ToolsThroughTime

 
 
 
The 3/4 Nelson
Ernie "K" Doe (L) & the Drum Buddy (center)
Ernie knew: 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.

   In 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, right hand man for Don Law concerts out of Boston, and is now Director of Production for Live Nation New England.

    I got a Kay 5-string banjo for Christmas in 8th grade. I learned frailing & Claw Hammer 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. The Tempo taught me how to endure hours of torture, bad sound, muscle & blister pain...this ability 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"...

and, with the help of my folks, an Ampeg B-15 flip-top...

  
...that was a cool little amp and the rig
would last me through the balance of highschool
and into my 1st Year of College.

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 and admired them for it; to know how disappointed they must have been with my grades but still let me play those dates...very cool of them. I love my folks.

    The summer after High school 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 Frankenstein. 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.

...predating the Ovation, by the way.
Man, I wish I had a picture of that thing.


In the first semester of my Freshman year of college I was playing Der Frankensteiner through my B-15.
The B-15 was stolen from a club in Fayetteville, NC,
and the club compensated me with a "brand new"
Kustom 200 bass amp.

I would say that it was "cutting edge" at the time,
except...that it had no edges...
Roll & Pleated blue sparkle Naugahide.

 

I found my
`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 and playing in "Farmyard" with Russ Hanchin/guitar, Mike Mays/drums Ron Bott on congas & Harmonica.. and a keyboard player whose name escapes me...c'mon, it was college; art school, at that.
 

Russ says, "His name was `Dave'.".

I played that through my amazing Acoustic 360...

...an 18" speaker, folded horn (speaker faced the rear of the cab). Very cool. It was stolen out of my place in New Orleans in 1975.


( Russ Hanchin/guitar, Steve/bass)

Later that same year, I bought a `65 Gretsch Nashville with the Grover Imperial tuning keys...that's it, behind my leg, in the shot above.

I sold this 4 years later (`74) when I was living in New Orleans, deciding that the darker sound was just not me...and, of course, I wish I still had it, now.

No padded-back guitar for me...
...I was a Tele player.

 


  My `62 Telecaster.
Originally Lake Placid Blue when I bought it
after joining Richmond country artist,
Donna Meade and Country Road.
Donna was and is a great singer and musician.
I played this through a `65 Fender Twin w/ JBLs that I'd
borrowed-then-bought from one of Donna's brothers.



I was a long-haired, liberal, 21yo baby thrown into
the C&W pool and she, her brother Ryland, and that band
taught me to swim.
Thanks, Donna.
Thanks, Ryland, Shorty, and Ricky.



When I moved to New Orleans in 1973, I was loaned
this brown Vibrolux (1x12) and a Fender Reverb unit
which were great live and in the studio...
... and
would fit into the trunk of my Volvo ( `64 P1800).



I can't believe I ever let them go.


 


1978
Tele > MXR Dynacomp (Red) > Pignose amp > Fender Twin

I refitted the Tele with Joe Barden blade pickups
Joe's shop was right here in Virginia, and he let me try these
saying if I didn't want 'em, to bring `em back"...
... and I never took them back.
His p-ups are humbucking, just about noiseless,
but clear and hot, with a warm neck pickup, while
keeping that beautiful Fender single pole sound
but with increased dynamic picking response. Yeah.
He'd work with Danny Gatton on getting them right,
and when Fender issued a Danny Gatton model,
it came with Bardens and the zircon side markers
on the neck (so you could see them in the stage lights).

My friend, Murdoch MacNeil, lined all of the
Tele's electronics chanels with copper shielding, too.
It's very quiet and the dynamic range is huge.



`76 Ibanez Custom Agent
Model 2405
...my brush with humbuckers.
I was really lured by the inlaid
mock Bigsby Tailpiece & the
headstock's nod to The Gibson mandolin,
but it's got all the heft and tone of a Les Paul
and plays easier.

I'd played a Takamine acoustic with a cutaway
during the touring years because the ease of playing
and I could carry-on or "gate-check" it when flying.

But, when I wanted an acoustic that sounded like
an old Gibson J-45 with it's warmth, getting the right
bite when you flatpicked it, I happened upon my
Larrivee D-05e


with it's Fishman Blender pickup system
(piezo under the bridge plus a condensor mic)
.
I use Elixer Medium/Lite strings and keep the action
maybe a little too high so that it rings like a bell.
It's beautifully simple with mahogony sides and
back, maple binding, ebony fingerboard with
microdot markers, and a clear pickguard (tap plate).

