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Mountainview Publishing, LLC

INSIDE the
Are you making it as a
guitarist? It ain’t up to
“them” – it’s up to you…

Why great chops, all the
gear, a solid resumé, cool
The Player’s Guide to Ultimate Tone
$10.00 US, September 2005/VOL.6 NO.11 Report TM

songs & a great recording
still may not get you
noticed in the music biz
today…
Johnny A
The Johnny A Interview
“When you strum a guitar you have everything – rhythm, bass, lead and melody.”
9 – David Gilmore
Is this love or confusion?
The Marshall 30th Of all the guitars you have ever owned, has one seemed to suit you more than all the others? Did
Anniversary Amp – you keep it, or has your memory of perfection only deepened with every guitar that failed to
blue, brass-plated, 3 measure up to the one that got away?
channels, and why it’s the
only amp in Johnny A’s
rig…

Marshall’s Nick Bowcott
on the 30th Anniversary

11
Review…
Gibson’s Johnny A
Signature Guitar
This one does it all

13
The Gibson ‘57 Classic
humbucking pickup with
original designer
J.T. Ribiloff

14
Review…
The new Eric Johnson
Signature Stratocaster…
Long time coming,
affordable, and the
pickups rock…

16 Most of us have been guilty of letting great guitars go due to a temporary cash crunch or the
The mythical low-power fever that clouds rational judgment when we impulsively sell an instrument to acquire the next
brown Twin Part III… one. How many players traded a vintage goldtop, ‘59 burst or ‘50s Strat or Telecaster for an acrylic
Why it never existed and Dan Armstrong, Kustom tuck n’ roll PA gear for the band, a Sunn head, or simply for the sake of
how to build your own! change?

www.tonequest.com

Mick Taylor. and enjoy… -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. Crosby. Peter Frampton. have to become a mination and creative flair that is instructive and inspiring. During reinvent yourself. practicing proved that you can evolve as an artist and develop your own was one of the few activities he could pursue at all. and Alvin Lee. national. played through the direct XLR out straight into the specifically because a successful. Joe Walsh and Jeff Beck were playing vintage Les become his signature tone. it’s the music that ultimately defines Johnny A’s creative First.” pick- players like Jimmy Page. complete guitarist no longer depend- Afflicted by ent upon working scoliosis as a with a front man. but how many has since become the only amp he has used for the past ten of us can claim to have stopped playing a certain guitar years. teenager. depth and fidelity through an obscure. while Anniversary 6101 combo. it within the community you build around it through live per- was impossible for him to turn his head to see what he was formances and grass roots. guerrilla marketing. September2005 2 . and secondly. B. Pauls. and Johnny has proved that you can that. sparkling Twin tones play without the advantage of actually seeing the fingerboard and magnificently distorted. cover story Consider the fickle. N11. Listen. signature sound. It popularity of various guitars. You could barely give away an old Strat. you can even play gloriously clean. same instrument? Indeed. his disability became an asset as he learned to yes. and his tone is stunning. Johnny vowed to stop playing his vintage Stratocasters Stratocaster or Tele in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s while rather than being perceived as a “Stevie Ray wannabe. Gretsch. music business. but given the circumstances. He returned it. but we’re would have to be betting the things you don’t know about him will give you dealt with if he was reason to pause and reconsider just what it takes to be a truly to continue making unique and inventive guitarist today while surviving the radio a living in the and record industry’s gross indifference to talent. Gibson and Martin guitars among rock music scene in the ‘70s. no Johnny was one was going to required to do anything for wear a 40 him or his career unless helping him was profitable. finally resorted to contacting the product manager at Marshall light on Gibson ES*** guitars. Suddenly jobless ing personal preferences to have successfully developed the with no prospects specifications for their own signature guitar and sold a major after six years with manufacturer on the concept despite having recorded no J Geils’ Peter Wolf. Johnny bought what he believed to be the state-of-the- allure. While Stevie Ray the most desirable instruments solely based on who was play. and it was pound body going to be up to Johnny alone to make that happen. classic humbuckers. Johnny A is living proof of just how times have rigid neck changed. Thinking outside the traditional box has become an brace for two essential skill for all guitarists seriously pursuing a career in years after the business of music. Of course. shifting fads that have alternately placed nothing. amps and effects. chart-topping hits? Johnny realized two truths that Perhaps you are already familiar with Johnny A. Nash and (sometimes) Young propelled art in amplifier design for the time – the Marshall 30th Martin D45’s and big Gretsch’s to must-have status. high-gain brain-smack with of his guitar. and Elvin Bishop put the spot. SG’s and 335’s suddenly lost their In 1993. Vaughan was tearing up the rock and blues world on his #1 ing what and when. You can create and market your own music this time. Stills. ‘80s and ‘90s. Freddie King. Duane ing up a Gibson to develop and refine what would ultimately Allman. but the story behind the music reveals a rare deter. B. and that sound can continue to evolve… And Ultimately. bought it again. he would prowess. He has playing on the guitar. on-again-off-again stops and starts typical of the various Fender. cast for 14 months and a Today. celebrated artist played the house sound system. and guitar fashion would flip again in favor of vintage Fenders while Les Pauls. Fads have always affected the to help him decipher how the amp was supposed to be used. how many players have become so obsessed with the subtle nuances of guitar design and evolv. blue Marshall amplifi- er and a fully hollow Gibson guitar loaded with stock ‘57 Johnny’s career progressed with the frustrations and all-or.

