Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 12


Thinking out of the box Our search for an affordable & exceptional Guitare damour 2007 Martin HD16R LSH 8 Delta Moon Rising How one top Atlanta band has shaped their sound by avoiding the obvious choices 11 Our interview with Tom Gray, Mark Johnson & Jeff Bakos 12 Dont fear the drill! On optimizing a keeper from Nazareth 16 Acoustic Pickups A few among too many in the quest to solve the improbable K&K Mini bridgeplate transducers Good if you can find it The Sunrise magnetic soundhole pickup L.R. Baggs Acoustic Para DI Preamp 19 Acousticamplification? Why you probably dont need an acoustic amp to jack up your favorite acoustic guitar

Mountainview Publishing, LLC

The Players Guide to Ultimate Tone
$10.00 US, March 2012/VOL.13 NO.05



Guitare damour
I dont get the ToneQuest to read about acoostic guit-tars. Anonymous Voice Mail Slow your roll now the title of this edition of the Quest is no feeble appeal to the kind of effete snobbery that suggests there must be genius at work behind the use of Francais on the cover. We aint taking on no airs. However, you may be interested to learn that a few hundred years ago an instrument existed that was called the Arpeggione, or Guitar damour a guitar-shaped 6-string violoncello with a fretted fingerboard, played with a bow. We must assume that this fascinating instrument was short-lived, as the complete repertory for the Guitar damour consists of a lone sonata composed by Franz Peter Schubert in 1824, and since there are no Guitar damours in existence today (except yours), most often youll hear Schuberts Sonata Arpeggione D.821 performed on recordings with piano and cello. Among those, we love the vibrancy of Mischa Maiskys cello, but we must bow to Mstislav Rostropovichs majestic tone coupled with Benjamin Brittens winsome and flirtatious piano for the ultimate Sonata Arpegionne (1968 Decca). We suggest you poke around a little bit and find your favorite youll be glad you did. Schubert was a 19th century bluesman by the way One of fourteen children and the son of a Moravian sharecropper, he was arguably the most melodic of the Romantic composers, yet his work was ignored for much of his short thirty two years on earth to the extent that he once resorted to self-publishing with the financial assistance of one hundred subscribers. If youre having trouble with the ladies or have begun to question your mojo in middle age, just about anything composed by Schubert will put things right, which is to say that your odds of being loved will dramatically improve as you discover a calmer and


cover story
more reassured inner you inspired by the soothing melodies of Franz Peter Schubert. Indeed, a good friend who is schooled in classical music refers to anything Schubert as panty remover. But perhaps not in Brooklyn Of course you know by now that we have no intention of featuring a romantic composer as the focal point of this issue, but we have deliberately begun our Quest with Frosty Schubert and the long forgotten Guitar damour to illustrate three very distinct points for your consideration as you turn the pages within, those being: dont assume that the most inventive contemporary music being made today has already fallen within your orbit you have to look for it; imaginative tonefreaks have lived throughout history, and the choices you may make today based on the most obvious, popular or convenient solutions will often yield the most common and ordinary results; and finally, the ability to create truly unique sounds is often born from the desire to explore and consider different sounds made by different instruments in the hands of different players at different times in history. Yes, we are suggesting that you maybe listen to a cello for clues to what it can teach you about the tone of your guitar. Phil Brown didnt just stumble onto the idea of a B-tuned guitar on the frayed edges of dawn after a Sunset Strip coke binge in 1984 he studied violin long before he ever picked up a Stratocaster. Our inspiration for what is about to unfold began with the idea of finding, acquiring and optimizing an extraordinary yet affordable acoustic guitar, amplified for your amusement. Seemed like a good idea at the time, one worthy of the better part of an issue having dutifully scoured the overgrown and over-fertilized landscape of new and used acoustic guitars, various pickup schemes and sources of amplification ranging from the obvious preamp into a house sound system, to amplifiers built expressly for the acoustic guitar. Our initial research proved fruitful. In a few days we had identified, found and acquired a specific model within the vast number that comprise the C.F. Martin line a 2007 Martin HD16R LSH which is Nazareth code for a Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood dreadnought very much in the style of a D28, but with a larger soundhole measuring 4.5 inches (hence the LSH designation). Much more on that wonderful guitar will follow. Once the guitar had arrived, we had a clear idea of how it would be upgraded, but research into pickup systems and potential sources of amplification left us feeling overwhelmed and disheartened. The feeling intensified when we asked one of our heroes who has made quite a splash with acoustic sounding guitars, Adrian Legg, what he might recommend to amplify and enhance the sound of our new Martin. His reply was typically thoughtful, ending with the sentiment that when it came to producing a realistic amplified acoustic sound from an acoustic guitar. I am not of the faith. Well, of course not. We had forgotten that he had forsaken playing true acoustic boxes years ago! More time passed as we poured over a mind-numbing number of solutions for a problem that cant be solved: How do you make an acoustic guitar sound like whats actually coming out of the hole on top with the volume jacked up? The under-saddle piezo is the most popular compromise, the problem being that the piezo picks up the direct source of sound from each string, but fails miserably at picking up the resonance and sympathetic overtones and harmonics produced by the interaction of the strings with the soundboard (top), fretboard and the body of the guitar (the acoustic part). Systems like the Fishman Ellipse that add an internal microphone to the under saddle pickup do a little better at adding a more ambient sound to the mix, but does it sound the same as a great microphone aimed at the guitar? No. More time passed as we allowed the idea of acoustic amplification to germinate in our mind like an endless loop playing in the background as we devoted out attention to other things, and then, one day, we were gifted with an epiphany, and his -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

