impacted by World War I. In the absence of technological music distribution, the ‘new’ music from the previous decade continued to spread and it maintained its influence during the 1910s. As a consequence, no major genre styles appeared before the boom period of the post‑war ‘roaring twenties’. Recordings of Afro‑Caribbean calypso music began to appear in the 1910s, which proved not only popular but also influential.

Musical Facts 1910-1919

Django Reinhardt
Day Month Year Music Fact
23 January 1910 Belgian/French virtuoso gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt (1910-1953, 43) was born in Liberchies, Pont‑à‑Celles, Belgium.
28 May 1910 Influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter T-Bone Walker (1910-1975, 64) was born in Linden, Texas.
10 June 1910 Legendary blues American guitarist and singer Howlin’ Wolf (real name, Chester Burnett) (1910-1976, 65) was born in White Station, Mississippi.
8 May 1911 Legendary American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Robert Johnson (1911-1938, 27) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
5 November 1911 American singer, guitarist and popular Western film actor, known as the ‘King of the Cowboys’ Roy Rogers (1911‑1998, 86) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
15 March 1912 American country blues singer, songwriter and guitar legend, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins (may be 1911 or 1912‑1982, 69) was born in Centreville, Texas.
14 July 1912 Legendary and influential American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Woody Guthrie (1912‑1967, 55) was born in Okemah, Oklahoma.
4 April 1913 Legendary American Chicago blues guitarist, Muddy Waters a.k.a. McKinley Morganfield, (1913-1983, 70) was born in Issaquena County, Mississippi.
7 August 1913 American pioneer of the 7-string jazz guitar, long before its current popularity in modern rock music, George Van Eps (1913-1998, 85) was born in Plainfield, New Jersey.
22 November 1913 Famous English classical composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
20 March 1915 Influential American gospel singer, songwriter and guitarist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973, 58) was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas.
7 April 1915 Legendary American singer Billie Holiday was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, She is widely recognised as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.
9 June 1915 True American guitar legend and musical innovator, the incomparable Les Paul, a.k.a. Lester William Polsfuss (1915-2009, 84) was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1 July 1915 Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon (1915-1992, 75) was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
29 July 1916 Highly influential American jazz guitarist, Charlie Christian (1916-1942, 25) was born in Bonham, Texas.
12 March 1917 American record producer and co-founder of Chess Records in Chicago, famous for pioneering blues and rock ‘n’ roll artists, Leonard Chess was born in Motal, Poland.
7 June 1917 American singer, actor, comedian, and producer Dean Martin was born in Steubenville, Ohio.
22 August 1917 Massively influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, an all-time great music man, John Lee Hooker (1917-2001, 83) was born in Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
30 September 1917 Legendary American jazz drummer and band leader Buddy Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York.
21 October 1917 American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and singer Dizzie Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina.
17 November 1917 Influential American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Merle Travis (1917-1983, 65) was born in Rosewood, Kentucky.
27 January 1918 American blues guitarist, the ‘king of the slide guitar’, Elmore James (1918-1963, 45) was born in Richland, Mississippi.
25 April 1918 Renowned American jazz singer, known as the ‘First Lady of Song’ and the ‘Queen of Jazz’, Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia.
19 August 1918 Pioneering American luthier, Orville H. Gibson, founder of Gibson guitars, died in a New York hospital at the age of 62.
Orville Gibson

Outro

OK, there you have it for this month’s article and we’ve only covered two decades! But, what influential decades they were. Things are just starting to hot up and there is still plenty to look forward to over coming months. Music and world events begin to get even more complicated and quite exciting from here on in. I’m not sure how many months this series will last, so we’ll just have to take things as they come.

In the background, the repatriation project is ongoing at an intentionally slow pace with about 3‑4 guitars a month attracting some much deserved tender loving care and attention. Also, the ‘most wanted’ vintage gear hunt is still underway but with no desperate urgency, as there is plenty else to be getting on with. Also, the postponed and much‑needed cellar renovation (i.e. future guitar accommodation) may begin to get underway by mid‑year. So, lots of fun and games to be had if at all possible. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Intelligence is not about what you know or how much you know but about having the curiosity to ask ‘why?’”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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March 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part I

posted in: History, Introduction | 0

Introduction

Welcome to springtime in the northern hemisphere! Starting this month (March 2019), we are about to do something a bit different and embark on a new historical music journey. This isn’t the major writing project that I was going to embark upon this year – the original idea for 2019 requires much more research than I am able to undertake currently and has had to be postponed, probably until 2020 at the earliest. This decision left a bit of a quandary as to what was going to keep me writing this year and then I had this idea to do something a bit different. Little did I know how much work this alternative project was going to take either!!!

 

The story covers approximately 350 years of ‘modern’ musical from the end of the European Renaissance to the current day. To some extent, this music‑centric sojourn also reflects humankind’s broader cultural development. I hope you’ll join me on this ‘new’ melodious expedition and hope you enjoy whatever bits and pieces you want to gain from it over the coming months.