The first instrument that I really took up seri. but were hairdressers and I would sweep up the hair off the floor I did grow up in a in their beauty salon on Saturdays to earn money. so I really heard all kinds of music friend. they asked me if growing up. I still have it. and I still At the time. cover story TQR: How and when were you first exposed to music? still playing drums in a band at the time and I didn’t even know how to tune the guitar at first. I eventually Greek family saved enough to buy a Vox Clubman guitar that I saw in the where there was a window of a music store in 1965 for $88. The first guitar I owned None of my family was a $49 Lafayette guitar and amp. and also the Everly Brothers. the curriculum was all jazz-oriented and I was own a into more progressive music like John McLaughlin. I finally picked did like the up the guitar when I was about 11 or 12 years old. King drum kit. my dad was a lover of jazz and big band music pizza joint in Saugus. and I would without being able to look at the guitar or see what I was bang on that. but I didn’t dig that at all. Glenn Miller and Count Basie – and my player didn’t show up that night – he had a fight with his girl- mom was a big blues fan. September2005 3 . My dad was also a bartender at night at a Middle pound full body cast for 14 months and after that. I did that for and about a year and eventually dropped out and went to Berklee rhythm School of Music for almost a year. Well. I was things they -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. deep appreciation and passion for TQR: When did you finally switch from drums to guitar? music. lessons and played the drums for quite awhile. doing with my hands. I took limitations like that can make you stronger. Also. Pacemakers. so knowing that I could play a little. That was the first time I ever played guitar with a band and they asked me to join No. I went home and got my amp and guitar and we played the ten songs I knew. but he had one and I would play with it around the sis. it was my grandfather’s bouzouki. Turkish and Greek the guys that had left to play with another band had a gig at a music. During high school I also developed scolio- player. MA and I went to see them. but I was real- where all kinds of ly working hard to teach myself guitar and learn all the songs Middle Eastern of the day from the Invasion stuff to psychedelic music. The Beatles. It’s funny to realize how obstacles and ously was the drums when I was about seven years old. Every weekend we I was playing drums in a band and still learning how to play would have these guitar when all the guys in my band left to play in another huge. The guitar – Tommy Dorsey. but the other The Stones. then they TQR: Was the guitar the first instrument you picked up? taught me more during each break. The Dave Clark 5. and I was theory class- a huge fan of the British Invasion – bands like Gerry and the es at Berklee. I had been taking drum lessons all along. I love the drums and TQR: So you continued to play in various bands through I’m still out high school and… very pas- sionate I graduated and went to a business college. My mother and aunt are musicians. I I’m not sug- was frus. That body cast forced me to practice Ronnie Kirby gave me a solid silver dumbek. which is a curvature of the spine. The Kinks. I would fill in that night for him. I have also always about great been fascinated by marketing and the concept of developing drummers something from nothing and making it viable. and this great Turkish dumbek player named brace for two years. The Searchers. crazy parties one. getting a ment musical edu- because I cation. player. N11. and I always had melody running through my head. I had to wear a 40- house. Crimson and but as a Gentle Giant. music would be blaring – Armenian. gesting that trated by I’m against the instru. He wasn’t really a them that night. a back Eastern club.

I mean. the with Everly- Geils Band… All the big guys that came through town would style har- go there – George Benson. I had gotten married in 1983 and I was work- music – it ing for Tom Scholz (guitarist with Boston) at the time with chooses you. Billy Gibbons. September2005 4 . the Rockman Company. Take Keith Richards. Then I put that really have a personality and a voice. two guitars.” That was a band called really good. a couple of years before I began to stop feeling what we were doing. like transcribing and learning standards. so I ior high and had this idea high school to put togeth- Bill Bruford & Johnny and I also er a country worked in a big music store in Boston. In hindsight. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. went out to the with a more Midwest for a while to start a progressive rock band. I from Credence wasn’t into. sometimes your limitations can help define kind of un-together – what becomes your unique style. whether it be Chet another band together or Wes. Clapton. and aggressive then I went to England an auditioned for Bill Bruford from edge. there wasn’t much happening with the kind of ed as one. area. pop rock thing with tate to. The Cars. N11. to think that I Talking Heads. and we were pretty successful in the Boston Tele somewhat in the style of James Burton and Albert Lee. Vaughan… It’s not necessarily the guys with the greatest which was more of a chops. Steve Howe… So I monies but worked there for a while. Roxy Music… but as far as the guitar was can be count. That was a really good and played in local bands around New England. guitar I wanted to hear. I have always been intrigued by the things that make keyboards. It began to sound a little too contrived and fabricated. but that wasn’t what I wanted to do at the and lacking focus – time. There wasn’t a lot of guitar-oriented True artists. That lasted for and try to come up with my own style. The band members were like “Aerosmith meets the Beatles. TQR: How did your career develop? At that point. someone’s voice print. we had some great songs. so I got to know rock band everybody – Joe Perry and the Aerosmith guys. concerned. and it was the first band of mine that seemed to have a to put a rock band together with a lot of melody – kind of very tight focus since The Streets. around 1982. for so I came back home example… a phenomenal rock player who is emulated by to play with my band how many people? Here he is playing 5-string open tunings The Streets again. but those with the strongest personalities that I gravi. Jeff Beck. For me. When so many people we eventually broke up wind up emulating that style. it’s the guys busted. cover story wanted me to do. Jimmy called Hidden Secret. but and his limitations created that style. and I wanted band. We were getting tons of radio airplay without being We recorded a demo and we had a manager shopping it. I’ve also always had the usual a certain slant toward country music that dates back to my stuff with early interest bands and in The Everly music in jun. throw it in a blender and hit “puree” player. It was real- formal understanding of music and developing the ability to ly good. there was some and I’d like wonderful stuff that came out of that period from The Cars. but signed to a major label and we toured with Aerosmith in as good as we were. But then I started to get the itch So I did all again and I began writing a lot of songs. And again. I do regret not having acquired a Clearwater. Brothers. but scattered read music earlier. Then I came back that band was called Hearts on Fire. who is to say what is “right?” after the drummer got I’d rather have it great than be perfect. and I was playing a The Streets. Joe Pass. and Yes/King Crimson (I didn’t get that gig). music being recorded or played. I really wasn’t even playing that don’t choose much at home. I couldn’t get arrested playing this stuff 1978-79. Then I went to California where I hooked up with even though the style we were playing was what Americana Bobby Whitlock and played with Bobby and Doug Clifford turned out to be – kind of like Lone Justice before their time. continued to play. and I have always tried to grab the a percussionist and sax nuances of those styles. I began to wonder about the whole music thing. Hendrix.

