Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I ended up finally playing a Gretsch 6120SSU, Brian Setzer model guitar...


One day long before MTV, I came home from school was watching a video show I think called MV3 w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on. They were "neo-rockabilly" and


 I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up listening to Billy Haley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Elvis, but to me that was my parents music. This was gonna be mine (as well as the Blasters) and Brian Setzer played a big old Gretsch and Blonde Fender amp!
 I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one someday,  and just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado & peavey amp till college and eventually moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc.. 


Then a million lifetimes later in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called The Violet Burning and the leader, Mike Pritzl had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive Pritzl's sound was w that gretsch. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. This was Gretsch w a freight train!


All these rockers w this elusive and expensive big hollowbody rock guitar, that played clean and dirty like tele and an es-335 in one guitar, but bigger and w more snarl. It was depressing to still not really get any closer to getting one after all those yrs of first paying attention to that big hollowbody guitwanger. Until a strange twist of fate, or divine circumstance happened to me...
One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out " Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  
It was sappy and one of those prayers you kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy like me at the time.. this was one crazy-ass, lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my kid at that time was in and out of the hospital for childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. 

I needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So I did.    

     I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".   I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes; "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag there too."   

I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straight foward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes; "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said; "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes got big as dinner plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears as I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this money I'd taken w me and told him "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there YOU go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, and all the way to the front door at home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years that orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid $750 for. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!


A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest looking, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.



A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start www.thenocturnebrain.com pedal/amp biz for roots rockers and even actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage (I've worn that crazy story out, I know) and play his 59'.. 



its wild man, just wild! I'm a Gretsch lifer #gretschmafia & thats my gretsch story.


gretsch deets: This is a 99' SSU but I've had it refretted by a pal at Fender custom shop with the same
6105 stainless steel frets and dressing that setzer has on all his guitars (a little off the top, and bulbous ends). I've also rebuilt the harness with mogami cable and tvjones.com Brian Setzer Signature filtertrons along with some stickers, a custom bigsby handle from voodooholly and inlaid bakelite pickguard from TK Smith. dumped the mud switch for a pushpull tone knob. when its down its out of the circuit like the hotrod models.. So technically while its still a G6120SSU, its really a Tavo model Gretsch! :)


One day long before MTV, I was watching a Video show w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on.
[MEDIA=youtube]5hwsWhftfCg[/MEDIA]

I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up with Chet Atkins as my dad was obsessed w him, but I wasnt. Just now starting to appreciating Chet.   I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one, just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado till college
and moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc..

Then in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called
The Violet Burning and the leader had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
[MEDIA=youtube]aApPUWkKjhs[/MEDIA]

They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive his sound was. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. :)


One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out
" Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  It was sappy and one of those prayers you
kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy
like me at the time.. this was one crazy ass lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my oldest son at that time was in and out of the hospital for
childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. I
needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So
I did.

I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".. I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag."   I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straightfoward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes go big as plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears because I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this $300 I'd taken w me w a "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there you go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, to the front door home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years an orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid
$750 f0r. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!

A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest lookin, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.

A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start the pedal/amp biz for roots rock and actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage.. its wild! #gretschmafia   thats my gretsch story.
One day long before MTV, I was watching a Video show w Richard Blade and this new trio called the Straycats came on.
[MEDIA=youtube]5hwsWhftfCg[/MEDIA]

I was totally grabbed by it, and I'd grown up with Chet Atkins as my dad was obsessed w him, but I wasnt. Just now starting to appreciating Chet.   I knew I couldnt afford a real gretsch but I dreamed of having one, just kept playing my Dads Fender Coronado till college
and moved onto Strats, LPs, Teles, PRS, Hamer,etc..

Then in the early 90s I got to play in a lineup of bands w this group called
The Violet Burning and the leader had a G6120 running into a faun AC30, drive boxes,delay etc..
[MEDIA=youtube]aApPUWkKjhs[/MEDIA]

They werent rockabilly at all, totally alt rock and I couldnt believe how massive his sound was. Later he moved onto a Vox AC50 head and marshall 4x12 and it got even better, oh man I couldnt stop drooling over what that guitar did. It was around that time too that I realized Brian Setzer had just reinvented himself w an orchestra and I picked up
the BSO's self titled album, Guitar Slinger album, and Dirty Boogie, and went apesheep over it, like obsessed out of my mind, crazy guitar fan. :)


One night while my wife and I were prayin together before bed about this and that, I just blurted out
" Lord this sounds so selfish but I've wanted a Gretsch 6120 my whole life, if you can help me get an older beater I know
I can fix it up like new" ..the wife was kind of like uh..ok?  It was sappy and one of those prayers you
kinda keep to yourself, but I was feelin really low and frustrated and mean it.