cover story
name is Tom Gray. Shit. We should have thought of this so much sooner Well, sometimes we overlook what we already know under the illusion that complicating matters with hard work and self-doubt will always produce a better result. We have known Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, founders of the Atlanta band Delta Moon, for ten years. We have shot pictures at many of their shows, taken shots of their gear on stage and at one of their many recording sessions at Jeff Bakos studio, and interviewed Tom and Mark for a planned article that always seemed to be postponed as the composition of the band continued to evolve. In hindsight, there are no mistakes, because as we fumbled with the idea of producing an inspiring and inspired amplified acoustic sound from a guitar, we realized that Tom and Mark had been there and done that they just did it in a way that is seldom seen and for some reason, rarely copied. And to the relief of those among you whose interest in acoustic guitars and amplification may be limited, youll be glad to know that the conversations that follow are equally revealing when it comes to electric instruments. There are tons of valid clues to be mined from the experiences of the Delta Moon duo you need only open your mind to possibilities that may not have occurred to you, confident in the knowledge that all of this has been tested and refined on stage and in studio by two very talented player-songwriters whose experiences, experiments and passion are typical of a typical working band. Their music, however, is refreshingly atypical of the usual blues/ roots/Americana genre you may be accustomed to. Their most recent recording, Black Cat Oil, is no doubt a guitar record, flush with fascinating tones and extraordinarily potent vibrations. We invite you to log on to www.deltamoon. com and Enjoy Tom Gray is still remembered here in Atlanta and around the southeast as a former member of the Brains in the 80s, but he is also known by those in the know for having written Money Changes Everything recorded by Cindy Lauper. Delta Moon played that song last night and yes, Tom, you deserved every penny of that mailbox money. In addition to being a superb songwriter with a rough and tumble voice you can believe in, he is also phenomenally talented on Hawaiian guitars, Weissenborns and lapsteels, and his collection of guitars, steels, dobros, amps and gizmos is vast and deep. In other words, Tom is a guitar junkie. TQR: You started out playing piano and picked up the guitar later. How did that happen, Tom?

I started out playing piano because there was a piano in the house, but I picked up a lot of the music theory I learned from guitar players and playing in bands with guitar players. I was always very frustrated too because guitar players could bend notes and get those really cool sounds that I couldnt get with a keyboard. I was working up in Nashville and went into Gruhns, and at that time they had a little room where you could try out amps and they had some lapsteels in there as well. There was this one Supro lapsteel that was really cool, and I woke up the next morning and just had to go back and get it. I remember sitting around with that Supro and a tweed Deluxe and it was like Christmas (laughing). Suddenly I was just having the best time. TQR: And of course, you bought more

From there it became absurd. There was a little bit of a depression happening in the mid 80s in Texas and Oklahoma and my wifes family couldnt really understand why we would take a vacation there, but we got in the car and did a pawn shop tour of Texas and Oklahoma buying lapsteels and Dobros. We filled up a van and on the way home we stopped in Nashville and sold maybe a third of it and I kept all the good stuff. I also left some things on that tour that I wish I had bought, but when I went back the next year it was all gone. There was an old Dobro player who told me that you dont call a plumber a wrench collector just because he has a lot of wrenches. I was buying a lot of guitars, but I remember talking to Jerry Douglas in Nashville and he told me he had a roomful of lapsteels, and that sounded like a good idea to me. TQR: So what are the pinnacles among vintage lapsteels?

