Friday 11/13/2009 ~ Every Day
is Like Christmas!
Yesterday the UPS man showed
up with several boxes of guitars. As usual, we all gathered `round,
wide-eyed, anxious to open them.
customer standing nearby said, "Wow it's like Christmas!"
I said, "Every day is like Christmas at Pittsburgh Guitars!!"
Of course, that's not entirely
true. Some days are like Thanksgiving. (Those are the days we
have turkey and mashed potatoes for lunch...) And some days are
like Arbor Day. (When Mark puts a ribbon in his hair and dances
around the May Pole...) But a lot of days ARE like Christmas,
`cause we get to open fun new packages... full of our favorite
Yesterday's shipment included
new stuff from Danelectro and Hofner.
The Dano box included two new
reissues, modeled after the modified double cutaway Danelectro
"Shorthorn" guitars used by Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.
Jimmy Page owned a black Model 3021, to which he added a "Badass"
tailpiece... to improve its intonation. Here's a picture of Jimmy. Eric owned a copper-colored
Model 3022, to which he added a lot of paint... to improve its
psychedelic-isity. Here's Eric.
Here's John with
two of the Danectros we received this week! We also received an original-style, copper-colored
model; and a special "Anniversary" model...all-white,
with gold hardware. (Danelectro now calls these models the "59
DC," since they were first introduced in1959 and are Double-Cutaway
The Hofner box included a fresh
supply of Beatle Basses, along with Hofner's newest reissue:
The Hofner Galaxie. Hofner's original version of this guitar
(spelled Galaxy) was manufactured in 1963, and most of them were
sold in Europe...
so this model may not be as familiar looking as the Danelectros...
but it's fun (and inexpensive!). Here's John with a new Hofner Galaxie and a Galaxie
Speaking of fun, John had a blast
on his Yamaha-sponsored tour of Japan and China. On his very
first night in Osaka, Japan, when the rest of the tour group
went to bed, John decided to wander around town. He walked down
a side street, into an alley, and found a bar called "Rock
Rock." He says it's about half the size of Pittsburgh Guitars.
And the first guys he met were members of the band Megadeth!
As he was having drinks with them, in walked Marilyn Manson!
And this was all within the first hour of his trip!
Here are some pictures, including shots of John actually building
a guitar in Yamaha's factory in Japan. Here are a few more! In one of the photos
you can see factory workers holding up sets of the Pittsburgh Guitars Super-Tone and Superior-Tone
Guitar Strings, which feature John's picture on the front.
The gentleman on the far right is holding a Pittsburgh Guitars
ping-pong ball. (That was probably a bit hard for John to explain!)
(If you'd like to see more pictures, let us know. John took 700!)
Speaking of other fun, last week's
Halloween Show, "Night Of The Singing Dead, #17," was
a blast. Here are some pictures. Here are more!
Speaking of Christmas, it was
Christmas for one of our customers last Saturday. Russell Crowe
is in town filming a movie, and last Saturday
afternoon he stopped in to check out some guitars. As he was
looking at Strats in the back of the room, a local kid came in
to try out a banjo. He fell in love with a vintage May Belle
tenor, but ultimately said he couldn't afford it. Although Russell
was in the back of the store, he over-heard the banjo conversation.
He casually walked up to the counter, whispered a few words to
John, handed John four hundred dollar bills, and walked out the
door. The kid didn't even know what was happening... until we
handed him the banjo, and we told him it was a gift from Russell
Crowe. The kid ran outside to thank him, but Russell was long
gone... just like Santa Claus.
Speaking of the new Danelectro
and Hofner guitars, this week's email special offers a super
deal on hardshell cases for the new models!
See you soon,
PS: Customer of the Week: Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts
Friday 11/20/2009 ~ The Fender
Last week a kid called. (I've
now reached the age where I'm gonna call anyone under 30 a "kid.")
He said he was a local college
student taking a course on the music business...
both the retail side and the production side. And he asked if
he could hang around and ask some questions. Since I'm all for
helping out the kids, I said, "I'm down with that, dude."
(Hey, that would be funny if I really said that...) (I really
said, "Right on, man.")
His first questions were about
the success of Pittsburgh Guitars, and what advice I would give
to someone pursuing a similar path. Since I like talking about
myself as much as the next guy (presuming that the next guy also
likes talking about me), I started to ramble about the history
of the store.... You know, the old "Well, back when I started
we didn't have the internet, or email, or computers, or cell
phones..." (How'd we ever communicate in those days??)
But after a minute or two, I
realized that although I've worked really hard (long hours, alone,
at night doing paperwork...), some of the success of the store
is also due to timing. Timing, on a generational level, that
I couldn't have anticipated or controlled. And none of that would
be applicable to someone opening a store today.
I started this store because
of my admiration of the guitar as a musical instrument, and my
appreciation for old and used (and historically interesting)
instruments. Thirty years ago there were no "vintage"
guitars, only "used" ones. As it happened though, my
generation started growing up, and getting jobs, and making money.
