Categories
Bluegrass Music Coronavirus

Is Live Bluegrass Within Sight?

I just found out that a local festival, The Hamtramck Music Festival, has been cancelled due to the continued pandemic. While I have lost interest in bar hopping, seeing dozens of bands playing loud music that I really have grown out of, in sweaty bars and drinking warm beer, I know that there are younger generations that go for it (I was once young, too). This festival was great in that monetary proceeds from the festival went to help music education programs in the Hamtramck school district. Past years raised about $10,000 annually.

While the pandemic is still putting a lot of live shows on hold, many artists, particularly acoustic-based performers, have regularly streamed shows online, whether it is through Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, or some other service. These have either been ports in the storm or band-aids temporarily fixing it, depending how you look at it.

I have seen some great performances over the past year, but have also longed for and missed out on many other shows. It seems that solo or duo set-ups seem to work best. Canadian fiddler April Verch has been doing some wonderful performances with her partner Cody. They set up in the living room and play a few songs, then check in with their audience chat to see if there are any requests. You can then tip her through PayPal if you wish. I know that many others are doing it, but April seems to make it the most like she’s performing at a house concert in your own home. They haven’t done a YouTube streaming show in a while, but I would advise checking in to her website at aprilverch.com for updates.

One thing that many bluegrass bands are learning is that they have to adapt to this situation. Social distancing means that four or five bluegrass musicians cannot be standing close together around one microphone. On the flip side, if they do distance themselves to six feet or so apart,, even with separate mics, the camera has to pull back so far that the performers are unrecognizable on screen. Some bands are downsizing, where only two players are performing together. For husband/wife teams like Darin and Brooke Aldridge, this is relatively easy. I have seen other bands such as Mile Twelve doing split-screen performances to keep the band sound. From the looks of the band’s YouTube page, they are starting to say “To Hell!” to COVID and doing some true band performances. This latest video makes me really happy!

Starting around the new year, I began to receive emails regarding bluegrass festivals for the 2021 season. Of course, all have some note stating that due to the Coronavirus, the schedule is tentative, and there is still a possibility of re-scheduling and cancellation. As of this writing, some states are lifting some restrictions, and immunizations shots are becoming more available. I don’t see hitting a show in the next few weeks, but hopefully, by Memorial Day, I can pull out my lawn chair and cooler, and enjoy an outdoor bluegrass performance. Also, I NEED to get back to jamming with others, even though I am not addicted to it! Performing along with YouTube clips and DVDs is getting to be redundant!

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Music Industry

More on Peavey and the Music Business

I’m not a television watcher. Other than the news occasionally, Jeopardy, and a few shows on the History Channel, I rarely have the thing on. I would rather read or practice one of my musical instruments.

So it came as a surprise to me when, doing some research on Peavey guitars (see last week’s blog), I came upon some information on the company that had me taken aback. It seems that the company was highlighted on an episode of the reality show Undercover Boss a few years ago, and what is worse, had some bad fallout prior to the finished production airing on TV.

It seems that the COO of the company (Courtland Gray) went undercover at Peavey Electronics to see what was happening with quality control. During the show, Gray learned that one employee had numerous bills to pay due to cutbacks, and another was turning in his two-week notice for better employment. At the end, Gray was able to give the first some financial assistance, and convince the second to stay with Peavey. Happy ending?

Not really. After the filming but before the airing, Peavey announced that it would be closing the factory that these two employees worked at, screwing them and others royally. The second employee got transferred to another facility, but he was pissed to say the least. The first lost her job entirely. Now this was all back in 2014. I can only hope that the both of them found better opportunities. A number of YouTube channels are showing this episode, so just Google “Peavey Undercover Boss.” Here is Casino Guitars talking about the situation:

Peavey was not alone during the past decade of music instrument soap opera drama. In 2018, Gibson (home of the Les Paul guitar and Bill Monroe’s F5 mandolin) filed for bankruptcy protection. The company has proceeded on, but news like that does not just get pushed under the rug.

