Author: The Fret Mechanic

The Fret Mechanic is a blog for anyone interested in the technical side of guitars!

MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION: EDDIE COCHRAN 1938-1960 “SUMMERTIME BLUES” 1959

Those of you who know me will also know how big of a fan i am of the late, and truly great, Eddie Cochran.

There are many reasons why i am such a huge fan and, to outline them, here are some well known and, perhaps, some not all that well known facts about this great man:

  • Eddie Cochran began working as a professional session musician at the tender age of 16 drawing the admiration of many of his peers, the large majority of his recorded work is as an unnamed session guitarist.
  • After a very successful stint as a session guitarist Eddie performed as one half of the duo “The Cochran Brothers” with Hank Cochran. For many years people believed the two to be brothers….they were not!
  • Eddie was one of, if not THE, first guitarists to use a plain third string instead of a wound string by moving his treble strings up and replacing his top E with a banjo string. Since this time it has become common practice to fit plain third strings to almost all electric guitars.
  • Cochran wrote, arranged and produced almost every song he recorded as a solo artist, this was almost unheard of at the time. Being  such an able songwriter, technician and performer meant he could only trust his skill and his alone.
  • He only ever used the one electric guitar throughout his whole solo career, his beloved 1955 Gretsch G6120 Nashville which he later modified by adding a Gibson P90 pickup in place of the factory DeArmond neck pickup.
  • It is said that the only performer that Elvis Presley was fearful of was Eddie Cochran, many Cochran fans even believed the king to have been complicit in his demise….i think we can safely say this was not the case!
  • Eddie Cochran died tragically and way before his time at the shocking age of 21 in a high speed car crash during a tour of England in 1960 with Gene Vincent. Gene was also in the car but survived. It is widely believed that Gene never recovered from the incident physically or emotionally. Imagine what Eddie would have achieved if he had been given longer on this earth.

The world lost a great, great man on 17th of April 1960….RIP Eddie!

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YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!……

One question that is thrown at me probably more than any other, about guitars anyway, is:

“Why are guitars so expensive these days?”

Well the answer is….they’re not!

The trouble with economics is that it’s all relative. Today’s economy is driven by choice….lot’s of choice. Huge scale, cheap,  far eastern manufacturing has flooded the instrument market with countless options catering for every fancy, need and preference within several different price ranges. I’m not saying that is a really evil thing…not exactly anyway. I think it is great that someone on low-income can afford to own a working instrument, this certainly wasn’t the case many years ago!

The knock on effect that this does have is to lower our understanding of quality whilst simultaneously seeming to inflate the price of quality instruments.

Let’s look at some maths just for fun:

  • Average pre-tax income in the USA in 1959 was $5000.
  • The street price of a Gibson Les Paul Standard in 1959 was $289.
  • This represents 5.78% of an American households yearly pre-tax income.

Like i said economics is relative….

  • Average pre-tax income in the USA in 2013 was $51000.
  • The street price of a Gibson Les Paul Standard in 2013 was $3000
  • This represents 6% of an Americans households yearly pre-tax income.

Now, i know these sort of statistics can be bent in all sorts of ways so people  see what we wish them to see and that average incomes are very difficult to calculate and they were different times and blah blah blah but i just wanted to outline a simple point….good guitars were never super affordable but neither were they unrealistically expensive.

We live in a society that has little or no concept of the worth of anything. Look around your house at a lot of the stuff you own…how much of it is of real worth and quality? We all own a lot of stuff we don’t need and didn’t pay much for.  It’s a sad sign of the times, as the price of everything goes down and down the quality is never far behind. I am not saying that I’m any different….i own a lot of shit that i don’t need and was cheap and invariably made in a far off country with a questionable human rights record….i really wish i didn’t and i try where i can to buy quality or do without.

You can see from the comparisons between era that you still get what you pay for in terms of quality. Manufacturers are still making money…like they always have, and we still get an instrument that will last a lifetime and that you can be proud of.

I used Gibson as an example here purely because there was almost poetic symmetry when comparing relative prices, when using Fender as an example you get a lot more for yer buck these days than then!

So what does this all mean?

I’m under no illusion that the huge, mostly American, guitar manufacturers are whittling one-off, artisan pieces of musical magic from responsibly sourced fair-trade timber…… this clearly isn’t the case and never was, as much as this isn’t a lecture on economics it also isn’t a lecture on ethics!

What I’m saying is don’t let the comparative economy of cheap, poorly made guitars influence your feelings about the pricing of quality guitars.

Fender and Gibson (just as examples) are, in general, mass manufactured instruments but they are of superb quality and for that, surely, they are worth the money?

As a side note if you were to have purchased a Gibson Les Paul in 1959 for $289 you would see a pretty healthy return for your investment as they are now valued, on average, at over $100000

MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION: PAUL BIGSBY 1899-1968

Thanks to Ally at Music Guitar Girl, who kindly posted some pictures of her very lovely 1950’s Kay arch top guitar, I’ve been thinking about one of my heroes in both the engineering and guitar field….Mr Paul Bigsby  (FYI-Paul modified a Kay arch top for Jack Parsons in 1951)

I will be following this up with a little dedication to Paul but for now, as a teaser, here is a photo of Paul’s modified Kay #102951…..

JPBIGSBY

SYNCHROCASTER GUITAR BUILD UPDATE!

Now it’s time to get serious on the fret board of the Synchrocaster!

The ebony fingerboard has been leveled and planed to thickness,now it’s time to put some fret slots in. As this is going to be a pretty classic guitar it will have traditional Fender 25.5″ scale, Dunlop 6105 frets but a more modern 9.5″ fret board radius…….more to come!

TFM

Fret positions marked using scale caliper.

Fret positions marked using scale caliper.

Nut slot being cut into ebony board.

Nut slot being cut into ebony board.

Fret slots being cut into ebony board.

Fret slots being cut into ebony board.

 

Build it and they will come!!!

Wanna see a guitar being built?

Thought so! I’m currently putting together the “BUILD” menu on my blog which will document the progress of my current guitar build through a series of photographs…a sort of micro blog within a blog i guess?

My current guitar build is a sort of Frankenstein’s Telecaster which will have a few tasty little differences to yer common or garden Tele!

There are a few snaps up already but watch this space and witness the birth of a guitar!

TFM

Motivation and Inspiration: Chet Atkins “Mr Sandman” 1954

Since I have no setups this weekend and this blog is in its infancy hows about we have a little motivation courtesy of Mr Chester Atkins, one of the greatest guitar pickers of all time. If this doesn’t make you want to go practice then you have a heart of stone! Enjoy!

There will be a section on the stars setups very soon and Mr Atkins will have a section devoted to himself! Watch this space!

TFM