I've played four Iconic Guitars. Here's my story...

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Gretsch1972, May 2, 2016.

  1. Gretsch1972

    Gretsch1972 Member

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    Everyone has a Prince story, right? Mine comes in the 4th paragraph here in a blog post from 2014:

    Iconic Guitars

    Long before I really knew how to play a guitar, I was fascinated by them. The resonator on the cover of “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits. Hendrix’s upside down Strats. Vince Gill on The Nashville Network playing a Telecaster. Johnny Cash strumming a black Martin. The cigarette burn on Keef’s ‘Micawber’ 5-string. All of them. The list goes on and on…

    I am from Memphis. At a store called Strings and Things back in the 80’s, they had Eric Clapton’s 'Brownie’ guitar on display. It was a 1956 sunburst Stratocaster that was most famously featured on the cover of the classic album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek and The Dominos. One day I was in there as they were taking Brownie out of the display for cleaning and maintenance. Against all logic and reason, I got to watch this process…a 17 year old fat kid with no skills to speak of…and I got to play it for a brief moment. It was magical for me at the time. I was a big fan of Clapton then, and touching a guitar that made music I loved really meant something to me. That record was full of amazing songwriting, and I still enjoy those songs today. “Bell Bottom Blues” and “I Looked Away” were largely the work of Bobby Whitlock, a true unsung hero of that record. But Eric’s guitar playing, and that of Duane Allman, really hit home with me in my youth. Brownie later sold for about half a million dollars at an auction to benefit Clapton’s rehab center, and it is on display in Seattle.

    A few years after this encounter, I was a young guitar player at Memphis State University and working some gigs on Beale Street. I got to meet B.B. King one night at his namesake club, and for another brief moment, I got to play one of his ubiquitous 'Lucille’ Gibson ES-355 guitars. It probably wasn’t the original, but it was something that B.B. himself had played on, and again, I felt this connection to something by even touching it. The fact that I was, at that time, able to play a little bit of “Rock Me, Baby” on it didn’t hurt.

    Then fast-forward to 2010, where I find myself at the after-party jam session at a Prince show. Sheila E., Jon Batiste, Gregoire Maret, Herlin Riley, John Blackwell, Cassandra Wilson and many others are there. Cassandra picks up Prince’s legendary Hohner Tele. The one from Purple Rain. Like the real guitar he played the Purple Rain solo on. She noodles a bit and then offers it to me. Prince is on bass at this point, and I ask if it’s OK for me to play it. He smiles and says yes. So I grab it, completely nerding out on the experience. My best friend Ted is there. A lifelong Prince fan. We laugh together. I’m laying in the cut playing rhythm for a while. Prince moves over to the keyboards and directs traffic, eventually setting up this gospel piano and drums breakdown. I’ve never met Prince in my life. He looks towards me and says, “You got your slide?” Now…I’m not particularly well known for anything to be honest, but I guess people who do know me know that I love to play some slide guitar. So this shocked me. “Does Prince know who I am?” I still don’t really know for sure. But I do know that I had a slide…brass in pocket, as The Pretenders might say…and I pulled it out and played a 10 minute solo over a nasty groove that Prince was laying down. He eventually came over to me and politely asked if he could play. I giggled like a teenager and handed him his Tele just in time for Larry Graham to show up. Prince, Larry and John Blackwell, the amazing drummer, gave that little room backstage at the Izod Center an hour of funk that no one will ever forget.

    Here it is four years later, and I find myself in Los Angeles with my son Charlie and my best friend Ted in North Hollywood. Raphael Saadiq is sitting at a table next to us at the coffee shop and we strike up a conversation. Raphael has been around for years. Tony! Toni! Toné! broke out in the late 80’s, and he went on to work with everyone from TLC to D'Angelo, in addition to making some great records on his own. He invited us to come to his studio, and I got to play him some music I was working on that was influenced by him. And sitting in the studio was an old Gibson 335 that was the guitar used by the late, great Chalmers “Spanky” Alford on the entirety of the D'Angelo record “Voodoo”, which was a huge influence on me and most everyone I know. I got to spend a little time with it, and once again feel that connection to some music that so profoundly shaped my artistic life. (update: Spanky passed in 2008, but did play some tracks on “Black Messiah” which came out in December 2014.)