A few months had passed, (this was 99') and I get an email from some guy responding to an add I'd placed in the recycler for a mesa boogie combo I'd picked up cheap, that I was selling and his response simply read "I dont know if youre open to trades, I'd really like this amp but I've just got a used gretsch hollowbody to trade. Let me know"..
    If you are one who believes in prayer or just one who believes in the universe aligning every so many decades in a persons life, you must at least know that for a guy
like me at the time.. this was one crazy ass lucky moment or miracle about to unfold. I was in debt consolidation, my oldest son at that time was in and out of the hospital for
childhood seizure disorder along w other things that were taxing our lives to the extreme.
Understand too that I was buying used gear at that time, fixing it up and selling it for my part of my income along w my weekly band gig. I
needed to SELL the amp, not to trade it..but it seemed like something I needed to not let pass, my wife concurred.
So I packed up the amp to go meet this guy..

Interesting side note is that I had $300 cash in a safe box that was my last bit of working capital, all the rest was tied up in the amp. My M.O. was buy low, fix up as new, sell the product, invest in another used piece of gear, keep 20% of each sale.. So like I said, I actually needed to sell the amp not trade it. None the less out the door I headed, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that said "take that $300 with you, you never know what else someone might be selling or willing to sell".. So
I did.

I get to the guys apartment, and he's covered in tats w a pompadour and tells me that he's tired of being in a rockabilly band and is joining a hard core band so he wants a mesa. I plug in the amp for him, set it up for humongous crunch  and he plays his tele through it and stops, goes: oh I want this!
Then he's like; "the guitar's in that case over there in the corner".. I fully expected to see some old beat to crap instrument that would take me a yr to restore but instead there is a 1999 G6120SSU in the case. It was a yr old, and all that was wrong w it if you can call it wrong, was that the truss cover wasnt on it, the pkguard was off, and no knobs. He goes "I was embarassed about the setzer stuff so thats in a bag."   I kept my game face on to show no excitement, but just straightfoward said sure its a deal. I wanted to pick the guitar up and walk out as fast as I could, get in the car and high tale it out of OC back home.  I knew something crazy amazing had just occured.

So as I take the case in hand and bid him farewell he goes "Wait a second, didnt you tell me you led worship w a rock band for a living" and I was ya, I do..
He goes; "well if you give me your amp, what are you gonna play through?"  I said "well, I'll just go direct to PA clean for a while until I can find some amp to
borrow"..so he goes " dude if you can give me $300, you can have this amp over here in the other room, I'm not gonna need it and I dont really play it"
..and we go in the other room, its a mint Fender custom shop designed Vibrolux Reverb amp.  My eyes go big as plates, but instantly I said "wooh this is a brand new amp, you could sell it at the drop of the hat for double" ..and he's like "hey if you can come up w that money its yours".. I start fighting back tears because I was already welled up inside because of this guitar I was holding in my hand and I pull out this $300 I'd taken w me w a "for some reason man, I felt a leading to bring exactly $300 with me" ..he's like well, there you go man!!

I think am a pretty tough character but man I cried while laughing while crying while laughing, like a little kid, all the way to the car. All the way down the freeway, to the front door home because I was convinced that prayer had been heard, and it custom made for me!
It was too perfect, too well orchestrated to be anything less than a miracle and you still cant tell me otherwise.  
I'd wanted a guitar like Brian Setzer as a kid in high school, I'd grown up playing rockabilly, taught to me by my father who loved Chet and his orange guitar. I'd wanted for years an orange Gretsch 6120 that Michael Pritz from the Violet Burning had.. and I prayed a lame, self centered prayer that I might find a beater gretsch to work on.. What do I end up with?
A 1 yr old Gretsch pro line Brian Setzer signature model guitar, a G6120SSU for what I had traded, a Mesa boogie amp I'd only paid
$750 f0r. It was almost mint and they were going for a few thousand new ($4K list then?).
Also worth mentioning; the earlier model SSU's had a harder V shaped neck that I wouldnt be able to play because I was dealing w tennis elbow from the ovation acoustic I wrestled with for yrs, hated  that neck. haha.. BUT the '99 Setzer SSU has a very soft V and thinner profile, super easy on the hand for thumb over players like myself, like shaking an old friends hand!!  AND I HAD a new amp to boot for $300!.. a $1K mint Fender Custom Vibrolux!

A few yrs later in honor of that occasion, I had a tattoo (not the greatest lookin, this one haha) put on my wrist w a scripture from the old testament bible book Isaiah 49:15,16  It was for me as a reminder, nothing more.

