Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 20

Mountainview Publishing, LLC

The Rev Delivers
the Goods from
the Woodshed ! Report
The Player’s Guide to Ultimate Tone
$10.00 US, October 2002/VOL.3 NO.12

Billy F. Gibbons
Lighten Your Load
with a classic Les
Paul Special

The Radiators’
Dave Malone on
Tone from the

The Electro-
Harmonix Holy
Grail Reverb

cover story

Welcome, Señors and Señoritas. We resume our exploration formed a feisty combo The Jazzy Five, followed by The
into the mysterious realm of tone, and this month our journey Gibbons Brothers Band, appearing in the upstate New York
begins midway between Houston and San Antonio in a little resorts. Full out 30’s elegance… and a bit of ragtime, shabby
town called La Grange. You know how that story goes... The sheik to boot.
creepin’ shuffle boogie intro to “La Grange” exploded into
one of the most unique and recognizable guitar tones on the TQR: Jimmy Reed is credited as a most important influ-
planet, compliments of Billy F. Gibbons and that Little ol’ ence. Why Jimmy Reed in particular?
Band from Texas. You gotta hand it to the Rev... with just one
note stroked from Pearly Gates, there is no absolutely no The JR simplicity is nothing short
doubt who’s in charge, and that’s a high wire act matched by of infectious. It grabs you quick. A
a mere handful of players in the long and colorful history of pure and accessible sound, which
the guitar. is always still around. Two guitars
and drums is the ultimate trio.
We caught up with Mr. Gibbons in his hometown of Houston, Jimmy Reed, and also the Big Beat
and it was a good hang. ZZ Top has ridden high on the charts Master, Bo Diddley… Street-sim-
with a ton of hits over the past 30 years, yet the band and ple and elemental, with an unex-
crew are a completely down-to-earth outfit lacking any of the pected complexity of the inner
hubris that often infects successful artists and their ‘people.’ workings of tremendously toneful
We spent two days in Houston talking about Billy’s unique trios. Bo Diddley on guitar,
vibe and how he nails it, and as you might expect, many sur- Clifford James on his solid snare,
prises await, so let’s get to it! and Jerome Green’s propelling
maracas. All quite intriguing. Loud
electric guitar became the move.
TQR: What was the first exposure to this strange music
that set ya’ll on the path to play the blues? TQR: So LOUD electric guitar was next?

BB King, Jimmy Yeah… single cut, single pickup Gibson Melody Maker with
Reed, Muddy a Fender Champ amp.
Waters, Little
Walter, Howlin’ TQR: Damn… you got right on it, didn’t you?
Wolf, Elvis, and
Houston blues Yessir… That was ignition!
radio! It started
way early… these TQR: I suppose your garage band scene was not far
are just a few of the behind?
many that stand as
the inventors of this fine American art form. The challenge Yeah. At first, just bangin’ and jangin’ things after school,
remains to attempt a refreshed interpretation of the magnet- chasing blues records. Some buddies also picked up the gui-
ism of the blues. tar, and a guy a couple of streets over with a set of well-beat
drums, well, that was it. It was on. The unlikely aggregation
TQR: Your dad entered the picture about that time, yes? The Saints started runnin.’

Indeed. He enjoyed entertaining, spanning a remarkable TQR: Was there any particular mentor, or was it picking
career, from concerts through the motion picture business, things up on your own?
and all points in between. He developed quite a wide range of
creative expressions… The back rooms blaring the likes of Chuck Berry and Little
Richard took over.
TQR: A house full of music, no doubt!
TQR: So The Saints provided a genuine beginning!
Si, Señor!
Most certainly… neighborhood parties, always out of control
TQR: You’ve got ties from England, correct? – always real gone. Truly reckless. The Stones suddenly
jumped on the scene, playing their version of classic R&B
Yes. My poppa and his five bro’s hangin’ in New York with their different twist, and providing even more influ-

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

ences. I organized a new group and recorded a tune, “99th at Gazarri’s

Floor,” released on a local Houston label, which fortunately on The Strip.
caught on over the region’s radio stations. Out of town calls I saddled up
and bookings started showin’ up. We loaded up a station along side
wagon and headed out of town. Nuthin’ but a blast. the drummer
to redesign
TQR: Is “99th Floor” still available? the lineup
back in
Yeah, the original version is to be included in a new ZZ Top Houston,
boxed set. It’s furious and fuzzy. Texas. After
TQR: And the name of this new band was… around a bit,
we found a
The Moving Sidewalks. By that time we were guitar, bass, friend of
drums, and keyboards. There was a brief time when soul ours who was an accomplished Hammond B3 specialist. He
music was the rage and we briefly added horns to the band, also kicked bass pedals, which filled out the sound, and that’s
but the tough sound of a combo was tighter. all we really wanted.

TQR: What kind of guitar were you playing? TQR: What kind of music were you playing?

A white ’63 Jazzmaster. Stabbin’ at that cool look… match- We kept all the blues influences, and then the psychedelic
ing stuff… Fenders and blonde piggybacks. scene captured us. One of the first psychedelic bands ever –
The 13th Floor Elevators – actually coined the term psyche-
TQR: Definitely a style, Amigo. delic. Their first record was called The Psychedelic Sounds of
the 13th Floor Elevators, and they followed that with an
Oh, yeah… two blue album called Easter Everywhere.
frame 12’s behind
maroon grill cloth – full TQR: We’ll check that out. Another heavy acid band from
volume. Then Vox started that period were Blue Cheer, and that was a direct,
making an appearance on 4-way hit.
the scene. Vox were the
biggest things we experi- Oh, man… I loved that band. When was that… 1967?
enced. From the rare Vox
tube models moving on TQR: Yes, when they broke out with “Summertime
to the super chrome- Blues…”
framed towers.
Meanwhile, I switched Loved that song. We went out to see them one night, and not
the Jazzmaster to Fender only were they the loudest band we had ever heard, but that
Esquire. And with the was the first time we had ever seen a drummer use cut-off
inherently thin, cutting broomsticks for sheer power (laughs).
Esquire, Vox made the sound pretty hairy. Those circuits
could really bark. TQR: You retained your 3-piece organ trio?

TQR: What happened on the heels of “99th Floor” and Yeah, we changed the name from The Moving Sidewalks to
the subsequent Moving Sidewalks releases? ZZ Top, and we cut a single in 1969 titled “Salt Lick,” backed
by a track called “Miller’s Farm.” It was named after a ranch
we’d been given access to. We set up at the ranch house and
We continued performing throughout Louisiana and you could play as loud as you wanted and bothered no one.
Mississippi – mostly southern stuff – and in 1968 we were
signed to appear on the Jimi Hendrix tour along with the TQR: Did you come up with the idea for the name of the
band from Paris called The Soft Machine. We played a num- band?
ber of shows in Texas and a few in Arizona, and wound up in
California twisting off on our own for awhile. We’d play a Yeah… we practiced and wrote material for about six or so,
middle of the week gig at this joint or that, then Friday nights and the drummer and I decided on recruiting our buddy from

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

Dallas to play bass, Billy Etheridge. He originally was ning. Marshalls and humbuckers.
rhythm guitarist in one of Jimmy Vaughan’s first groups out
of Dallas called The Chessmen. And then, Etheridge intro- TQR: Is that when you began to really hone in on what
duced me to drummer Frank Beard, who quickly established we would consider to be “your sound?”
the now famous backbeat. And Frank then recommended
auditioning another Dallas bassist, Dusty Hill. Frank and Pearly GatesYes. Things took another
Dusty worked together in Dallas, and made for a solid step up a month later
rhythm section. when a friend called and
said he knew a farmer
TQR: Rock solid and tight, indeed… with an original Les
Paul. He kept it under
Yeah, Dusty did a few pickup gigs around Houstontown, and his bed and rarely
took Mr. Beard’s offer to join an afternoon jam session. We played it. At that time I
did a simple blues shuffle and it lusciously lasted for three was driving an old 1930s
full hours. We looked at each other and said, “Man, this feels Packard automobile, and
pretty good.” That’s what went down. I gave it to a girlfriend
so she could get out to
TQR: What gear was on the deck at this time? California to audition for
a part in a movie. She
We still had Vox, the old made it and got the part,
Esquire, an Oyster Pearl and swiftly sold the Packard and sent a check to me. I
Ludwig kit, and, of course, remember the day her letter arrived, and immediately struck
a Fender bass. Then we met out toward the farmer’s place and said, “How ‘bout $250 for
Jeff Beck… We hung that guitar?” He said, “Fine,” and that’s Pearly Gates.
around with his outfit for
awhile and noted a strange TQR: An original Texas gee-tar…
amp even bigger than the
Vox. Man, it did sound It sho ‘nuff is.
great. We had discovered
Marshalls. Beck’s road TQR: And what followed was the culmination of one of
manager had contacts at the most distinctive, unique, and recognizable gui-
Jim Marshall’s factory back tar tones on the planet…
in the U.K., and suggested he score a couple of stacks for us.
They were the 1969 Super Leads, and as soon as they arrived, Well, it did take
we jumped over to them immediately and never looked back. some time to
Now, when I met Beck, he was playing his sunburst Les Paul. develop, and there
Shortly thereafter, the Jeff Beck Group album came out… was an evolution
what a great record. in progress, but all
of these little indi-
TQR: So Beck was playing his ‘burst… cators… seeing
Beck, and then
Pearly Gates
Yeah, I kept asking around and discovered that Gibson had Clapton with one
discontinued them. The original sunburst Les Paul as we all of these guitars, and Mayall through his brilliance, finding so
know it, now long gone, got replaced by the Les Paul SG. At many wonderful guitarists like Peter Green and Mick Taylor.
the same time, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers appeared, They were all playing these sunburst Les Pauls.
and on the back of the album cover was a picture of Eric
Clapton with a ‘burst and a 2x12 Marshall Bluesbreaker TQR: And ZZ Top was off to the races…
combo. Well, I saw that, and thought there must really be
something to that guitar. I didn’t have much technical knowl- Yeah, we had met this individual who had an interest in man-
edge at that time, but noticed the pickups on the Les Paul agement. He had come down to Houston with another friend
were larger than the pickup on the Esquire, plus there were of his to see us perform with The Doors. He ran a record dis-
two of them. A buddy of mine, Red Pharoah, had a guitar tribution agency in Houston that happened to handle London
with a couple of those pickups on it, so I bought it… a 1958 Records, which was the label for The Rolling Stones and
Flying V. I picked it up for $300, and we were off and run- Mayall. Well, Mayall had organized a U.S. personal appear-