It sounds very acoustic plugged straight into the
PA and I even record it straight into the board
along with a mic for some room ambience.
I bought a Calton case for this one.

 

I use the Boomerang III phrase loop pedal...

which is brilliantly laid out, user-variable, and perfectly
suited for my live performance.
For me, along with beautiful stereo sound, you can record a two beat
"master" phrase, on top of which you can a record in sync a second
"slave" phrase of any length...as long as it is time-multiple of the Master.

In other words, you don't have to lay down an entire 4-bar Master
for a 4-Bar Second (slave) phrase. This also allows you to record
a 12-bar 3rd phrase is you want.

It has no loop file storage (for prerecorded recall) but, for me, that
would be like playing to Karaoke. Creating the loops shows the saavy
listener how tricky the process is, how you can use loops in various
ways, plus it has that element of danger...since you can screw it up.

Anyway, it's just very cool and way flexible
...and it's made in Texas, USA by a funny guy.

________

I'd waited 20 years for a Tele with a Joe Glaser B-string bender system,
after playing Mike Murphy's Relic Tele in Sun Valley...
I'll bet that I played that thing for 4 hours while we talked.

I finally found one that has a Glaser B-bender and a G-bender






The guitar strap Dunlap Strap-lok attaches to the B lever and
raises the B a whole step by pushing the neck down.
A second Strap-lok runs from the G lever to my belt loop and
raises the G a whole step by pushing the neck away from me.

Basically; one mistake and my pants come down...
both physically and metaphorically.

You "tune" the excursion of the pull/bend with each of
the two black, knurled screw caps in the bottom picture.
Additionally, the custom neck is wider with a 1 3/4" nut which gives me
more room to move, and the Nashville setup with Seymore Duncans
has a beautiful sound with great sustain and responsiveness.

I also switched-out the old 250k tone pot for a StellarTone ToneStyler G-11.
Essentially, it's a treble roll-off, rotary switch, at ten high-frequency points, with the
eleventh position being a virtual "bypass" of the tone pot...just pickup-to-jack wide-open.
It can change the whole nature of the Tele sound. In the neck pickup, with the
tone rolled all the way to bass, there is still enough mid to distinguish the note clearly.

This is, now, my go-to Tele. It can spank or be mellow and clear.

 

The Blue Tele is a real piece of work.
My first solid maple neck, it's got plenty-o-twang, but, wait, there's more:

  • Seymore Duncan Vintage p'ups
  • a Bill Warford B&W Bender system for the B and G strings;
    ...smooth operation, an asthetically clean installation and mechanism.

  • GraphTech Acousti-phonic piezo bridge saddles, an add'l 2-position push-push volume
    knob for "mellow" and "brighter" acoustic (like an Ovation) sound,
    and a 3-position micro switch for Magnetic-only / Both / Piezo-only
    .
  • GraphTech Hexpander analog-to-midi converter with a 13-pin midi out jack.

    I use an Axon Ax100 MKII midi converter which has internal sound programs
    and although I'm not crazy about them...the string patches are nice...,
    the midi-thru makes it work with other synth tone generators, like my Korg T-3.
    I'm not using this live, because it's just another think to set up.
    This ax, though, is a great playing and sounding ax.

    It's just nuts.

 

The 2012 Fano Alt de Facto sp6.
With beautifully balanced Lindy Fralin Tele & P-90 pickups, this has an immense tone palette.
In the middle position, I roll back its volume knob, just a bit, to get that crisp, funk, rhythm tone.
Neck position has the warm, P-90 tone. Roll the volume knob full, when I need a little more grind.
The tone pot has a big-ass resister that I can't figure out, but it really works.
This is a tone Monster; it can spank, it can jangle, and it can play the blues.
The neck is like glass, with a compound radius fingerboard.
Great sustain from the light mahogany body and neck,
the Fano bridgeplate, and compensated brass saddles.
It's my all-`round go-to.

 

 

The 2015 Gretsch G6128T TVP Power Jet.
It's a Duo Jet with two TV Jones Filtertron pickups..hotter output that regular Filtertrons...
the mahogony body has routed-out chambers that make for a light guitar,
semi-hollowbodied tone, with incredible sustain.
The scale is 24.5"... a full inch shorter that a Tele...great for jazz & Rockabilly.

 

 


  Line6 Variax 700
Modeling Guitar

Just unbelievable..