So many companies have gone overseas for operations to save costs, with varying amounts of success (Fender = big rewards!, Peavey = way too late for the bus). Also, think about the music stores that have had varying amounts of success. Mars went belly up (again, see my previous blog on that company), Guitar Center keeps surviving despite multiple bankruptcies and legal woes, yet Sweetwater proved to be one of the most successful businesses out there, not just of music businesses, but of ALL businesses, during this last year with the pandemic.

With the interest in learning musical instruments while stuck at home this past year, one can see that an online music store would be successful. The downside was that in-store shopping was temporarily halted, and many stores, especially independents, are starving or closed altogether. As I stated in last week’s blog, prices for used equipment has also skyrocketed, I guess due to a renewed interest in musical instruments.

As for Peavey and its history, it makes me sad. Hartley Peavey started this company to bring affordable, durable products into the hands of blue-collar musicians. Between overseas competition, a drop in quality, and a change in the taste of musicians, it has become nearly a joke of what it once was. I still swear by those old bass guitars and the durable amps, but I know of so many people who look down on that equipment as lame.

What about the rise in learning a musical instrument? It is great to see, but will it last long-term? Everyone is stuck in the house, and after getting burned out on TV and video games, some people want to be educated, even if it means learning a guitar or some other instrument. Heck, I am sure that other hobbies are booming just as much. But what about a year from now, when it is expected that there will be a full return to going out, attending shows and restaurants, and not having to be forced to stay at home? I do see a small benefit for those of us who are passionate about the music. There will be a lot of guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and keyboards for sale on the cheap.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Musical Instruments

Non-Vintage Guitars at Vintage Prices?

What is with the skyrocketing prices of used non-vintage musical instruments lately?

Here’s some background: My first “real” bass guitar was a Peavey T-20 that I bought new for about $350 at Wonderland Music in Dearborn, Michigan back in 1983 (the store has long since closed, but it was so cool back in the pre-Guitar Center days). Anyway, I sold it a few years later, but I did some collecting over the years, and one of my goals was to own a set of all three T-series Peavey basses (T-20, T-40, and T-45). I was able to get a T-40, but it was stolen shortly after. I did get another T-20 about 10 years back in bad shape and am currently working to restore it to playable condition.

I was looking online for a T-40 and T-45, and was floored by the sticker shock. A fair- to good-condition T-40 is going for well over $800, and if you can even locate a T-45, it’s going for twice as much.

These T-series basses (along with the T-series guitars) were the first attempts at Peavey to put out durable instruments made in the USA at reasonable prices. The guitars were completely manufactured by machines, which was unheard of back in the early 1980s, but is now pretty common with mass-produced guitars. While Peavey amplifiers had numerous celebrity endorsements, the guitars and basses did not get much promotion. There were some innovative features on the guitars and basses, but they were generally poo-pooed for their bulky weight and necks that were much wider and harder to fret than instruments from Fender or Gibson.

So why would second-hand non-vintage guitars and basses from a company like Peavey cost so much? There are a number of probable reasons, but most likely, it is the greed in the sellers’ market. I’ve written about this before, but I will state it again. Shows like American Pickers, where Tom and Frank will pay $200 for some beat-up banjo or guitar with no brand name, makes people think that what they have in their closets is a buried treasure. That program, along with PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, often have appraisers talking about some gem of a find being worth thousands of dollars. Yeah, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop or a pre-war Martin D-28 is going to be worth a lot of money. However, these were unique when they were built, they were built with a lot of care at the time, and have structure and tone qualities that cannot be truly duplicated. Many have disappeared through time, so the ones that have survived are near priceless.

Another factor is visibility on some lower-end guitars. An old Airline guitar from the 1960s being played by Jack White, which before could be had for $10 at a garage sale, now command many hundreds of dollars. Thus, anyone with a old guitar sitting around (it doesn’t even matter what the name brand is or if there even is one) thinks that he/she owns a fortune with strings on it.

I recommended watching the Casino Guitars channel on YouTube before (https://luegra.design.blog/2020/11/14/youtube-find-casino-guitars/). Baxter and Jonathan have touched on this phenomenon briefly. I remember a similar situation happening back in the 1990s, where cheapo guitars were going for big prices. I admit, I got caught up in the hysteria and started buying a lot of guitars. I lost a lot of money in reselling them when I needed cash. I don’t ever plan on going that route again, but I still am interested in securing the three original Peavey T-series basses.