4 TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

ance tour, traveling alone from town to town. More often than some of our cherished contemporaries, like the late great
not, he would get a hankering to put together impromptu jam Doug Sahm, Jimmy Vaughan, and of course, Stevie… Also
sessions, and would usually inquire who might be available the work of John Mayall and his line of infamous
to handle a couple of hours of the blues. And that’s how we Bluesbreakers, who have continually provided a source of
met our soon-to-be manager. Being somewhat familiar with mystery and entertainment.
our work, we got together and it was a classic scene. He
brought out some cigars and said, “I’m going to make you a TQR: The first time we heard Buddy Whittington on a
star.” With our handful of songs, we piled into this 1968 record we thought, “Now, who the hell is that?”
Buick deuce and a quarter – a big old land yacht – and drove
to a little town in east Texas. We cut the first ZZ album at (Laughs) Yeah… and another great player, James Hard
Robin Hood’s on the Texas/Louisiana line. That studio Harpin’ Harmon is a fine entertainer who would be just as
already had a couple of national hits with J. Fred and the happy walking onto a stage at 9 p.m. opening a show or
Playboys, Mouse and the Traps, and a lot of the big soul strolling in at midnight as the headliner.
bands from southern Louisiana…The Boogie Kings, GG
Shinn and the Rollercoasters, Cary Ray and the National TQR: You can righteously be accused of having created
Soul Review… all from Robin Hood’s. They had the momen- the perfect marriage of the smokiest, greasiest blues
tum and knew how to do the do. A preview of the ZZ record- riffs slithering around the ka-ching of monster big
ings reached a few labels, with London Records showing a time Top 40 lyrical hooks and tongue and cheek
keen interest. I said, “Man, that’ where The Rolling Stones imagery… a tall order, indeed. What’s the voodoo
are. Let’s go there. behind your song writing success? Is it more inspi-
ration by accident (“I was playfully engaged with a
TQR: In regard to your playing and your fine, fine signa- warm snifter of Reposado one evening when
ture guitar tone – you mentioned an ‘evolution’ had Mescalito appeared…”) or do you just sit down and
taken place over time. We might say a revolution deliberately create another hit?
considering the impact you made with Pearly…
Looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, The mystery behind the magic of ZZ Top is an engaging
how were your influences as a guitarist continuing endeavor… We take the latest composition and go to the
to develop and become more defined, from Trés woodshed, where we place Frank Beard at the opposite end
Hombrés, onward? of the room where Dusty and I are set up. We then deliver the
goods, and at the end of the day we ask Frank what it is he
A most interesting thought we said? Usually, it’s an interpretation that is so far
question… A revisit removed from what was actually written, yet it’s usually bet-
of the vintage record- ter than what we had originally started with earlier in the day
ings from some (laughs).
favorite blues per-
formers, including TQR: So there’s still room for the happy accident coming
Muddy, Little Walter, from the ZZ woodshed.
BB King, Clifton
Chenier, It starts out with the two bearded boys posing a challenge to
Howlin’Wolf, and the the beardless Mr. Frank – “Where’s it going, and what’s your
all-time longstanding interpretation?”
favorite, Jimmy Reed.
Oddly enough, as many times as one revisits these timeless, TQR: How has your stage rig evolved from the early days
unchanged recordings, different ways to look at the blues as with ZZ Top to the present? You’ve credited the Les
an art form continue to appear. As soon as you think you’ve Paul ‘burst and the Marshall Superlead…
got a bead on exactly what’s going on, at the very least you
discover something that might have been overlooked or inter- The Marshall and Pearly were the energized origin of the
preted in a different fashion. My interest in the blues still sound of the ZZ Top trio, enjoying the acquisition of some
rides high. really exotic critters that we’ve since collected over the years.
We managed to build a couple of stacks of guitar rigs on
TQR: Were any of your contemporaries or blues heroes of either side of the drum riser, and in essence, we have Dusty
the past inspiring your playing and songwriting? pounding out his thang on a Fender 4-string, (which is basi-
cally a low guitar in the band), and the Reverend Willy G
We all have our personal influences, and it’s worthy to note slamming out his thing on a high bass… and we have Mr.

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

Beard in between. Over time, there were some interesting It’s a mouse
excursions into guitar design centered from that one corner- trap which is
stone element… Pearly Gates was the mystery factor that still not
founded the sound of the band, and that particular sonic ele- completely
ment was the one to be acknowledged. All of the creative understood,
excesses we’ve made managed to succeed as playable instru- yet, it is one
ments while retaining the tonal qualities still found in Pearly of the key
Gates. features in
the old Bo
TQR: Were you putting Seymour Duncan’s Pearly Gates Diddley
pickups in a lot of the custom guitars you had built records.
for ZZ Top tours? Steve
Yes, and we also had the goodly assistance of Angela Instruments had stumbled across one and sent it
of the Gibson Custom Shop, the Fender down thinking that we might be interested and perhaps even
Custom Shop, Seymour Duncan, Mr. John find a use for it.
Bolin’s outfit out of Boise, Idaho, James
Trussart, Tom Anderson, WD Products, TQR: How long ago was that?
Warmouth… the list is endless. I should
also mention the late Eric Yunker. It is a Pre-Eliminator. We framed it
somewhat idealistic approach, entering as a quizzical shelf piece in
brave new worlds without compromising our studio and on one after-
tone, taste, or tenacity. As most instrumen- noon, one of the great
talists know, you could grab the first six Houston engineers, “Willy the
guitars on an assembly line and the last six Workingman” took the
on the line and none of them will necessari- DeArmond over to the con-
ly sound the same. In the final analysis, it’s sole to see what this thing was
Bamboo Tele

basically meat on metal on wood… At the all about. It rattled and shaked
same time, you’ve got a complex and tumbled and quaked, and
collective of different grain struc- we thought it was a little bit
tures and wood from different of insanity, but it sure sounded
stands of trees held together by good.
new glue, old glue, and sometimes
no glue… Pickups are wound with TQR: He had taken it over to the console and he was run-
42 gauge wire that might have ning the guitar signal through it?
been dipped in lacquer one week
and something else the next. Yeah, he had it plugged up and we said, “What is that doing
Thanks to the stalwart persever- over here?” to which Willy replied, “We’re gonna find out.”
ance of people like Seymour As you know, the DeArmond has reached a point with me
Duncan, Lindy Fralin, DiMarzio, Rio Grande, and others, we that has gone beyond the point of being ridiculous, yet if you
now have insights into the unknown. can get one that actually works, they produce one of the cra-
ziest, indescribable tremolo sounds…
TQR: We live in the golden era of the guitar. We have
more choices today than ever before. TQR: It’s a reddish blue, transparent throb which we find
particularly satisfying on “What’s Up With That?”
That’s the good news. And despite these disparate, unpre- on Rhythmeen.
dictable elements, it really comes down to diggin’ in deep for
some creative soul and spirit, and from there you can sho Oh, yeah…
‘nuff make it happen.
TQR: That track showcases the throb quite nicely.
TQR: Now, the DeArmond tremolo is very cool, and we
particularly liked it on “What’s Up With That?” and I think that’s an appropriate description of the sound. Thanks
“Zipper Job” on Rhythmeen. When and how did to Bo Diddley and Steve at Angela Instruments, we have
you discover it? another peek into the Wonderful World of Tone.