 

If you waded through CRAVE Guitars’ 9‑part exploration of the ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series throughout 2018, you’ll have some background to the instrument’s development from ancient times to today (and an imaginary look forward into the future). Some learned researchers believe (NB. I don’t) that the story of the guitar and the music produced by this remarkably popular instrument really begins around the end of the Renaissance (c.1600 CE) with the Spanish vihuela. Standardisation of the guitar’s structural form developed over time with the Renaissance and baroque guitars and the Italian chitarra battente. By the middle of the 19th Century during the Romantic period (c.1830-1900 CE), the now‑familiar guitar outline had appeared with the refinement of the aptly named romantic guitar. Read the relevant part here ( A Potted History Of The Guitar Part II) Thereafter, modern classical and folk acoustic guitars became well‑established and its development has been well‑documented during the course of the 20th Century, including the introduction of electric guitars from the 1930s.

 

Having looked at the impact of the instrument itself, it now seems appropriate to look at some of the people, innovations and events that have been directly or indirectly related to the evolution of guitar. As you might expect, what happens in music is closely interwoven with the progress of western civilisation during the same period.

 

In addition, if you’ve been following CRAVE Guitars’ social media output, you’ll know that I have regularly posted ‘Music Facts of the Day’, musician birthdays and other interesting trivia over the last 4+ years. However, trawling back through social media timelines to pick these out doesn’t give a chronological perspective, just an ‘on this day’ one. So, having done most of the hard work (I thought naively) of collecting the data for another use, it seemed to be a straightforward exercise to present this same information as a historical chronology of ‘facts’, over 1,530 of them in all. As it turned out, this was a much more onerous task than originally envisaged.

 

Inevitably, the ‘Story of Modern Music’ arranged in this way, it is just a list of seemingly unrelated things that happened over time. However, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the chronology does bestow a sense of how modern music unfolded over the years. Hindsight, it turns out, really is a wonderful thing!

 

The earliest dates in the story are quite scant, so what we’ll do is to cover an extended period of time quite quickly before it starts to get culturally interesting in the 20th Century. The idea of the whole exercise is to present about 3½ centuries of music history largely through the perspective of the guitar, guitarists and guitar music but not comprehensively so, so there is quite a lot of relevant contextual information. Keeping things specific to guitars would, I felt, be too limited, so guitars were used as a starting point and the story broadens out to encompass other musical events.

 

The reason why I use ‘facts’ in quotes is because, during the research, re‑writing and re‑ordering exercise, some errors will inevitably have crept in, despite my best endeavours, and I apologise if this is the case. Also, to keep the overall scale and scope manageable, each ‘fact’ is presented as a short ’snippet’, regardless of whether they are major or minor points. I may also have missed many notable events, as I’m learning continually and adding things to the collective library. However, I hope this new story gives an alternative view of how we got from post‑Renaissance European classical music to the diverse musical landscape of the current day. Most modern musical events tend to focus on developed western countries, that’s just the way it came about. By the time we get to the end of the story, some events along the way may well change, especially more recent happenings, so the story is presented very much as a point‑in‑time.

 

Clearly, recording musical ‘facts’ in isolation can also become a bit exclusive, so at the beginning of each article there will be a short background synopsis of the political, economic, social and technological events that occurred during the relevant period. At this point, The cultural background paragraphs are simply an indicator of what else was going on the world at the same time that musical development was taking place. Before we get going, I have to remind readers that I am neither a historian and nor is this is not an academic exercise. Like ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’ endeavour before it, this series of articles is for entertainment only, based on what I have researched over the years. The nature of the article doesn’t lend itself to images, so for lovers of the pictorial story, apologies, there are is little to look at.

 

So, getting to the point… The first part of our story begins in the latter part of the 17th Century and concludes at the end of the 19th Century. So, let the voyage of discovery begin with a quick look at some global non‑music events…

 

Historical Context 1650-1900

1650-1700

In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England until 1660 when Charles II restored the monarchy. The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London took place in 1665 and 1666 respectively. Europe was being ravaged by war, particularly against France. In America in 1681, William Penn obtained a land grant from the King of England, which led to the formation of modern‑day Pennsylvania. Sir Isaac Newton published his scientific masterwork, the ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ in 1687. A year later, in 1688, the Glorious Revolution ended four years of Catholic rule in England. Although written anonymously in 1660, in 1689 the English philosopher John Locke published the ‘Two Treatises of Government’, which presented the theory of a limited monarchy and stated that a social contract existed between those governed and those being governed, thereby influencing the development of democratic government. In 1692, the infamous witchcraft trials were held in Salem, Massachusetts. The Bank of England was founded in 1694.

