Email Specials from July 2006

Fri 7/7/2006 ~ Les Pauls in the 1950s


I hope you had a nice, long holiday weekend! And I hope you had some time to hang with your family. I did, and it was great. At least until that one moment....

It all started innocently enough. Like most American families we spent some time talking about our childhood... and then about the grandkids... and then, just as I'm sure happened at your house, the topic turned to Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. One of my brothers said, "I saw Keith Urban in concert. He was great!" And that is surely true. Keith is not only cute, he writes his own songs, and has a good voice, PLUS he's a smokin' guitar player. Naturally, I said to my brother, "Was he using his 50s Les Paul Junior?" And (here's the part that almost ruined my weekend) my brother said, "What's a Les Paul Junior?"

At that moment it became clear to me that I am simply not doing enough to educate people about 1950s Gibson Les Paul models. How could I let this happen? How could a member of my own family not recognize a 50s Junior? I've tried my best to do what's right in life, and sure, I could always adopt some kids like Angelina, but I think we're each given a purpose... and mine is to make sure that no one goes to bed at night thinking that a Les Paul Junior is a 3/4 size Les Paul...


Perhaps you can help, by spreading the word.

Let's recap:

***The standard model***

The Les Paul Model
1952: Gold top, two cream colored single coil P-90s, a big trapeze
combination bridge/tailpiece, mahogany body with carved maple top.
1953: same as above, but late in the year the combination
bridge/tailpiece was changed to a small, stud-mounted one. (The
earlier one was too big and cumbersome.)
1954: same as 1953
1955: same as 1954 except combination bridge/tailpiece changed to a
separate tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece. (This change
happened in mid-1955.)
1956: same as 1955
1957: same as 1956, except single coil P-90s changed to humbucking
pickups. (Change happened in mid-1957.)
1958: same as 1957, except gold top finish changed to cherry sunburst
finish. (Renamed: Les Paul Standard.)
1959: same as 1958
1960: same as 1958
1961: discontinued


***The fancy model***

The Les Paul Custom
1953: Black finish, fancy binding, gold hardware, two black single
coil pickups: one P-90 and one Alnico V, tune-o-matic bridge and stop
1954: same as 1953
1955: same as 1953
1956: same as 1953
1957: pickups changed to three humbucking pickups.
1958: same as 1957
1959: same as 1957
1960: same as 1957
1961: discontinued


***The budget models***

The Les Paul Junior
1954: sunburst, flat slab mahogany body, one black P-90 pickup.
1955: same as 1954
1956: same as 1954
1957: same as 1954
1958: body changed to double cutaway, color changed to red.
1959: same as 1958
1960: same as 1958
1961: discontinued

The Les Paul TV Model
(This was a Les Paul Junior in a different color. Gibson called it "Limed Mahogany." It's kinda yellow. The "TV" part was possibly because it looked good on 1950s black & white TV. Or perhaps because it looked like the same kind of wood as a 1950s TV!)
1954: yellow-ish, flat slab mahogany body, one black P-90 pickup.
1955: same as 1954
1956: same as 1954
1957: same as 1954
1958: body changed to double cutaway, color stayed the same.
1959: same as 1958
1960: same as 1958
1961: discontinued

The Les Paul Special
(This was a Les Paul TV Model with two pickups.)
1955: yellow-ish, flat slab mahogany body, two black P-90 pickups.
1956: same as 1955
1957: same as 1955
1958: same as 1955
1959: body changed to double cutaway, available in either yellow-ish or red.
1960: same as 1959
1961: discontinued


There! Now isn't that simple? (And I won't fault you if you call a Les Paul TV Model a Les Paul Junior. It was, after all. Even in the vintage biz it's often referred to as a "TV Junior.")

So, if you see a single pickup 50's Gibson solid body it's a Les Paul Junior. If it's a double cutaway, it's from 1958-1960.

If you see a two pickup, slab body guitar, it's a Les Paul Special. If it's a double cutaway, it's from 1959-1960.

If it's black and has a carved top, it's a Les Paul Custom.

If it's gold and has a carved top, it's from 1952 through 1957.

If it's sunburst and has a carved top, buy it and call me immediately! We'll sell it and both quit our jobs!


See you soon,


PS: Gibson did make some 3/4 size versions of the Les Paul Junior and Specials. A 3/4 Les Paul Junior was made from 1956-1960. A few 3/4 Les Paul Specials were made in 1959. And although not listed in their catalog, I once saw a four string 1955 Tenor Les Paul Special. All of these guitars had normal sized bodies, with shorter necks.

PPS: This week's customer web site:

 Fri 7/14/2006 ~ Kenny Aronoff, Marty Stuart and Korel


Although I don't watch a lot of TV, I saw some cool stuff this week.

John Fogerty was on Jay Leno and he was rockin'! He did a medley of three of his songs (which is pretty easy since his songs are all so similar...) (but similar in a good way, like the way a Mexican Standard Strat is similar to an American Series Strat; not a bad way, like the way a Yamaha EG303 is similar to a Squier Affinity Strat!) and he played them even faster than the original versions! And despite being nearly 100 years old, he still delivered the vocals with power and intensity... It was quite impressive! And, as always, he did all of the guitar solos.