The early pre-war bakelite Rickenbackers are really great, -continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

cover story
not so practical for use on stage because of tuning issues under hot lights, but they have just the sweetest sound ever. The aluminum frying pans were really the first electric guitar and I have three of those. The pickups on them are way overkill because the amps back then were very under-powered, but the frying pans have a wonderful sound. The bakelites are still around, but it is rare to see frying pans anymore. The early Supro lapsteels are cool, but the later ones dont seem to have as much punch. I also have one Oahu Tonemaster that I just love, but its the only one Ive ever played that sounded good. For acoustics, the old Weissenborns have a great sound, and I like the old Martin Hawaiian guitars. They Smeck dont have as much sustain as the Weissenborns, but I think they may have a better tone, although a lot of them have been converted to Spanish-style guitars over the years. My favorite Spanish-style acoustic guitar is my Gibson Roy Smeck from the 30s. It was the first Gibson with that body size. There were two models mine is the Stage Deluxe model with mahogany back and sides and a spruce top, and the RadioGram is the rosewood model. I have recorded with the Smeck using a Sunrise pickup and I have also just miked it acoustically. You can mike that guitar with a live band and it stands right up. TQR: I know you have played on the same club circuit as Damon Fowler, and in addition to his old Gibson lapsteel he plays an old Harmony Strat-o-tone that is a formidable rumbler Yeah, Ive got one of those that I found in a little music store in Westchester, North Carolina. He had some lapsteels and an old brown Princeton that didnt sound as good as I had hoped. I bought an old Fender Champ lapsteel, a bakelite Rickenbacker and an old sheet metal Rickenbacker, and as Im putting them in the car the owner comes out and says, I got this other guitar I want you to have! No, I dont want anything else And he throws a Harmony Strat-o-tone in the back window of the car. Its got a great DeArmond pickup and I have the same pickup in a Harlin Brothers steel guitar that sounds wonderful. TQR: When I first saw Delta Moon you were playing your Martins. I have two of them one is an 0-18K from 1927 or 28 that is all koa, and the other guitar is an all-mahogany 0-17 from the mid 30s. I play both of those with Sunrise soundhole pickups. When we first got together Mark was playing an 0-16NY and an 0-18 that wasnt as old as mine and I liked to tease him about that. He was never as comfortable playing acoustics as I was and eventually he began to sneak in a Stratocaster. TQR: Perhaps your old Martins arent so unfamiliar to you, but they will probably seem exceptionally rare and unfamiliar to most players. Where did you find them?

Well, they are factory Hawaiian set up with a high ebony nut, the saddle is straight across rather than angled, and the frets are just markers, really, flush with the fingerboard. Most of the 0-18s were koa, and they built a fancier model with binding, but they are all 0-size bodies. The first one I bought in Nashville at Gruhns I bought another one as a player that had been converted to a Spanish guitar and I converted it back to a Hawaiian. TQR: And you also ordered a couple of Weissenbornstyle guitars from David Dart. How did that come about?

I have some old Weissenborns that are over 70 years old and they are just so delicate. The Martins are a little tougher, but I wasnt that easy on them either. Things just happen to guitars on the road, and I think I found out about David Dart on David Lindleys web site. I ordered a mahogany and a koa model, and I was really surprised by how different they sound. You would think that with the Sunrise pickup and the polepieces -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

cover story
being right beneath the strings that they wouldnt sound that different, but the koa guitar is much brighter, while the mahogany has a warmer, richer sound. TQR: Do you play one more than the other, and how long did it take for them to begin opening up? Not really. I just keep one in D and one in G. I specifically remember when they began opening up after a few months and it was remarkable to hear. TQR: And have you always used Sunrise pickups? TQR: What role does the Avalon preamp play in this set up?

I experimented with a lot of different pickups, but when I hit the Sunrise that was it for me. I tried different bridge (piezo) pickups and they have a good attack, but they dont have the sustain of the Sunrise. I never really felt like I needed anything else because with the acoustic instruments Im really doing a hybrid thing with Sunrise pickups going into an Avalon U5 preamp into a guitar amplifier Fender amps like a Pro Reverb or Bassman with a JBL-D130F 15. We played a club in Portland and the backline guy had the coolest amp an old Silverface Fender non-master Twin with two JBLs, but he said when he originally got the amp the speakers had red dust caps instead of the usual aluminum, and that amp sounded incredibly good. If I could have, Id have taken it home. I have also used a blackface Vibroverb, but that amp became too valuable to take out on the road, and I used a reissue Bassman that had been converted to a 15" speaker when I bought it. Jeff Bakos installed a Mercury Magnetics output transformer with multiple taps. TQR: You have also used a cut-down blackface Pro Reverb head with a single 15 cabinet

Well, I got that idea from seeing Tony Furtado using one. I tried a lot of different preamps, but that Avalon really seems to work well. Im going from the Sunrise pickup into the Avalon because you have to go into some kind of preamp to boost the signal before going into the amp. I use the preamp to boost the signal and adjust EQ. Its easier to get a sound when Im home using my own stuff, but on the road you cant just use your normal settings and assume that will work. You have to sweep the settings back and forth and get a sound for every different room. TQR: You have done something that is so unusual playing acoustic Hawaiian style guitars through standard Fender guitar amplifiers. Thats going to come as a surprise to a lot of people I know, and it seems like Im re-inventing it every day because I keep failing. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. TQR: In the context of an otherwise electric band and where you sit in the mix playing an acoustic instrument, it seems as if you especially need to hear yourself on stage, and that could be a challenge.