A once in a lifetime happenstance and therefore I am a made, Gretsch man! I use other guitars I've put together on stage now and then but the 99' SSU is the workhorse, my answer to a prayer guitar, that started a frienship later that yr w TvJones, then many yrs further down the road, inspired me to  start the pedal/amp biz for roots rock and actually get to meet Mr Brian Setzer in person backstage.. its wild! #gretschmafia   thats my gretsch story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hey hey! Its been a while since my last post and a lot has occured in that time frame, including theGretschPages.com having a major crash and data loss. One of my favorite websites and the biggest resource for all things Gretsch Guitar!


So much info I'd posted about Brian Setzer is gone forever
so I feel the need to post today with some "Re-info" on Brian Setzer's tone. 
I was attempting to explain to a young Setzer fan, who was asking me "What Drive pedal does Brian Setzer use", that as a general rule, Setzer doesnt use pedals on stage and thus my email response to him here:

I’m trying to share with you that Brian Setzer DOES NOT use a drive pedal. Yes you saw him on the instructional video with a silly little pedal board, but that was the
exception to the rule because around that time of the Straycats reign you can research that The Stray Cats
had dissolved again and he was doing that solo tour with the albums “Live Nude Guitars” , “The Knife Feels like Justice” . 

At this point in his career he was playing with Telecasters, Rickenbackers and a custom
Guild guitar that was going to be a signature model. I own one of his guild guitars (you can see the pic on my
Instagram page).
So with songs like Radiation Ranch, Burnin on the Cross of love, it was a very 80s sound AND.. he was sitting with Robert Plant of Led Zep, w their band “The Honey Drippers” and he was playing a gibson es-295. So… yes, a pedal board using a tubescreamer, boss chorus, octave and wah pedal were seen with him, and when the Straycats got back together to record one more album (i remember it being “chooo choo hotfish” ooops "Original Cool") he was performing some of his solo tunes with
them and he had the pedal board on stage at various gigs.


(“Rockin by myself” happened in 93')

As a side note, he did an album outside of the BSO w a japanese artist on 13, and in studio he used a supro with a rat pedal and tubescreamer for a couple of song. Also on Wolfgangs big night out he employed a wah pedal for a tune.
Early in the BSO, there was a dunlop trem on stage but was used more for splitter between dual blonde amp rigs.
BUT.. as a general rule when playing live he doesnt use pedals. He doesnt like them.

The sound you are hearing is a very specific set-up, I have spent over 15yrs documenting his sound and this is what he uses:
a) 1963 Blonde Fender bassman 6G6-B amp w high gain 12ax7a preamp tubes, small bottle 6L6 power tubes. 212 closeback bassman cab loaded with Ipswitch England made Celestion Vintage 30s. (NOS JAN Phillips 6L6WGB or NOS Tungsol 5881)


B) vintage RE-301 (not the farty bloated sounding 201 model) space echo
C) 50-100ft guitar cables (I’ve seen slightly shorter cables than 50' btw)
D) Gretsch maple hollowbody w TVjones.com Filtertron pickups (except for the rare use of a 57’ sparkle jet w DeArmond dynasonics)



Now what you need to know about this set up is that The Blonde 6G6-B amplifier has a presence control and a tapped treble control. You’ll notice that the way Setzer places the controls on the amp, he plugs into the normal channel (before the space echo days he plugged into the bass channel and used a boss Dm-2/3 analog delay or Deluxe memory man when on rockpalast straycat tour in europe).
Brian sets the treble control right up past 5-6 (bass around 2-4, vol 5-7) and thats where the tapped treble control opens up a bit more gain, and he usually has the presence control above 8-9 which is not an eq control at all but rather is based in the power section and reduces negative feedback as its turned up (a vox AC30 does a similar thing but those brits have it wired backwards and call it “Cut”).  So when this control is opened all the way, it lowers the headroom of the amp and makes the amp more dynamically controlled by the attack of the player and it will overdrive when pushed.

This is further enhanced by tonal characteristic of an all maple hollowbody with the bright and twangy Filtertrons that are low in impedance but have a rising presence in the upper mids. Together it can be an upper mids hammer when it goes through the RE-301 space echo that is colored in its upper mids EQ character as well.