But not at what is being asked these days! I can wait it out to see how the market is moving. I would be doing it more as a personal love, and not to do some profitable trading. I can understand rare Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, or Martin guitars being valued due to the quality of workmanship as well as celebrity exposure, but for something like a first-generation Peavey guitar, something that was built specifically to be a cost-effective (and less-quality) alternative to the major brands, I don’t think that they are worth to rising cost. Buyers, both private and dealers, will eventually be honest with the sellers to say that these lower-end guitars are not worth that much money. Also, I am sure that those thousands of T-series guitars and basses sitting around in closets and attics will eventually come out to the market from owners that have not used them in years and have no use for them. Again, I can wait.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass Covers of Pop Music

I received an email press release a few days ago that I deleted after a quick read-through. A bluegrass artist (the name escapes me) was releasing a new single that was a cover of a mainstream pop-rock song (again, the name escapes me). I do remember that the song, in my mind, did not seem like something that would sound good as a bluegrass tune.

Now I am all for pushing to boundaries a bit when it comes to songs in bluegrass. I really do not like hearing bands covering the same 20-30 established bluegrass standards. Some bands are able to write their own songs to varying degrees of palpability. Other artists like to secure the talents of established songwriters to provide a hit. Then there are some artists that listen to songs outside of the bluegrass realm, especially in the country, pop, and rock categories, and try to interpret hits from those formats into a bluegrass sound.

(Note that this will not discuss the “Pickin’ On” series of bluegrass albums performing songs from various rock bands, released by CMH Records. See my previous post on this at https://luegra.design.blog/2020/11/26/bluegrass-is-in-the-ear-of-the-beholder/)

This of course is not a new thing. Bill Monroe had done this throughout his entire career with the Blue Grass Boys (then again, Bill Monroe could do whatever he wanted when it came to bluegrass). In the 1960s, King Records out of Cincinnati had both bluegrass and R&B acts on its roster, so the execs would try to cash in on royalties by having bands record songs from the other format. The best example was the Stanley Brothers recording a version of Hank Ballard’s “Finger Poppin’ Time.” Ballard’s version was a hit, the Stanley’s version never made it to the charts.

Jim and Jesse McReynolds recorded a whole album of Chuck Berry classics. Flatt & Scruggs recorded a number of Bob Dylan songs. The Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene were known for finding great pop songs and converting them to a more progressive bluegrass sound. The New Grass Revival also made use of covering pop songs (I still say that NGR’s version of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” is one of the best covers EVER!). I wouldn’t even begin to count the number of times a Beatles song was covered by a bluegrass band. Then there is Tony Rice, who was a big fan of Gordon Lightfoot and recorded a number of the folksinger’s tunes.

In more recent times, there has been a resurgence in this action. Dale Ann Bradley has recorded a number of songs originally performed by Tom Petty, U2, and others. Of course, one fantastic bluegrass cover is Del McCoury’s version of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” written and performed originally by English folksinger Richard Thompson.

There are a number of younger bands in the bluegrass fold that are also going to the pop music folder to pull out a gem. The one thing that I have noticed, though, is that there is not much thought into making the song “feel” like a bluegrass tune. Instead, it sound more like an attempt at playing the pop song as a pop song, only with acoustic instruments.

Again, I am all for bluegrass bands trying to find new material to perform, whether it is self-penned or searching for unique covers. However, bands also need to truly listen to the song and decide if it can become a good bluegrass tune. There are a lot of non-bluegrass songs that I love, be it pop, rock, metal, R&B, country, polka, or folk. And there are a lot of times that I listen to those songs and think if they would make good bluegrass tunes. Well, 99% of the time, they do not.

I am not saying that bands should not try, but they also need to be discerning. I have a lot of friends in bluegrass band with national prominence. Some of these band have recorded covers of pop songs and attempted to put a bluegrass slant to them. I have to be honest, I haven’t heard one lately that has been a treat to which to listen. I can understand that many of these bands are trying to get a wider audience, but at what cost? I like to think about the Beatles and their cover of “Mr. Moonlight.” The band was on top of the world, and was doing a lot of other covers along with some fantastic original material. However, that particular cover, with the tacky B3 organ and drum slap after each verse, just did not cut it, and has always been an inside guffaw to many fans.