Yeah, I had two, but I lost one when our gear was stolen in Florida. The first one I bought out of a guys car in the parking lot of a music store, and it had been cut down to just a head. Jeff went over that and once again installed a Mercury with multiple taps, and I was using that with an old National cabinet loaded with a JBL 15 until it was stolen. Then I began using another cut down Pro Reverb head with the 1x15 pine cabinet I bought from you.

Thats why I like to have my amp right behind me and I use tilt back legs on virtually every amp I own. Since Im playing slide with a bar, I cant just do it visually I have to hear what Im playing. When we first started playing as an acoustic band I was holding down the bass parts and Mark and I were playing complimentary parts, sometimes playing slide in octaves. I would play very percussive parts on the low strings with a thumb pick to hold down the bass, and when we added bass and drums I had to completely change the way I play to avoid muddying the bass and drums. TQR: You also play a lot of festivals where there is typically no time to tweak or adjust anything before going on stage. Its more than a little ironic that -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

cover story
your obsession with tone kinda flies out the window for the gigs where you play in front of the biggest crowds of the year Yeah. We flew up to Michigan for a gig and the plane was delayed two hours, so we barely had time to set up without changing clothes, barely get tuned and go. It can be nerve wracking sometimes. You might get your guitar out of the case and the airline has banged the pickup out of the soundhole, and instead of getting tuned up youre looking for a screwdriver. TQR: Lets talk about tunings Yeah, with a Weber Classic Alnico 15" speaker. That amp works really well and I have used it a lot whenever we could carry our own gear. When we began to travel more often to Europe the Weissenborns became too much to deal with flying, and I started playing solidbody lapsteels because I could just put them in a gig bag and carry them on the plane. We were playing a festival in Denmark and the backline amp was a Fender Custom Vibrolux Reverb 2x10 that just sounded great with the lapsteels. The 15" speaker was right for the Weissenborns, but it wasnt as good a match with the lapsteels, so when I got home I bought a Custom Vibrolux Reverb. Playing gigs over here, Id rather have something I can replace for under $1000, and the Vibrolux sounds great. TQR: What kinds of lapsteels are you playing now?

I love to play in all kinds of open tunings, but in this band I just kind of went with what Mark was doing, which is basically G and D. We do a few songs in DADGAD, or sometimes well play a song when he is in G and Im in D, or one of us will capo up and the other one wont. Mark writes the sets and he does have to put some thought into what were playing. And another thing is, since we are often playing in open G and D, a lot of the songs wind up in the key of G and D, so you need to pay attention to that (laughing). At home I enjoy playing with a lot of the old steel guitar tunings like C6 or 8-string steel Jerry Byrd style or western swing stuff, but that doesnt fit what we do in this band. TQR: Describe some of the different paths you have taken in the studio.

I have an Asher Electro Hawaiian Junior one of the early models made in the USA. I think they may Asher be made overseas now. Its a single humbucking pickup model, but I really didnt like the sound of the original pickup, so I asked Lindy Fralin to build a replacement that I like very much. Its more of a P90-type that fits the original rout. Im also playing the old Strat-o-tone I mentioned, a single pickup copper one that weighs next to nothing. Its got the right vibe for what were doing. TQR: And youre using a bar with it, Hawaiian style. What else?

I have used the Roy Smeck guitar a lot in the past along with the Rickenbacker bakelite lapsteels, and I pulled out a chromatic dulcimer once for a track that needed something different. Amps we have used a lot of different amps. TQR: And a few years ago you discovered the VVT Lindy Fralin 40 watt 1x15 combo amp we had here for review.

Yeah, Im using a bar with the Strat-o-tone, and this year I also discovered the Moog lapsteel. I saw a video on Youtube by a Moog engineer named Cyril Lance who was describing this guitar hed developed that looked very interesting. I actually knew Cyril Lance not as an engineer, but as a guitarist, so I called him up and talked to him about it. He said it was funny that Id called because the Weissenborn-style body shape for the Moog had been inspired by a Delta Moon show he had seen where I was playing my David Dart guitars. TQR: How does the Moog work?

It does a lot. In the two pickups you have 12 e-bows one on each string for each pickup. The magnets cause the string to vibrate like a bow, and between the two pickups it can vibrate

cover story
in different ways bringing out different harmonics. You can keep the strings vibrating endlessly, or you can kill the sustain kind of like a banjo by putting them out of phase. The way Im playing it, Ive got my basic guitar sound, and I have the amount of sustain assigned to a foot pedal so you can bring the sustain in a little or a lot. Its almost like controlling feedback in a way, because you can control it so the octave harmonic sustains rather than the fundamental, and you can set it up so that only the string you are playing sustains, or all 6 will sustain. I like using that setting because Im also using hand muting techniques that you would use on a normal lapsteel. TQR: And youre using the Custom Vibrolux with the Moog sound. One time we A/Bd my Skylark with Jeffs and Marks and they all sound good, but his has a fatter sound. Im a big believer in small amps in the studio so everybody can get in the same room and play together without the volume getting out of control. TQR: And you like to record that way rather than laying down bed tracks and doing a lot of single tracking.