When this specific guitar, and specific preamp (the mechanical tape echo is inconsequential to the inherent tone coloring, except the the effected wet signal/tone of the slapback) punch into the normal channel of the 6G6-B blonde bassman w its higher gain preamp 12ax7a tube, and the amp set as I shared, it increases the saturation of the amps phase inverter and power section. It then
feeds out through the Vintage 30 speakers that have an upper mids bump in their sound and you get an overdrive sound in the higher register of the guitar while the low mids and bass stay clean and woody.
Worth mentioning, the RE301 is created to be a line level effect for keyboards and PA system insert. So to simply plug into it with a standard 15-18 foot guitar cable and the low impedance guitar pickups, sounds like mud. Strangely when you plug in a 50ft or longer cable there is finally an impedance MATCH and the instrument sounds bright and punchy. Voila, Brian Setzer’s sound.

Now, because of this set up with the 6G6-B Blonde bassman.. the player can play clean or dig into the guitar strings and overdrive the amp. Brian Setzer’s sound comes from this rig recipe. its NOT an overdrive box.

Yes I make the Brain preamp pedals and what I am doing is providing a circuit that recreates the RE-301s basic preamp in a small box and giving it really good impedance matching, and great noise reduction with high quality audio components compared to the original, so you dont need the long cable.
I’ve added a bass cut that allows you to dial down the bass, as the real RE-301 space echo does not have a preamp echo on the input and its a full range preamplifier.
You will see a bass and treble knob on an RE-301 space echo but those eq controls are only affecting the “Wet” signal of the reverb, and mechanical tape echo. They are not part of the input preamp that we spoke of earlier. There is a recovery section on the RE-301 with a dB cut boost and I’ve set mine static for best overall performance w a wide variety of amplifiers. Add a good
quality echo pedal after my preamp and youve got your own space echo that is more dependable and affordable than a vintage RE-301.

So based on your picking dynamic you can move from a travis picking finger style with your thumb (tucking the pick in your palm like Setzer) and get the same gritchy clean sound as when you revert back to the flatpick or nashville claw technique.. Brian Setzer controls his clean to overdrive sound with his pick attack and volume control on the guitar, thats it. Occasionally he will walk over to the space echo and turn the input gain up and change the slapback setting longer, when he does sleepwalk or pulls out the flatblack gretsch for a trio rockabilly set.

My Brain preamp pedal will allow you to garner this similar response from your guitar and non master volume tube amp. I do make the Billy Brain which was designed for master volume amps. 

I am  in no way affiliated w Brian Setzer, FMIC products or Roland.. I am merely a #1 fan of rig that Setzer uses and I make pedals to help guitarists have a dynamic edge to their own rigs! What I have shared is for information purposes!

side note: I original made the Brain Seltzer preamp pedal, and I still do, its just now called the Dynobrain. Same pedal with a few updates to make it work w a large variety of amps and pedals. visit www.thenocturnebrain.com for more info


You may find Mr Brian Setzer playing without his beloved bassman but he is RARELY found without the space echo or his signature gretsch guitar.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJY3Yjss5GU


more info from a buddy on his blog:
http://www.gad.net/Blog/2011/06/07/how-to-capture-brian-setzers-tone/



Ps. a nice demo by the amazing Rodney Gene Jr, put a good set of headphones on..dont listen through a stupid phone or lap :)


POST THIS ALL OVER THE EUROPEAN & JAPANESE INTERNET FORUMS!! :) :) 
Rockabilly Rules!!


Tavo Vega
www.thenocturnebrain.com
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-surrender-at-carters-glen/id408681371

ps. I am very open to correction and will edit as necessary.





Monday, December 22, 2014

WE THREE KINGS by Tavo & The Flat Black Thrillers


Download some Christmas cheer, my 5 song EP is avail on both
Amazon.com and Itunes. Tavo Vega & the Flat black thrillers "White Nights n Blue Lights"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Part III Ghosts from the past & The MOONSHINE '39 Pre War inspired EH-185 style Guitar Amp!



Carrying over from last week's Blog post, I mentioned that what also emerged in the middle of my Paul Bigsby - Jim Harvey - Fred Gretsch mash up of guitar building fun, was a new amplifier creation for production in both a 1x12 combo, and a 6"x9"speaker loaded head cab called the Shinebox. 

I bought a pair of 1939 and 1941 Gibson EH-185 amps that were both apparently barn finds.  Well, maybe they were city cellar finds or suburban attic discoveries by whomever ended up selling them to me.  They sure didnt bother to do much of anything other than put the amps as found, into a shipping box and sending them to me literally "As Is".


     I always end up with the "AS IS" stuff and spend way too much time and money giving old spirits a new haunting ground so to speak. Although that must be what drives me because I've got a house full of beat up old 50s and 60s furniture, lamps, tiki kitsch, clocks, phones, stereos, tape decks, stoves, indoor bbq's, the list goes on and includes my money pit 54' Buick Century. 

