“Syd” 1988 Fender J.A.V. Blue Flower Reissue Telecaster
Every self-respecting guitar nerd becomes enamoured with the Fender Telecaster at some point in their lives. It’s a wild and crude beast, but capable haunting beauty. The sound of the bridge pickup is totally distinct( think of the Monkees’ Last Train to Clarksville). Apparently that has something to do with the ashtray like bridge plate that the pick up is nestled in, this according to Jerry Donahue of The Hellacasters/Fender Guitars. Most of the guitar greats have a modified form of a Tele called a “Frankentele”, with re-wiring, added pickups and Bigsby vibrato. Mine was right out of the box. I was a huge Sad Barrett and Pink Floyd fan growing up, and Syd’s guitar of choice was a Telecaster, usually in Pink Paisley or alternatively, Blue Flower finish. Fender used Mac Tac cupboard liners and lacquered over them. Note the clear pickguard. If you look really close, you can still see some congealed blood from a gig I did in my 20’s when I was really shredding and didn’t notice I was bleeding. (Those were the days)
1988 K. Yairi DY61 “Jerry Garcia Model” acoustic guitar
I bought this guitar at Alberta Guitar Company on 14th street around Kensington Road in about 1989. It’s been my main acoustic axe ever since. I’ve owned other acoustics. A couple of years ago, I bought a nice Larivee, but I hardly ever played it. I actually own another K. Yairi, which is a Martin copy, which I use for open keys. Yairis, like other Japanese built guitars (especially Yamahas) are great value. Mine was hand built in 1988 in the town of Kani, in Gifu Japan. I had a Fishman pickup installed after I bought it and a powered jack. Most sound men seem to like the sound of this guitar. I think the Fishman pickups from later years are slightly lesser quality than mine. For one thing, they have half the surface area which probably creates a much thinner sound. The pick guard was an add on so I wouldn’t bore a hole in the top of my guitar a la Willie Nelson. This guitar with electronics installed by K.Yairi is called the Jerry Garcia signature model. There’s lots of fancy abalone inlay and pin striping. Also, the back and sides are made of curly maple, which is pretty psychedelic in itself. One last note. The stamp on the bottom right is just a brand burnt on by K. Yairi at the factory.
1996 Fender J.A.V. 1950’s Reissue Stratocaster in Two Tone Tobacco Sunburst
This is actually the 4th or 5th Strat I’ve owned. My first one was a Candy Apple Red 1960’s reissue with rosewood fingerboard. In the mid 80’s, Fender started reissuing Strats and Teles with the original design bridges and pickups, and building them in Japan, where the much sought after Squire series was being made. The J.A.V. Strats just sounded more Stratty to me. Sadly, they stopped making them in the early 2000’s. I left that first one in the trunk of a cab in the early 90’s. I replaced that with a Sonic Blue Strat which would be my go to axe for about 25 years until it was stolen from the back of a theatre during my Alberta Elvis Show tour of 2016. The organizers of that event felt so bad about it that they generously wrote me cheque for the replacement value, and I found this one (practically new!) on Kijiji. I just know that I’ll always have to have a Strat in my life, they are one of the great guitars…love ‘em or hate ‘em. Haven’t quite narrowed down a name for her yet, but in keeping with me naming my Gretch “Gretchen”, I suppose I could go with “Freida Fender”.
“Little Red” 1950’s-early 60’s Supro ( or National...) Ozark with bad home made paint job
Little Red is a half scale student model made by Valco in probably the early 60’s. Someone re-painted her, which is a shame because the original Spurs had beautiful art deco designs and pin striping. Anyways, I paid $75 for her at a little music shop called Thee Music Shop right next to the old Tucker Drugs and the Tropicana. The secret to her sound is in the pick up, which gives you an uncanny Elmore James tone no matter what you play her through. I use her exclusively for open D tuning. Little Red has gone missing twice. The first time was at the Side Track in the mid 90’s when I was there with Beautiful Joe. After a late night of partying with the staff after the show, I went to get her the next morning but she was missing. There were a lot of people passing through that green room so I’d assumed someone took off with her, but about three years later I got a call from the manager of the Sidetrack asking if I’d lost a little red guitar. He knew I was in Edmonton opening for Jann Arden, so I happily went and picked her up after my opener! The second time she went missing was when I was in Memphis in 2016 at the International Blues Competition. Little Red was to be my ace in the hole that would help me win the whole thing. Unfortunately, the baggage handler misplaced her and she ended up spending the weekend in Dallas/Fort Worth! I finally got a call from American Airlines an hour before I headed back to the airport and needless to say, I didn’t win. Didn’t make the quarter finals either!
“Pinky” 2008 Bullet by Squire Strat
A cheap knockoff of a Fender Stratocaster made in China and probably marketed for tween-age girls, this guitar has a touching origin story. I was playing a two night corporate gig in Canmore with John Hyde and Kelly Kruse. On the Friday of the gig, I stopped into Long and McQuade to rent some p.a. stuff and noticed the bright pink Strat prominently displayed. At $120, I should have just bought her on the spot. I didn’t buy her but I told John and Kelly about her, bubble gum pink and all. The next night I showed up for the gig and there she was on stage. Nice guys! One thing that I did to modify her was to rewire her like a Telecaster. Strats have one master volume and two tone knobs for a three pickup guitar, and the volume knob is very close to where your pinky finger hangs while you play. It’s quite easy to inadvertantly turn off the volume in the middle of a solo, especially if your eyes are closed. I removed the master volume and stuck a cap in the hole where it once was. It’s kind of a cool modification that I wouldn’t have made with a more expensive guitar. This now my open G slide guitar. Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder and Lowell George can’t all be wrong!