We do some overdubbing, but so many times we have gone in and I have just played what I thought was a too simple and too stupid basic part just to stay out of the way and let the bass and drums happen, and then we go back and we discover two things: first, the simple and stupid approach was the right one and I cant improve on it, and second, there is just a vibe that happens when youre all playing together. TQR: Trying too hard to make things perfect in the studio rarely seems to work.

Yeah, and the tilt back legs work like a 10 dB boost that only I can hear. TQR: You guys have access to a lot of guitars and amps when you record so many that its almost cheatin.

Jeff Bakos has a lot of heavily modified amps in his studio and they all have their own sound. There is a little room just off the control room where Jeff keeps some amps and Mark will often use whatever he finds in there. Ill tend to find a sound using two or three amps and stick with it unless something isnt working. I have a range of sounds I go for, but Im not as experimental as Mark is. On the latest recording I used a little Supro Super and a Gibson Skylark along with some other things that Jeff may have pulled out. I used the Strat-o-tone a lot on this album, and I think I played one acoustic guitar track with a newer 0-16NY with a solid headstock. TQR: Marks Skylark is a beast Yeah, someone put a larger output transformer in Marks Skylark and it has a different

Yeah, you make things perfect until you just kill em. Its like a butterfly pinned on the table. The next thing you know the suns coming up and dogs are barkin and youre thinking, What have I done? (laughing) TQR: How would you describe the overall sound and feel of your new album, Black Cat Oil?

Well, I think its the best weve ever done. I guess I would describe it as having a more organic sound Our bass player Frahner Joseph is playing upright on all but one track, and that kind of sound typifies what were doing. I dont know that there is a name to describe it, but examples I can think of are an album by the Blind Boys of Alabama titled Sound of the Century, and John Hammonds record produced by Tom Waits called Wicked Grin T-Bone Burnett also goes for that kind of sound TQR: Mark mentioned that Jeff was using all his old mikes and Ampex tube mic preamps during the sessions. -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

(Laughing) Yeah, we were talking to Jeff about what we wanted to do and he said, OK, Im going to make a cut off at 1963 as far as any of the gear we use. Jeff is a real student of old-school recording using two mics on the drum kit and one on the kick. He knows all about how all those old records were recorded. TQR: So youre about to head overseas again and Europe has become pretty big for the band. What kinds of challenges do you deal with overseas?

Slide On This
Mark Johnson grew up in Ohio, home to legendary guitarists Joe Walsh and Glenn Schwartz. The Delta Moon bio makes a point of pointing out that Mark also happened to grow up in a trailer park, which isnt all that unusual in the Midwest. Without trailer homes, where would the tornadoes go? Mark is also a good friend and a member of our advisory board who has always generously shared his ever-changing gear stash with us for your amusement, and his deft, finger-picking bottleneck slide style is deadly. TQR: Lets talk about how you and Tom first got together

We fly over with our own guitars and the drummer will take his cymbals and maybe a pedal, but we never can be sure what were going to get. In Germany well have a backline company and use the same gear for that tour, but every now and then youll get something that you didnt expect and you just learn to deal with it. Denmark was the same way. Were going to Italy in a couple of weeks to do a club tour which weve never done before, and our booking agent has told us that every club has their own gear, so that should be interesting. a TQR: What do you and Mark ask for? We ask for Fender amps because they are the most universal. For me, if I can get a Custom Vibrolux Reverb like Im using here thats great. My second choice would be a blackface Deluxe, and I think I have a Blues Deluxe as a third choice. Any of those will work because were not really a loud band. TQR: Do you still play piano on stage? Not lately, but if you can play piano its a great way to meet people and make friends in the clubs and bars in Europe. There is usually a piano around somewhere and the next thing you know its late, the doors are locked, youre drinking for free and having a great time. Weve got two trips already scheduled this year that will take us to Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and well be going back for a festival in France in July. We also have a tour this summer in Canada, and of course well be playing here in the Southeast. TQ