Sounds silly but when you get this stuff into your hands your head spins with all the "what was and could be again" scenarios..  
I do know though that I sure as heck have never had one of those amazing stories of stumbling upon some cherry piece of guitar equipment that has been sitting in some clean corner, or under a bed, in a condition not far from how it was originally purchased brand new. 
Deke Dickerson has that kind of luck, not me.  I end up with the bargains that served as tire chocks for farm equipment. Both these amps came from different parts of the country yet they both had assorted  bits of animal fur, mice droppings, dried up roach carcasses and HAY in them.

There was significant work involved to carefully clean them, replace most of the capacitors, stray resistors and a fair amount of wiring. I was not interested in a museum restoration or taking them on tour. If they could survive the local stage I play on weekly with various guitars and speaker cabs for testing purposes, I would have what I needed to
begin recreating a new amplifier based on these gibson EH-185 amp heads.

These ancient amps (75 yrs is ancient for an electric guitar amp) have been given new life. Basically ghosts in the corner that live and breath again in this world through 1x15 speaker cabs, 2x12 cabs, 6x9 cabs, even a 1x8 cab.. They are resurrected old relics and I have poked and prodded, blasted them for hrs, performed with them publicly



and ultimately reproduced my own version of an amp based them in the form of a modern boutique amp called the 
MOONSHINE '39.

This amp has the voice, dynamics and tonal textures of 75 yr old american made, vintage iron from Kalamazoo, Gibson Octal tube amplifier. 
With the help of Jer DeLisle and Mercury Magnetics, my Grigsby guitar has got one cool tweed tube amp voice that is far earlier a sound that any tweed amp Fender would put out for at least another 9 years. 
Its the sound of Charlie Christian's amp, the sound of Junior Barnard's & Eldon Shamblin's amp with the Texas playboys, 




Tiny Grimes and Django Reighhardt. There are plenty of others but that sound they got is what I am after in this Moonshine amp.

While I was able to grab something obscure like the Gibson EH-185 amp head and restore it, it ultimately is something from Gibson's past that they've long since abandoned and unless you are lucky enough to find one of these antique babies to fix up, you'll never get the sound just right.

If it matters to you, like it does to me to play through this type of amp, you will understand why its taken time, passion and investment to make it happen.

You can check out the Nocturne Moonshine '39 combo and amp head on my website for more info. 
www.thenocturnebrain.com

below I'm going to just post in the vids about the amp with the help of players like Matt Codina of www.codinaleather.com, Tommy Harkenrider of tommyharkenriderguitar.com and Buddy Dughi of www.thehotrodtrio.com 




 


* Gibson is a
registered trademark
of the Gibson guitar corp.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Rolling stone, Gunpowder Green Tea, and MOONSHINE '39

I'll continue where I left off from yesterdays Blog post, especially since I havent posted too much this year. Its long but a worthy read. Grab a cuppa and sit tight.

When I find inspiration from something or someone, that lifts me out of the bunker I've taken up shelter in too long, it always causes me to want to find where its own genesis culminated. 
I need to pop the hood, unscrew the back plate, pry open the manhole cover, grab a pick axe and shovel to dig..whatever is needed to get to the base of its existence to better understand what makes this muse I've discovered, tick, as it were.

Thanks to Momo from themomozone.com
He has taught me that its imperative to Move forward when inspired, to "do something NOW!" because 100% action = 100% reaction, 100% of the time.

so.. What do you then begin to work out in your own formations of creativity that characters like these (Deke and TK from the last blog) have inspired, with the skill set you possess? Is it enough for you to just accept their art and put it on a shelf to admire, or
do you meditate on it, wade into it all the way up to your nose so that it saturates you and begins to influence your response to things around you
that you have become too comfortable with or have taken for granted?
In my own life I often become a Jack Skelington of sorts from the animated holiday flick "A Nightmare before Christmas" when he stumbles mistakenly into
the land of Christmas time and it possesses him. He has to tear it all apart to understand it and wants to recreate it in his world.

Does this make sense? 
Here's a for example; every morning I get up and
walk over to the kitchen sink to fill up the tea kettle with filtered water.
Then I light the stove, let the water heat up to a boil. I take a mug from the cupboard, tear open a packet of organic Numi Gunpowder green tea and drop it in the mug and pour the water fresh off the boil into it.