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

TQR: Your two pound hemp Tone Tubby, so we did a little experiment and loaded
‘bursts are quite the one cabinet with the two darker ones side by side and the
thang… How’d they do other cabinet with the two brighter ones. Then we tried
that, and what were you another cabinet with one of each in the same cabinet. Each
thinking when you de- one of them has merits, and they’re all different, but we con-
cided to gut them perfect- cluded that no matter how you stack it, that is one fine, fine
ly good guitars? piece of product. They look great, but most importantly, they
sound great. They are really stunning, and they stand tall with
Sheer laziness… I got to anything – blue frame Jensens, 30 year- old Celestion
talkin’ to some of my Les Greenbacks, the Vox Bulldog… you name it. All of the indus-
Paul buddies… Jimmy try leaders are now standing beside another new individual,
Page, Jeff Beck… even and it’s really cool.
Eric Clapton… he kind of
grimaces when you bring TQR: We couldn’t agree more. It’s not often that some
up the Les Paul. “Hey, Eric, how about throwing this over thing truly new and cool comes along, just like
your shoulder?” (making a “bad oyster” face and laughing). those old Dual Professionals in their time…

TQR: Well, we all kinda want him to play one again, They were introduced
‘Lil’ Red’ & Dual Professional
which is reason enough for him not to. Eric seems in 1948, and I believe
to be quite the contrarian… that Don Randall
may have had some-
That well could be. Even Slash… my two buddies from the thing to do with the
Black Crowes… Jimmy Vaughan even played one during his decision to build an
early career, and there may be lingering memories of the amp that could hold
weightiness of our favorite tone grinder. But the code has two speakers instead
been cracked, and with a judicious approach to the modifica- of one. They didn’t
tions, you can lift the load but still deliver the tone. know what to call it,
and Leo looked over
TQR: So what you’re saying is that many of our favorite his shoulder and saw
players may have put the Led Paul down ‘cause it a box of metal name-
was too damn heavy. plates that they used
for their double neck
That was one reason. Credit should be given to those that fol- steel, which was
low form. Fashion may change, but this is an instance where called the Dual
form must remain, even in the face of changing fashion. Professional. They
reminded Leo that
TQR: You’ve certainly stuck to your guns, Rev… the name was used
for a Hawaiian guitar, and Leo said, “Yeah, but we have a
You gotta have the tone, brother. few extra boxes of these names plates, so let’s just call it the
Dual Professional, too (laughs). So, for the first run, they had
TQR: Tell us about your fascination with the old tweed a double neck steel and the amp with the same name, and I
Fender Dual Professionals. believe it was 1951 when they changed the name to the
Yes… by the way – the
hemp Tone Tubby TQR: And you’ve been collecting them over the years…
speakers were sent
over to the studio last Yeah. They were only 18W-20W, and they varied somewhat.
week. We had a couple Although the circuit boards were the same, the values of the
of Dual Showman components and transformers could change from week to
cabs, and you know that week. Thanks to the ingenuity of Leo and his staff, they were
amp went through an evo- able to create a cabinet and an amp that was louder, and it
lutionary renaissance, but fortunately, we had a couple of the sounded bigger than Dallas. The Dual Professional was one
old, smaller 2x12 cabinets with the maroon grill cloth. Now, I of the interesting turning points in amplifier history. They’re
didn’t realize that they make a “darker” and a “brighter” rare, and like guitars, each one has a peculiar personality, but

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

if you’re willing to check them out, there’s probably one That’s true, and the good news is… it’s not always the guitar
that’s perfect for every application. And if it doesn’t work, or the amp or the amp and the guitar… it’s how you spend
just find a good fuzztone and turn it up to ’10’ (laughs). your time getting it to go from here (head) to here (hands).
That’ll work every time.
TQR: You don’t seem to be someone
TQR: You’ve used the B.K. Butler Real Tube who practiced a lot though – it
Overdrive for a long time, haven’t you? seems as if you just jumped
into a band and you’ve been
Yeah, the Real Tube has a 12AX7 playing ever since.
driven circuit, it’s not battery pow-
ered, and at the same time, the stan- Yeah, let’s change the old adage to
dard that Mr. Butler established still playin’ makes perfect.
stands tall with each and every
model. With a little experimenta- TQR: What’s up with those African
tion, you can tweak them in to what guitars? Where did you get
I call “sittin’ on the fence” tone. You them?
don’t have to go ‘Rat’ and you don’t
have to go ‘Clean.’ You can just I went to Africa.
approach… let’s call it the border
zone. No… la frontera (laughs). It’s like TexMex tweakin.’ TQR: You’ve been in the
studio recently polishing
TQR: And Dusty uses one too… off a new CD that will be
out soon. What’s the theme
Yes, he does. He takes a little bit more of a darker stance than of this year’s ZZ Top party?
most, but at the same time, it just produces an indescribable
yet delightful sense of overdrive without getting out of con- We’ll know soon. There are all
trol. kinds of challenges to be
TQR: Or pummeling your amp and speakers…
TQR: I’m sure there are.
That’s right. Harvey Moltz from Rainbow Guitars in Tucson
discovered the Real Tube. He was really the grist of the Well, you do it every month…
grind, and he was the one who allowed me to first check it
out. I’m also still very fond of one the most exotic little TQR: Kinda like a ZZ Top record… We consider every
effects ever made – the Expandora – the little silver Skoal can ZZ Top record to be a party record, and every party
with all of the craziness inside. That unit not only carries needs a theme.
good tone, but it works off batteries, and a lot of players real-
ly like it. Just pop it in the car stereo, drive to El Paso, and report back
to me later.
TQR: And they are priced accordingly… You also get a
ton of your tone through your hands. You have a TQR: Is the Quest for Tone ever over?
real easy touch, and you don’t appear to be break-
ing a sweat going through the motions of playing No. You got to have the tone.
the guitar. It’s smooth, light, and fluid, with no
struggle at all. TQR: ¡ Gracias, Amigo ¡

That’s a gracious compliment. It’s not a problem workin’ up a ¡ Si, Señor ¡ TQ

sweat – the problem is wipin’ it off (laughs). It’s always a
challenge to get the mind to match the motion. But the real
task is to enter that wondrous realm of making it flow. Stay tuned for ZZ Top’s new release on RCA, plus reports
from the road as TQR Advisory Board member Billy F.
TQR: And there’s that innate ability to play the song perf- Gibbons and the boys embark on the Europe Tour 2002! For
ectly when the little red light is lit. You either have more information on the band, including tour schedules,
that, or you don’t. swag, and news, visit www.zztop.com

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002

cover story

Gear from the Woodshed TQR: Any difference in performance regarding altering
weight and mass?

Again, each instrument held differences in character and per-

TQR: Whoah! What the hell… sonality, yet, the object of the project retained the profile of
perfect personality. Ghostly!
Check this out… (handing over
a ’59 burst Historic Reissue) I TQR: And Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups entered
bought a few recent re-issue the mod, too, yes?
models right from the rack,
and following a bit a some Indeed. Bolin’s
experimental customizing, relationship with
each one successfully Seymour Duncan
emerged as ultra-light Les Research is still
Paul Standard ‘50s style the choice of
Sunbursts – traditionally champs. Bolin
considered a rather weighty and Duncan both
solid-body Spanish electric acknowledge the
6-string. The modifications value of the orig-
were expertly transformed inal elements
and customized by the illustrious guitar maker, Mr. John from Seth
Bolin & Co., from his state-of-the art studio out in the wilds Lover’s remark-
of Idaho. Bolin and crew developed a technique allowing the able invention of
radical transformation of these fine instruments, which the Humbucking
retained the heaviness of the performance of the guitar, while magnetic pickup.
lifting the guitar into fresh heights of slingin’ the slab. The real luxury
Definitely a shot in the dark, yet, a surprisingly utilitarian of hot-rodding
outcome from a previously unknown design concept! The one’s preferred rig is still cuttin’ up with scant regard to sani-
challenging aim to liberate the weight progressed with no ty. Going for some serious tone ain’t no thang. Just light up
shortage of the the torch and go for it – decals on ‘em, paint ‘em and rip ‘em
unknown…! At the com- into Day-Glo world! Chop ‘em, rock ‘em, and do what you
"Gibbons Historic Jungletele"

pletion of this radical wanna do. Drive it straight to the unknown zone…and play
restructuring, the series them Blues…!
were restored to factory-
fresh like thrasers, retain- TQR: (Walking to the rack of amps and effects) This is
ing structural integrity and the stuff that delivers some of the ZZ extremes…
most importantly…the
TONE…! As the infamous Mostly so… loads of variables are in there, but we’ve man-
Pearly Gates remains one aged the sound analysis using real-time analyzing gear. We’ve
of ZZ Top’s cornerstone stayed up through those all-night jams just running Pearly
elements, workin’ within straight in and straight out, standing on the Texas ‘G.’ We lis-
that mysterious structure tened for the averages, and after those 3 o’clock-in-the-morn-
proved to be most reward- ing moments, satisfaction rides on in. And once you do it
ing. This unexpected twice…you be right on. Establish the curve of your picture
excursion jumped up during a discussion out in California and get it on, man…! What is the character of this crazy girl
with our good friend Jimmy Page & Co. over in Hollywood’s named Pearly? Soulful EQ’ing will bump it up down the line
late night loud-zone… Jimmy’s Les Paul is one of the and you’re in there. Another good thang…!
wickedest examples on the planet, along with one of the
wickedest pound-for-pound heavyweight electrics. The com- TQR: Calibrating those variables sounds like a righteous-
bination of our curiosity of revamping our fave-rave ness kind of night…
Standards forwarded the move. And, thanks to the brilliance
from Bolin’s expertise in handling the affair, all’s good on Yeah. You get to play it. We’re sorting about with some
stage and studio. Quite a delight! Deep, dark grindin’ contin- experimental tunings on the main guitars – open ‘E,’ even
ues onward, Amigo – no question about it. Great work. down to ‘B,’ and on down to low ‘A’, bro… Hideous…!