 

1701-1800

Queen Anne of England was crowned in 1702 (and died in 1714). Five years later in 1707, England and Scotland become the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1719, Daniel Defoe wrote the novel, ‘Robinson Crusoe’. 1720 saw Sir Edmund Halley become Astronomer Royal. In 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became first British Prime Minister, the same year that Peter the Great became Emperor of Russia. In 1727, physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton died. In 1751, China annexed Tibet. In 1755, English writer Samuel Johnson publishes his landmark ‘Dictionary’. In 1770, Captain James Cook laid claim to New Zealand and Eastern Australia on behalf of Britain. 1773 was marked by the Boston Tea Party, which marked the start of the American Revolution. In France, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette succeeded to throne in 1774. America finally declared independence from Britain in 1776. In the same year, Scottish economist Adam Smith published his masterpiece, the ‘Wealth of Nations’. In 1783, the French Montgolfier brothers became the first people to fly using their hot air balloon. By 1787, the American Constitution was drafted and two years later George Washington became the first American President in 1789. The first British convicts were deported to settle Australia in 1788, a practice that continued until 1867. 1789 saw the start of the French Revolution when the Bastille fortress in Paris was stormed and by 1793 the French Republic was declared after Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been beheaded.

 

1801-1900

The 19th Century began with Thomas Jefferson becoming American President in 1801, the same year that British inventor Richard Trevithick developed the high‑pressure steam engine. Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself emperor of France in 1804. A year later, in 1805, Lord Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1807, the slave trade was abolished in Britain. The new technologies of the industrial revolution ignited the Luddite riots in 1811 England. By 1812, Napoleon’s army was defeated and forced to retreat from the siege of Moscow. In 1814, Robert Stephenson built the early steam locomotive. The Duke of Wellington finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The precursor to today’s computers, the Difference Engine was created by English mathematician Charles Babbage in 1820. The first railway from Stockton to Darlington in England was opened in 1825. By 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Police Force. In 1834, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were persecuted to discourage the formation of trade unions in England – unions were finally legalised in 1871. Queen Victoria came to the British throne in 1837, the same year that French artist Louis Daguerre pioneered photography. In 1848, German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the ‘Communist Manifesto’. In 1857, American industrialist Elisha Otis introduced the first elevator. English naturalist, Charles Darwin published his ground‑breaking theory of evolution, the ‘Origin of Species’ in 1859. Abraham Lincoln became American President in 1861, the same year that the American Civil War began, which lasted until 1865. Thanks to French biologist and chemist Louis Pasteur, pasteurisation was introduced to milk and beer in 1864. The United States of America abolished slavery in 1865. In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened in Egypt. The telephone was developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, a year before Thomas Edison invented the first phonograph in 1877 and the electric light in 1878. The bloody Zulu war took place in South Africa in 1879. Work began on the Panama Canal in Central America in 1880. The world’s first real skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, completed in 1885. By 1886, German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz produced the first automobiles. In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. Between 1888 and 1991, Jack the Ripper was carrying out a campaign of murder on women in London. In France, the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris for the ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1889. One year later, in 1890, the famous London Underground subway system was opened. Also in 1890, the French Lumière bothers developed motion picture film. New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote in 1893. In 1895, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi sent the first radio message. Toward the end of the Qing dynasty, the brutal nationalist Boxer Rebellion in opposition to Western colonialism and Christian missionary activity uprising started in China in 1899, which lasted until 1901.

 

Let the Music Story Begin

To ease us gently into the long story of modern music, we’ll begin with just a few – a mere 42 – ‘facts’ for now.

 

This portion of the musical timeline (1650‑1900) is broadly known as the ‘common practice period’ and covers late Baroque (c.1600‑1750), Classical (c.1750‑1810) and Romantic (c.1810‑1900) periods of music. This period is often associated with the birth of the classical music orchestra as we know it today and the rise of the tonal system that leads to the development of modern music theory, focusing on harmonic progression, rhythm and duration.

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Henry Purcell

 

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

10

September

1659

Famous English baroque classical composer Henry Purcell was born in London (died 1695).

4

March

1678

Famous Italian classical composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice (died 1741).

23

February

1685

Famous German classical composer, George Frideric Handel was born in Duchy of Magdeburg and worked extensively in London, UK (died 1759).

31

March

1685

Famous classical composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach was born in the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach (died 1750).

31

March

1732

Famous Austrian classical composer Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau (died 1809).

27

January

1756

Famous Austrian classical composer and musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg (died 1791).

17

December

1770

Famous German classical pianist and composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven was baptised (birth date not known) in Bonn (died 1827).

27

October

1782

Famous Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer Niccolò Paganini was born in Genoa (died 1840).

31

January

1796

The visionary who founded guitar maker C.F. Martin & Company in 1833, German/American luthier Christian Frederick Martin (1796-1873, 77) was born in Markneukirchen, Germany.

31

January

1797

Famous Austrian classical composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna (died 1828).