Fogerty's drummer was the wonderful Kenny Aronoff. Kenny was/is an original member of John Mellencamp's band, but he's is also a freelance drummer and I've seen him backing a lot of folks. You'd recognize him if you saw him; he's thin, bald and always plays on top of the beat, really driving the band. I had a chance to talk with him backstage at a Fogerty show a few years ago, and he's a great guy. And even though he's a famous session and touring drummer, he still sat backstage practicing drum patterns on a little rubber pad. It was cool to see someone so into his craft that he would warm up before a show... and not in the usual way.

Aronoff also played all of the drum parts in my favorite rock & roll movie, "That Thing You Do!" which should be required watching for anyone who is in a band, was in a band, or is thinking about being in a band.

Another great performance this week was Marty Stuart on Conan O'Brien. Stuart is the country guy who wears sparkly suits and has rock & roll hair. He's also a fabulous guitar and mandolin player. On Conan he sang lead and played mandolin. The rest of the band was an acoustic guitar player, using a Martin of course; a stand-up drummer with just a snare and a bass drum; and the only electric guy in the group, a bass player using a Hofner Bass (available right here at Pittsburgh Guitars!). They were doing an uptempo bluegrass song, and even if you're not into that kind of music, you'd still be blown away by Stuart's playing. Those mandolin frets are so darn small, compared to say, human fingers, that I don't know how anyone can play them... let alone do solos high up on the neck. Marty was incredible. He was soooo fast and soooo smooth. I was laughing out loud at how cool his solo was!

And then, I was up at 5AM this morning... and apparently THAT'S when MTV plays music videos! I saw a band that have been mentioned a few dozen times here in the store, Wolfmother, and they were rockin'. They were a bit retro, but not in a "The Darkness" kind of way. (Boy, The Darkness is a great example of "Here today, gone later today.") Based on what I saw this morning, I like the Wolfmothers. The video had approximately a billion edits, so no one frame was on screen for more than a gazzilla-second, but I still recognized two Vox amps behind the band: a Super Beatle and a Royal Guardsman.

Speaking of The Beatles, a few weeks ago our good friend and former Pittsburgh Guitars guitar teacher Korel sent pictures from Abbey Road in London, where he was recording with the Goo Goo Dolls. Here's a picture from the studio.

And here's Korel with the piano The Beatles used on "Lady Madonna"!! (The other two guys in the photo are Andy and Dean, the Goo Goo Dolls' bass tech and guitar tech.)

The Goo Goo Dolls will be appearing today (Saturday 7/15/06) at the Star Lake/Post-Gazette Pavilion. Go see the show and wave to Korel!


See you soon,


PS: Speaking of the Beatles, I'm pulling all of my old Super Beatle Amps out of storage for the Beatle show at The Rex on August 12th. If they still work, we'll use `em! So far we have a house band semi-organized to back up whoever wants to play or sing. And we'll also have some complete bands do some tunes. I'm thinking we should do the songs in chronological order. What'dya think? We'll have a sign-up sheet at the store next week.

PPS: John Fogerty

PPPS: Kenny Aronoff

PPPPS: That Thing You Do!

PPPPPS: Marty Stuart

PPPPPPS: Goo Goo Dolls

 Fri 7/21/2006 ~ Great bass songs, great driving songs, great turn it up loud songs


I was driving in my car the other day and heard a song on the (satellite) radio and I HAD to turn it up loud. Real loud! (And, of course, nod my head back and forth...) There are some songs that simply HAVE to be cranked up! It was the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away." ("Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now!") I don't know how you can listen to that song and NOT turn it up! It's simply a great drivin'-down-the-highway song!

The only tune that I can think of that's a better 'road' song is "Radar Love" by Golden Earring... but "Radar Love" is more of 75 mph song. You can feel it in your hands gripping the wheel, and in your right foot on the gas pedal. "Give It Away" is more of an upper body and neck song. (Thus the involuntary nodding of the cranium...) (As perfected, of course, by The Blue Man Group.) "Give It Away" is better suited for 30 - 40 mph driving.

"Radar Love" opens with some really cool bass playing, but "Give It Away" may be the best example EVER of a bass lick carrying a song... The next one that comes to mind is "Come Together" by The Beatles, but that bass lick only happens in the intro and between the verses.

Let's have a contest. Name another song that is either (1) carried by the bass, (b) a great driving song, or (iii) a must-turn-it-up-loud song. Extra points for falling onto more than one category! Using the latest in scientific technology, we'll pick a winner in time for next week's Email Special. The contest prize: a free Danelectro Overdrive Pedal, or if you're a bass player, a free DOD Bass EQ pedal, plus, as always, a Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt.


See you soon,


PS: I've always liked the intro to "Radar Love." Before the first verse you can hear the lead singer in the background rehearsing the first line of the song. I'm sure it wasn't planned, but they must have liked it and left it in.