So I got a 4-star review in Rolling Stone for the album and we played there every other Monday night and that’s where I toured all over the US and Japan. ing they would sell them. TQR: All through your own grassroots marketing It took about three days. I only wanted to do it if I could make a record- given me. so I’m play. The six shows turned into seven players all around. but I accomplished what I had intended to do. money.000. So we went into the studio. Out ed to make a of survival. cover story So we changed the band to more of a hard rock thing. but it wasn’t my strength. They had a shitty sound system. I told him I music book wanted 100% complete creative control with no compromis- that a es. and it got randomly crazy phone requests. Now. but ground vocal part and the rhythm section as I hear a song and that really didn’t feel honest to me and I eventually broke the play it on the guitar. crafted this new thing. radio station during this free-form lunch-time show. The band was called Peter Wolf & The players. I had a lot of friends over the years that I had -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. and at first I didn’t even know what they were. so Wolf decided to line up some was a passionate music lover who had grown up during the gigs for the band to enable us to make a little money for the whole punk scene in Boston and he knew all the bands and time we had put in. because I wasn’t interested in just making a record to hear friend had myself play. with no stylistic or techni- The cal compromises. About $37. it got played on a local the pages. when I play. He brought a more complete guitarist and put a new project together to in a guy who had a feed my family. I decided that my goal was going to be to become record. September2005 5 . I had to borrow money from all kinds of and I people and buy the tapes back from this guy and finish the decided I recording with my own funds. But by early ‘99 Wolf did. and the some great guitarists.000 copies stop somewhere and learn how to read that song – chords and as it was picked up by radio stations in the six-state New melody at the same time. and we talked. I try to emulate the vocal melody. you set years. whole thing up. TQR: And this all came about as a means of survival… Later on around 1993. The song was “Til There Was You” England area. I couldn’t deliver away by what we the melody and the chords at the same time because I had were doing and he always backed a singer as a lead/rhythm guitarist playing asked me if I want- rhythm behind the vocals and occasionally taking a solo. The question was. I realized that I had been playing guitar for 30-something He was blown years and I couldn’t play a song by myself. my left hand and the efforts… How much did it cost you to make this muscles in my forearm were sore and on fire by the time I recording? was done. I ended up getting the gig and we where I live. either. great keyboard players… tremendous whole thing just exploded. n’t really want to tour anymore and that left me with no day job and no band. I put out the record. I put a trio together in Salem. I had sung lead to work for before and I wasn’t that bad. Eventually I sold about 10. ing to the best of my capabilities. Well. Street Bar & Grill. Polygram Records. It got to the point where I would drop off CD’s from the play The Music Man. MA audition for Peter. came in who used ized that I was at the mercy of lead singers. we hadn’t been paid around on the off-nights because the kid who booked the acts for any of the rehearsal time. and the place held about 80 people. and he ran out of Beatles. a back. they booked a half a dozen gigs. It was at that point that I had an epiphany… One night a guy I was sittin’ on my bedroom floor with my guitar when I real. N11. a friend of mine was working on a concert project with Peter Wolf (J Geils) and I got called to It was all about survival. He didn’t pay you shit – $60 a night – but he had House Party Five. I wound up co-producing one album for him and we up on the floor. how am I gonna do this? local label with national distribu- I had this tion. and we played this little place called the Dodge rehearsed for a couple of months before that gig was can. They had some of the best local talent celed because of permit problems. ing the notes in these strange chord structures that I had never played before. he liked what I was doing. I was determined to read the at stores and they would pay me for them on the spot. know- notes on the staff rather than the chord symbols. and my fingers. Eventually. we went over Complete budget before the project was finished. Sometime would flip Tuesday Morning and I sold it at gigs.

He got a great tone… great player… great for the of him hearing blues… great for music…. “You need a press story. When I was in The Streets and been some of those other bands I played in during the ‘80s. types of guitars TQR: But bottom line. and then a months. Rickenbackers… But to me. I got a couple of shows open- Comics. you need to influence have a sales story. I’m not even sure you want a ferent record deal today (laughing).” It was released internation. So when Stevie Ray began to tal version of “Wichita Lineman. con. a PRS when they first came out. people would come up to me and say. I think someone who is not in the mainstream has a much better shot getting somewhere doing it that way than I had through regular channels. N11.000+ copies and that me and I made it possible to cut the latest CD. and hear again. just been a guitar player that didn’t take any responsibility for sequently there is a lot of space in that album. Morning to the two great guitar companies are Gibson and Fender. a Tuesday Jackson when they were cool. you need to have a live show story and you on me in -continued- 6 TONEQUEST REPORT V6. Strats and Teles for a long. man. me. yeah. One Well. Get Inside. have paral- leled mine. nothing would have just the way I had hoped and even when I listen to it today happened. September2005 . but I was never passive about any of this. too. He was a little younger than Ah Via Musicom. ences may cians who may be struggling to get exposure. if you playing didn’t have a record deal you weren’t even in the business. ally and the song “Oh Yeah” became the highest charting you’re really into Stevie Ray. I developed the live show and we started favors. the other epiphany that occurred in addition to my real.” So I took those four bullet points and I record I asked everybody for everything and called in all the worked on them. It turned out making this a viable commercial product. We went on to sell 80. and I Steve Vai’s had been playing Les Pauls. tone on a Strat is Jimi Hendrix. I called an attorney to get a record deal and she told me and he had that attorneys don’t really make record deals anymore. the band hadn’t played a lot of gigs together live. and he had the tone. saw Jimi plete melody was that no one was going to do anything for Hendrix.great for guitar… an incredibly that album and explosive. think some of his influ- TQR: That story is such a great example for any musi. cover story done a ton of favors for. a profound what do I do? She said. so we followed. And the the instrumen. long Favored time. I’m still happy with it. At the time of that record. so when it came time to finish that need a radio story. and I had a licensed ‘68 Paisley Telecaster back then. TQR: Let’s review the chronology of the gear you’ve TQR: Do you think you could duplicate that grassroots played as well as the development of your signature formula today? Gibson guitar… Yes. hit big. I also was given a listening post spot in Newbury playing shows in the suburbs. I had old guitars – a 1964 factory black and a ‘65 Lake Nations record Placid Blue Strat – and then Stevie Ray Vaughan hit really label as a result big. you recorded music that people when I wanted to hear. residency there. honestly I hadn’t instrumental on AAA radio since Eric Johnson’s singles from been influenced by Stevie Ray. all dif- But now with the Internet. huh?” Well. was a kid. I got a little bit of press and the radio airplay ing. Well. I of my eventually first great guitars was a goldtop Les Paul in 1969. I mean. a 21-store CD chain across New England for three ing for people at The House of Blues in Boston. I had a BC Rich when Sometime they were handbuilt. I izing that I couldn’t play a song by myself and deliver a com. passionate player. which helped immensely. If I had didn’t take a lot of liberties with the songs in the studio. Well. “Oh.