11

December

1803

Famous French Romantic classical composer Hector Berlioz was born in La Côte-Saint-André (died 1869).

1

March

1810

Famous Polish romantic classical composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin was born in Warsaw (died 1849).

22

May

1813

Famous German classical composer and conductor Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig (died 1883).

16

September

1814

The American National Anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (originally titled, ‘Defence of Fort McHenry’) was written by Francis Scott Key and set to the tune of ‘Anacreon in Heaven’.

25

October

1825

Famous Austrian classical composer, nicknamed ‘the waltz king’, Johann Strauss Jr was born in St Ulrich near Vienna (died 1899).

7

May

1833

Famous German romantic classical composer and pianist Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg (died 1897).

25

April

1840

Famous Russian classical composer of the romantic period, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk (died 1893).

1

May

1856

Legendary American luthier, guitar innovator and founder of Gibson guitars, Orville H. Gibson (1856-1918, 62) was born in Chateaugay, New York.

2

June

1857

Famous English classical composer Sir Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, Worcestershire (died 1934).

22

August

1862

Famous French classical impressionist composer Claude Debussy was born in Paris (died 1918).

11

June

1864

Famous German classical composer Richard Strauss was born in Munich (died 1949).

24

November

1868

African-American composer and pianist, the ‘King of Ragtime’, Scott Joplin was born in Texarkana, Arkansas.

12

August

1877

American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison developed the phonograph and effectively started the sound recording industry.

17

June

1882

Famous Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky was born in Saint Petersburg (died 1971).

3

April

1886

Great innovator in guitar history, Swiss/American inventor and founder of Rickenbacker guitars, Adolph Rickenbacker (1886-1976, 89) was born in Basel, Switzerland.

20

January

1888

American folk and blues legend, as well as being a great guitarist, Huddie William Ledbetter (a.k.a. Lead Belly) (1888-1949, 61) was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana.

23

May

1888

One of the greatest American Broadway and cinema songwriters of all time, Irving Berlin was born in Tolochin, Russia (now Belarus).

20

October

1890

American ragtime and jazz pianist, bandleader and composer Jelly Roll Morton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

April

1891

American guitarist and ‘Father of the Delta Blues’, Charley Patton (c.1891-1934, c.43) born. Sources suggest he was born in April in Hinds County, Mississippi.

27

April

1891

Famous Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka (died 1953).

9

June

1891

Highly acclaimed American Broadway composer and songwriter Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana.

8

March

1892

Reputed country blues singer and guitarist, Mississippi John Hurt (1892-1966, 74) was born possibly 8 March or 3 March (or several other disputed dates) in Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi.

21

February

1893

Spanish virtuoso classical guitarist, often called the ‘godfather of the classical guitar’, Andrés Segovia (1893-1987, 94) was born in Jaén.

24

September

1893

American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, the ‘Father of Texas Blues’, Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929, 36) was born in Coutchman, Texas.

1896

American blues and ragtime guitarist and singer Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake (1896-1934, 38) was born in either Florida or Virginia.

15

August

1896

The Russian inventor of the strange electronic musical instrument, the Theremin (1928), Léon Theremin was born in Saint Petersburg (died 1993).

6

December

1896

American lyricist who worked closely with his younger brother George, Ira Gershwin was born in New York City.

3

June

1897

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Memphis Minnie (1897-1973, 76) was born in Algiers, Louisiana.

5

May

1898

Influential American blues and ragtime guitarist and singer, Blind Willie McTell (1898-1959, 61) was born in Thomson, Georgia.

26

September

1898

American composer and pianist who worked closely with his older brother, Ira, George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York.

29

April

1899

American jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C.

16

July

1900

Record company RCA Victor registered the famous ‘His Master’s Voce’ logo, featuring the iconic dog Nipper, with the U.S. Patent Office.

 

RCA Victor Nipper The Dog

 

Wow, that’s 250 years, from Henry Purcell to Nipper the dog, covered in a flash! Of course, there was much more to this era than covered here, so this is just a teaser of what is to come. Only 120 years to go! As always, readers are encouraged to explore areas of particular interest beyond the scope of this article.

 

You may be wondering at this point what many of the ‘facts’ shown above have to do with guitars. Well, let’s dip into some relevant quotes to illustrate how interdependent music through the ages can be:

 

“The violin is my mistress, but the guitar is my master” – Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

 

“The guitar is a wonderful instrument which is understood by few” – Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

 

“Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two” – Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

 

“All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff” – Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

 

Without doubt, the classical composers have had a tremendous influence on modern day music and many of today’s musicians borrow heavily from classical theory, music styles and techniques.

 

Next time, hopefully next month, we’ll kick off with the 20th Century, as the twin pillars of modern music, jazz and blues, allied to new‑fangled recording technology, really begin to play their significant part in shaping where today’s music came from. I hope you will continue to partake in this passage of exploration over the next few months.