We met in the parking lot at Midtown Music. I think Tom was going to sell a Dobro to Dave Tiller and as he was leaving I came in and Dave said that Tom was a guy I ought to get to know since he was into the same music I was. At that time I was just getting into lapsteel and I began taking lessons from Tom. He lived in the same neighborhood and before long we were getting together in the living room just playing Blind Willie Johnson and Fred McDowell songs, and we realized that we shared a common interest in all this old slide blues music from the 20s and 30s. I hooked up with Jenna, our former vocalist, and the three of us began playing as a trio in coffee shops. At that time it was all acoustic I was playing an old Martin 0-16NY and Tom was playing a couple of 20s Martin Hawaiian guitars. TQR: Were you just miking the guitars through a house PA? No, we had both gotten turned on to the Sunrise soundhole pickups through David Lindley. Tom was running through an inexpensive tube mic preamp before he began using the Avalon preamp, and from the preamp he was going into a Peavey Delta Blues 1x15 combo while I was using a Pendulum preamp into a blackface Princeton Reverb. The Pendulum was a real high-end preamp and I really -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

didnt use a lot of the features in it, just for the parametric EQ and the notch to get rid of feedback. TQR: How did things evolve from there? Yeah, Im all Jerry Jonesd out. I have three of his guitars and the mando guitar. I have had several mando guitars and very few people are making them anymore. Ive played a Vox mando, a reissue Vox, and I think the Jerry Jones is the best Ive ever heard. I see them called both mini 12s and mando guitars, but its essentially a mini 12-string. I keep it tuned to D, and I read an article on how Ry Cooder plays one but only has the high E and the B strings doubled, so I ended up doing the exact same thing. You still hear the chime on the top and your ear still hears the sound of a mandolin, but the bass strings are much easier to play without the octave strings. TQR: How has your choice of instruments and amps evolved in the studio?

We started playing Blind Willies on Sundays and we eventually snuck in a little jazz drum kit. I was also playing my 1956 Martin 0-18, but I eventually stopped taking that guitar out for fear that it would get damaged or stolen. It happens. As the volume of the band slowly started to come up a little I saw a video of Lightnin Hopkins playing his acoustic style on a Stratocaster and I also read an article with David Hildago talking about playing electric instruments in an acoustic style at low volume. Thats when I decided to simplify my life and bring in electric guitars. I used a variety of guitars and eventually discovered a late 90s Jerry Jones 3-pickup guitar I call Old Red that just sounds amazing. I went through a lot of amps and settled on the Balls M18 2x12 combo that has great tremolo and breaks up at a fairly low volume. TQR: You dont seem to play Strats so much anymore.

Yeah, I started playing Telecasters more. The high E string on a Tele doesnt seem to sustain as much so you have to work it a little bit, but to me it seems to cut through with a bolder sound than a Stratocaster. Its easier to find your place in the band, and I usually stay on the bridge pickup. I dont seem to like the sound of single coil pickups combined all that much, and I dont use them in combination on the Jerry Jones. I play a 63 Custom Shop Lake Placid Blue Tele that has had a lot of things done to it, but if I had left it alone it would have been just fine (laughing). I have Don Mare pickups in it and I have replaced the bridge plate with a Glendale, but I think the Callaham bridge may have a fatter sound. That guitar was built in the first year of the Custom Shop and its just been great from day one. I also have a Custom Shop Thinline Nocaster, and a Rick Kelly Carmine Street Tele made from 100 year-old pine thats very cool, but I havent spent a lot of time playing it yet. TQR: You also pulled out a Jerry Jones mini 12 string last night.

I dont think I have ever used a Stratocaster in the studio or a Tele either. I usually pull out different guitars like a Historic SG with two P90s that have been changed to Lollars, and a Historic Les Paul Junior that is stock. A lot of times Ill use Gibson amps Ive got two GA-20s, a GA9 1x10, and a Skylark with a beefed up output transformer. I have also used a 60s Ampeg Gemeni I with the original Jensen Concert 12 speaker. We didnt do it so much on this latest recording, but we usually split our signal in the studio to an amp and direct into the board and then take that direct recording and run it through a re-amp box. It converts the direct signal to the same impedance of a normal guitar signal and from the box we will send the direct track to another amp and combine it with the track we recorded through the original amp. That really works well and allows you to concentrate on the groove of the recording rather than spending a lot of time cutting overdubs with different guitar sounds. TQR: Yeah, re-amping. Kenny Greenberg talked a lot about that when we interviewed him. What other guitars have you used?

I have a Supro N-800, an early 60s two pickup Crucianelli Elite, and various other weird guitars. Black Cat Oil is almost all the red Jerry Jones. For amps I just peeked into the bathroom next to the control room at Jeffs studio to see what he -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

had set up. He had his Gibson GA-40 amp in there and within about a day we added a stock 63 Fender reissue reverb tank and that was the sound with the Jerry Jones no pedals, but we used the tremolo on the GA-40 a lot. The 5879 preamp tube in the GA-40 also started to get microphonic and produce some crazy overtones after wed had the amp on all day, which added some cool sounds until we had to shut it down. TQR: And more recently on stage youve been using the Swart Atomic Space Tone. one of the swampiest tremolo pedals I have used and it doesnt add any gain, so youll either like that or you wont. I also have one of the first Swamp Thang tremolo pedals and thats really good. More and more lately Im experimenting with fuzz and distortion because were playing at lower volume levels. The Klon will overdrive the amp but it also increases the volume, so Ive been using fuzz and overdriive pedals set fairly clean. Last night I used the Jam Big Muck overdrive and I was really digging that sound. Its a knockoff of the original Big Muff. TQR: So basically youve gone to fuzz and distortion effects set so that when you need a little more dirt and sustain, the volume of the guitar isnt jumping up in the mix on stage.