This great playing instrument
has a chip in it that reproduces

the tonality and picking response (w/ some latency)

of a wall-full of classic electric guitars:

Tele, Strat, Les Pauls, Riks (6&12), Gretsch,

Gibson 335 & Jazz boxes, plus pretty cool Dobro,

Danelectro, Acoustic 6 & 12 string models
.
With the Variax Workbench software,
I've "built" some
guitar models of my own,
including some software drop/open tunings
.

Exaggerat!ons bassist, Jerry Kelleher, got the Line6 Variax 704 Bass.
When Line 6 discontinued the 5-string model (705),
I snagged one off of eBay.
Now, the P-bass is in the attic.

It's a new world, kids.


Line6 Variax 300 nylon string
Modeling Classical Guitar, has two modeled guitars, a warm 1867 Torres Classical
and a brighter, punchier 2004 Maldonado Flamenco guitar, with a blend/balance slider to mix the two.
I can, then, store up to 9 settings.
It's a beautiful sound and fairly nice playing, plus; no feedback.

 

I've played this thing through my Line6 Ax2 2x12 Amp-modeling combo amp,

but I usually opt for the speaker-less Line6 "Pod X3 Live" floorboard...

...stereo, straight into the board (just using the monitors).
Each patch gives me two complete modeled amplifier and effects chains that can be blended (an AC30 and Roland Jazz Chorus 120 rig for instance), used separately, or together-but-sent-to-seperate-outputs...like guitar mono to left xlr out and bass to right xlr out...yeah, it's got great bass amp models, too.
Both Variaxes (700 and 705) plug in via RJ-45 jacks;
The Tele, via 1/4" phone jack

I get hours of smiles from innumerable tones live and in the studio.

 

2012: The Vox VT20+...


20 Watts, 1x8" speaker (closed cabinet)
Amp modeling for the preamp stage, but a 12ax7 tube ("valve") just before
the ultraquiet power amp stage...with a volume knob before each stage.


I like the Dumble Overdrive Clean and the Vox AC15 & 30 models for country/chicken-picking
and jazz, and the tube gives it the nice overdriven poweramp sag, but at a listenable level.
I mic this up for bigger gigs, but it keeps up in a jam with drums.
This amp was a real find; light, versatile, beautiful tone, & inexpensive.

 

The Vox VT120


A 120 watt, twin 12" with a 12ax7 tube between the preamp and solid-state power amp stage.
The Power amp stage has volume attenuation, but the tube gives it
the nice, overdriven poweramp sag, at a variable, listenable level.
This amp has more "meat", more bearing, that the little single 8" VT20.

This amp was, also, a real find; 40 lbs, versatile, and beautiful tone(s).

top panel is the same as the VT20, above.





 
 
 

  Keys...

My first gigging keyboard was a Yamaha CP-70 in about 1978.



It would break down into two parts, right at that silver line:
harp & electronics
in one part and keys & hammers in the other...



I hauled this around for 15 years for the handful of tunes I did on piano.
I guess it was either this or get a gym membership.
Gregg Karukas sold this for me after I closed up shop in L.A. in `94.

A couple years later I got a...

Yamaha P-80 graded-hammer action, 88 keys, with beautiful grand
piano & Rhodes Electric samples. Yamaha knows what they're doing
.


The Korg CX-3 is another revelation...
    Korg used modeling algorhythms to clone the Hammond B-3 and included the control surfaces: 
  • 2 sets of drawbars
  • Percussion key switches
  • Vibrato & Chorus knob
  • and
  • incorporated a Leslie Off/Slow/Fast switch 
allowing the operator to change parameters and work the instrument...just like the real 350 lb. thing...
then store that patch in 128 user-defined presets.

This thing makes even me sound
like I know what I'm doing.


 


The Korg T-3 Synthesizer was another milestone in musical technology
for me. 8 tracks, 16 note polyphony, great sounds, fairly easy to tweak

the patches, midi, and a great midi controller when I used it with my

Cubase sequencing software on an Atari 1040e platform....YIKES!. 

I played all of the music on "Air, Land, & Sea" & "Willy J. & The Werebunny"

with this instrument, sequenced with Steinberg Cubase.

My current recording rig uses Cubase 5 (64-bit OS version) audio & sequencing with a Presonus FireStudio Tube 10x6 firewire a/d interface,
and whatever I plug into it.

I use an AKG 414 for vocals.
 
 


FastLane
End


 

 
 
 
- Thanks for playing along.  -

Steven D. Hudson

-=[H]=-



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