 

In the meantime, I’m getting back to the latter part of the 20th Century and my ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Unlike doing, thinking and imagination have no geographical boundaries or physical limitations.”

 

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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February 2019 – A General Update

posted in: News, Observations, Opinion | 0

Hello again guitar fans and welcome to anyone else who may be curious about the big wide world of guitar addiction and obsession. As the great Jimi Hendrix once proclaimed, “Music is a safe kind of high”, so I’m happy to admit my perennial affliction. I trust that 2019 is treating you all well as we begin the move from dreary winter into nascent springtime.

 

I don’t have any particular theme for this month, so apologies in advance are probably due for what seems to be a generally incoherent rambling round up of various bits and pieces thrown together. One beneficial consequence is that this is a shorter tome than some.

 

State of Guitarville 2019

In the grand scheme of things, the guitar‑centric sector of the wider music industry is a relatively small but vibrant arena. While the general shrinking and decline of the ‘business’ continues well into the post‑recession era, the core elements seem in fairly good health overall. There is cautious optimism out there within the context of an unpredictable and challenging operating environment. There has been some progress since this time last year but not as much as many commentators might have wished.

 

Even though I wasn’t at the event, Winter NAMM 2019 held at the end of January in Anaheim, California saw a lot of activity and relatively good business was done. There were few ground‑shaking announcements at the convention but there was the usual excitement about shiny new gear from established brands. It was reassuring to see Gibson back at NAMM after their absence in 2018 and their new CEO is making all the right noises about what to expect from the company. Let’s hope that good intentions translate into achieving the right balance between quality and price, along with appropriate innovations alongside traditional instrument manufacturing. It is interesting that some of the more contentious technologies that were being used to reposition Gibson as a lifestyle company are now likely to be jettisoned in order to re‑establish confidence about, and a focus on, what really matters to their customers.

Winter NAMM 2019

 

It is hardly a surprise that digital continues to make significant inroads into the analogue domain that has been the bedrock for so many generations of musicians across the globe. With the influx of ever more convincing digital inventions, one really does have to wonder how long analogue will remain the force it has been up to now. At some point, even the most hardened of luddites will be lured to make the jump either by the metaphorical lure of the carrot or the fear of the stick. There is still some way to go before all the components in a guitarist’s signal chain provide everything that the working professional musician needs for writing, rehearsal, live and recording settings.

 

The advantage for CRAVE Guitars and many other vintage enthusiasts is that we generally don’t need to worry about learning the operational demands and subtleties of this new‑fangled complex digital stuff and we can stick with what worked for us when we started out, complete with all its charming analogue idiosyncrasies (?!?!). One day, soon, digital will be the default and vintage gear will become a bit like vinyl records in there will be a market for it, even if it ultimately becomes a niche for nerdy specialists. For up‑and‑coming musicians who may not know any different, though, the current‑day smorgasbord of choice is phenomenal and, although the value‑for‑money equation on some equipment can be debated, the benefits are there to be discovered and exploited.

 

My sense, at the beginning of 2019 is that there is a degree of consolidation in design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution. The on‑going battleground between ‘brick & mortar’ retail and Internet business is still bitterly being fought out. At some point, an equilibrium will be reached where both channels will co‑exist, even if it means that the retail experience will be different from how it is now. Many consumers still greatly value going into a physical store, looking at, trying out and talking about equipment, so they will endure, even if those establishments have to offer other value‑added services on top of the traditional mainstay of shop floor sales. Companies that rely heavily on Internet operations will find overheads increasing, margins tightening and profitability harder to come by, thereby impacting sustainability and beginning to level the playing field a bit.

 

As far as guitars are concerned, as mentioned above, Gibson is poised for resurgence and Fender seem to be on their game and producing some very competent and attractive models at all price points. PRS are on a creative stretch of their own and doing OK judging by headlines. Gretsch, Rickenbacker and Danelectro also seem to be faring well, perhaps needing a bit of additional cool vibe to secure their future. Rejuvenated brands like Supro and Harmony are aiming to join the ranks as ‘go to’ guitars, while many other familiar names are managing to stay afloat. Acoustically, Martin and Taylor are both actively vying for top dog status with new innovations, which ultimately means some great guitars for the consumer. The last 12 months has seen some small‑scale luthiers go under or simply disappear, which is regrettable but, sadly, not surprising given the volatile international economics of the industry.

 

In the amp arena, there are three major directions of travel; a) the relentless digital onslaught from the likes of Fractal, Kemper and Line6 among others, b) ranges of very good valve and solid amps from the mainstream names such as Fender, Marshall, Vox, Orange and others, including some faithful reissues of classic models, and c) the continued rise of boutique builders catering for individual tastes in small numbers. We guitarists are, though, a conservative breed. It seems that the valve is dead, long live the valve!