The Jackson port that record. and I think I flame top (‘59). and since I sit on a stool. and that was the tone that. and I told them first guitar I got what I wanted was a guitar that was a little bit bigger. I loved the tone of the 295. absolute -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. So I called Mike and I asked him if he could make a Gibson. 2001.” getting airplay in 2000 and Two things happened at that time. if I was Gibson really playing a Strat. thank you. Seventy percent of the Sometime Tuesday Morning and the record was cut with that guitar. and I was ment to me about Stevie being an influence and I knew I had using the 295. With all due respect to Stevie. contemporary. This guy was the guys at taking it to the pinnacle. live. 335 and a Les ized that a lot of the R&B guys he listened to were using Paul live to sup- Gibson guitars. of the music I was playing and the critical respect the CD had n’t mean I got gui. They were all great. So I decided to get feedback. and the histo- sue ES295. And you’re tars for free. that from Gibson was was hollow to emulate the sound of the 295. received. and I didn’t want to get into that Brian Setzer thing. but I couldn’t music. I got. and another. I was playing with Wolf. So we did some proto- absolutely unbe. my How the signa- approach to phrasing. I decided I had to get about was that another guitar. But I didn’t want to be compared to a liked the record. and I guess because have it. not now. When my first solo millions and album was about to be recorded. Maine. my approach to effects. That’s what happened. So we had a talk during summer NAMM in interested in 2002 and I was telling Mike and Rick Gembar that I love the endorsing me? He Les Pauls. but I still didn’t have those ‘59s at a shop in Bangor. they were as into it as much as I was. I put a set of flat wound strings on it and that was ry of Gibson the tone. It didn’t quite sound like I then looking wanted. But I didn’t like changing guitars. and that’s when I got that hollow tone I was looking for. They asked what I was thinking. I was looking for a new millions of tone. but I’m not really getting 100% of what said yes and the I want. The neck Five… Smokey Robinson’s guy played a Black Beauty… If placement between an ES 335 and a ES 295 and a Les Paul you listen to Gibson Les Pauls pre-Led Zeppelin in popular are all different. I knew I wanted that romantic Bigsby sound and my records – and Gretsch wasn’t working for me. I may never be. and we developed a have sold great relationship that continues today. Stevie was strong enough with what up steam and he was doing to make me say. They made me one and I Shop in 1993 and I got a goldtop because I couldn’t afford a loved it. I still about this guitar. I told him who I was and that I was playing with Peter Wolf. and one that a ‘95 ‘burst that is could resist feedback but still rock. Someone made that com. but right – I’m not a household name – I wasn’t then and I’m still every time I need. I was lov. but they were turn the thing up loud enough and scream on it because of the pure and they were pretty and really great. a to make a change. at the lineage So I started looking around for guitars and I fell into this reis. They learned about what I liked as far as guys that color and neck shapes and all of that. So as soon as I heard that comment ture thing came about Stevie being one of my influences. So when you think about contempo- ed something they rary players that have signature guitars like Joe Perry and would build them Peter to my specs and I Frampton – paid artist prices. That did. N11. it wouldn’t have it was picking been good for my career. I couldn’t play Fenders anymore. but they were playing clean. I saved some money and then I found one of have four of them. and I real. The thing I was missing with the Les Paul was the hollow ing the Custom tone of the 295. cover story terms of my approach to tone. none of these tones were really dirty. September2005 7 . in touch with Mike McGuire at the Custom Shop. and they made me another. and it was just when they launched the Custom me a ‘59 flame top with a Bigsby. types and it was a year in R&D and we were all very excited lievable. plus. “I’m getting out of this game. I was hunching Shop stuff and over that 13" body for 90 minutes every night and my back would they be was killing me.

The went to do body length is different. They even let amp. it has to be respectful of Gibson’s ing for and he told me to start with the second channel. a Deluxe. I haven’t used a speaker on that was really very important to me. We had first tried the Marshall direct and it wasn’t working – it sounded thin in TQR: Let’s talk about amps… the studio. and I couldn’t believe that The ‘57 Classics – those are my favorite Gibson humbuckers. check early at a Wolf gig and I asked the house sound guy if we could try the direct out and compare it to a Shure 57 on TQR: What type of pickups did you choose? the speaker. I told him who I was and 1959 Pontiac Bonneville.5" scale wanted it to do. the neck the first scale length. And I wanted the The funny Florentine cutaways to be reminiscent thing is. running the amp direct into the house system could sound I’m a vintage guitar nut. and I brought in all these things and got a great vertically up and down on a 335 sound – they were good tones – but they didn’t sound like when the natural sweep of your hand me. so from that head. it was like that 295. but it also has a built-in speaker emulator in it – of the P90’s. Other com. It’s thinner at the top stage since 1993 and I’ve recorded both my albums with just than it is near the nut and is much that one amp. Although the body of my you put a mic on a speaker cabinet on stage to get your guitar is larger. going back and forth and it sounded pretty good. all direct. and that’s why I had brought all the other stuff in. it’s tapered very much like a ‘40s or ‘50s Gibson and point on that’s what I’ve done. It did everything I sented another set of problems live. It always seemed crazy to me a Vox AC30. Matthew Klein calculated how to come close sound. I wanted it to feel and that I had bought the amp twice because it was supposed to look like a guitar that could have come out in 1961. It was the farthest thing from my mind. Aesthetically. and it am a vintage guitar guy and I love that look and feel. etc. Tal Farlow. and A lot of people think that my guitar is when I just a modified 356. called “Sunset Glow” after my dad’s old called Nick Bowcott at Marshall. He asked me what kind of tone I was look- neck has to feel like that. I really wanted it to sound to set the controls. That’s the way it’s done. but they didn’t feel unique to me. but I’m old school. I actually bought that amp twice. where Golden Age. a totally switching. and as soon as he told me that. To Gibson’s credit. it was something that I really would prefer to play over They just didn’t sound good. but I’ve been using Marshall direct for six years with Wolf and I wanted the same -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. Chet and Wes. Then I started playing with everything else. but I never wanted to do it unless bought a couple of combos and I just fucking hated them. more pronounced than it has been in modern times. I mean. because I be the flagship amp in the Marshall line at the time. I of an old guitar but also to give me do love access to the entire fingerboard. cover story giants such as Les Paul. One day I went to the sound the 295 and yet. but it’s not. We did a blind test and eight to that old style dish. a Marshall Plexi. a that those toggle switches functioned VibroKing. That guitar can come very close to the sound of an XLR right out of the back. I tried it. the neck joint where it album. out of ten times I liked the direct sound best. and tonally… well. If you look at the thickness of the peg. a Super. it can also really scream. that’s what you do… dish (top carve) of a ‘50s Les Paul. they really turned me Wolf. The sounded horrible. so another thing I looked at was the better than micing the cabinet. and I bought the amp again and I still didn’t like it. They sounded good. I was down there all the time. but I had been using the There are a lot of great amps out there. September2005 8 . I certainly the Marshall 30th Anniversary amps almost since they first never even imagined having my own signature guitar with came out in 1992. I scrapped all the tracks and did them over. so I me name the color. vintage tones. too. Live. N11. I panies had approached me. like having a key that unlocked the amp. so is more like 45 degrees.. We used a 25. I meets the body – all different. The engineer thought I was crazy. because Gibson. the first time I brought it home I hated it and took it back. I was micing the amp just like you would hollow body and we used humbuckers to eliminate the hum normally do. There abandoned are a lot of little subtle differences. but I couldn’t keep the P90’s because they pre. and I had to be able to get several sounds out of one loose with it. the The toggle switch functions at a 45 Marshall degree angle so that I can flick it with and my pinky finger without moving my brought in hand. It has three channels and MIDI channel neck with an ebony fingerboard for a bright attack.