I'm on auto pilot and yet everytime I have that first mug of tea, I savor it and
remind myself that I will survive my second year of being coffee free. Its ritual.
Then one day I'm off on a business trip up in Truckee and I stumble into some dumb hippie whole foods store to avoid the evil Starbucks for the masses.
I find the cafe in the back and order what I know, what I am both familiar with and comforted by. 
The ritual.. my Gunpowder organic tea. Except this time and in this new environment the tea has a different company name. More eyebrow
raising as it is handed to me with two sticks across the top and a strange hammock looking tea "pouch" of sorts and its filled with what looks like, balls of leaves rolled up. I sit at my table, checking my email and glancing back at the
weirdness in my cup. Its like some sort of vegetational hairball from rabbits, and its starting to expand in this funky tea hammock. I feel confused and am sure
these crunchy granola people got my order wrong like some bad episode of
Portlandia.

I go back to the counter and tell them, I asked for gunpowder green tea. They smile and begin to inform me that Gunpowder green tea is actually whole leaf tea that is picked from the plant and immediately rolled up into tiny
balls.

I did not know this, even though every single day of my existence I was already having this very thing. Albeit in a less exotic packaging and the tea balls in the Numi Organic Green Tea must be micro sized.
Now I have to go home and read about it, and I want to recreate the same little experience I had up on hippie mountain. Now the morning process of procuring said hot beverage is more involved. I found my "loose leaf" version of Gunpowder green tea in rolled up balls, but it came with toasted rice. Now I have to find out what the hell toasted brown rice is doing in my tea.. I discover its a very traditional thing and my interest in this new process is piqued.
     Inspiration has struck within something I was already involved in. the Tea was there, the boiling water, my favorite thin lipped and heavy based mug, all there and known.. 
But now there is this new way of doing it, new media and a muse 
has arrived to spurn my morning ritual into an experience. Plus now I dig this side note in the tea, the toasted brown rice. I want to find out when this started, did the Japanese come up with it first? I love Japanese culture, I love
japanese women, I love martial arts and have since I was kid in high school studying Goju-Ryu karate, a mix of Okinawan hard style and the softer Kempo style.... 
The rabbit holes start appearing from this simple shift in what I was already doing. Then I wanted to start digging to see whats down in there!!

See where I'm going? :)

For me as a singer, songwriting, guitarist kind of musician, with a business on the side making guitar pedals and amplifiers.. I was already waving the banner of support to independent craftsmen and trying to keep my own consumerism as american based as possible.  I was already passionate about vintage roots rock, hotrods and the atomic era. I was immersed in making products that rockabilly, honky tonk, surf, and tiki culture were heavily influencing in my own hobbies and music craft.
     I already was very familiar with and constantly listening to music by Deke Dickerson and Big Sandy in my Ipod rotation of shop tunes. I just wasnt
aware that these very artists; Deke and TK Smith were sharing their own muses in their creation. When I woke up to what these cats did outside of strumming and singin, the lights were turned on and I got tuned up. 

The obsession and side roads (rabbit holes) led me to create my own guitar build ideas, using the info shared on the Bigsby Files blog, the Paul Bigsby book and TK Smiths blog plus his personal time to help me put some cool guitar hotrodding into effect.



 As you can see, I've been busy man making stuff. Creating and learning, listening and evolving. Seeking out the musicians to whom PA Bigsby was building for and drinking in those cats music and influences. Paying attention to their recordings and their tone and their attack. I want it in my blood and the transfusions are taking. :) Now I have this mutation in my soul of rockabilly, honky tonk, funk, jazz, punk, bluegrass, western swing, bebop and jump blues pumping through my veins.
     TK Smith primed it with his passion for recreating a new vision of PA Bigsby for guitarists now, and his vintage gibson amp collection along with his vids of licks from Charlie Christian, Django, Jimmy Rivers and Junior Barnard have my mind in a whirl of; "what if I take this wood, and that metal, and this body shape, and that neck, and these pickups.. and I take that amp sound and that style of strumming with these strings,etc etc.."   A bit insane, border line mad man? No.. rather pure INspire-ation.

The the guitar pics I shared above you see a progression. And below you see where I have arrived. With the help of Deke Dickerson and his bigsbyfiles.blogspot.com  he led me to the AMAZING story of a man that had his paradigm shift when he moved to southern california and began to experience the California western swing front, and he was grabbed by PA Bigsby. In this fascinating story archived by Deke Dickerson on his blog Musings of a Muleskinner he shares about the life of one JIM HARVEY and his beautiful instruments. You HAVE to read it, click the link after you finish my blog read and fall in love..