A lot. Were getting our stage volume down because in most of the places we play were miking the amps and the Swart has just a great, round tone, great reverb and tremolo. I will still use the Balls at Blind Willies, which is more of a raucous blues bar, but for the most part its the Swart. Im also thinking about perhaps getting a Swart AST Pro. TQR: Do you have any difficulty making the adjustment from the quieter listening room gigs to the louder house rockin vibe at places like Blind Willies?

Exactly. TQR: And you use a tremolo pedal even with an amp that has tremolo like the Swart so that you can have one speed set on the amp and another on the pedal otherwise youd have to change settings on stage or rearrange your set list to do it on a break.

Not really. I think the more subdued gigs are actually more difficult. At Blind Willies we hit the dance factor right away and once you have a few of the ladies up boogeying you know its just going to be a party the rest of the night. Weve been doing a lot of semi-acoustic, low volume shows like at Eddies Attic recently that have been really successful, and the beauty of it is that there are a lot of songs we have written that you just cant get away with in a blues bar. We have one foot in Americana and another in the blues, and in this country things seem to be divided that way. In Europe, its just all American music. TQR: Lets talk about effects, past and present.

Yeah, thats it. The one problem with the Swart is that the controls are in the back, and you dont want to be reaching back there trying to change things during a song. TQR: You were using an RMC Teese wah last night, too.

I have always used a Klon just to fatten things up, and I have used several tremolo pedals the Demeter Tremulator is really good and Ive used it for years. Another good one is the BFD that stands for blackface deluxe that was made by BadCat. I dont think it is made anymore but its really

Yeah, I have a Teese Wizard wah and the RMC1 is my favorite. It sounds rounder, but Im always looking for another wah. I dont know how familiar your readers may be with Earl Hooker, but there is a direct line from Tampa Red to Hooker, to Mick Taylor. Thats where Mick Taylor got his vibrato, and if youve ever heard Earl Hooker play slide with a wah its just amazing. A lot of the sacred steel guys use wah pedals mostly the Morley wah. People love the sound of a wah with slide guitar, and Im, not just rocking it to the tempo of the song. I kind of move it around the sweet spot in the notch to create a vocal character to solos. Its a subtle thing. -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012

TQR: Youre headed for Europe again soon. What will you take? to be universal Black Cat Oil is their best. We called Jeff at 6:30 on a Friday and he was still in the shop working with a headset on, so we asked him about the Delta sessions TQR: I spoke with Mark and Tom and it sounds as if you kept things very simple for the Black Cat Oil sessions

Definitely the Jerry Jones and probably the 63 Tele. I think Im getting a reissue Bassman in Germany, but Ill be asking for something like a Deluxe Reverb in other places. Our booking agent has a tweed Bassman and a Peavey Classic 30 so Tom and I will try to beat each other to the best amp (laughing). Germany is our biggest market in Europe, so whenever we get over there we try to branch out into other countries. We have been selling CDs in Europe for years through online music sites in Germany. The first time we went there we were standing around outside a club trying to decide where we were going to eat and a couple recognized us and asked us to sign copies of our CDs. That was completely unexpected. Traveling over there is something we always look forward to, and we are really treated well, not as tourists, because were there to work, but we do get to spend time with people in their homes and enjoy the friendships weve made. In some respects American music is in our DNA and perhaps its taken for granted more here, but in Europe they are really very passionate and knowledgeable about the kind of music we play. TQR: And thats what you play for to make that magical connection with your audience.

Yeah, Mark wound up playing through my old GA-40 for most of the record. You know that one its a late 50s/early 60s tweed model. I originally had the chassis and Greg Hopkins at Vintage Amp Restoration built a 1x12 cabinet for it. I had to replace the output transformer, so I used a Mercury Magnetics clone of an original, and I used an original Jensen Vibranto, which is one of the holy grail of guitar speakers. That amp is magic, and once Mark started playing through it he couldnt stop. TQR: He mentioned that as the amp stayed on all day the 5879 preamp tube began producing some very cool harmonic overtones.