Little Feat. it’s just the opposite. but I’m riding in a van with three or four guys. It’s the to what I’m doing now. and an Echo Park pedal. That would be like a vacation for me compared don’t like to feel compression or hear it grab or pump. because that just mov- Doyle Bramhall’s stage rig. I see what happens. I record totally dry. Sure. It’s more consistent than Once we heard Johnny’s tale of woe and ultimate salvation micing. I like this compressor a lot because I other artists. and opment and inner secrets of the 30th Anniversary amp… -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. graciously brought us up to date on the devel- degree or a 30 degree angle? I used to sell microphones. actually. every night there will be at right out of the back of the amp into my old Neve preamp least three or four guys that will tell me they can’t believe and I plug that directly into the input of the tape deck and I’m not using speakers on stage – like Paul Barrere from record direct to tape. And honestly. Sometimes after a gig I work without me hearing it work. no EQ. I came across a couple of feel like. film. But it’s fun. no reverb. I might… Don’t get me wrong – I don’t the think I have the greatest tone on earth and there are things Rocktron about my tone on stage that I don’t particularly like. as a half an inch TQR: What has been your history with effects? off axis totally When I changes was with the tone Wolf. because the solo thing is very best pedal-type compressor I’ve found because it seems to demanding and emotionally draining. which is an envelope filter. amps tone on the record that I had been getting live. night before? Is it two inches? An inch and a half? Is it a 45 Nick Bowcott. and I occasionally use an Aphex Punch ing to play live and making more records. 2004 had become my sound. I I don’t even record through the console. I of the guitar (or any instrument). and how his signature tone. that would seem to open up a host of unwanted variables… No. another. I would probably never go used a lot back to using speakers in a traditional way unless I was in a of rack different band playing different music. The signal comes have to be practical. September2005 9 . TQ also use a Radial Engineering A/B/Y Switchbone and an www. TQR: When people consider that you are running direct into a different house system every night. a Boss OC2 octave pedal. a couple of Lexicon sound and something else for that sound. a Boss tuner.com Xotic Effects RoboTalk. TQR: What would you like to accomplish in the future? As far as my pedalboard goes currently. because one of the things that always drove me crazy regarding the Marshall 30th Anniversary amplifier. Thanks to TQR advisory board member close is it to the cone? Is it in the right spot compared to the Mitch Colby at Korg USA. good sounding dense reverbs. If I was in a Black stuff like Crowes type of band.johnnya. “Wow. No compression. N11. but the Intellifex consistency from night to night outweighs the things I don’t and like. it seemed when I was micing a cabinet was that my tone was never the only fitting that we query the man who guided Johnny in his same – it was never dead nuts on. I’d like to write for Factory optical compressor when I want a more even or sus. When I record. We’ll which is where the signal splits. I’d also enjoy playing and touring as a sideman for taining clean sound. and for distortion I always use the channel Fender Twin sound on one song and a Marshall Plexi for switching in the Marshall. I Making money might be nice (laughing). All he could see on stage was one of the 30th because I don’t want to be committed to anything but the Anniversary heads and he still couldn’t believe I was getting pure guitar tone when I record. this is really a lot of work. might wish to manipulate the tone of the guitar later. along with continu- do run in stereo live. off-axis rejection. You gotta rely on guys quest to embrace the amp that has become so important to using different mics every night. and that was the only amp I used as little on both records. it’s very basic – a Dunlop 535Q Wah. get the perfect Jam-Mans. I want total control for how I what he was hearing without speaker cabinets. We kept working on it and tweaking ing a mic it to get the tones I wanted.” because the con- the new Line 6 Tone Core pedals… a stereo pan/trem pedal centration level for me has to be so high. the product manager for Marshall. I would love to use a blackface Fender for this Replifex.