Established bluegrass bands love to jam, and with that jamming comes creativity. With creativity also comes intelligence. Be smart enough when something creative sounds hokey or sounds like a hit.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Bluegrass Music

O Brother, Where Art Thou? at 20

Well, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is now 20 years old, and where is the state of bluegrass now? Has it influenced enough people over the years to take an interest in the format in the long run, or was it a fluke?

Since I was around and involved with the roots-music business 20 years ago as well as now, I think that I have a good perspective of what has happened. I was at an Americana Music Association conference in Nashville when there was initial fanfare about the film. Those of us there thought that it would have a small impact on the entertainment industry, primarily due to George Clooney starring in the film. The concert that would eventually become the Down From the Mountain documentary had just been performed a few months earlier. The film had some success, but not anything spectacular at the box office. However, I don’t think any of us would have guessed the soundtrack would become so popular.

We watched as for two to three years afterward, the recording industry was swamped with bluegrass and roots-music releases. Ralph Stanley got a Grammy for his vocal performance, which meant that people were re-discovering Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs recordings. Bluegrass artists such as Del McCoury and Ricky Skaggs were being highlighted on mainstream television programs. Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch became go-to references in the industry.

By 2005, it seemed that the spotlight had faded for the most part. Flavor-of-the-day fans moved on to the next musical craze. However, there was a strong, albeit small, contingent of fans that continued to listen and love bluegrass music. It wasn’t as powerful as, say, the grunge music fandom, but it did keep bluegrass within reach of curious parties.

From that point, we did see a gain in young musicians who took more than a passing interest in the format and strived to become successful. Krauss’ Union Station band became a supergroup in bluegrass, and kids looked up to them the same way aspiring young rock musicians would look up to My Chemical Romance, Green Day, or The White Stripes. I can still remember seeing an 11-year-old Sierra Hull playing mandolin like it was a natural extension of her body. And of course, Nickel Creek probably did more for young people to take an interest in acoustic music than any other band at the time

There were some great young bluegrass bands to come out during this time period. The Steep Canyon Rangers, The SteelDrivers, King Wilkie, Cherryholmes, and The Grascals are the more recognizable names. Then there was the swarm of acoustic bands that had a small foot in bluegrass but were much more experimental. These included The Punch Brothers, Crooked Still, Mumford & Sons, and Trampled by Turtles to name a few. During the past decade, comedian Steve Martin has taken a big interest in bluegrass music, particularly with the banjo’s influence. His solo music work and work with the Steep Canyon Rangers has pushed bluegrass back into the popular music interest for some short spurts. Add to that his annual award to banjo players along with his connections to late-night talk shows gets bluegrass some quick exposure.

Bluegrass has changed. While bands still perform standards (just as local rock bands still perform Chuck Berry, Beatles, and old Rolling Stones songs), but the young performers want to go further. Sierra Hull, Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle can still play those old-time fiddle songs, but they also want to have their own acoustic sound. Same with two of my favorite bands out now: Mile Twelve and Hawktail. What OBWAT has done is pigeonholed a lot of these young artists. Because there is not electric guitars or drums, the passing music listeners tend to list them as bluegrass.

So does that mean that bluegrass as a format has expanded out to where it is hardly recognizable? Has it gone the route that rock-n-roll led to just “rock” music? One thing that I do know is that there are a lot of young bluegrass players out there, both traditional and progressive, that were not even born when the film and soundtrack came out, yet use them as tools to learn about the format.

I leave you with some videos of young bluegrass performers. The band is the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys. They first appeared on the David Letterman show about 10 years ago, and the second being what they are like today.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Music Industry

Bruce Swedien and Phil Ramone

I am currently reading Make Mine Music by Bruce Swedien. You probably have never heard the name, but you have definitely heard his work. He engineered hundreds of hit records and albums, with his most famous being Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Bruce has worked with Quincy Jones and dozens of other great producers over the last few decades. Unfortunately, Bruce passed away last year, but his work will live on forever.