 

One area where digital is revolutionising sound is on the pedalboard, which is a current ‘big thing’. There are some astoundingly inventive ways of mangling your guitar tone, both in variations of established FX types and some intriguing all‑new creations that take advantage of digital technology. Some exciting products are appearing from the likes of Catalinbread, Strymon, Eventide, Fulltone, Thorpy, Keeley, Electro‑Harmonix and Wampler, to name just a few. If you prefer multi‑effect pedals, then you are likely to have stalwarts like Line6, Boss and Zoom in your sights. Then there are pedalboard switching systems to help you organise your complex myriad of stompers, e.g. the Gig Rig 2 and Headrush. Likewise, the ever‑improving pedalboard power supplies derive from companies such as Truetone, Voodoo Labs and MXR. Looking from the outside, there are some tremendous bits of alluring kit becoming available, way beyond the vision of manufacturers and musicians back in the 20th Century when digital was just starting out. Whatever your budget, the choice, it seems, is yours.

 

Music publications across the board, including the trade press, are still suffering a seemingly unstoppable shrinkage of their market. Sales of paper magazines continue to dwindle and digital subscriptions are not filling the gap. As a result, high street transactions along with the advertising revenue streams they need to survive are decreasing. As the absolute size of the readership reduces, the risk of becoming uneconomic goes up disproportionately. Strategically, there are few options available and quite what will remain once an inevitable shake‑out occurs remains to be seen. The consequence of this is that the quality of content is likely to suffer in the long term. Music industry journalism needs to adapt, although there are major challenges ahead as people find alternative ways of acquiring the information they need (or, perhaps more worryingly, not bothering at all). Although referring to something slightly different, one is reminded of a whimsical quote from Frank Zappa who suggested that, “Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.” Discuss…

 

Another area of stagnancy appears to be in the quality of music pervading distribution channels. Video/TV, radio and physical media sales are stagnant at best, while digital streaming is becoming the dominant force. This re‑jigging of supply channels, though, isn’t the issue. Although a sweeping generalisation, it seems that since the turn of the millennium music output has increased in volume and decreased in quality. While this is a highly subjective observation, it is borne out by (vaguely) reliable anecdote across generational divides. There is no doubt that there is some extremely good music being made. However, finding the glittering gems amongst the deluge of dross is difficult and, as a result, the good stuff is constantly battling to reach a mass market, thereby making success a tough task for genuine aspiring talent (rather than vacuous celebrity wannabees!). Financial rewards for artists from streaming services is a travesty and needs addressing before it’s too late. Quite how the tide can be turned to reveal new genre twists and identify the next swathe of outstanding musicians will be a challenge for the 2020s. One can hope that something will happen, as it has always has, it just remains to be seen who, what, when and where it will pop up. Another consequence of generic music produced by generic people is that the desire for genuine instruments will decrease, thereby ultimately affecting sales of guitars.

 

Getting back to the point, core consumer demand for music gear continues to be resilient, although customers are understandably more discerning and, as a result, potentially more fickle. Reliance on past sales and brand loyalty are continually being chipped away at by targeted marketing and tough rivalry. However, strong competition and the downward pressure on street prices can prove to be a double‑edged sword for price sensitive customers. On the whole, one thing I can easily predict is that the popularity of the guitar will persist no matter what, despite regular prognoses that ‘guitar music is dead’. Quite what the musical landscape will be like in years to come is best left for others to forecast. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting time in Guitarville.

 

As CRAVE Guitars is based in the UK, it is incumbent on me to mention ‘Brexit’ at this point. There are NO scenarios where leaving the European Union can benefit the country or its citizens. Prices are already increasing, not only because of increased costs and perceptions of risk but also as a result of exploitative selling practices by the unscrupulous trying to secure and bank revenue before the catastrophe strikes. Things are bad enough as they are (remember ‘Rip off Britain’?) and we don’t need any further unnecessary pecuniary pressures. After the severance has occurred and whatever the outcome is of the disastrous ‘deal or no deal’ shenanigans, import barriers, tariffs and currency speculation will affect Britain’s international trade relationships without question. The risk of further recession and national isolation rank high on the concerns of many British businesses. Given the fragile nature of the UK music industry, any weaknesses and threats will be heightened and only those that are able to adapt will survive. Hypocritical UK politicians, pedalling their own prejudices while protecting their personal interests should be ashamed of the damage that will result in the short‑term and aftershocks will continue to impact on the prosperity of the country for generations to come. What is regrettable is that there will be recourse to hold the inept self‑seeking minority accountable for engineering this chaos in the first place and having no idea about how to deliver it successfully. On this basis, I am not optimistic in the slightest. I hope, however, that I am proved wrong. Personally, my view is that there can be no backtracking and we need to get on with making the most of a bad situation. End of whinge!