Because of this story and Deke bringin my attention to a particular double neck guitar of Jim's

my idea of mixing a Bigsby style guitar and vintage Gretsch Roundup (jet) became a realization once I got the ball rolling with one of TK Smiths fantastic Smith guitar necks, his CC II pickups, and a body built by Marc Rutters (www.ruttersguitars.com) from a 54 roundup template. I took my picts of PA Bigsby guitars, Jim Harvey guitars and asked for a flat top version of the gretsch body using birdseye maple cap on sugarpine. The sugarpine has a unique "knocky" semi hollow sound to it that I love. I put it all together with
a custom Tru-Arc bigsby bridge from another gear shaman; Tim Harmon, and a reconstituted B-7 (Marc helped big time on this, pulled the pins, drilled the bar and milled the bottom of the plate flat) and look what my obsession delivered.
Like it or not, you are witness to 100% action = 100% reaction, 100% of the time.


This guitar is all me because I live for gretsch guitars and love telecasters, more so telecasters that are a bigsby influence. Dare I say TK Smith influence. :) So you have a Gretsch roundup body but its top is flat and bolted to neck like a telecaster, I love bolt on necks. All the controls and bigsby are Gretsch and then this Smith neck is shaped like TK's 47 epiphone like Junior Barnards of the Texas Playboys. The headstock and style all ooze PA Bigsby but are different enough that they are pure TK Smith. The Pickups look and respond like a vintage gibson Charlie Christian pickup down to the big ass steel bottom plate but Paul Bigsby's tone is totally there too.  In the next blog I'm going to
share what also emerged in the middle of the guitar building fun, as I bought
a pair of 1939 and 41' Gibson EH-185 amps because of TK Smith turning me onto them. It was natural as a guitar electronics company for me to want to bring this ancient amp into new light. a 2 1/2yr journey with that led to the production of the MOONSHINE '39 amplifier. http://thenocturnebrain.com/moonshine.htm

You can hear a comparison vid between my original Gibson EH-185 amps that I used as the models to build the Nocturne MOONSHINE '39 amp combo and shinebox head. Masterful jump blues / rockabilly guitarist; Tommy Harkenrider of www.tommyharkenriderguitar.com was so cool to demonstrate them with
his Grez guitar. At the end of the demo, Tommy picks up my Grigsby guitar and gives it a try through the 6x9" shinebox amp head. More on that later.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

How Deke Dickerson and TK Smith changed my Guitar picking world.

Several yrs back I stumbled into a Guitar Geek Festival off site of the annual NAMM show I attend every winter, as I was already a fan of 
Deke Dickerson's music 
 http://dekedickerson.com/shopping/merch3.php 

and was hoping to catch him live. Walking into the joint, I suddenly realized what I was in for with the collection of odd man out guitars and amps, I was just slack jawed and smitten by the sheer history of it allIt really was
a guitar geek festival and I drank up every bit of data I could, as my paradigm
of roots rock music shifted once again.



It was here at this Geek Fest that I discovered another musician that I had admired from the earlier days of the band, Big Sandy, was up to far more than
just pickin and grinning after leaving the Fly Rite Trio.  

















TK Smith had a small Display Placard that caught my attention immediately with
its creative inlay on a bakelite back board, card holder. This hit me nostalgic as
I had run a sign and acrylic fabrication shop in the late 80s doing things like this for the medical industry. I was really interested to found out more about his stuff.

(couldnt find an early picture, this display of TK's is more recent pic, Geek Fest picts are courtesy of my friend Dolly therockabillysocialite.com )





















After that show I wish I could say I immediately ran to discover the treasures awaiting me on Deke's blog "Musings of a Muleskinner" muleskinner.blogspot.com
..but I was knee deep in my own business building guitar preamps and amps with the Nocturne Brain Co. and at that time,focused primarily on the rockabilly
aspect head first with gretsch guitar artists. 
It was a few Geek Fests later that I started falling head over heels with the Bigsby guitars after purchasing the book about Paul A. Bigsby
which of course was so delicious a meal, I needed more and I jumped into
Deke Dickerson's The Bigsby Files . This website is something I just kept reading and studying over and over. It actually has some great rabbit holes, particularly the Jim Harvey stuff but I'll get to that later.  For me the story of Paul Bigsby being first a motorcycle mechanic here in my beloved Southern California back when my own folks were children, and meeting up with a favorite western picker and singer, Merle Travis was pure magic to me. Then creating a new tail piece for Merle's guitar, and ultimately making the first solid body electric guitar as well as just being a bonafide industrial artist, seriously impressed me. Not just casually either, I couldnt stop thinking about all the artists that he affected and how I could identify as a guitar gear tinker myself.