The reason I bring up his autobiography is that it does not read like other life stories. This isn’t written like a chronological “this is what I did and what happened to me” type of book. Instead, Bruce presented his chapters as anecdotes of his experience in the recording studios that he worked at during his lifetime. He talks about famous artists he engineered, but from the perspective of how he captured their sounds on tape more so than what they were like as people. He has chapters on what equipment he used over the years, like the changes in technology from cutting wax discs to tape machines to digital trends. He talks about the different microphones he has used, what made them unique, and in what situations he put them through.

This is the type of autobiography that I enjoy reading. Someone listening to Jackson’s “Billie Jean” will like the beat, or the storyline or the groove. I, on the other hand, like to go much deeper. I like to know HOW certain sound were captured, why songs were arranged the way they were, and what was going on in the minds of the people behind the studio glass. Bruce does give some perspective of how he got into the business, his parents’ attitude and where he got his training, but he knows that his audience is interested in more in his actual work and how he created it.

Another great book in this vein is Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music by Phil Ramone. The record-buying public may consider Michael Jackson the “King of Pop,” but from a production standpoint, Phil deserved that title. Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones and Elton John are just a few of the superstars that he produced or engineered. He passed away in 2013, leaving behind a list of artists that other producers could only dream of working with. His autobiography has a similar take. Instead of the usual childhood-to-success-story movement, each chapter is its own little story of an anecdote that happened in his musical life. Incidents like running sound for John F Kennedy’s birthday party and setting up the microphone for Marilyn Monroe, or his work with Sinatra. People like me who love the behind-the-scenes stories of the music industry, especially from a production standpoint, tend to love these type of books.

The general music-listening public tend to forget, or are apathetic to, the amount of manpower that goes into recording a hit song. We see the artist standing in front of the microphone belting out a vocal treasure and think that is all that needs to be done. It is the heroes behind that artist that intrigue me the most. That is why I rarely download or stream music. I like to have that album in my had to see the whole story. The writers, producers and engineers, which studios were used, guest musicians, the mastering of the album – all of that is important to a listener like me. Skyscrapers were not designed and built by one person, and neither were million-seller records.

I recommend that, if you are into learning about stories of popular music recordings and basic technology, then snag one or both of these books.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Bluegrass Guitar Coronavirus Musical Instruments

Tidbits #3: Shure – Part 2, Mandolin Straps, Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar, etc.

A few more ramblin’ thoughts for this week.

For some reason, maybe due to my ordering of the fake Shure SM58 microphone a few weeks ago from Wish.com, I received another microphone in the mail that didn’t cost me anything. This one is labeled a Beta 87a, but it definitely is not a Shure Beta 87a! It came in the same packaging as the SM58, with a faux leather zipper carrying bag, mic clip, cable tie and owner’s manual. Just by looking at the body of the mic, with the poor attempt at engraving the Shure label, one could tell that this was a fake. However, the big giveaway that it was not a true Shure Beta 87a was plugging it in. The 87a is supposed to be a condenser mic, which requires a phantom power of at least 24 volts to operate properly. This fake Shure mic had a dynamic element in it, so it worked without power, and sounded like a dynamic mic. Granted, I got this for free somehow, but true Shure Beta 87a mics list for about $250.00. Wish.com has these advertised for under $30.00. Use common sense when ordering something like this. If you see a Beta 87a under $200.00 new, it is most likely a fake. Unfortunately, some jerks are getting away with selling the fake ones as real. Do yourself a favor if you want a true Shure mic – buy it from a reputable dealer.

Besides doing some lutherie work, I have also been making braided mandolin straps during the pandemic. I learned to braid from a friend a few years ago, and usually while I am resting up in the evening and watching TV, I like to be a bit industrious by making straps. I started making leather guitar straps a few years back when I was gifted a bunch of nice-sized leather hide pieces. Once that ran out, I started using the leftover scraps and some laces to make mandolin straps. I make them for both A and F models, most are black with a different color ends, but I am making a few pink and green ones. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at my Craigslist ad:

https://detroit.craigslist.org/wyn/msg/d/hamtramck-handmade-braided-leather/7255085484.html

This past week I started working on my bluegrass rhythm guitar playing. Man, am I out of shape, musically! Seriously, I forgot how much of a job it is to keep good timing, proper strumming, and make a G run that doesn’t sound lousy, all at the same time! Since I haven’t worked with any band for a number of years, I have used the guitar almost exclusively for songwriting and recording with myself playing all instruments. Now that I’m practicing along with some jam tracks, I recognize what I’ve forgotten and let drift away from my rhythm technique. Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin knew how important a rhythm guitar was to a bluegrass band, and as phenomenal of a lead player that he was, Tony Rice always stressed the importance of rhythm, and his was like a metronome. Speaking of a metronome, that is what I will be working with for a while.

Well, it looks like the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) has cancelled this year’s Nashville Convention, which is usually scheduled for the last weekend of January. Yes, it is due to COVID-19, but they are setting the date for 2022 to be January 27-30. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

One positive note is that the 47th annual Kentucky State Fiddle Championship is scheduled to happen March 20 at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro. With what little has been available, I am SO tempted to make the trek! Go to https://www.kyfiddler.com/ for more information.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Music Industry Musical Instruments

Are You Sure That It’s a Shure?

I guess this has been a problem for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently. While checking out the website Wish.com, I came across something that made me to a double-take. The site was selling Shure microphones for about 20% of their cost at a music store. The famous SM58 vocal mic retails for about $100 at Sweetwater or Guitar Center. The same can be said for the SM57, and the Beta 87a goes for around $250. If you shop Amazon, you may find it for a buck or two cheaper.

However, one search on the Wish site shows that you can snag a 57 or 58 for about $20, and a Beta 87a for around $30. Depending on when you go to the site, the prices can sometimes be cheaper!

I knew there had to be a catch, but I decided to purchase a 58 anyway to see what would happen. Of course, shipping and taxes added about $10 to the cost, and it took about three weeks for the package to arrive (it was shipped from China).

I have always felt that the Shure SM58 is the best all-around microphone available. Comparing price, durability, and response, it would be the obvious choice if I were to have only one microphone. When I opened up the package of my new 58, I could tell right away that it was a fake. Just by holding it, it was a lot lighter than the true Shure 58. Putting them both on a scale, the real 58 came in at about 0.6 lb., while the fake 58 weighed in at 0.4 lb. Taking off the windscreens, the real 58 capsule has a slight cushion to it in order to sustain some shock. The fake 58 had no cushion to the capsule.

Testing it out on a small PA system, I noticed that the fake 58 did not have the same warmth from the low end frequencies as the real 58. It just seems to have a bit of distortion from that end. Its response was more like the lower-cost SM48. It did have the same sound level as the true 58, just not as warm.

In short, it seemed to be about worth the money of the purchase. It was a lot cheaper than the true 58, but it definitely is not of the same high quality. I am sure that the SM57 and Beta 87a that are available on Wish are of the same quality. Here is a video that I found that provides more information on comparing the two:

My main concern with this marketing is that I am questioning why Shure has not proceeded with large-scale legal action against the manufacturers of fake microphones. We have seen such action taken by guitar manufacturers, with results leading to mislabeled guitars not being available in the US as well as legal action being take against anyone bringing one into the country. However, a Google search on the Shure situation shows that there has only been one serious attempt at legal action, and that was in the UK about 10 years ago.

I would think that Shure would take a stronger action against the sale and distribution of these fake microphones for two big reasons:

  1. The lower cost of the fake microphones will lead to more sales, which will kill Shure’s sales.
  2. The lack of quality with the fake microphones will reflect poorly on Shure, as consumers would blame Shure for the problems, even though it had nothing to do with the manufacturing of that fake mic.

Perhaps I am out of the loop and am missing something. However, my advice to anyone interested in one of these fake Shure microphones, if you purchase one, do not expect the quality and customer service you can expect from the Shure company. You will be getting a second-class product with a first-class label on the body. If you want the best, you need to go directly into purchasing as true Shure microphone.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Coronavirus Musical Instruments Musicians

Creativity, and Ignorance

A few days ago, I was interviewing fiddler Tom Morley for an upcoming article. We got onto the topic of what he and other musicians that he knows are doing to keep the sanity during all of these pandemic lockdowns. He told me about a creative idea that his friend’s daughter thought of that consisted of purchasing a few small plastic greenhouses, pushing them together, and with one musician in each house, the band was able to perform together and hear each other while still keeping social distance.

https://99percentinvisible.org/article/hothouse-musicians-miniature-heated-greenhouses-enable-distanced-gatherings/

The more that I watch the video, the more that I am amazed at the creativity some people have shown during these strange times. Yes, music can be performed alone, but the idea of two or more musicians creating music together is part of human nature’s bonding. The Coronavirus tries so hard to dishearten people by separating us, but we as humans are smarter than that.

As I still look for a job, I have been trying to keep my sanity by doing some lutherie work. Actually, more repairs are being done on guitar amplifiers than on actual instruments, but it is all good, right? One thing that I have noticed in my search for repairable beginner stringed instruments is that people think that the damaged guitars, basses, mandolins and such are really buried treasures. Sure, a 1959 Fender Stratocaster that has structural and wiring concerns can still fetch over $1,000 because of its pedigree, but there is no reason that an acoustic guitar with a brand name of Magnum, Lotus, Rogue, or no name whatsoever should demand a high price.

I scan Craigslist ads as well as check eBay and other sources, and I am puzzled when I see a 30-year-old Magnum acoustic guitar that has seen better days with a price tag of $100.00! Seriously, a guitar like this did not sell for much more than that when it was new, probably has loads of nicks and scratches, even a crack or two, and the neck is most likely bowing like a hill. One thing that shows like “American Pickers” and “Antiques Roadshow” have done is get people to think that all of the junk they have in their garage is worth something. If I am going to spend 60 or 70 dollars on an acoustic guitar, I would rather go through a company like Glarry, where the guitar is new and has some type of warranty or guarantee with the manufacturer/distributor.

Advice: If you have one of these old acoustic guitars that you bought for your kid decades ago and he never took an interest, and it sat in the closet for 20 or more years, and it does NOT have the name of Martin, Gibson, or Guild on the headstock, it is most likely not worth more than 10 bucks. Go ahead and get it appraised, but there is a slim chance that it is worth something. Instead, sell it at a garage sale for a few bucks, so that either some other kid may try to play it, someone like me might be able to salvage it as playable and give to someone, or let someone else hang it on the wall.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Bluegrass Music Coronavirus

Yes, 2020 Sucked!

Yes, 2020 was not a good year for anyone (unless you owned Amazon). I don’t want to lament on it much, so I’ll just go over a few garbage points.

The loss of so many people in the music world. With Tony Rice passing away on Christmas, that was a definite knife to the heart. I will definitely miss him, as I was hoping that by some miracle he would be able to get his strength back and play that D-28 on stage once again.

The COVID-19 pandemic screwing up the lives of so many people. I am on my ninth month of unemployment, and compensation ended last week, so I am turning in pop cans and beer bottles to supplement food costs. In the music world, especially in bluegrass, live shows took a dump. So many bluegrass musicians rely on those live shows, not only for the performance pay but for sales of merchandise. A few musicians that I know had to take on part- and full-time non-music jobs to get by. Others resorted to online concerts with tip jars, Zoom music lessons, and creative alternatives such as selling music-related gifts such as jewelry and pictures. I cannot imagine what the pandemic has done to the other music-related jobs such as studio musicians, audio engineers, and roadies. The year has been a big test for the “blue collar” music workers.

I won’t even get into how our political environment is so divisive.

My hope for 2021 is getting back some more live music (I do miss going to The Ark in Ann Arbor), I can secure a decent job, do more writing (both song and articles), and practice, practice, practice my guitar, bass, mandolin and fiddle. It is an enjoyment and therapy for me. Unfortunately, with spending hours on the computer looking for a job, taking care of my 88-year-old mother, and trying to stay healthy with no access to presecriptions, musical instrument practice falls lower on the list.

Enough griping! It’s New Year’s Eve. Be safe tonight, since the bars are closed, keep the home celebration respectable. With that, I leave you with a holiday message from the beautiful Russian ladies of Beloe Zlato! I love these girls!

Chew on it and comment.