Yes, it is. What could possibly be better than traveling the world playing the guitar? TQ


Bakos Ampworks & Studio

Most of you are already familiar with Jeff Bakos and a lot of you have sent amps to him for obedience training and charm school. Yes, a bad sounding amp isnt so much different than a misbehaving dog both are hard to ignore until you either get em fixed or pass them on. Jeff also operates a busy recording studio that contains his extensive collection of classic amps, microphones and tube mic preamps from the 50s, and hes a very experienced and accomplished bass player. A lot of Sean Costellos recorded work (and the best of it) was recorded here, and if you play the blues and dont own any Sean Costello CDs, well, what are you doing? Delta Moon has also recorded five albums with Jeff, and the verdict seems

Oh, yeah (laughing). Those sessions wound up being all Gibson amps. Mark also used the Big Daddy the Gibson Medalist. Its a big, tall 2x12 with dual 7591s, the power amp is in the bottom and the controls are on top. Then we used the GA-5 Skylark mostly for Tom, and he also used his 50s bay window - the Gibson GA-79 Stereo amp. Im a big fan of recording with Gibson amps. This is what the fifth record weve made together, so we talked about how we were going to do this. I mean, John Mellencamp recorded an entire album using one mike in the room, right? Once source, Daniel Lanois kind of recording So we decided to use all the old tube mic preamps I have in that rack here 600s, 601s, 350s and 351s. I used the 351 on Marks tracks. TQR: They mentioned that you used three mikes on the drum kit Yeah, an overhead, the kick drum and a room. And we decided to stay with the upright -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012


bass except for one song. This is record number three with Tom playing lapsteels instead of the acoustic guitars, and Tom is a great singer with so much personality. You just believe it, and he can really front a band. In the past with Jenna it got to be more about her, and where they are now is just perfect. They can hold their own with bands like the Black Keys and all the other bands that work in that style. Hey, man, acoustic guitar amp? Run it through a Twin Reverb. Mark and Tom are playing slide so you need sustain, and with Toms sound we always played with it to get some tone, feel and character into the sound of the guitar instead of just this dry acoustic-electric sound. We would crank up a tweed Deluxe sometimes, the Bassman or the blackface Pro with the preamp and a 15" speaker and that was the sound. Toms got it nailed. We always ran through an amp. He had his Pro modified with a multi-tapped output transformer and I got the big Mercury Magnetics Bassman version for more headroom. But dont get me wrong the original Pro Reverb style output transformer is a great sound, too. Some people dog it, but you know as well as I do that the blackface Pro Reverb is a very underrated amp.TQ Eventually we made our way to Atlanta, which encouraged occasional road trips to Nashville to troll the music stores and pawn shops around Broadway, where we acquired a late 60s D28 at Huegleys Music Store in 1975. For the amusing full story, see the TQR May 2001 cover story titled Frownin Elvis Jimmy. In the world of 70s rock, Jimmy Page did a lot to boost the popularity of Martin dreadnoughts, along with Keith Richards, Stephen Stills and of course, Neil Young. We bought our D28 for $400, traded it down the line for something now forgotten, and bought a used 60s Martin 0-16NY in the early 80s as a workout tool to fine tune our fingerpicking skills. On the way home from Nashville one summer we also scored a 1952 Gibson J45 at Chambers Music on the southside of Chattanooga that we still own today. The point is, while we have not routinely featured acoustic guitars in TQR to the extent that we have covered electrics and all the gear that they require, our appreciation for the sound of a great acoustic guitar has never waned. We also interviewed Dick Boak, an employee at Martin since 1976 who began his career as a design draftsman. Well, actually, Dick launched his career opportunities at Martin by dumpster-diving behind the factory and building dulcimers and other oddities from a lot of high-dollar scrap that was thrown out each day. Eventually one of the foremen began saving special pieces for Dick, and when he asked to see a few samples of his work the foreman was impressed enough to suggest that he apply for a job. True story. Over the years Dick has also worked as a builder of prototypes, manager of Martins in-house advertising department and print shop, museum exhibits, and as the company archivist before becoming manager of Artist Relations and Publicity. Dick is also a charter member of our advisory board, and he co-authored two essential references with Richard Johnston in 2008 titled Martin Guitars: A History, and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference. Both are highly recommended. TQR: Without referring to the two books you co-authored on the technical specs and history of Martin guitars, comprehending the nomenclature that has developed over two centuries can be daunting.


The Long Road to Nazareth

Even during the late 60s and early 70s when teen rock bands were definitely not playing the kind of music usually associated with Martin guitars, the Martin print catalog was a thing of mystery and intrigue that we treated with deep reverence and respect. A bandmate in 8th grade actually owned a 60s D18, but the closest any of us ever got to the more expensive dreadnoughts were the pictures in the catalog, or from the wrong side of a velvet rope that separated them from the unwashed and unworthy at Arthurs Music on the southside, where the country pickers lived, worked and played. To a couple of high school kids in a garage band in Indiana, Nazareth, PA might as well have been Prague or Vienna.

Basically there are two things to consider, the first being the -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V .13 N.05 March 2012