this changes the amp’s cious few. yes. from The majority of these highly coveted amps were sold via an Pentode to internet lottery for £5000. thus effectively reducing the amp’s output power from trol knobs. it what they considered to be the ultimate Marshall – the most does have one major negative – extended use of the “Low” comprehensive valve amp to ever bear the company’s famous option causes uneven wear of the output valves due to the script logo. an upgrade designated by an LM (Lead Mod) prefix on specifically the model numbers. The ny’s history – such as Eric Clapton. all-dancing TSL100 and TSL122 (as already men- with more gain than ever before. 50. Jim’s R&D team decided to build especially when combined with the Pentode/Triode option. the triple channel successors of the 6100 and 6101) amp should be loaded to the gills with modern features do boast a unique output stage switching feature named VPR. A pre. This said. causing it to emulate the the power stage – 100-watts pentode. VPR achieves this by doing two things: 1) It attenu- ates (reduces) the post Phase Inverter signal by approximately The resulting 3-channel beast boasted no fewer than 17 con. not only in terms of tone but also in terms of fact that only two of the four are used. the power stages are voiced in such a way that the Clean Channel ever. (Note: in addition to active member in various charities for many years). the answer the “30th would have to be. 2) It alters the negative feedback circuit of the its chassis housed? A Nigel Tufnel-approved 11 (7 x 12AX7s power amp and. when given the task of coming up with a unique to that pair of amps and while it a very cool feature. 22 switches and 3 trim pots. flexibility and features.00 (approx. designed to celebrate A High/Low Marshall’s Power 30th year in switch that business – a landmark which occurred in 1992! This tradition halved the began in 1987 with the Silver Jubilee series of amps that amp’s output marked the company’s 25th Anniversary and was further con. amps At the risk of and 4 x EL34s)! Was the amp worthy of its “ultimate stating the Marshall” tag? Judging by the critical acclaim it attained and obvious. 50-watts pentode. 25- watts triode and 25-watts triode. combo – the one marked High/Low Power worked by switch- ing off two of the amp’s four power valves. sound and feel of a much lower powered amp (approx. N11. and with the universal gift of 20/20 hindsight. sive. switchable speaker damping. a sophisticated this switch is engaged it kicks in a clever little piece of cir- Series/Parallel FX loop and no fewer than four output power cuitry that lurks between the Phase Inverter and output valves options via Pentode/Triode and High/Low Power switches on which modifies the power stage. power by tinued in 2002 with an extremely limited run of only 40 1962 switching JAGs – a gold plated 1962 “Bluesbreaker” combo covered in the output white leather by the legendary Jaguar automobile company. Gary Moore and Zakk other power-halving switch on the 30th Anniversary head and Wylde. “at the time. Channel 3 didn’t quite hit the mark – even with the addition gests. depending Triode operation was nothing new for Marshall at the time as on exchange rate) with the bulk of the profits going to worthy both the Silver Jubilee amps (1987) and also the then-current causes (Jim Marshall has been a generous contributor and JCM900 Series boasted that feature. In order to attain this lofty goal. these of a modification in 1994 that gave the channel even more amps were gain. triode is smoother and boasts a silkier high end).” In Anniversary” truth though. part of their while Channel 1 and Channel 2 were truly breathtaking. however. especially when the deep switch through the Plexi and early MVs. September2005 10 . the all- high gain of the then-current JCM900s. 6dB. The number of valves 100W to 25W.00. and right the way up to the on the EL34 powered models is employed. lowering the power amp’s output. a Crunch Channel capable of sounds amps start to “fatten up” at much lower volumes. it was decided that the amplifier should have three totally inde. lowers the damping factor of the -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. In the JCM2000 series of all-valve amps that followed in the pendent channels – our best sounding and most versatile late ‘90s. MIDI channel VPR is an acronym for Virtual Power Reduction and when switching. did find their way into the hands of sound and feel – pentode mode is brighter and more aggres- artists whom Jim felt had played a notable role in his compa. They also determined the tioned. Watts). name sug. making this spanning the previous 30 years – from the original JTM45. $8750. 30th Anniversary amplifier. This one is Not surprisingly. including comprehensive tone shaping options. in the minds of many. as impressive sales in spite of its lofty price tag. and a Lead Channel singing. as a result. sort of switching redundant.

the EL34 valve crisis was over. radios. when designed around the preferences of major players. September2005 11 . then the EL34 by the mid ‘60s). we do believe that artists for whom start using Russian-made 5881’s. by the time the JCM2000 series was ready to roll a few years later. but price rip tide of hype surrounding a new product launch. some output emulation as an all-tube 25W output amp has a lower thirty years later history effectively repeated itself. this was ated with extraordinary passion and obsession for detail.: is and availability forced the company to find another power allowed to “flap” more). As a company. the JTM45 was born in success of the much smaller. or the artist’s “dream” guitar has been cre- Equipped” sticker on the front panel. avail- ability diminished dramatically and prices sky-rocketed. the USA-sold combos were loaded with an Electro-Voice While the 6100LE and 6101LE numbers were obviously EVM 12L speaker while the rest of the world got a special. As a result.marshallamps. This adds to the realism of the 25W valve (the KT66. in reverse! Thankfully. The heads in 1997. Marshall listening to the more reliable transistor. N11. by the launch of the DSL100 and DSL50 bunch of brass-less. Then disaster struck when that are marketed as having been inspired and meticulously the fall of communism caused that plant to close. telephone exchanges). there were also a plentiful supply. the numbers were far from limited! 6100LM and 6101LM respectively. good quality valves of all flavors were in dislikes. As the saying goes. from 1994 until the discontinuation of the leled success of the three channel TSL100 head and TSL122 amps in 1999. cool-running and vastly 1962 as the direct result of Mr. in the public’s mind the term “signature guitar” Because of this. scale length. don't fix it!” Jim Marshall has always been a huge pro- choice. but they were far R&D and various phases of pre-production concerning pick- from satisfactory (technically speaking. and the blue covered.g. As is now rock folklore. The problem is. In 1994 howev. that was not done out of broke. Limited Edition 30th ing closely with the Russian valve manufacturer Svetlana and Anniversary amps covered in blue vinyl of 1992. wiring layout. the only manufacturer making an EL34 worthy of the Marshall logo in sufficient quantity was the Tesla factory in the coun. due to continuing accordingly. the‘60s and ‘70s. but out of necessity… Back in the good ol’ days of ponent of his company paying careful attention to the likes. we had no choice but to experience. non-brass plated ly designed Celestion G12 “Gold” speaker. neck and fingerboard pro- Sovtek 5881 was the only option. “If it ain’t 5881’s for a period in the mid ‘90s. companies stopped making the things and before long www. as already mentioned earlier. extremely limited. used American-made 5881 power valves. cheaper. and per- Marshall’s once huge mountain of EL34’s was reduced to vir. and finish color options. the JTM45 reflect reality for discerning players capable of resisting the of 1962. By the mid ‘70s however. but this damping factor than a 100W all-tube power stage. both the 6100 and 6101 did in fact remain in Lead channel was hot-rodded for even more gain – and production all the way up until 1999 – by which time public upgrade designated by an LM (Lead Mod) prefix on both demand for them was no longer present due to the unparal- models. Of course. pretty much every implies that either the artist’s most treasured instrument has Marshall valve amp that once boasted EL34’s was loaded been painstakingly reproduced to exacting specifications with with 5881’s instead and bore a “Marshall 5881 Power Valve no compromises. the valve was no longer used in desires of the young rock guitarists in his shop…43 years many of the everyday. time.e. we always strive to learn from our successes Regarding the changing of the output valves from EL34’s to and our occasional failures too. that changed when the year of 1992. files. reliable EL34 was once more available in brass-less. except that for tonal preference reasons. supply of great EL34’s continue! absolutely nothing. So. black vinyl models of 1993. By the early ‘90s however.com most of the Western manufacturers had disappeared. blue-vinyl models made in 1992. guitars output stage so that the speaker is less damped (i. they sucked!) so the up specs and tone. stock-piled like crazy and worked closely with the few remaining suppliers to ensure quality and quantity. In some ways. hands-on tually nothing in the autumn of 1994. fret size. as Marshall history buffs are Unfortunately. TVs. Long may the difference between these three? Aside from aesthetics. hi-fi systems. electronic applications it once was later the song remains the same! TQ (e. So. Marshall had been work- In-between the brass-plated. there was a Chinese signature models have been developed are consulted during factory churning out EL34s at the time. and the a good sounding. So. the head and combo were known as the combo. So. haps you share our misgivings based on personal. demands and wishes of his users and reacting plentiful supply. in truth. from late 1994 on. Given the -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. We’ve had mixed feelings about many “signature” guitars try once known as Czechoslovakia. the marketing story often fails to accurately always quick to point out. ones limited to only being produced during the anniversary er. an ironic twist of fate because. Thus. Jim and his troops saw the writing on the wall. the very first Marshall. Sure.

