Email Specials from November 2009

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.

A 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 things: guitars!


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 guitars.)

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 Bass.


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 Antiguas!


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 coming.

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 the guitars!")
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 any other.

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 Strat.

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 "already-cheaper-minus-another-10%."

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...) Here's 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 guitars?"

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 sets.)


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 more.

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: Bob Schneider

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