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: Ovation – “Glen Campbell Roundbacks” 1969 Ad.
One of the keys to Ovation’s early success was Glen Campbell’s desire to walk around the stage of his weekly TV variety show. With multiple stage cameras and different guests appearing throughout the show, Campbell didn’t want to be locked into having to move to pre-positioned microphone stands for his guitar. He pressed Ovation to enhance the onboard electronics that it became known for, and in return he made sure to promote Ovation guitars at every turn.
Campbell’s show was a success, and Ovation almost single-handedly changed the nature of amplified acoustic guitars. Soon, the Campbell ad was joined by ads featuring guitarists as diverse as Cat Stevens and Nancy Wilson.
Clarence Leonidas Fender was awarded a patent on February 22, 1966 (47 years ago) for an “electromagnetic pickup for electrical musical instruments.” It was a design for a single-coil under-string pickup that he’d applied for nearly four years earlier on May 11, 1962. Thanks, Leo.
: Roland – “Jimmy Page GR-700 Synth Ad.”
In 1985, Roland was pushing its G-707 guitar controller and GR-700 synth module to guitarists who wanted to get into MIDI in a big way. Jimmy Page had used a guitar controller on the “Death Wish II” soundtrack and Roland got Page to endorse the G-707 in ads and in its brochures—one of the few times Page had endorsed a product to that point.
This Roland guitar synth model only lasted another year past the 1985 ad before being discontinued.
George Harrison was born on February 25th, 1943 (which would have made him 70 years old today). His distinctive guitar playing for The Beatles and throughout his solo career helped make the electric guitar the popular instrument it is today. It’s hard to imagine how many guitarists were inspired by his rockabilly-pop-rock playing—the number is indeed countless. Here’s a live version of George and Eric Clapton trading solos on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”http://youtu.be/AbMop1Uloog
: Brian May - “Red Special.”
Not having the money to buy the kind of electric guitar he really wanted, Brian and his dad set out to build one back in the mid 1960s—from scratch. Using a wide variety of woods, including oak, mahogany, and part of a fireplace mantel, they built a guitar that looked like a solidbody but was in fact semi-hollow: Brian wanted to be able to have the guitar feedback at will. The bridge and trem system were handmade, and the original incarnation featured a built-in distortion unit. The neck has 24 frets and the binding was made from shelf edging. Even though the guitar looks brown, it was originally red from layers of plastic paint.
The Red Special and May’s playing style resulted in one of the most identifiable and singular guitar tones in all of rock (and perhaps THE most recognizable). Replicas of the guitar have been built over the years by both Guild and Burns, but today May himself offers the instrument through his company, Brian May Guitars.
: Gibson Les Paul Signature.
This odd member of the Les Paul family was produced in limited runs during the mid-1970s. Like its solidbody brethren, it has a gold top and a sharp lower cutaway. But the body is actually semihollow, features two “f” holes, and has a very 335-like upper cutaway and wide bout. Les himself was said to have liked the shape (apparently more than the SG shape, which he did not like), but there wasn’t much of a market for the model. These LP Signatures are rarities as they were produced for only about 5 years with only a few hundred manufactured each year.
The Desperado trilogy by Robert Rodriguez featured Antonio Banderas as a mariachi guitar player whose modified guitars were outfitted with machine guns. And while Banderas did actually play his guitar parts in (most of) the scenes from 1995’s “Desperado,” the coolest guitar feature might have been the backdrop to the bar, which was shaped like an acoustic guitar, complete with flashing strings.
John Dawson Winter III has been a fixture of electric blues guitar since 1968 … and today is his 69th birthday. Born in 1944, Johnny’s Texas blues playing as a teenager gained him notoriety across the state, but it was an invitation from Mike Bloomfield that led Johnny to New York. His playing at the Fillmore East led to a record contract from Columbia that was allegedly one of the highest paying of the time. Johnny still tours constantly, and is a member of the NGM Advisory Board. A brand new app covering Johnny’s playing styles and life story is available at http://www.johnnywinter.net/ Happy birthday and all the best, Mr. Winter.
Magic Slim, one of the most notable Chicago electric bluesmen, died today at age 75. Born Morris Holt, Slim went to Chicago from Mississippi in the 50s and made a name for himself in the club scene of the 60s. A living part of the tradition established by players like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Slim became a Chicago institution, performing and recording right up until his death. Another part of the blues legacy is gone. RIP, Slim.