Saturday, October 16, 2021

Guitars part two

As I mentioned in part one, the Washburn acoustic was my main guitar for almost twenty years, and it was the only guitar I played regularly after I brought it over to the States in 2006. It remains the guitar I've played the most in my collection. The blue Strat, the Charvel and the Maison bass followed the Washburn in dribs and drabs when relatives visited, and eventually the Rickenbacker also made the trip. However, in spite of the availability of instruments, this was prolonged fallow period as far as playing guitar was concerned. 

By 2014, for reasons not relevant to this post, I was finding little bits of time to play the guitar again. I decided it was time to replace the Washburn with a really top quality instrument. The thing is, it took me forever to decide what to buy. 

Fast forward to the middle of 2015 and I know that I want a Gibson Hummingbird. I spent a lot of time looking for the right vintage model, but I never found one I liked enough. I looked at getting a brand new model instead. As it happened, in 2015 Gibson produced a limited run of Hummingbirds with book-matched maple back and sides instead of the usual mahogany. That these guitars received an extra-deep red sunburst finish only added to the must-have factor.

Still, one problem remained: by the time I had decided to part with my $$$, the 2015 production run was sold out. Darn! I waited to see what the 2016 version would look like, and it was worse than the standard guitar: the mahogany back and sides were restored, and a naff "2016" badge had been imposed on the truss rod cover. Yuk! I briefly went back to looking for a vintage example, but my heart wasn't in it...

(8) Fender Jazz bass 1997

With the Hummingbird off the table, I temporarily lost interest in acoustic guitars, and decided to go back to playing bass. The USA-made Fender Jazz bass was purchased used to succeed the Maison in Spring 2016 not long after Sam and I moved back to Berkeley. I had picked up a small 15 watt Orange Amplifiers practice amp from Guitar Center a few months earlier which made the Jazz bass sound awesome. At the time I had a huge office upstairs at the back of the house where I could plunk around on the bass after the bread snappers were tucked up in bed.

The Jazz bass was my go-to instrument for over a year. I even took it on vacation to San Diego. There was a period when I couldn't put it down. The Jazz bass is a really nice, professional quality instrument that makes you want to pick it up and play it.

(9) Fernandes JS-100 1987

The Fernandes was bought as a collection piece in September 2016. I don't intend to play this guitar very much. It is actually an incredibly rare guitar - just a handful were made in red, although a lot of white ones are out there and quite a few black ones also exist. This guitar will be getting a full blog post soon, so I'm going to skip over it here.

(10) Gibson Hummingbird 2015

The key to this guitar really is never give up!  After my initial disappointment waned, I went back to looking for a used 2015 Hummingbird, and I found one at the end of 2016 that was essentially mint. It arrived on December 24, 2016, so not a bad Christmas gift really. Funny thing is, I got the Hummingbird for less than 60% of the retail price, so in the end I got the guitar I really wanted AND the Jazz bass out of my original budget.

The Gibson has a sitka spruce top with quilted maple back and sides and multi-ply top and back abalone binding. The neck is mahogany with an inlaid rosewood fretboard and a bone nut. As well as the classic hummingbird pickguard and red sunburst finish, the guitar also has gold plated grover tuning pegs. Truly a beautiful instrument that has seen a lot of playing time. 

(11) Fender Telecaster 1952 (reissue)

We moved house in the Summer of 2017 and for some reason my office ended up too close to the rest of the house to play acoustic guitar in the evenings. I dealt with this problem initially by breaking out the blue Strat, but there was a problem: that particular guitar never sounded right. I've always assumed it was because the instrument was made in Japan. A few months before I bought the blue Strat (so sometime in 1987) my Father and I were in Soho Square Music browsing through guitars when I struck up a brief conversation with one of the cooler-looking-than-me guys who worked there. I asked him, you know, really, what is the difference between an American Strat, and one that was made in Japan? I was informed it boiled down to "About three hundred quid, mate!" My own research over 30 odd years tells me it is actually more like this: one of them sounds great, and the other one doesn't. 

All of which, is a roundabout way of saying that in the beginning of 2018 I was on the lookout for a nice American-made Stratocaster that I could play in my office in the evenings and through my practice amp at other times. I never did find one that I liked enough to buy or that I could actually afford. Ultimately I ended up with an American-made Telecaster. I think I must have been listening to a lot of Status Quo at the time.

This particular instrument is Fender's attempt to re-make the classic original 1952 butterscotch Telecaster (or No Caster as it is better known). The guitar has the single-ply black pickguard, original style no caster pickups and wiring, the "Pat Pending" stamp on the bridge plate and slotted screws instead of philips. This particular guitar has also been "relic'd" to enhance the original look. 

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