Brexit

 

Repatriation Update

I covered the long‑overdue reunion of a significant proportion of CRAVE Guitars’ vintage instruments in the last article. What I didn’t do is say much about what actually came back. So… if only for completeness, here is the full list of the (42) returnees:

  • 1966 Epiphone Olympic
  • 1966 Fender Coronado II
  • 1965 Fender Duo-Sonic II
  • 1965 Fender Jaguar
  • 1965 Fender Jazzmaster
  • 1965 Fender Musicmaster II
  • 1966 Fender Mustang
  • 1972 Fender Mustang Competition
  • 1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass
  • 1977 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1983 Fender Stratocaster Dan Smith Era
  • 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline
  • 1973 Fender Telecaster Deluxe
  • 1974 Fender Telecaster Custom
  • 1988 Fender Telecaster
  • 1983 Gibson Corvus II
  • 1963 Gibson ES-330 TDC
  • 1985 Gibson ES-335 Dot
  • 1982 Gibson Explorer E2
  • 1983 Gibson Explorer
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer Custom Shop Edition
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer ‘Union Jack’ Graphic
  • 1966 Gibson Firebird III
  • 1976 Gibson Firebird Bicentennial
  • 1980 Gibson Flying V2
  • 1975 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1977 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Gold Top
  • 1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom
  • 1998 Gibson Les Paul Standard DC
  • 2002 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1961 Gibson Melody Maker D
  • 1964 Gibson Melody Maker
  • 1982 Gibson Moderne Korina Heritage
  • 1981 Gibson RD Artist
  • 1965 Gibson SG Junior
  • 1968 Gibson SG Standard
  • 1962 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Double Cutaway Hollowbody
  • 1965 Gretsch 6135 Corvette
  • 1978 Music Man Stingray Bass
  • 1974 Rickenbacker 480
  • 1964 Silvertone 1449 ‘Amp in Case’

 

Some of the guitars have only been ‘stored’ for a short period of time but many have been incarcerated for nearly 8 years!!! It is these ‘long‑termers’ to which I will probably need to pay most attention in the coming weeks and months. While they were safe and secure, a domestic loft space is definitely not an ideal environment in which to keep vintage guitars for any length of time. The fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity over an extended period are far too great to do them any good at all. Given the circumstances at the time (back in 2011), it was a necessary urgent solution borne out of a severe predicament and I had no practical alternative. I never anticipated that it would take over 7 years to get them all back – I was clearly naïvely deluded in thinking that it would take ‘about’ 6 months at the most to sort things out! Essentially, completely rebuilding one’s entire life from scratch took considerably longer and it has been an extremely arduous journey. Still, we are where we are, none of us can turn the clock back, so one has to be positive, forward looking and take it from here. At least the precious cargo has been rescued and they are now finally back where they belong and, primarily, that is what really matters.

 

At the moment, the only tangible evidence of the little treasure trove listed above is several stacks of dusty guitar cases. Excitement about the potential is also tinged with an element of guarded apprehension about what will be found when the contents are properly ‘exhumed’ and examined for need of repair and sensitive renovation. If at all possible, any replacement parts needed during restoration will be of the appropriate vintage. That presents a major quandary in 2019-2020. For instance, finding and procuring period‑correct components will be both time consuming and costly. While one could be practical and use modern replacement parts, I prefer to conserve these precious historically significant instruments with genuine components that are as close as possible to the originals as I can find (and afford). Only if that approach fails will I resort to pragmatic use of new stock items. Back in the pre‑recession boom, there was little difficulty in sourcing these useful bits and pieces. Now, however, it has become considerably more difficult.

Repatriation Guitar Cases

 

Not only are vintage spare parts and accessories hard enough to find on the usual hinterwebby platforms, decent vintage guitars and amps also seem to be increasingly scarce, at least in the UK. I’m not sure why this should be. Perhaps people are hanging onto their instruments, perhaps there’s a mistrust/dislike of the usual web sites and the way they are run, or perhaps the post‑recession/pre‑Brexit uncertainty is still suppressing supply. The laws of economics dictate that continued demand combined with a shortage of (finite) supply means only one thing… increased prices. Wading through eBay is bad enough at the best of times but UK sourcing is particularly hard work at the moment. Disadvantageous exchange rates with the USA now seem to be a permanent fixture and, on top of that, CITES is a real bane. In addition, eBay searches are flooded with Japanese items that you just know are bogus. All round it’s not much as much fun as it should be when hunting down scarce ‘most wanted’ artefacts.

 

I am not treating the repatriation project with any sort of hysterical urgency. The guitars have been exiled for so long that a few more weeks in their new home before I get round to them won’t do any harm. In the first month, I have only attended to 2 out of 42 guitars (1964 Gibson Melody Maker and 1966 Fender Coronado) and I have to be cautiously optimistic that there is no lasting compromise to their integrity. Phew! I hope I don’t get any nasty surprises lurking in the remaining 40 to be uncovered.