And along the way they wanted to buy the guitars they either
had as teenagers, or couldn't afford as teenagers. And as the
demand for old instruments grew, along with the number of folks
who could now afford to buy them, the "vintage guitar"
market was born. It also helped that quality level of new instruments
in the early 1980s was at a low point, which further increased
the desirability of older instruments.
And I didn't see any of that
And that's what I told the kid.
I started a business that I loved, and worked hard at it, and
it just happened to be a good (and fun) time, historically, to
be doing that. Any advice I could give beyond that would be irrelevant
to what he might face in the future.
But I did emphasize that if you
really like something, the "work" part is a lot easier.
And that is so obvious at events like last weekend's Philadelphia
Guitar Show. I hate getting up early, but sure enough, there
I was at 9AM on Saturday morning, in line with the other dealers,
waiting to get in and look at guitars. (The show was open to
the public from 10AM until 6PM.) And at 6:45PM, long after we
were supposed to leave, there I was sitting at another dealer's
booth, still talking about guitars. The show promoters had to
come around force dealers to leave. ("Just step away from
I had a particularly fun time at this show. I decided to liven
things up and display my Fender Antigua collection. And everyone
loved it! (Well, "loved" may not be the word... but
they were intrigued!)
You see, it all started in 1966.
Once upon a time, a young man
named Leo Fender manufactured some mighty fine solid body electric
guitars. But, in 1965 a big corporation came along and said,
"Here's lots of money! We'd like to buy your company!"
And Leo said, "OK." And as soon the big corporation,
CBS, took over they said, "Hey, what's with all of these
solid body guitars? Gibson is making a fortune with their hollow
electrics, like the ES-335. Let's get in on that!!"
So they started to make Fender's
first hollow-body electric, the Fender Coronado.
But making a hollow guitar is
more complicated than making a solid one. And
Fender's workers started to have problems. They found that some
of the guitars they constructed during the day would come apart
at night. So they had to re-build them and re-attach the binding
around the edge of the guitar. Removing and re-attaching the
binding led to burn marks around the edges. Fortunately, someone
suggested that a clever paint job would hide the edge issues.
And thus was born: the Antigua finish! It's hard to describe
(in complimentary terms), but it's an opaque whitish-creme color
in the center, fading into a dark brownish-grayish sunburst.
(And thanks to the natural yellowing of the lacquer, the entire
color soon develops a greenish tint.) The result is a color unlike
In 1967 the Antigua finish was
offered on both the Coronado and the Coronado Bass, as well as
on Fender's equally short-lived acoustic line of guitars.
Here's John with
a 1967 Fender Antigua Coronado.
Unfortunately, Fender's Coronado
guitars were a marketplace failure. Unlike Gibson's semi-hollow
ES-335, they were completely hollow and prone to feedback.
The Antigua color, though, would
live to see another day! Someone at Fender must have liked it,
and in 1978 Fender decided to offer Antigua as an option on all
of their guitars. Here's John with a 1978 Antigua Mustang and Antigua
But once again, Antigua was doomed
to failure. This time it wasn't the fault of the instruments,
but rather the application of the finish. To give the guitars
a dramatic look, the research and development department decided
to put a sunburst finish on the pickguards as well as the bodies.
But painted plastic pickguards don't hold up well. If you played
your guitar a lot, the paint would wear off... revealing the
black plastic of the pickguard beneath. He's a close-up of the pickguard on the Strat John was
holding in the other photo.
The pickguard issue, along with
the turning-to-green mentioned earlier, led to Fender abandoning
the Antigua color by 1979.
Jumping ahead to 1989... one
day I looked up at the walls of the store, and we had two Antigua
guitars, a Strat and a Tele. I decided to put them next to each
other... and I fell in love! Although many people don't care
for the look of one Antigua instrument, it's hard not to admire
several of them together!!! Over the next ten years, whenever
a new Antigua model found its way to the store, I'd save it with
the others. I had to stop buying them in the early 2000s, when
prices got too high, but I still have thirteen. Here's a picture. And I took all of them
to last week's show. It was a blast!!
And as I stood there with other
dealers, looking at the Antigua collection, I had a sense of
bonding with them. The Antiguas were a market failure... and
while that is unfortunate for Fender, it gives these guitars
a special place in guitar history. And likewise, the kind of
people who would appreciate putting a collection of them together...
namely baby-boomer guitar shop owners... have their place in
guitar history... namely, running music stores that specialize
in one particular instrument, the guitar, and doing so primarily
for the love of the instrument and what it has meant in their
lives. And I'm happy to be a part of that group.
Speaking of odd colors, we just
got a fresh supply of Kyser Capos in every color, including camouflage
and red-white-and-blue. They are our email special this week.
See you soon,
PS: Last week I showed this picture of John at the Yamaha factory and
I said "... you can see factory workers holding up... a
Pittsburgh Guitars ping-pong ball.
