Thursday, June 10, 2004



Every once in a while I get a bout of G.A.S., (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome), which can only be cured by liberal (oh why did I have to use that word) application of something from Gibson, Fender, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Martin or any of the other great marques in luthiery. My most recent acquisition was an Epiphone Firebird VII, which came from seeing too many pictures of Clapton circa Fresh Cream and Brian Jones ca. 1966. If you're into Firebirds, it's actually a great buy for the buck (under $500), and way ($1100) cheaper than the Gibson Firebird VII, the major difference being the tuners. The Gibson has the banjo-style tuners, and the Epi has regular Strat-like tuners, but truth be told, it's a bit more "normal" looking that the hidden banjo pegs. I suspect if I'm really going to get fussy about it, I could drop the banjo tuners in (they're up on eBay occasionally).

Generally Epiphone is a good bang for the buck, and their Elitist series have gotten rave reviews from my professional musician friends. I own two Epis, the Firebird and a standard Korea-made Casino. The Casino is a great buy at $600, but the Korean versions have a different headstock angle than the Elitist, and they tend to buzz with lighter gauge strings. I generally string my Casino with .11s or .12s to minimize the buzzes. My friend's Elitist has the correct vintage headstock angle and gets away with using .10s. The P-90s in the Casino scream nicely (although controlling feedback is a bit touchy with it, since it is completely hollow). The mini humbuckers in the Firebird nicely nail the "Fresh Cream" tone, but the acid test will come in a couple of weeks at my next gig when I can play it through a cranked amp.

Next toy on the list will ge a Gretsch Country Classic 1962-62. About 20 years ago, I played a genuine '63 Country Gentleman, and was fairly unimpressed. It had the tone of course, but it looked like it had been slapped together with little regard. It felt awkward to play, and I guessed that there was a reason George and Chet dropped them quickly. Fast forward to recently, and I tried one of the new Tennessean (OK, Tennessee Rose 1962-HT) reissues. Gretsch and Terada did a beautiful job on this, and it absolutely nails the "Beatles For Sale" tone. Eminently playable and Recommended by the Proprietor. Still on the lookout for a stocking dealer somewhere between Philly and Boston to try out the new Gent reissue (and yes I know "try Guitar Center or Sam Ash", I've already checked with both chains and it's "yes we can order it for you").


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