 

Vintage guitars really need to be played. That may be ‘stating the bleeding obvious’ but the difference after a bit of TLC and playing for a few days is phenomenal. There is a transformational change in their playability, sound, feel and looks. I wonder if this may be one reason why some people pick up a (possibly neglected) vintage guitar and find it dull, lifeless and uninspiring. When they magically come back to life again, it is both a relief and a delight. The journey of rediscovering these instruments may well explain why I’m taking my time and not getting very far very quickly. Well, that and the fact that there isn’t a local guitar tech on whom I can rely when more extensive remedial works are required. I know my limitations and any attempt on my part to mess around with repairs and adjustments that are best left to experts would almost certainly be a regrettable mistake.

1964 Gibson Melody Maker

 

1966 Fender Coronado II

 

Another interesting observation is that, while I wasn’t overly attached to some of the guitars all that time ago – a proportion were originally intended to become the staple of a start‑up business – I have now developed an emotional connection to them because of everything I and they have been through over the intervening years. That may be a good thing because I now value them more for what they are than what they may be worth. Also, I simply wouldn’t be able to afford many of them on today’s market, so I’m just glad to have them now. However, it means that I may well have a struggle with my conscience if CRAVE Guitars does become an economic entity and I have to break those newfound relationships. Until that time, the guitar ‘collection’ is an integral part of the family and they are definitely not for sale in the short to medium‑term. My philosophy and attitude mean that the guitars still represent a not‑for‑profit conservation of the musical heritage, rather than any sort of potential gold mine.

 

As previously mentioned, a pressing priority over the next few months is to provide them with proper accommodation. This means that I need a competent builder to ‘tank’ the cellar and make a suitable home for the guitars. After that, I can possibly start thinking positively about what the future of CRAVE Guitars might one day become. One step at a time.

 

New in at CRAVE Guitars

So that I don’t fall into the same trap as last year, here’s a quick ‘new arrival’ section. As I predicted back in December 2018, things got off to a slow start this year. In fact, there has been only one purchase in the first 2 months of 2019. Surprisingly, it was an item that was actually on the ‘wanted in 2019’ shortlist.

 

CRAVE Effects is a relatively modest side venture that runs alongside the guitars and amps. The Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ acronym doesn’t actually work 100% in this context because CRAVE Effects comprises a diverse selection of stomp boxes from around the world. Whatevs! I can break my own rules.

 

One of the ‘classic’ effect pedals that was notably absent was the venerable Ibanez TS‑808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro from Japan. This was partly because availability of both the right pedal and the resources needed to acquire it were in short supply. Good ones are few and far between and, when they do come up, they go for silly money. So when an original 1981 TS‑808 turned up on eBay UK for an aforementioned silly price, but arguably not exorbitantly so, it had to be pounced upon. Thus, the notable gap has at long last been duly filled. To think that I could have added another ‘budget’ vintage guitar for the same price as the Tube Screamer puts things into perspective.

1981 TS-808 Tube Screamer Pro

 

As is often the case with vintage Tube Screamers, this example shows typical signs of use (good) but not abuse (bad), so it has just the right amount of mojo, otherwise known as ‘wear and tear’, needed to be confident that it was a safe purchase. Thankfully, apart from a replacement battery snap, it is in all‑original condition and it works very well indeed for a 38‑year old pedal, which is testament to their durability.

 

As anyone acquainted with my opinionated drivel (or should that be overdrivel in this case?) will know, my heretical views don’t always accord with those of the self‑appointed ‘establishment’. The original TS‑808 is good but I don’t believe it really deserves its insanely elevated and almost mythological status in the minds of many guitarists. Like numerous effects from the late 1970s and early 1980s, it can sound great or grim depending on how it’s used. It is player, guitar, effect and amp dependent, so it needs to be carefully matched in order to make it sound its best. Although new TS‑808 and TS9 reissues are not the same as the old ones, they are still very good overdrive effects. Therein lies a fundamental truth that applies equally for any stomp box made at any time – you pays your money and make your choice. Regardless of my biased view, the much‑imitated and often re‑issued Tube Screamer has become the de facto benchmark for overdrive pedals and there is no getting away from it.

 

The web site feature on the TS‑808 has already been prepared but, like most gear purchases over the last year, it hasn’t yet been published on the web site. Sigh! Yet another job waiting in the pipeline. Watch this space…

 

Sign‑off

That’s about it for February 2019. This has been a necessarily short soliloquy compared to many of my verbose outpourings. Inspiration, motivation and time have been in limited supply so far this year and articulating much of any interest at all has been a bit like hard work. Therefore, there is no point in proverbially flagellating a deceased dobbin and it is probably best to stop here for now.

 

That means that I can get back to the immediate task in hand, which is looking after a few vintage guitars and, hopefully, playing some of them along the way. I’m sure there will be more on this particular topic in coming months. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Conscience dictates that we understand right from wrong. Imagine what mankind might achieve if we could work together rather than conflict, and what good could be done if we stopped the immense and irreparable harm we cause.”

 

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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