    I’m grateful for all these moments, and I look forward to the possibility of more of them in the future. Life is so full of opportunity and wonder…there are times when it all seems so hard, and so bleak. But then there are days when magical things happen, and it’s tough to overcome the temptation to be jaded and really embrace it. Probably the best thing I get from being a father is to never reign that feeling in. Let loose and feel what you need to feel. Allow yourself to be un-jaded and giddy at a fun moment. Don’t be afraid to be happy that something good is happening. It doesn’t mean you aren’t cool. It’s the exact opposite.
     
  2. JPF

    JPF Member

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    Very cool experience and narrative!
     
  3. sideburns

    sideburns Member

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    Good for you man...I remember that strat in Strings and Things...
     
  4. Carltone

    Carltone Gold Supporting Member

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    Great story! And I'm a big fan of yours for a long time! What a cool set of events!
     
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  5. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Incredible! Thank you for sharing. I'm sure I'd be petrified to play one of my hero's guitars.
     
  6. HeyMrTeleMan

    HeyMrTeleMan Colonel of Truth Gold Supporting Member

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    Well, that beats my story...
    I'm jealous!!
     
  7. GuitarGuy66

    GuitarGuy66 Member

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    That's pretty neat!!
     
  8. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    A lot of iconic guitars I would not want to own. Jimmy Page's Les Paul does not appeal to me because of the shaved neck.

    Springsteen's Tele does not appeal to me because they routed extra wood our for another pickup.

    There really is nothing special about any of Jimi's Strats because they were off the rack and he went through them like baseball bats.

    Even Peter Green said there was nothing outstanding about his Les Paul.
     
  9. beanbass

    beanbass Member

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    Great story. I'd loved to play Brownie. Love the " Got your slide?" part.

    Duane Allman's sunburst Les Paul & Clarence White's original B-Bender Tele are two that I got to play.
     
    I am the Liquor likes this.
  10. Carltone

    Carltone Gold Supporting Member

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    Great advice!!!
    So.... who's guitar felt as good as yours? Anybody had one that made you say... "dang! I gotta get that set up on mine" or any observations like those?
     
  11. Gretsch1972

    Gretsch1972 Member

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    None of them, actually. The Prince Tele and the Gibson from Spanky Chalmers were both hard for me to play, especially Prince's. Very light strings and low action. Making slide sound good on that thing using a rented Twin re-issue on the dry channel was a bitch. Prince had no issues with the rig, though. He played like a beast.
     
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  12. T Dizz

    T Dizz Member

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  13. Gretsch1972

    Gretsch1972 Member

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    Absolutely! It's archer, not the arrow...
     
  14. rowdyyates

    rowdyyates Supporting Member

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    Cool. I got to play Clarence White's D28 for a couple of hours one evening. I was a bit overwhelmed, as Mark O'Conner was on fiddle, Jerry Doulas on Dobro, Jethro Burns on mandolin, and Mark Schatz was on bass
     
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  15. Caribou

    Caribou Silver Supporting Member

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    Playing with Prince? How the heck does someone get invited to that party? Nice job!
     
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  16. Gretsch1972

    Gretsch1972 Member

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    Well, I used to work with Cassandra Wilson, and she was the opener that night. My friend, and fellow TGP member, Ted Witcher was going along to take some photos, which of course Prince disallowed, and I got to join the entourage. Frankly, my best memory of that night wasn't playing the Tele. It was hearing him at soundcheck playing "Sometimes It Snows In April" by himself on guitar instead of piano, as he usually does it. After he finished, I looked over at Ted and said, "Cool. I can die now. I'm good."

    Anyway, Cassandra was great on the gig. Prince joined her. Then Maceo's band went on, and Prince closed it out with an epic set. He always has an after-jam ready to go after the gig. So as it started, it was members of his band and Cassandra's, jamming with Shelby and Lisa, his BGVs. Sheila E was there. Jon Batiste, now of Stephen Colbert Late Show fame was there. It was a hoot.
     
  17. hobbyplayer

    hobbyplayer Member

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    Awesome stories!
     
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  18. Bankston

    Bankston Member

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    Those are some cool experiences!

    One reason Prince was so universally revered as a musician is that he was usually respectful and appreciative of other musicians (with at least one notable exception involving a vintage Epi). But it's cool that he was so open to jamming with anyone who could play.
     
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  19. Caribou

    Caribou Silver Supporting Member

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    That's a great story!
     
  20. bearbike137

    bearbike137 Supporting Member

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    I would own any of those in a heartbeat - especially Springsteen's Esquire/Tele. Some think the route is partially responsible for that guitar's great tone, as was the case with Malcom Young's Gretsch.
     

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