(That was probably a bit hard for John to explain!)" Well...
after I sent the email John told me that earlier that day he
had participated in a meeting in the factory's conference room.
Yamaha was asking the US dealers on the tour for feedback about
their guitars. During the meeting John kept hearing "click,
click, click." He asked the Yamaha folks about it, and they
said, "Oh, that's the break room next door." They took
John to the next room, and apparently the factory break room
was full of ping-pong tables, and the workers were playing during
their lunch hour! So, it turns out they weren't mystified by
the Pittsburgh Guitars Ping Pong Ball...They were impressed!!!!
PPS: Customer of the Week: Mad Caddies
Wednesday 11/25/2009 ~ Happy
Thanksgiving, and Weekend Specials
I'm sending this super early
this week (Wednesday morning, to be exact) for two reasons. First
of all, I'll be too busy to write anything on Friday, with all
of the after-Thanksgiving customers. And secondly, I figure you'll
be too busy to read anything on Friday, with all of your Christmas
shopping. And thirdly, (wait... "for three reasons..."),
many folks get the Friday Email Special at work and (hopefully)
you'll be off on Friday. And fourthly, (Four... "four reasons...."),
Fender is having a sale this weekend... and although I don't
like to spend too much time in the Email Special trying to sell
stuff (I'd rather talk about stuff I don't want to sell)...
I wanted to let you know that we'll be participating in the Fender
promotion... just like the big chain stores.
The concept is simple. This Friday
through Monday Fender is conducting a nationwide promotion, and
we'll be selling every new Fender product in the store at an
additional 10% off. And since the Fender products in our store
are already cheaper than the big chain stores, they'll now be
Fender is calling it the "2009
National Fan Appreciation Days" sale. And they say they're
going to twitter heavily about it. (Or is that "tweet"
heavily?) Anyhow, they're gonna get the word out on the tweet.
And on the facebook. And the myspacebook. So, you may have heard
about it already.
Meanwhile, Vox has a sale going
on too, with their ValveTronix amps. We have four different VT
models, ranging in power from 15 watts to 100 watts, and ranging
in price from $195 to $639.
The current Vox promotion offers a $50 rebate on the 15, 30 and
50 watt amps; and a $100 rebate on the 100 watt amp. And it doesn't
take a math whiz to see that a $50 rebate on a $195 amp is quite
a percentage. (Although, if you are a math whiz you'll note that
it amounts to 25.65% off.) (And that's 25.65% off of the $195
price, which is *already* discounted 30.66% off the List Price
of $280.) (So, a List Price of $280 minus 30.66% minus 25.65%...
is like a million percent off!) (...well... really 48.21% off...)
John with the amps.
Jumping over to acoustic-land,
yesterday our Martin sales rep was in the store. As we were chatting
about the meaning of life (and he was marveling at our new Ukulele
section), I said, "Hey,
Dave, this weekend Fender is having a big '10% Off Everything'
sale... and Vox has a rebate thing happening... and many of our
Paul Reed Smith guitars are on sale at 50% off (oh, yeah, I forgot
to mention that earlier)... so can we do something with our Martin
And he said, "Well, your
prices are already too low, you can't do any more discounting.
How about this? If someone buys a Martin guitar this weekend,
we'll give them a year's worth of free strings." I said,
"OK, Dave!!" So this weekend we'll also be having our
own little Pittsburgh Guitars Martin Special. If you buy any
new Martin guitar, priced at $399, or above, you'll get a dozen
free sets of Martin Strings. (Since most folks change their strings
once a month, a "year's worth of free strings" = twelve
And that's the plan.
See you soon,
PS: Since winter is approaching,
now would be a good time to give away the promo jacket that we just got from Levy's
Leathers, the company that makes most of the straps we carry.
It's big, and heavy, and a little bit loud. Here's our model, John. It has leather sleeves
and, like the Levy's straps it was made in Canada, so it'll keep
you (possibly you AND a friend) warm. We'll make it part of the
weekend festivities too. Stop in Friday or Saturday and we'll
put your name in a jar. Saturday afternoon we'll pick a winner.
No purchase necessary.
PPS: Hey, I just remembered,
we have a Yamaha promotion too! A free Yamaha Guitar Care Kit
with the purchase of any Yamaha guitar. The kit includes guitar
polish, string cleaner
and lubricant, lemon fretboard conditioner, a polish cloth, and
PPPS: Now that I've typed all
of this, I see that we have a lot going on this weekend. We should
open earlier than usual on Friday, just like the mall! OK!!!
Instead of our regular 11AM opening, we'll open at 10:30!!
PPPPS: Is it too early to start
putting up the Christmas decorations? They always make me feel
so good. (For some reason they remind me of black & white
Christmas movies from the 1940s...) (I must have watched too
many movies as a child.)
PPPPPS: Customer of the Week: