Dad's Gear of the Past...

Here's most of the cool (!) gear I used to own. I'll try to list these in as close to chronological order as possible - it's the memory thing.

My first guitar (if you don't count the Emenee Swingin' Cat plastic-body with suction-cup-amp-pickup that I got for Xmas in 1967 - and I don't) was a blonde Hondo steel-string acoustic with a trapeze tailpiece.

My first electric was a really odd-looking Kent model. Kind of a Hofner-bass-shaped guitar with a pointy lower bout. I bought it from a childhood friend for $50 while we were both in high school. What a weird guitar - I wish I still had it. I don't really remember all the details of controls, etc., and this is the only photo I have of it. Looks like it had some slide switches and four normal volume/tone knobs. It also had a vibrato tailpiece - WITH the vibrato bar.

Armed with this guitar and my first (and still my main) amplifier, a 1966 Ampeg Gemini II, I got into my first band. The photo shows me with the Kent and the Ampeg, circa 1976. That band played 50's and 60's oldies and I stayed with them all through college and grad school, eventually getting good enough to be the only guitar in the band.

My next guitar purchase was a 1966 Fender Jaguar with block fret markers, a bound neck, and a big wear mark where your right forearm rested on the body. It was a little beat, but I loved it - at least at first. The Jag would make some great sounds, but I was too inexperienced to realize what a gem I had, how to set it up correctly, or that I had already found my ultimate guitar. I think I paid $175.00 for the Jag. (Back in the present, I have a 90's MIJ Jaguar.)

I forget exactly how long I kept the Jag, but I remember I had to practically give it away. If I knew then what I know now...

I was on some sort of holy quest for the f-hole electric of my dreams (picture Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, etc.). I found an old Gretsch Tennesseean (or maybe it was an Anniversary) with one pickup in the neck position and, as I found out later to my horror, a slightly twisted neck. I can't find a single photo of this guitar and I've never seen another exactly like it. It was one of my lesser choices of guitars through the years. I kept that one for less than a year and, once again, practically gave it away.

NOTE - this is not my actual guitar in the photo at the left, but the closest thing I've been able to find online.

I decided I needed a solid-body guitar for the band. My next acquisition was a brand-new Univox Les Paul Jr. copy in so-called "TV yellow."

It had two P-90 pickups, a Badass tailpiece, and the normal 2+2 knob setup. It sounded neat and twangy, and I started to learn lead on this thing. The only real issue with this guitar was that it was very neck-heavy, so I had to hold onto it carefully or the neck would want to head for the floor fast. That got old and I eventually sold it.

Around the same time period, I acquired a really nice blackface Fender twin. To finance this, I sold the Ampeg to my friend Paul, who had just bought an electric guitar and needed an amp. This was the first of two times I sold the amp to a friend and later bought it back.

imageHere's a shot of me with my Gibson Melody Maker (see story below) and the blackface Fender Twin at a gig at some VFW hall. Check out the Fender Multi-echo unit on top of the Twin. It was a Tel-Ray unit sometimes known as an "oil-can"echo, and hooked into the amp's reverb wires to work.

One day while checking out the used stuff at a local music shop, a guy approached me and asked if I'd like to see his 1964 Gibson Melody Maker. He proceeded to sell me this guitar for $150.00. It was really neat with one anemic little single-coil pickup pickup and a "vibrola" tailpiece, which you could opt-out of by stringing the guitar through the wrap-around bridge/tailpiece alone.


imageOver the next couple of years, I proceeded to do things to this poor guitar that make me cringe today. You just don't do what I did to a vintage guitar... I replaced the compensated bridge/tailpiece with an adjustable "Badass" bridge - nothing irreversible there. Then I decided that I wanted better tuners, so I bought Grovers and reamed out the holes in the headstock. I replaced the stock knobs with cool-at-the-time "speed knobs." Then I had a brass nut installed (everybody did that in 1978, didn't they?). Lastly, I decided I had to have a DiMarzio PAF humbucking pickup, so I bought one and routed out the body of the guitar and the plastic pickguard. To be fair, the guitar sounded awesome and it stayed in tune like nobody's business. However, a couple of years later when I went to sell it, I found that I had really killed the vintage value. Live and learn...

Somewhere in that time period, I also bought a Fender Bassman 10, a 50-watt tube amp with four 10-inch speakers in a sealed-back cabinet. I ended up selling that to my brother, Dave, when he joined the band to play keyboard. It turned out to be not so good for Dave's keyboards and he eventually bought an RMI transistor amp head and a 15-inch Cerwin-Vega speaker cab.

ANOTHER odd guitar I acquired in this time period was a Guild thin-hollow body with one pickup - not that functionally different from the Gretsch. I kept this only a short time, much to the chagrin of another girlfriend, who had fronted the deposit as a birthday gift...

Also somewhere in that timeframe I traded my Fender Twin to someone for a minty brownface Fender Bassman head and matching 2x12 cabinet (little did I know then that this amp would be perfect for my present surf-rock band!) Also in this time period, my brother Dave and I tried to start another band to play "new-wave" hits. We called ourselves "The B-Sides" and we lasted about six months...Then Dave and I continued on with the Wanderers for a few more years.

Here's my first Fender Telecaster. It was a 1971 model in perfect shape and I paid $275 for it in 1978. This became my main guitar in the band, which had changed it's name to The Wanderers. By now I was the sole guitarist in the band.

Then I found what seemed to be the guitar of my dreams (again!). I sold both the Tele and the Melody Maker to finance this $450 purchase. It was a 1958 Gibson dot-neck ES-330, with two P-90 single coil pickups and a Bigsby tailpiece. The guitar had a great, twangy sound and I loved the Bigsby for instrumental songs like "Walk, Don't Run." The fact that the guitar was hollow didn't seem to be a problem.

Below is a promo photo of the Wanderers, circa 1980 with me and my ES-330. There's my brother Dave at far left. Later in 1980, I needed some emergency money and I traded the 330 for my Electra X140 and $100 in cash...!

Here's another shot of Dave and I playing with the Wanderers, circa 1981 or so. That's me with my Silvertone, which I still have, and in the background you can see my Melody Maker.

Talk about gear of the past though, check out Dave's Vox Super Continental organ! Dave could make a few entries himself about his equipment of the past - like the Vox, Hammond Porta-B, Multivox piano...

My acquisitions and divestments slowed down for a few years until 1985 when I'd been in the Broken Hearts for a while. I had been playing the Electra (VOID) and my Silvertone with them. Then, bandmate Jamie Beckett wanted to get rid of his Fender Telecaster Thinline with two humbuckers and I gave him $275 for it. I was happy to have a Tele again. That guitar had the sweetest middle-position sound of any guitar I've ever owned. It quickly became sort of a signature guitar for me, and appeared with me on the cover of the Broken Hearts' album, "Want One?".

Here's a shot of the Broken Hearts playing the Grotto in New Haven. There's me on the left with the Tele Thinline.

Somewhere in this time period, I also picked up a Vox Super Ace, which was a thinly-disguised Strat-copy in baby blue. This guitar appears on one of Michael's "Want One?" songs, "While You Were Having Fun," with the vibrato.

Then I found IT - the guitar of my DREAMS (I thought) - an 80's Gibson ES-335 dot-neck reissue. It had two humbuckers and was in perfect shape for $500. I sold the Tele Thinline to a guy who played in a Boston band called The Cleavers to help finance this acquisition. With this guitar, I moved with the rest of the Broken Hearts to NYC in the fall of 1985. In the course of the move, I also traded a nice drafting table for a blackface Fender Vibrolux, which became my main gigging amp in NYC.

To make a long story short, the Broken Hearts didn't make it big in NYC and I eventually moved back to Hartford and got married. I sold the ES-335 and the Fender Vibrolux when we bought our first house, leaving me with the Electra X140, the Silvertone, the Hagstrom bass, the Ampeg Gemini II, and the Kalamazoo archtop (see current gear page).

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