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


TQR: Which gauge strings? Vintage effects include many DeArmonds, Marshall Supa
Fuzz, Park Fuzz, and DeArmond volume pedal.
Eights. Wet rope below-sea-level.
Studio Notes:
Billy Hale (BFG’s guitar tech): “Have
no fear.” We also toured “The
Woodshed,” where we
As you know, each piece of gear usually impacts the output found a few more tone-
in some manner – positive, antagonistic, and always unex- ful curios, including a
pected. Double the rig. If one bank breaks down, you got a customized little vintage
back-up restoring the line. We’re on JMP1 12AX7-driven Marshall 2x10 combo
preamps, Line that had been modded
6’s rack unit, for dual 12’s. Also pres-
Zoom’s power ent in Billy’s studio rig was a vintage Alamo (Valco), a
box, a Marshall Valve State, and the ever-present Real Tube
Varidrive sig- Overdrive by B.K.
nal snapper Butler. Guitars included
from San a wild ‘matchstick bam-
Diego, Bixonic boo’ Tele, a vintage
Expandoras, Z Vex oddities, all of it… matched into Esquire, and the
Marshall’s tube boys for a grind to warp the mind. Prior to esteemed and worldly
this we were using a beautiful Marshall EL34 100/100. This Pearly Gates. Billy’s rack
Pro 120 hit the market, and I can’t remember where we rig in the studio included
experimented with this amp, but we started collecting them a pair of Marshall JMP1
and flooding the valve midi preamps (dimed), Tech 21 Sans Amp units, and a
tone settings, and duet of rack-mounted DeArmond Tremolo units.TQ
the effect became
truly transparent as
one might want, still
retaining the whip
of Jim Marshall’s
special sound.
platforms simply Most of us won’t be willing or able to acquire a ‘59 burst RI
Demeter Isolation Cabinet
takes the sound and and lighten the load as the Rev did, but if toting the Led Paul
make it bigger. We keep some measures of available head- is beginning to put a hurt on ya, there are options…
room, ‘cause we don’t wanna redline the motherfuckers per
se… Just tweak those 50-some odd user presets and step on Feeling devilish? The horny SG
it. Keep domain over your power …! might do the trick. It’s light, you
can run your humbuckers in it,
Notes on Instruments Pictured: and it’s a Gibson, which means
it’s supposed to be ‘good
‘Lil’ Red’ (SG enough.’ The SG’s evil look never
pg. 7) is one of really caught on, which also
Billy F. Gibbon’s makes the vintage models a great
first guitars. bargain (comparatively speaking),
and even some of the 70’s era
The Teuffel was brown (should we say ‘chest-
custom-covered nut’?) SG’s can be pretty good utility guitars with a simple
in pink fabric pickup upgrade. But it’s a bit of a crapshoot... Many old ‘70s
resembling the SG’s seem to now be cursed with screwy necks, and we’ve
old pink paisley played a few that divebombed like a Strat (but in the absence
pattern used on ‘60s Telecasters. Billy and Dusty own match- of a tremolo tailpiece). Not good...
ing Teuffels.


TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


Let’s go for something much more the Special has stayed in tune perfectly, and it seems to get
comely, with kinder curves, like a happier every time we play it (as do we). Of course, the fac-
1997 Gibson Historic Reissue tory fret level had skimmed the crown on the frets, and we’ll
Les Paul Special. We specifically probably get them dressed. We’re back to P90’s again with
hunted down a single-cut model the Special, and the Gibsons on our guitar sounded very, very
on eBay and we wound up pay- good. They’re dynamic, warm, punchy, full of bite, and
ing just under a grand for our kicked down a little, they can be charming, subtle, and
barely used ‘96. The Les smooth. We mentioned the fun factor, and the way the Special
Paul Specials remain in pro- resonates is energizing and inspiring. You can feel the entire
duction at the Gibson body and neck vibrating as you play, and the Special’s
Custom Shop, and they are extraordinarily lively character is absolutely captivating. The
available as double or single classic design is so uniquely cool, that if you leave this guitar
cutaway models in Cherry or out where it’s accessible and in view, you’ll quickly discover
TV Yella finish. Our particu- just how irresistible it is. We rarely find such a unique classic
lar guitar was originally shipped from the Gibson Custom that really has something different to offer, but the Special
Division on September 1, 1996, which was the first year of fits the bill, and we hope you’ll find the time to check them
production. According to TQR Advisory Board member and out. It’ll be well worth your time.TQ
Gibson Pro Shop Manager Ernest King, our guitar was an
early transition model, since the Gibson logo on our guitar is
a gold decal rather than the later pearloid logo on holly Dave Malone & the
veneer. These axes are more in the Stratocaster weight range,
but they are single-slab mahogany, and they sound real good.
Part of the mojo is the wrap-around tailpiece. It makes an
audible difference that you’ll really feel and hear when you Interview & photos by Jim Beck

play. This guitar vibrates, and the tone has a deep, woody Thanks to TQR subscribers Jim Beck and Dave Malone for
vibe that’s lacking by comparison in a lot of new instruments the following interview in which Dave so thoughtfully shares
today. Again, it’s the wrap-around that really makes the dif- his personal Quest for Tone. Once again, you’ll find pIenty of
ference, and if priceless tips in this article, straight from an experienced and
you’ve passed on supremely talented and accomplished player who has devoted
this feature think- years to The Quest.
ing you couldn’t
get your intonation TQR: When did you first pick up a guitar?
dialed in, that’s just
not so. In addition I’m one of those peo-
to the standard ple that saw The
Gibson tailpiece Beatles on Ed Sullivan
with two sets screws for fine tuning the position of the bar, and went, “That is
the wrap-around tailpieces made by TonePros offer 3 cool!” I didn’t really
adjustable sliding sections for improved intonation. You get into it right away –
adjust each section for a pair of strings, similar to vintage my older brothers
Telecaster saddles, but the tonal benefits of the wrap-around shortly thereafter were
design are maintained. Reviews are in the works. playing guitar, and I
ended up kind of
The ‘60 Special is considerably lighter than a ‘58 or ‘59 Les sneaking in and play-
Paul Historic RI, and it’s a really fun guitar to play. The ing theirs, and as you well know when you’re learning, it
Special sounds plenty big enough, although the neck profile hurts like hell… When you can actually play a song for the
is the ‘slim taper’ rather than the late ‘50s baseball bat style. first time, I don’t know about you, but for me it was, “Oh, my
We like ‘em both, and would be happy with either neck shape God – this, I’m gonna do!” So I would play ‘til my fingers
exclusively. We did notice that the slimmer neck needs a bled – one of those goofballs. Having my older brother play-
shade more playing time to settle in after changing strings. ing helped immensely.
The truss rod on our Special had never been touched, and it
needed tightening by a quarter turn when we received it. That TQR: Did you ever receive any formal training?
done, we strung it up with a set of Pyramid .010-.048’s and it
took about 10 minutes for the neck to settle down. Since then, No, no – my dad was in the Air Force, but by the time I start-


TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


ed playing guitar, we had settled in the country in Edgard, and some people don’t. People who are prone to buying
Louisiana. You’ve never heard of it – David Bartholomew whatever the current pop sensation is want to hear the hits all
was from there – the guy that arranged for Fats Domino and the time. Maybe they don’t like it, but it certainly keeps
wrote all those songs. It’s just a little town along the river in everything fresh.
Louisiana. Lots of sugar cane...
TQR: You and Camile are very complimentary players.
TQR: Louisiana is one of the most musically rich areas in
the world. Who were your local influences? Yeah, we don’t play at all alike. Before The Radiators,
Camile was in rock bands and I was in country rock bands. I
Songwriters... the stuff that Alan Toussaint wrote and then all was very into vocal harmonies, and I still am, which The
the famous New Orleans singers did – really cool songs… Radiators don’t do a lot
Earl King, and as far as just the sheer joy of playing music of. We’re not the
and having this energy just jump out of you that infects the singin’est fools on
crowd, Professor Longhair was the guy for that. I was lucky earth, so I was playing
enough to play with him a few times, and I was luckier still country rock stuff –
just to hang out with him a lot. Man, that guy was music! Buffalo Springfield,
There were lots of people like that. Jesse Hill was a nut, but Poco, Burrito Brothers,
he was a great entertainer, and then somebody like James Graham Parsons, and
Booker, who was just beyond description. His piano playing stuff like that. I was
was from another world. playing country rock
and rockabilly licks,
TQR: You all tend to have a pretty rich sensibility to your and he was playing
playing. blues and all rock stuff,
and for some reason our styles worked well together. And
Yeah, we were exposed to a lot of different kinds of music, even from day one – and this is not horseshit at all – we have
and you know, in the South, they make gumbo out of pouring this ESP thing going on that freaks us out to this day. It hap-
a lot of different things into a pot, and I guess that’s kind of pened last night several times. In the middle of a song that
what we do. we’ve played however many times, we’ll play a lick that nei-
ther of us has played before in that spot in the song. We’ll
TQR: You seem to have become associated with The play the same lick, and we’ll look at each other like, “Where
Grateful Dead, and the band is absolutely adored the hell did that come from?” Not only that, but sometimes
by Deadheads. How did that came about? we play them in harmony and it just freaks us out. We don’t
even really talk about it that much because we’re afraid we’ll
You know, musically, I don’t see it… but maybe it’s just from jinx it. But literally from the very first day we played togeth-
how we carry ourselves. We’re one of those bands that has er that happened.
always allowed people to record our shows, so then you get
tape traders, which becomes a thing – maybe it’s that. Or TQR: It seems like one of your signatures is kind of a
maybe its just that we’re into this free abandon, go for it kind sweeter bayou feel, for lack of a better term – triad
of attitude, with the jamming, I mean. Maybe it’s that and the 9th’s and 7th’s funk. And Camile, he just shreds.
fact that we kind of mix up blues and rock and country and He’s up and down the board and he screams. But
soul, because The Dead did too, to some degree. you tend to stay with the “in-the-pocket” riff…

TQR: You have a working repertoire of several hundred Well, my thing is, I never have been and never will be, nor
songs, just like they did, which must have its own want to be “Mr. Guitar,” where people say “Oh, look at that.”
challenges. I’m glad Camile does it, because then we have a guy in the
band who does it, and people dig it. I’m really only con-
Yeah, but you know what? As far as I’m concerned, if I was cerned with the song and what the song needs, you know?
in one of those bands that had to play the same 15 songs Trying to figure out something that helps the song along.
every night, I would go absolutely nuts! I couldn’t stand it. Thinking that way, I’m all about trying to think about
That might be another connection to The Grateful Dead. melody, and stay in the pocket. That’s definitely where I
People know that if we’re doing a 3-night run, at say, Great come from. Sometimes the song tells you. Talking about this
American Music Hall, they’re not going to hear the same ESP thing that Camile and I have, I think the song sometimes
songs from one night to the next. We’re going to do three tells you what it wants you to play. I can’t stress enough that,
nights and not repeat a song. Some people really like that, bottom line, there is nothing more important than the song.


12 TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


The fact that we play these same licks at the same time out of Yeah, I did, and I didn’t know anybody else that used them,
nowhere – that came from somewhere. Maybe the song dic- actually. I kind of stumbled on to them. I’m always looking
tated to us to play that lick right there, and we both heard it around for stuff, which is what’s cool about The Tonequest
the same way. Or maybe this is all bullshit (laughs). Report, because you can get all that information you would-
n’t get elsewhere. I don’t remember how I heard about them.
TQR: I don’t think so. I’ve seen it, and others who have I called them, and they told me if I would say that I used
seen you play see it as well. We’ve seen it in a lot their pickups, they would give me a set. I checked them out
of the great bands where the players are able to and I really liked them. My younger brother Tommy is a gui-
communicate in that way. tar player in The Subdudes. After I had my guitar stolen and I
wasn’t able to find another Strat that had that shape and same
Bottom line for me is, I try to play either melody or counter- neck feel, I got the ‘82 that I play now and Tommy actually
melody, or something that I think the song needs in the had his neck measured and cut exactly the same as mine, he
moment. I always try to stress doing something that works liked it so much. He has Lindy Fralin pickups, and I really
perfectly for the song, not necessarily just going off on the like the sound of them, so I might check those out. They have
guitar, although that is fun, too. But I can’t stress enough a nice sweet tone to them– a little bit hot – but not hot
that, to me, nothing is more important than the song itself. enough to be abrasive. They still sound very liquid, and all
the other words people use to describe Strats, but with a little
TQR: Let’s talk about guitars. Your main stage axe is the more “oomph.” So, since the stuff got stolen, I’m playing that
Strat… ‘82 reissue Strat. Fender was very kind to me. They sent me a
bunch of guitars and said “Try these, buy the ones you want,
Yeah… I might as well mention and send the others back.” I’ve got a sunburst ‘57 reissue
that last year at the end of Strat as my backup, and then I have a ‘62 Custom Tele as my
October our equipment truck was Telecaster guitar. The first guitar I ever bought was a ‘56
stolen. They got everything, and Tele, but I don’t bring it on the road – it stays at home. I
we’ve gotten nothing back so far. bought it when I was 17, paid eighty dollars for it and bitched
We’re getting our equipment back about the price! But that thing... I will not take it on the road.
together now. I had 7 guitars on
the truck, Camile had 3, and TQR: Do you still have the Melancon (pronounced muh
Reggie had 2 or 3 basses. My lah’ sah) – your “Melecaster?”
main guitar was a 1982 ‘57 reis-
sue blonde Strat. I think that was He makes really good guitars. I got the Melancon because I
the first year that someone at didn’t want to bring my ‘56 Tele on the road anymore. I
Fender got the bright idea to start played a bunch of Fender guitars at the time, and I couldn’t
making them like they used to, really find any I liked. I didn’t want to drop a bundle on a
‘cause everyone wanted those vintage Tele when I already had one, so I tried this Melancon
guitars, anyway. I think 1982 was and it was just perfect. That got stolen, too.
the first year they reissued the
‘57 Strat, and from what I can TQR: Those are custom made in Louisiana?
tell, that was the only year that
the neck had a lower profile. It’s not as stocky as my Yeah, a guy in Thibedeaux, Louisiana by the name of Gerard
Telecasters, and it’s just a breeze to play. Maple fretboards Melancon. He makes really good guitars. That was a heart-
are very unforgiving, and I just loved having having the breaker, too. I got that stolen and a couple of Danos and a
smaller profile Strat neck. I changed the pickups to Van Gibson SST – the electric acoustic with the star inlays in the
Zandts, and after the stuff got stolen, I couldn’t find one. neck. My backup Strat was a ‘62 body with a rosewood
Then my wife found one on eBay that was 15 serial numbers Telecaster neck on it. That got stolen, too. Somebody’s got
off from the Strat that was stolen. We were going to New some cool guitars out there, the thievin’ bastards!
York a week later – here, in fact, at BB King’s. The last time
we were here, the guy that had the guitar on eBay met me, I TQR: What about your Les Paul – it really sounded great
played it, and it felt exactly like my stolen guitar, so I was as at the show. It looks like a Special with a tune-o-
happy as could be. I think I’m going to change the pickups matic.
on it, too. They’re not quite right, but it plays like a dream.
They call it the TV Les Paul, with the P100’s. It’s not old –
TQR: Did you like the Van Zandts? about 10 years old, I guess. It screams, and I love that guitar!
Like I said, the first guitar I ever bought was a ‘56 Tele with


TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


a maple fingerboard, and those with Martin Simpson, the famous British guitar and slide
things are hard as hell to play. player, who is phenomenal. Reggie and I did some tracks
They’re very unforgiving, and you with him, and I also used the Gibson L50. I have a nylon-
better be right on, ‘cause they will string classical guitar that this guy in San Miguel de Allende
damn sure let everybody know that in Mexico made for me, and I have a turquoise Rickenbacker
you screwed up. Playing Gibsons to 12 – the pointy one. I think it’s the 360, and it’s just a beauty.
me is almost like cheating (laughs). I have a ‘62 reissue Strat in Sherwood Green, too. I also have
Fenders are harder to play, but it’s a bunch of old Silvertone amps, a tweed Vibrolux, a brown
very rewarding when you get some- Vibrolux, and a blonde piggyback Bassman that just kills.
thing out of them, you know?
Gibsons, to me – they’re just like TQR: Do you play on the Bass or the Normal side on that
butter. I’m still a Fender guy, but I amp?
do like that Les Paul. I’ve owned a
few Gibsons. I go in the Normal. The secret weapon for our last album was
this thing I kind of stumbled on to at Guitar Center in New
TQR: I was really impressed with the tone on that guitar. Orleans. It’s called a Pro
I noticed on your web site that you play some other Junior by Fender – a little
weird stuff – mando-guitar, baritone, some other teenie class A amp that
Danelectro… What other cool stuff stays home? just screams. For a little
amp with great tone, I
The mando-guitar I did bring on the road. That’s a thing this highly recommend it.
guy named Fatdog at Subway Guitars in Berkeley built for They come from the fac-
me out of old Danelectro parts. Basically, it’s 4 double cours- tory with kind of crappy
es of strings, but they’re set apart on a guitar neck, so they’re input jacks and controls,
spaced far apart. I tune it like the first four strings of a guitar like the plastic shaft con-
– I don’t tune it like a mandolin. It’s wacky sounding, but it’s trols, but you change all
real cool. I might bring that back on the road again. It’s just that stuff out and then
been sitting at home. Let’s see… at home I have a Fender 8- you’ve got a great amp. They’re so good sounding! We used
string electric mandolin – I don’t even know the model num- it more than any other amp, probably. For recording, they’re
ber. That’s going to go back on the road. I have one of those just awesome.
4-string late ‘50s Fender electric mandolins with the anodized
pickguard. They look like a tiny, shrunken Stratocaster, and I TQR: You got into the tweeds a little bit... Tweed
don’t believe they made a whole lot of them. Vibroluxes – you don’t see many of them.

I have a ‘68 cherry red Gibson 335 in mint condition, and No, this one has the original cover, it’s in really good shape
that is the most I ever paid for a guitar. It looks brand new. and it is a sweet, sweet amp. I love it, but that stays home.
The very first gig I played with it, I banged it into the mic
stand and dented the lower horn (laughs). I thought “Oh, OK TQR: And the brown Vibrolux, too…
– it’s definitely my guitar, now.” I also have a ‘65 Gibson
J160E, and I’m a real Beatles fanatic. Don’t get me started on Yeah. That stays home and I’ve had that thing for ages. It’s
that, ‘cause we’ll never stop talking! I really like that percus- gone through all kinds of changes, me messing with different
sive sound of the J160. They never were very good acoustic speakers after I blew up the originals. Back then, people did-
guitars, and I think they are more of a percussion instrument n’t think about “Oh, it’s a vintage this or that.” They would
with tuned strings. For that ching-ching-ching percussive, mess with their stuff, then they’d kick themselves in the butt
acoustic strumming thing that’s on the old Beatles records, later when they realized what they’d done. Everybody has
it’s perfect. That’s the sound. stories of guitars or amps they wished they had never gotten
rid of.
After all of my stuff got stolen, Anders Osborne gave me a
1946 Gibson L50. I had to get it tweaked a little bit and get a TQR: What’s yours?
new trapeze tailpiece for it, but when I strung it up, that gui-
tar was just saying “thank you, thank you!” It was so happy Oh, the best sounding Twin Reverb that was ever made, prob-
to be strung up again. I have a 1936 Epiphone Broadway ably. It was my amp for years when I was doing country
archtop with the off-center indentation on the headstock, and rock. You know, Twins are kind of clean. In fact, they’re very
a 1921 Martin 00018. I just used that doing some recording clean. But this one had that cleanliness to it but with a vibe


14 TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


and a warmth to it. I sold it, like a moron! I had a nice Super necting my splitter box up to the amps, that’s where I use them.
Reverb, old Les Pauls…
So, it’s the Monster cable from the guitar to the wah, then
TQR: Tell me about your Silvertones... George L’s patch , then a 3-foot George L goes around the mic
stand to the left pedal board, and then on some of those, just
Dickinson turned me on to this, and I think he got turned on to from me messing around with them, I like the sound of the
them from Ry Cooder. It’s the 1x12 Silvertone – I don’t even Planet Waves right-angle 6" wire. I just like the way they
know the model name – but the controls are mounted vertically sound, and I don’t know why. I’m just going by what I like,
on the right side, on the back. They are just great. I have one which is all anyone should do, really. No one should just say
that’s completely stock with the original speaker, and I have “Oh, I’m gonna do this because so-and-so does it.” Everybody
another one where someone modified the baffle and put in an should listen for themselves. I have a Planet Waves cable going
ancient 10" Jensen speaker that just kills. Then I have another back to my left pedal board to the Bayou Buff Box, and then I
one, which is one of those 1x15 Silvertones – the kind where have George L’s going to both amps and then another George L
the amp stores in the back of the speaker cabinet. The amp going up to my Korg rack mount tuner.
stores in the back, and these two little plastic things flip down
to keep it from falling out. It’s really goofy, but it sounds awe- TQR: How did the concept for the Bayou Buff Box
some! That big 15" Jensen just kills in that amp. All of these come about?
amps I’m talking about are really great studio amps, but they’re
not really loud enough to play gigs with. At some point, probably in
my rehearsal space just
TQR: Thanks for drawing out your signal chain (on hotel monkeying around, I
stationery). That really helped me get a handle on decided to see what two
what you’re doing with your effects. amps sounded like togeth-
er. I discovered that I real-
That’s something I’ve invested countless hours on. Years ago, ly like the spatial thing
people didn’t realize how drastically every little thing in your that two amps create, but I
signal chain affects the sound. I’ve experimented with all dif- also discovered that I really, really like this enveloping thing...
ferent kinds of cords, etc, and have hours of my life invested in When you stand in the middle of the sound with one of the
trying different stuff. Not to the degree that Eric Johnson does amps wet, meaning reverb, and one of them dry, it just creates
– like which battery sounds better – I don’t go that far. It’s real- this sound that I love standing in front of. And let’s face it, if
ly surprising when people realize that just changing a cord can you’re loving the way you sound, you’re going to play better.
change how their whole rig sounds. So, I experimented with all So, I did that, and at the time, I was using a splitter box, and I
was checking that out, and I noticed some serious signal loss.
It’s worse with the splitter boxes that they sell in the music
stores, like Whirlwind and Morley. They split your signal sure
enough, but you most definitely have signal loss. You have loss
in the high end and the low end gets muddied up compared to
going straight in. So I was thinking there had to be a way for
me to do this, because it wasn’t much better than a crappy Y-

that stuff, and I came to the conclusion that for my needs, I like I was talking to my brother John, the older brother who played
the Rock 500 Monster cable from the guitar to the input, which music before I did, who works in the physics department at the
is the first input into the Vox wah. Then I patch mostly little University of Virginia. He put together a splitter box, and
George L cables. George L’s are really good-sounding wire. exactly what you put into the inputs is exactly what comes out
You buy the wire in bulk, then you buy the connectors. There’s of the outputs. That’s what a buffered splitting box is. In my
no soldering – you clip the end off of the wire, stick it in the case, I need one in and three outs, because I use two of the outs,
connector, bend it through this thing and tighten up a knurled which are footswitchable off/on that go to the amps, and the
knob, and that’s how you make the cables. And they just sound third out is always on, which goes to the tuner. So I can walk
great. You have no loss in the high end, and all the low end, back to the splitter box, which is in front of my amps, step on
and the low end is no longer muddy. It really makes a big dif- the buttons to kill the two amps and go right to tuner. I couldn’t
ference. They’re not really good to use as guitar cables, find a box on the market that did that. So my brother John built
because the wire is real stiff, and I don’t think the connectors me one, it was stolen, and I was shit out of luck and back to
could take a lot of abuse, but for wiring pedal boards and con- square one. Kenny Lannes (Acoustic Analysis, Inc./KJL Amps)


TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


had called me years Right... they sound like crap. The Whirlwind is my backup.
before to tell me That’s the only one that’s even usable, but you can hear the
about his amps, but difference with that, too. Big difference!
I wasn’t interested
at the time, or TQR: When you go above unity, it really will drive the
maybe, too lazy or preamp in your amp and break it up a little quicker?
whatever. I called
him back and got Absolutely! I don’t do that a lot myself. I’m from the old
connected with school. I’m a stomp box guy – I love stomp boxes. The dry
Kenny, and I just amp is not distorted, really. A lot of people who use two
wanted him to make amps call them their clean amp and their dirty amp. I keep
me another splitter them both on at all times. My dry amp has got a little bit of
box. But then when dirt to it, but more of a warmth, and not really distorted. I get
I heard his amps, I any distortion I want from pedals, because I like my rhythm
went “Wow, these parts to be clean. I like that watery Strat tone, or whatever
sound good, man!” So we put our heads together and with other adjectives people use to describe that liquid Strat sound,
my input and his input, we’re going to come up with a modi- especially when you’re in the 2nd and the 4th position in the
fied version of his 60 watt head. I tweaked the tone circuits 5 way switch. If you have a lot of distortion on them, you
on it a little bit. He’s got a midrange selector that’s a “cut” lose all that stuff. I like my dry amp to be not too dirty.
knob more so than a boost. You can add mids when it’s all the
way off, and there’s a 6-way frequency selector switch. I cut TQR: It’s loud, but it’s not breaking up yet.
the low mud out with the mid range cut knob, and then I can
dial in the independent tone controls, which is very cool, and Right,
dial in whatever treble and bass I want and then cut that right. I
mushy100 Hz that sometimes just sounds like mud. get all
the dirt
TQR: So, you select, say, the 100Hz frequency on the 6- from the
way selector and then decide how much to cut out. stomp
Right. I just wanted him to make me another buffered switch- So my
ing box, but then we started talking about different circuits reverb
and he knows all that stuff so well, that he could tweak out amp I
the tone section to exactly how I wanted. I said “Well, shit, I kind of
want to start working with you, and I’ll use your amp as my discov-
dry amp.” At the same time, I told him about this buffered ered by
switching box that had been stolen, so we put our heads accident. I was in International Vintage Guitars in New
together and redesigned that and actually improved upon my Orleans and I had seen pictures of these Gibson GA-30s, and
brother’s design, because it used a transformer or something I plugged into it, and it freaked me out. Probably the best
to do the buffering, I think. With the new one, we have op sounding reverb I’ve ever heard. And that’s saying a lot,
amps where you can actually hit the front end of the amp because as I said, I did have the best Twin Reverb ever made
harder if you want, or lower, so the two outs going to the amp (laughs).
have a little volume control. It’s almost like having a gain
device stomp box on before you plug into the amp. So you TQR: And the GA tends to mesh well with the KJL?
can either set it at unity, which is zero, or a little less if you
want, or whatever. It’s very usable, and it sounds great. I’ve Yeah, very well. So I get the reverb from the Gibson and I
got the prototype now and we’re working on getting the fin- just stand in front of this wall of beautiful sound, and it really
ished thing done. If something like that is on the market I inspires me.
damn sure couldn’t find it, because I went all over the
Internet looking and in music store catalogs, and I found TQR: How do you power the Buff Box?
nothing like that.
Oh, just a regular 110 power cord. I was adamant about that.
TQR: I tried a Morley AB box probably 15 years ago to I’m on the third prototype right now because of all the
do a similar thing and I gave it up, because I could changes we’ve made. The first one was battery powered and
n’t make it sound good. that was a pain in the butt. I got away from batteries com-


16 TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


pletely, although truth be told, on some of the stomp boxes I low end a little
do prefer the sound of batteries, but it’s just too much hassle. bit and creates a
So on my very warm, cho-
right pedal rus sound. I real-
board, all ly like it. The
those ped- other kind of cho-
als are rus that I use
powered would be some-
up by that thing trying to
VHT Valvulator, which I don’t use in line. It’s got a tube in it simulate Leslie
that’s a little kind of preamp too, but I didn’t like the high sounds, and I’m
end sound of it, so I don’t use it in line with my guitar, but I using a Voodoo Labs Analog Chorus. I’m not totally sold on
do use it to power up the pedals. Before I got the buffered that, because one of the things that also got stolen from me
switching box, when I was using the Whirlwind, I would use was a Hughes and Kettner Tube Rotosphere. From what I’ve
the VHT because it would restore the high end from all the found, that’s the best thing, for my ears anyway, for sounding
long cable runs. Now that I have the buffered switching box, I like a Leslie. I also love the Electro-Harmonix Electric
don’t use it as a preamp anymore. I just use it’s power section Mistress, but it’s just noisy as hell and I can’t use it.
to power up the stomp boxes on my right pedal board. Then
on the left TQR: What about your MXR Micro-Amp?
board, I It’s just a gain thing – it adds a little dirt. I mainly use it as a
have a volume device when I want to just kick it in instead of using
Voodoo the volume knob on my guitar. And I can also kick that in if I
Labs want to get really nuts with the Tube Screamer or the Boss
Pedal Power 2. The new versions have little dip switches for Compressor-Sustainer, or the Boss Distortion, which I really
each output where it can do, like, battery sag. It’s very cool. like, by the way.
So it simulates my Tube Screamer. I have one that Analog
Man modified for me, with batteries. The harder you dig into TQR: Which? The Boss Distortion?
it, it dips a little bit and makes this cool thing. I don’t even
know how to describe it. Both of them – the blue Compressor-Sustainer or the orange
Boss Distortion. I turn the tone all the way off, turn the drive
TQR: Like compression? all the way up, and then mess with the level according to
whatever I need. You get that instant kind of Clapton “Strange
Yeah, and Voodoo Labs kind of simulated that somehow with Brew” kind of tone. I really like that pedal a lot. I also have a
these little switches for each of the outs for when you’re Boss delay I like quite a bit. My old pedal boards had all
using any kid of overdrive or gain device. these old stompboxes and they were all stolen, so I had to
start my research from scratch. I’m happy with everything I
TQR: I noticed that you’ve got a real broad functionality. have on the boards right now, with the exception of the Leslie
With your huge repertoire, you don’t just throw it simulation.
up on the neck pickup and call it good – you use a
variety of tones. TQR: Are you using the footswitchable boost on your
KJL amp? Kenny told me the amp footswitches to
Well, it’s not just for the songs – it’s just that I like sounds as max midrange boost.
much as I like guitar playing. I like the atmosphere that dif-
ferent sounds make, like a good sounding chorus used spar- No, I don’t use it. I set the amp one way and leave it there.
ingly, or whatever. I like sounds. I’m just crazy about that The Gibson has channel switching, too, and it has a great
stuff. sounding overdrive. I don’t use that either. I just get it from
outboard stomp boxes.
TQR: You mentioned chorus... I noticed your chorus tone
has a lot of nice clarity to it – all the lush and none TQR: Are you pretty pleased overall with the EQ on the
of the mush. Is that the Analog Man? KJL? From what Kenny described, he’s really
worked hard on that section.
For my slow chorus it’s an Analog Man clone chorus, yeah.
That’s a very lush sounding, warm chorus. It kicks in on the Yeah, the independent tone controls… I’ve played through all


TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


kinds of amps since my stuff got stolen, and I won’t even go harder with it if you want.
into the names. A lot of them sounded pretty much the same.
I noticed on a lot of them, for my ears, the bass control Oh, my brother Tommy had one of those! It’s tube, you say?
wouldn’t be usable past 3 or 4. After you turned it up past So it’s like an old rackmount Fender Reverb. I’m writing this
that it just turned into this low end mushy, thick, yucky stuff. down, because I’ve been looking for a good outboard reverb
You can use his tone controls pretty much throughout the full and I haven’t been able to find one.
spectrum, from ‘Off’ to ‘On’. We’re working on something
that might have a bigger power section. TQR: You can usually find them on eBay, although not in
large numbers. They usually sell in the $300’s…
For people who would want to have more amp distortion in They’re wonderful, and footswitchable, too.
the preamp section, this amp doesn’t really do that. Even if Matched with a Bassman, it’s a great setup.
you turn the preamp knob all the way up, it won’t get dirty
like some of the other custom amps I’ve played. Well, that’s good to know, because when I play my blonde
Bassman at home, I’ve been using this little Alesis Microverb
just because I couldn’t find anything that worked well. I had
TQR: You’re using the KJL Club Owner cab with the 12 an outboard Fender reverb, but I didn’t really like it.
and the 10?
TQR: What’s the future hold for you and The
That’s right, with Celestion vintage 30’s – one 12, and one
10. Those speakers are what I’ve had the most luck with, and
Well, our
I like the overall tone from bottom to top.
motto is “Too
stupid to
TQR: Besides the sheer trouble of getting up here to play
stop!” We’re
a gig in Anchorage, what are the challenges of
just going to
using rented backline amps, tonally? You sounded
keep doing
great, but it’s got to be a bitch not having your own
what we do.
We love play-
ing together.
That is another big reason why I put so much time and effort
We’ve never
into getting the pedalboards right. If you get a Twin Reverb
gotten to the
from a backline company... I don’t necessarily like those
level of a big
amps, but the Twin is a workhorse, and you can get them
superstar, but
anywhere. Everybody has them. If you can get one that even
we’ve been awfully lucky to be able to do what we love and
sounds halfway decent, then you can shape the sound with
make a good living at it. Whenever I get bummed out or tired
your pedals. Doing fly gigs, that’s really the only way to do
of all the airports and hotels and stuff, I just kind of remem-
it, unless you’re some superstar who can demand a certain
ber what a regular job feels like. My worst day at work still
amp. For a band that travels sometimes without our crew and
beats the best day at a regular job… My wife put it into per-
our gear, it’s nice to have your pedal boards and a nice fly
spective when I was bitching and moaning about something
case so that you can still sound like yourself no matter what
and she was just looking at me, shaking her head, saying
amp you play through. It would have to be a pretty shitty amp
something to the effect of “Shut up – if I had a job where
for Camile and I not to get a halfway decent sound out of it.
after I was through working, people stood up and applauded,
I would be happy as could be.” She has a point, there.
TQR: You sounded great in Anchorage. Of course, being
Anchorage, I wasn’t sure what you were going to TQR: Is the quest for inspiring guitar tone ever over?
get (they both played vintage blackface ‘65 Fender
Twins). I considered bringing my Bassman into No, and I think people should be aware of the fact that with
town just in case (laughing). very little effort, they can improve the way they sound. Even
the smallest things can make a difference. Just because a cord
When I’m using one amp, I try to get an amp that has at least works, doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing you should be
an OK sounding reverb, because I do like reverb. using. I am curious about the solid copper wire that Steve
Kimock is using… I’ve been thinking about getting a hold of
TQR: I chain up my Bassman with a Peavey Valverb, and
him about those…TQ
it does really well. It’s a rackmount tube reverb,
and it’s got master volume, so you can hit your amp http://www.radiators.org/

18 TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


techniques again), and the

Victoria Reverberato is the
shit, but it isn’t cheap either.
Enter the Electro-Harmonix
Holy Grail digital reverb
E very so often (not often enough), someone creates a tool
that inspires us with its extraordinary ability to do what
it was intended to do so well that it seems destined to become
unit. Buy one now.