We reproducible level of crafts. the ever-present good- tory staffed by hourly will at Willcutt employees with quotas to Guitars and they fill). either. Once we recovered from design that has his- our initial shock (it’s a shockingly attractive and unique gui. constant access to We could tip you off to other finds. bluesy tones with just the right hint of among all types of guitars – signature models and otherwise. The ‘A’ can of the good ones aren’t going to age particularly well. but we’ve kept you in the Bigsby and the suspense long enough about the Johnny A Signature guitar. they aren’t all gonna be good out of the box. “Oh.” Pop go the clasps. 25. a flick of the pinky. beckoning us within. and it can also be We continue to experience inconsistencies to varying degrees pushed into subtle. torically utilized tar craftedin the image of a moderately figured and faded to plywood construc- amber-butterscotch vintage Les Paul with aged hardware) we tion with or without took it home to be re-strung with fresh Pyramid wire. nature guitars were required to sign-off on each If there is one word and every one. with any guitar new or old. and we lift the top of mahogany back and sides carved from a single block of wood the case with the same anticipation that has plagued us for and joined to a solid maple top. Right time. followed by a barely controllable gasp. which may Trini Lopez and a Les Paul. N11. It’s one thing to very old school style. in a rejects. guitars number of such instruments so we prevailed upon that are produced (in a fac. clean. “What’s in there?” we asked.5" scale length neck. Johnny A for review. sketch out a prototype yet still unique when based on individual specifi. and there were no Johnny can be moved with A’s in production at the time this article was being developed. a guitar model. played and prodded. An extraordi. and it has now earned a per- manent home in our music room after some quick horse-trad. and the solidbody prowess of his wood. The ‘A’ was Just this week as we were returning a couple of new Gretsch specifically designed to avoid being a one-trick pony. which creates a much more years. like it a lot. and we have out by design to owned a dozen Les Pauls that couldn’t come within a mile of provide easy and this one on all counts. The ‘A’ is also laid ing.” evolved from Johnny’s wish to maintain the hollow character because as long as guitars are made by human hands and and comfort of his ES295. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. and some Les Pauls when a song calls for ballsy sustain. it remains up to you Even more significant are the practical design features that to find “the good ones. The key contribut- gone down). September2005 12 . or all-out screaming sustain. we spied a Gibson Custom Shop nearly every stylistic variation on the electric guitar can be case on the counter (a sure sign that a fresh trade has just authentically explored with it by degrees. As described. In all ness of a Barney/ Lopez. and amps to Midtown Music. luck of the draw. but quite another to backdrop of the entire achieve and maintain a Gibson heritage. it’s stylish. hollow humbucker tones required by jazz and swing tunes. cases. indeed range between the classic. rest assured that can describe the there would be bounces and ‘A’. if the artists whose promptly sent us a names appear on many sig. set up. The Gibson Custom Shop doesn’t keep a wide variety of the toggle switch completed guitars sitting around. entire length of the so let’s get to it. inspected. although we can’t say precisely why. girth and dirt. a center block. viewed against the cations. with none of the funky quirki- last for decades. something ing factors to this uncommon versatility are the solid that just came in. stable and controllable hollow body electric guitar tone than nary 2002 ‘58 Custom Authentic Les Paul lay nestled in its the typical ‘ES’ plush womb. as the manship throughout the look seems to have entire run of a signature been inspired to some extent by a vintage Barney Kessel. right place.

