Right tool for the right gig.
I've managed to land upon some great instruments as I've meandered along,
and some folks have even asked me about what I'm using now or had used
in the past. Some things were acquired after much thought and investigation,
review of specs, and assessment of "bang-for-buck", but, like my life,
there was a heavy portion of dumb luck.
After 3 years of piano lessons (grades 2-5), I began the trombone, the
same Olds that I have today. That horn & the school band program helped
bring up my grade point average through my 1st year in college.
6th grade, I got my first stringed
instrument: a plastic Ukelele.
I learned "Thunder
Road" & "Carry Me Back To Ol' Virginny". My folks bought me a larger
"Baritone" uke in 7th grade (a babe magnet), which I used on my
first "gig": My pal, Tom Bates & I did a couple of Smothers Brothers
songs during band breaks at the 7th grade dance and then again at the 8th
grade dance..we were "Some-Other Brothers". Tommy went on to become,
among other things, tour manager for Foreigner, Dan Fogelburg, and is now
right hand man for Don Law concerts out of Boston.
I got a Kay 5-string banjo
for Christmas in 8th grade. I learned frailing from a Pete Seeger
instruction book. This style was not nearly as cool a Scruggs-picking,
but it was a style I drew upon once I started playing acoustic guitar,
about 10 years later...so...cool at the end.
During my freshman year in high school, my parents had a unaccountable
lapse in judgement. I entered the world of rock `n roll with my first
electric bass guitar: a Tempo bass
and a Sears Silvertone 1 15" amplifier which was quickly replaced,
with the help of my folks, by an Ampeg B-15
The Tempo taught me how to endure hours of torture, bad sound, muscle &
blister pain...this ablity would serve me later, in my comedy career. After
6 mos. of sporatic gigs with my first band "Alfie & The Others"
(there was, after all, no real "Alfie"...my first scandal), I got
a Univox copy
of a "Beatle Bass", which would last me through the balance of highschool.
My folks never took
my instruments away or forbade me to play a gig...no matter how "grounded"
I might have been. I've always appreciated that of them. I know that it
must have taken great pains.
The summer after graduation, I bolted the neck and hardware of a second
rate 6-string electric onto the body of the old Tempo Bass...it was a true
FrankenStrat. I routed channels for the 3 pickups into the body before
I checked for bridge place- ment...so, of course, to be in-tune, the
bridge had to sit on top of the 1st pickup.
the Ovation, by the way.
`58 Fender Precision
bass for $150 at a music store in Richmond, VA, while I was at VCU in 1970,
majoring in Painting & Print-making.
that same year, I bought a `65 Gretsch Nashville. This newer model had
painted f-holes and the 'Marquis" tuning keys.
I sold this 4 years
later (`74) when I was living in New Orleans, deciding that the darker,
humbucker sound was just not me.