We first spotted the Holy

an archetype among inferior pretenders. These small yet sig-
Grail tucked inside Peter
nificant discoveries are the bounty that awaits all who bravely
Stroud’s effects rack.
embark on the Quest for Tone (that would be you). As we
Anytime you can find a
continue to doggedly dog the tone, take comfort in knowing
monster player who has
that we will only bring home the good stuff. Bring it on
been doubly blessed with
dog ears and he happens to play in a band that affords him
the luxury of using anything made by man, it pays to pay
Yeah, Jimmy... Bring it on home. The last time we saw Led
attention. We did. The Holy Grail packs some big time,
Zep was in 1969 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum
believable spring reverb tone in a small and inexpensive
(‘Hoosier’ for a cavernous brick barn with a dirt floor).
package. We’ve been running the Holy Grail with our 1970
Jimmy Page had an Echoplex and a violin bow with him on
Park 75 50W head, and does it ever sound great! The springy
that unforgettable 3 hour gigjam, but the reverb was supplied
bounce is righteous, and the noise is tolerable. Yes, the Holy
by dual Marshall Super Leads and 24 celestial Celestions in
Grail is a little noisy. You won’t care. Features are simple –
the house. For two hours plus five encores, Page’s dual quar-
three settings on a small slider switch – ‘Spring,’ ‘Hall,’ (gen-
tets of red hot Mullard EL34’s unleashed a withering barrage
uine Fairgrounds bounce), and a wobbly weebly ‘Flerb.’ Like
of high-decibel Celtic code-talk upon our wilting innocence.
cheap tequila, the ‘Flerb’ sound is available, and the intended
The band might as well have been playing Madison Square
effect is intense, but we’re not sure it’s all that good for you.
Garden instead of Naptown’s horse palace that night (thank
No matter. The Grail has one big knob to control the depth of
you, boys). The crushing midrange snarl from Page’s Les
your reverb vibe, and that’s it. Power is supplied by a 9
Paul relentlessly smashed against the Coliseum’s glazed brick
volt/500 mA jack (power supply included), and you get a nice
walls, screaming highs blew north in a wailing, reverberating
little wooden box, all for the paltry sum of $99. The earliest
vortex of luuuuuuuuvvvvvv, whilst the lows thundered down
units made were not true bypass, but they are now. The Holy
upon the horseshit and dirt floor of the Fairgrounds with such
Grail is conveniently available from Analog Man, and since
hideous force that our hearts felt as if they would be stopped
digital effects aren’t usually his thing (there is no Digital
by the gut wrenching smack of Bonzo’s kick drum and John
Man), we asked him why he’s chosen to walk on the wild
Paul Jones’ bass pounding in our chests. Now, that was some
side by carrying the Holy Grail:
ass-kickin’ reverb.

TQR: Given your deep experience with practically every

Until now, you’ve had few good options if you wished to add
cool production pedal known to man, what prompt-
the ambiance of reverb to your sound. You could buy an old
ed you to start selling the Holy Grail?
Fender reverb box, buy
a new Fender reverb
We always try to offer any quality pedal that fills a void, and
box, or throw down big
the Holy Grail certainly does that. There is really no way to
money for a Victoria
build an analog reverb without using a traditional reverb tank
Reverberato. Or maybe
(a few have tried this in pedals with poor results to date), so
you have an old TC
as far as pedals are concerned, digital reverb has no real com-
Electronics reverb
petition. EH basically found a good chip (digital delay that
stashed away... Most of
can do all the processing with very little additional circuitry).
the the Asian digiverbs
It’s the Crystal Semiconductor reverb chip (CS4811), and it
have fairly well sucked,
isn’t very expensive. They built it up with just a few features
the old Fenders are
and it seems to do the job OK, except for a bit of noise at
dreamy enough, but
higher settings. If they have the (usually blue) switch with 9
expensive, the new
lugs and wires are used in all 3 rows, it’s true bypass. The
Fenders are not the
earlier models used a black switch with 6 lugs. TQ
same as the old ones
(modern manufacturing

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002


coming in the
Future Issues ToneQuest
Report TM

Editor/Publisher David Wilson

Associate Publisher Liz Medley
Graphic Design Rick Johnson
Joe Glaser

Stephen Bruton Analogman John Harrison

A Brown Soun
Doug Roccaforte
Roccaforte Amplifiers
Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson GuitarWorks Johnny Hiland Paul Rivera
FEATURE ARTICLES: The Gibson Custom Shop Mark Baier
Victoria Amplifiers
Gregg Hopkins
Vintage Amp Restoration
Rivera Amplifiers

Roger Sadowsky
The Blackstone Overdrive Jeff Bakos Phil Jones
Sadowsky Guitars Ltd.

Blackbox Effects Bakos AmpWorks Gruhn Guitars Tommy Shannon

Double Trouble
Joe Barden K&M Analog Designs
Joe Barden Pickups Todd Sharp
Chris Kinman Nashville Amp Service
AMPLIFIERS: Savage Dick Boak
CF Martin & Co.
Kinman AVn Pickups
Tim Shaw
Bogner Don Butler
Mark Karan
Bob Weir & Ratdog
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Maven Peal Zeeta The Toneman

Ernest King
Chris Siegmund
Siegmund Guitars and Amplifiers
Steve Carr Gibson Custom Shop
Carr Amplifiers John Sprung
Mike Kropotkin American Guitar Center
PICKUPS: TV Jones Mitch Colby
Peter Stroud
Duncan – Seth Lovers Ben Cole
Winn Krozak
Paul Reed Smith Guitars
The Sheryl Crow Band

Randy Volin
Tom Holmes Revisited GHS Strings
Sonny Landreth Rockindaddy’s Guitars
Larry Fishman
More From Lollar Land Fishman Transducers Albert Lee Donnie Wade
Jackson Guitars
Buzz Feiten Andy Marshall
THD Electronics Laurence Wexer
GUITARS: ‘58 Reissue Les Paul Bill Finnegan
Klon Centaur René Martinez
Laurence Wexer Limited
Fine Fretted Instruments

Baker Ritchie Fliegler

The Guitar Whiz
Lord Valve
Fender Musical Instruments Corp. Greg Martin NBS Electronics
Warrior Lindy Fralin
The Kentucky Headhunters
Buddy Whittington
TQR’s 2002 Acoustic Picks Billy F. Gibbons
Terry McInturff
Terry McInturff Guitars
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers

ZZ Top Don Young

James Pennebaker National Reso-phonic Guitars
Joe Glaser Nashville, TN
Glaser Instruments Zachary Vex
Scott Petersen Z Vex Effects
Harmonic Design Pickups

The ToneQuest Report TM (ISSN 1525-3392) is published monthly by Mountainview Publishing LLC, 235 Mountainview Street, Suite 23, Decatur, GA. 30030-
2027, 1-877-MAX-TONE, email: tonequest1@aol.com. Periodicals Postage Paid at Decatur, GA and At Additional Mailing Offices. Postmaster: Send address
changes to:The ToneQuest Report, PO Box 717, Decatur, GA. 30031-0717.The annual subscription fee for The ToneQuest Report TM is $98 per year for 12
monthly issues. International subscribers please add US $20. Please remit payment in U.S. funds only. Visa, MasterCard and American Express accepted.The
ToneQuest Report TM accepts no advertising and is published solely for the benefit of its subscribers. Copyright © 2002 by Mountainview Publishing LLC. All
rights reserved. No part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without the written permission
of the copyright holder. Please forward all subscription requests, comments, questions and other inquiries to the above address or contact the publisher at
tonequest1@aol.com. Opinions expressed in The ToneQuest Report are not necessarily those of this publication. Mention of specific products, services or
technical advice does not constitute an endorsement. Readers are advised to exercise extreme caution in handling electronic devices and musical instruments.

PO Box 717 Decatur, GA. 30031-0717 TM

TONEQUEST REPORT V3. N12. October 2002