PPS: And that reminds me of "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen. After the guitar solo the lead singer comes in one line too early. (Although in those days they probably didn't have the technology to take it out anyway...) The singer was no doubt distracted by one of the greatest 26-second lead guitar solos ever!

PPPS: "Radar Love" was Golden Earring's first hit here in the US, but it was actually their 19th single! Back in their hometown of Haagasraamastrattagaadern, The Netherlands, they were already big stars.

PPPPS: And, yes, it's the same group that nine years later had a hit with the early MTV semi-lame song "Twilight Zone."

PPPPPS: They are still performing today, with the same "Radar Love" line-up. Golden Earring has actually been around longer than the Rolling Stones. And unlike the Stones, they all have their original blood!

PPPPPPS: We have the sign-up list ready for the Beatles night, August 12th at The Rex. I printed out a list of every song they ever recorded, so you have plenty to choose from. Stop in or give me a call. You can bring your band, or we'll have a house band to back you up! Saturday, August 12. The Rex.

PPPPPPPS: This week's customer web site:
Junior Brown

Friday 7/28/2006 ~ More!


We generally get some Email Special feedback... and contests always elicit responses. But this week the replies were almost overwhelming... over a hundred different suggestions of "bass driven" songs, "fast driving songs" and "turn it up LOUD!" songs. (Sorry I didn't write back to YOU personally, by the way.) One explanation might be the enticing prize of a Danelectro Distortion pedal... But I suspect the real reason was that, like me, you love music. You recognize its importance in life. You know that when you face everyday annoyances, like the guy in the next cubicle or the fact that your car needs new transmission mounts, music will make you feel better. And when you're already feeling good, like when you're having a beer with an old friend, music makes things even better! So, thanks for writing! I started Pittsburgh Guitars because I love music, and it's good to see that you feel the same way.

Since there are no right or wrong answers in this contest, the winners were picked at random. Congratulations to Matt G and Sean W, our contest winners!

It was interesting to see the wide variety of songs submitted. Since I don't type well enough to list them all, here is a brief analysis.

** Songs that received the most votes: "Sweet Emotion" (Aerosmith); "New Years Day" (U2); Another One Bites The Dust" (Queen); "The Real Me" (The Who); and, of course, as a bass-driven song, "Big Bottom" (Spinal Tap)!

** Bass players who received many repeat votes: Flea, Paul McCartney and James Jamerson. (Unjustly unknown, Jamerson played on most of the Motown hits. Right now, as you read this, someone somewhere (maybe that guy over there!) is listening to one of his fabulous bass lines!)

** Bands who received the most repeat votes: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who and U2.

** A couple of interesting suggestions: Driving songs- driving fast: "Born To Be Wild" (Steppenwolf); "I Can't Drive 55" (Sammy Hagar); "My Generation" (The Who) Driving songs- driving slow: "Low Rider" (War); "Riders On The Storm" (The Doors) Bass driven songs- "Pump It Up" (Elvis Costello); "Take A Walk On The Wild Side" (Lou Reed); anything by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Turn em UP! songs- "My Sharona" (The Knack); "Go All The Way" (The Raspberries); anything by Green Day

** Songs I didn't expect: "King Of The Road" (Roger Miller); "Walkin' On Sunshine" (Katrina and the Waves) (hey, wait a minute...'Katrina'... 'waves'... that's spooky!); "Seven Nation Army" (The White Stripes) (They don't even HAVE a bass player!); "Peter Gunn Theme" (Henry Mancini)

** Special Mention: "Fever" (Peggy Lee) It's only vocals, bass and a little bit of drums.


Thanks for writing! As I read each entry, the song would flow through my head. You would think that would cause a brainache... but it just made me feel good!


See you soon,


PS: If you haven't seen "This Is Spinal Tap" you should! It's a "mockumentary" about a semi-fictitious band, starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. Some favorite scenes: Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnel) mimicking Jimmy Page's use of a violin bow on his Les Paul, except Nigel uses an entire violin; Nigel discussing his Marshall: "But this goes up to 11..."; and "Big Bottom" (the shot starts with a close-up on one of them playing bass, but as the camera pans back you see that they are ALL playing bass! One of them even has a double-neck bass!) Also recommended, the other movies done by these three guys: "Best In Show", "Waiting For Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind."

PPS: Re: The Beatle show on August 12th at The Rex: ** I just dug out my Super Beatle amp collection to use at the show. This weekend I'm gonna turn `em on, and see what explodes! I'm looking forward to seeing them all on stage. ** We have lots of folks on the list now, but there's still room for you if you'd like to do a song or two. Stop in the store and sign up. You'll only have to bring your guitar. We'll have the amps and drums. (Black Oyster Pearl Ludwigs, of course...) ** We'll also have the biggest collection of Beatle-style instruments you'll ever see, including a rare 1959 Futurama, a super rare 1961 Hofner Cavern Bass and a super super rare Vox AC-100.

PPPS: Customer web site:
Kill The Alarm

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