Early B-52s guitar tone

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Always-Ben, May 3, 2016.

  1. Always-Ben

    Always-Ben Supporting Member

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    hey guys,

    Now, as far as I know, Ricky Wilson of the B-52s had a lot of things that made him stand out, such as his weird tuning and playing essentially as both a bass guitarist and lead guitarist. But he also had a nice distinctive guitar tone to go with. If you listen to all the on their self titled debut album, specifically songs like Planet Claire, 52 Girls, Hero Worship, 6060-842, he has that tone that's somewhere between dirty and clean, like a cranked amp, and a very percussive sound. While I don't think I need to replicate his exact gear, I do want suggestions on what guitars (and any other accessories) could get me in the ballpark of that tone)?





     
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  2. MKB

    MKB Silver Supporting Member

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    Not sure of the amp, but iirc he was fond of Mosrites back then. That and a cranked Fender might get you in the ballpark.
     
  3. Always-Ben

    Always-Ben Supporting Member

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    I've tried Mosrited before and their necks are just way too flat for me and my big hands :/

    I do like their single coil punch factor though, what other guitars may get somewhere in that range?
     
  4. straightblues

    straightblues Member

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    He played without the D and G strings on his guitar. He had some weird alternate tuning.

    Here is a little interview with him:

    i can tell you something about ricky's "style." i spent some time with ricky. we were playing different things and he kept trying different tunings. after a while i said, "well, why don't you just try standard tuning and maybe we can come up with something interesting that way too?"

    he said, "i don't know standard tuning" so i said, "well, what tuning are you in, (G?, D?, etc...) and i can show you how to get to standard tuning from there" and he said, "i don't know what tuning i am in."

    I said, "huh, you don't know what tuning you are in? how do you write songs?" and he said, "i just tune the strings till i hear something i like and then something comes out". (mind you, we had just been jamming for an hour or so and had been working fine together)

    so i asked him, "well, how do you replay the songs you have written, like rock lobster? do you write down the tunings?" and he said, "no, i don't write anything down, and i have no idea how the tunings go." i was flabbergasted and i asked him, "how the hell do you play the songs again then", and he said (in all seriousness), "i don't know!"

    a true story. and the nicest guy you would ever meet. i still don't know how he did it but every time i saw them live it was a complete blast, and they drove me nuttier than a sane man ought to get, jumping around dancing and screaming. (mind you i got pretty stoned back then). what a great band.

    if you try to cop ricky's style, you are in for a hell of a figure out. good luck. make your own magic.


    Here are a couple of videos that might put you on the right path.



     
    Last edited: May 3, 2016
  5. erksin

    erksin Member

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    You might look into Hallmark Guitars - their necks are a fair bit more substantial then the vintage Mosrite broomsticks.

    http://www.hallmarkguitars.com/guitars/60-custom.shtml

    I've got one and it's neck isn't too far off from a lot of Strats I've played.
     
  6. Always-Ben

    Always-Ben Supporting Member

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    How substantial? I prefer necks that are at least .85" in depth at the first fret.
     
  7. Pointy Headstock

    Pointy Headstock Member

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    I saw Ricky with the B-52s a couple of times in the early- mid 80's (best concert I've ever seen was the B-52's with the Ramones opening at the Philadelphia Zoo in...82?).

    His guitar tech is (or was) married to Ricky's sister Cindy, but it seems that talking about Ricky remains difficult for both of them so info is hard to come by. Here's my guesses at how to get close to his sound:

    * Telecaster. Ricky used several guitars during the course of a live set- I remember him using a tele at least as much as his Mosrites when I saw him @ the zoo (Whammy?). I don't remember him using Mosrites much at all when I saw him @ Temple University about 3 years later (Bouncing off the..?).

    * Fender Princeton or Deluxe. Ricky had a small combo amp sitting on the stage floor both times I saw him. If I had to guess, I'd say that it was a Silverface Deluxe, but I could be way off on that.