I guess where this goes next is more than coincidence because one day I found myself looking for hairpin legs to attach to an atomic era coffee table I had been building, as well as seeking out a good bullet planter ( I live in 55' post & beam Rancher and am also obsessed with all things Atomic era) searching the inner-nets when I stumbled on some Atomic Living site and found some amazing furniture pictures that turned out to be made by TK Smith as well as fascinating MCM concrete screens and metal work! 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tksmith/4160565184/in/faves-88017382@N00/
This led of course straight to TK's blog, a brand new rabbit hole.

I did want to find out about him first and foremost and the one thing that cemented a bromance with his industrial art side was that he is a lifer Buick automotive man like I am. He has a fantastic story on his site about his father's car that is now his by fate.

http://tksmith.net/2012/04/18/the-miraculous-story-of-my-53-buick/

My Grandpa Vega had a buick, My Dad had a buick and when he met my mom, she was stuck on the side of the road with a blown out tire on her BUICK! My dad was on the way to a gig with his band and the rest of that is a story for some other time, but I ended up happening 2yrs later.. 





All to say, TK Smith's story about his family buick history and his own 53' was near and dear to me, along with the fact that my own mama's maiden name is SMITH!! :) 
As I absorbed all the info on his blog about cars, and atomic lamps, atomic ranch house furniture, hand made cabinetry, carve kitchen serving trays, etc.. It was only natural to want to meet this character and buy some of his guitar pickups and a custom pickguard for my own 52' tele that I'd previously installed a Lollar CC in the neck with bigsby B-16 vibrato. 
     I wasnt prepared to find out that Mr. Smith shares a kindred spirit for keeping things handcrafted in America the old fashioned way, when I drove out to his shop an hr down the freeway towards Palm Desert. I probably scared him when I walked into his shop and started bubbling on and on about all his machinery being vintage american built, but it was so much like the Sign shop I had owned when I was a young guy. I was totally like a kid in a candy store.
     Despite my drool, he disassembled my telecaster, cut down the Bigsby and installed a set of his early Bigsby style Aluminum Pickups.







I dont remember why we ended up having to go over to his house during the install, but it involved a final soldering of the pickups into the control plate/pickup selector.



I cant even describe the fanboy wall of joy that over took me with my geeked out obsession for all things Atomic, but this McGiver of a man had completely remodeled a vintage Ranch house and his signature industrial artistry was all over this pad.  

Dude, I was floored. But this was all for divine circumstances to set a new course for me in my own journey as a musician and manufacturer of guitar electronics.

*You can get a quick tour of the Smith Ranch here on the brick house website

http://www.the-brick-house.com/2010/05/house-visit-2/

TK Smith is a purveyor of vintage gibson amplifiers and I'd never seen any before much less actually plug in and play them, but here they were and this guy loves them. 


That love is obviously infectious because once I got to fire up a Pre-war Gibson EH-185 with my first "bigsby-ized" telecaster, it was like being a kid again, kissing a girl for the first time in the school bus on the way to 1st grade (another story for another time). I couldnt think of anything else man, and when I latch onto something that is ALL I want to see, breathe, eat, and sleep until I have uncovered everything about it. 

The sound of a bigsby style guitar and that early 40s pre war tweed Class A amplifier had an elusive sound that I had been after for years!! I'm not a great guitar builder and actually at best an over the top guitar assembler, but I've got a penchant for design and a golden ear for guitar tone. I probably live for the "sound" of guitars and amps on recordings more than I do wanting to learn how to play what I hear..but thats what drives me, and Mr Smiths gibson amps made the lights come on to what I'd been scratching my head over to get such a dynamic old school picking response from clean and crisp to fully on reedy woolly overdrive with just your wrist and that pick. That raw sound of Charlie Christian attacking the notes, the twangy barrage Jr Barnard wrestled out of his amp, it was so unique. You would think it would be obvious with the resources on google but it just wasnt on my radar at that time even though I'd been wandering in the general direction of it for decades. Go figure.

TK Smith and Deke Dickerson are directly responsible for opening my world to a door to the past that is much farther down the hall from the rooms that I was raised knowing about and experiencing with my fathers rockabilly and my own neo-rockabilly history. Those brothers have given me a hands on lesson of american roots music, art and industry.  

oh and I should mention...

On Amazon.com you need to get a copy of Deke Dickersons " A Strat in the Attic" and sit down in a nice chair and eat that book up. It is really a great read front to back, and I am currently awaiting arrival of his new "A Strat in the attic 2" that just shipped yesterday to me. More unraveling is expected!



















Also on TK Smith (be sure to visit tksmith.net btw)
Recently there have been some insightful articles written about him 
check these out:
Fretboard Journal #32, 

here's a snippet from their website:

http://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/magazine/tk-smith

and just out on gearphoria.com another great piece
http://gearphoria.com/e-mag/v3n2/#/34/