. Specials and and driven to ES175’s. Ribiloff is frequently- tars to be plagued with nut slots that bind the strings during mentioned as one of the most passionate. They were trying to use whatever was commercially serve to remind us that you don’t always have to lay out a available. knowledgeable and tuning until they have been tweaked with a fine needle file. J. the thinline. Gibson employees past and present. ya’ll. Holmes continue to earn “classic” status. so we had access to a lot of guitars and character. and the way to make money was to harmonics.010-. At $198 a Gibson Custom Shop. WA. This is the flatter Les Paul Classic one “signature” model that truly earns its name. very. 859-276-0675 plenty of crown. and we urge slightly more rounded than those of you who can appreciate an extraordinarily versatile an early ‘60s thin-taper or and exceptionally well-built guitar to check them out. I’ve owned lots of vintage Les Pauls. As much as we admire and enjoy the work of builders like Jason Lollar and Jim Wagner at CR Coils. for -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6.T.’ Division. Ribiloff and Tom I’ve been a guitar freak since I was 14 years old. N11. skilled innovators to have worked at Gibson in the days lead- and if you choose to use anything larger than a . as similar to a ‘60s ES335 toned-down look that would match up better with a t-shirt. There were signif- thoroughly icant inconsistencies among all of those old instruments.T. and we have found them to be well-suited for all types of how the ‘57 Classics were created… applications. They are warm and and I’m sure I’ve had over a 1. SG’s. TQ neck shape. We sometimes find new Gibson gui. This is also a very light and comfort. But in all respects.8 pounds. The sole negative we can Even in the absence of a traditional center block. and the fret ends extend over the fingerboard binding rather than beneath it – a good move. TN. the Well. – not nearly as clubby as a jeans and a wallet chain. We do believe they would sell typical ‘50s neck shape. the ‘A’ earns an A. and George through a Gruhn was very generous in that he would let us go in and great amp pull guitars and hold on to them overnight so that we could they produce find those that really had the ultimate tone. the able guitar at 6. by the time I was 21 I had owned over 400 guitars… ‘57 Classics originally designed by J. phenomenal from top to bottom. who continues to And now we’ve come to a part of this review that needs to be build his own signature humbucking pickups in Joelton. exceptionally well-balanced with a very musical top end southern California.gibson. report is that the ‘A’ may simply be too pretty and flashy for style hollow body produces a great hollow tone without rob. and the more variations Thanks to TQR advisory board member Ernie King at the on humbuckers we hear. The neck profile can best be described model offered with nickel hardware and a slightly less flashy.000 guitars.048 set.T. Floyd Rose in Redmond. We were also pleased to find that the ‘A’ did not exhibit any string binding and telltale creaks During the course of our many conversations with various at the saddles or the nut. very low compared to the automobile industry. they are priced far lower than typical “designer” pick.willcuttguitars. pleasing because you have to remember that these factories existed inside/out primarily to make money. we contacted J. with none of workmanship and detail on our review guitar was really quite the dive-bomb tendencies of a Les Paul teetering on your lap. Although we aren’t big fans of gold-plated hardware.com. very well balanced. pickups literally between notes. bing the guitar of sustain or causing squealing feedback at Perhaps Gibson and Johnny A will consider an optional higher volume levels. I grew up in rich. and he is credited for having developed the ‘57 Classic humbucker along with Tom Holmes.com jumbo Dunlop 6105 with www. ing up to the development of the Custom Art & Historic you’ll need to re-work the nut slots on the ‘A. now working at pair. and we asked him to describe ups. the more we like them. digested very carefully… The ‘57 Classics have remained one of our favorite humbucking pickups. keep material and labor costs low and build as efficiently as all of which possible. When we started to develop the ‘57 Classic I had extremes quite a few vintage pickups at my fingertips. some players who would otherwise really dig this guitar. September2005 13 . but in the music industry the quantities of usage are thick stash of cash to get the tone you crave. The fret wire feels similar to medium www. I’m 44 now. but well.

P90’s at the time. there is so little to these things that what little there is does a The ‘57 Classic was specifically aimed at making a “middle lot. -continued- TONEQUEST REPORT V6. and I’m sure that was the goal they had in mind Ray Vaughan. Stevie instruments. and most recently. Any time I tried to Vaughan. and they had never wax-potted PAF’s was basical. one for John Mayer and Eric Johnson. one of the stipu- lations made when we developed the Classic was that there The final were to be absolutely no deviations in the production of that testing of pickup. aggressive kinds of rock music would sound way too dark tencies in through a Fender. because that’s a big part of getting that authentic sound. but the way they had aged. The magnets didn’t really change dimen. the Jeff Beck (a favorite of Phil Brown). Buddy Guy. even though Paul. early PAF’s did vary between Alnico 2 and Alnico 4. And it’s not just about how the pickup sounds. but the magnet material in the high as 800K because of the loose tolerance in the part specs. tation on every aspect of the pickup. the #22 shield- developed. and the pickup actually stops working on inductance and Atwood who really helped me with the development and doc- starts working on capacitance. and it wasn’t so much due to the way they were originally ate a counterfeit PAF. I also left them with complete documen- really bright. and the very first PAF’s the value of the potentiometer you use. guitars example. working on the Classics we were also going through a com- and I had different pole plete re-tooling. Rory Gallagher. so we were listening to a lot of different vintage guitars. but I haven’t noticed anything detri- There were some vintage pickups that didn’t sound good at mental from potting. and others become when I left Gibson. signature Strats. signature models duplicate the extremes that we heard in vintage pickups. you can get little breaks in It was Tom Holmes and an engineer at Gibson named Ray it. The thing is. rod stock for the pole Gibson had just started potting pickups prior to the time we pieces in the were working on the Classic. TQ the Classic took place in multiples of different guitars because what I want- ed was a Over the years. Then. That’s my rule of thumb with pickups. Jimmy when the original PAF’s were designed. Enamel wire becomes brit- tle with time. If you change the of the road” version of the PAF pickup that would sound type of steel you use for pole screws. equally great played through a Fender reverb amp or a Change the spacing of the pole pieces and you change the Marshall 100W Super Lead. if you made the pickup sound super materials sweet. In fact. Some of the 500K pots in the old ‘50s guitars can measure as sionally until around 1961. and those guitars can sound cooler (laughing). Fender has developed an impressive range of good. You can change the basically used the same magnets that were being used for the sound of a pickup just by using different values of pots. and as it gets brittle. you change the sound. N11. I’m proud of the fact that breaks can become warmer sounding. Mark Knopfler. at the time we were ly low-carbon steel. we were also trying to develop the historic Les ed wire was the same… The Classics are potted. The skull played through a really bright Marshall. September2005 14 . pickups prior to 1988-89. Some pickups with these umentation for the ‘57 Classic. but also specifications as was physically possible. including the Clapton model favored by Joe mentary pickup that worked equally well in a broad range of Bonamassa. so all of the usual restraints and resistance to pieces analyzed to find out change had been removed. Fortunately. and style of playing always seemed to suffer. I hope that is still true today. They One of the main factors in how a pickup sounds is also due to used plain enamel 42 gauge wire. The final testing came down to sound… What we tried to really do with the ‘57 Classic was just playing the pickup through a variety of guitar bodies and to make them as close to the originals in terms of the material amps. what types of carbon compound and grade of steel they used. the originals never were. rudi. made. A pickup that that’s where sounded particularly great through a Marshall amp for really the inconsis. The actual grade of how it feels… At the same time the Classics were being steel was specified from the original pickups. unless of course you were trying to cre- all. it would sound like a buzz saw ripping through your came in.