    * Echoplex. He definitely used tape echo on several songs and I suspect that the "somewhere between clean and dirty" tone you reference was him using an Echoplex preamp to overdrive his amp input.

    * Long guitar cable. I remember at the zoo show he had a super long guitar cable - at one point he started to twirl around until he wrapped himself from his ankles to his waist in his cord.
     
  8. Pointy Headstock

    Pointy Headstock Member

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    Lots of good shots of Ricky's guitars in this concert footage from 1980. There's a pretty clear shot @ 8:30 during Give me Back My Man where you can see all of his guitars lined up. At this point it looks like he had several Mosrites including the blue one that was on the back of the first album, a sunburst one, and a 6 &12 string double neck. Also looks like he also had a Danelectro and an Epiphone Coronet (which Kate plays on 52 girls). Great performance from Cindy both on vocals and dancing on this particular night as well.

     
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  9. Polynitro

    Polynitro Member

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    those early Mosrites had rather unique pickups. Really overwound (like 15K) but with really small wire (45 gauge)

    there used to be a guy on Ebay that worked for Semi Mosely who was making pickups to the exact specs as the early ones.

    Listen to The Ventures Live in Japan 1965, Nokie used his Mosrite into a cranked fender blonde amp
    That tone is awesome! Dirty, and midrangey not unlike a p90. at times it reminds me of Pete's Live at Leeds tone.

    the necks on those are really small though. LIke unplayable small.

    but the pickups and the trem system is why those Mosrites were great guitars.
    the trem system is similar to a jaguar/jazzmaster but the strings hold pitch
    as you bend down. You can hold a chord, bend down and the chord will be in tune, just lower.
    picth.
    Very underrated trem system.
     
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  10. paulbearer

    paulbearer Member

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    "Why don't you dance with meeee? ....I'm not no Limburger!!!"

    great sound. now I have to go work on some.
    thx for the thread!

     
  11. fretless

    fretless Silver Supporting Member

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    Great show. They sound awesome here. Thanks for posting that!
     
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  12. moosewayne

    moosewayne Supporting Member

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    I know for a fact he used a silver faced Deluxe.
    At least at some point he did.
    I don't think he was much of a gear hound the way we are.

    They, much like their contemporaries Devo, never really got the recognition for how good a band they were.
     
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  13. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson ¿Qué Hiciste? Silver Supporting Member

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    These are the girls of the U S A
    Great thread, thanks
     
  14. Crowder

    Crowder Dang Twangler Silver Supporting Member

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    On the one hand, stuff like this makes my head hurt. It's so different from my way of understanding music. On the other hand, doing things his own way led to such a pure expression of music, and music that so many people love, that you can't just dismiss it. It's sort of beautifully stupid, if that makes sense.
     
  15. frisco kid

    frisco kid Member

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    Can you name, name, name, name them today!
     
  16. fretless

    fretless Silver Supporting Member

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    No doubt. I would argue both bands, especially Devo, have some real genius level creativity about them. Totally overlooked, certainly around these parts. If I never see another thread about Robben Ford or Bonnamossa I'll be a very happy guy!
     
  17. Always-Ben

    Always-Ben Supporting Member

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    That percussive tone though...surely there's more to it than a Mosrite/Tele through a Fender? Did he use extra heavy strings? A huge pick? From the videos, he does look like he's hitting those strings pretty hard too.
     
  18. RolandKorg

    RolandKorg Member

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    My lord, what a fantastic thread. Thank you for these memories.

    Brilliant band. With an idiot savant guitarist. 4 strings, and that Dance This Mess Around playthru had me beaming and screaming along with it. Genius. I guess i don't need that PRS 10-top and Friedman after all....
     
  19. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    Those guitar grooves DROVE that band! Killer stuff.
     
  20. scott944

    scott944 Member

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    My, how I LOVE that record.
     

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