Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Table For Two; Just For Tim Burton

So I'm wandering around the Dos Lagos Mall, killing some time before my haircut appointment. Outside one of these stores (can't remember now) is this one piece (yes, that's right) table for two. It's so Tim Burton looking, right down to his signature "something with a curl at the top" detail. Although the picture looks like a miniature model, due to the lighting is actually a full side chair and table. The back stands at about 5'8". Very interseting.

We Finally Pulled Up The Carpet!

My co-worker Heidi would be so proud. Well, with installing new wood floors in our new master bedroom, we decided to take the carpets out of the hallway and.... living room. Since we are replacing much of the baseboards on most of the house, our contractor recommeded pulling up the carpets and let the flooring refinishers do their job before installing the new baseboards. Keep in mind that the floors have not seen the light of day since the 70's so there are a few water stains and a couple warped boards but overall not bad shape. The flooring company will sand down a few layers, seal then coat with about 4 coats of scratch resistant urethane. Can't wait. So here's a before and after.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Part Of My Childhood Is Going Up In Smoke.

Lake Arrowhead, looking southwest from Mountains Community Hospital turnout.

I'm watching all of the news coverage and checking the Rim of the World fire incident online scanner; and I realize that most of my childhood haunts are either threatened or gone.

I grew up in Running Springs between 1971 to 1976. Although there are some bitter sweet memories there, they are still memories of my childhood. The old home on Summit Drive according to the fire map is gone, friends homes that I used to visit all the time are gone, areas where my favorite 4th grade teacher, Mr. Horton, used to take our class and teach us about mountain nature and history are gone (Smiley Park), and the place I used to play Little League baseball are all just a memory.

Running Springs.

I just saw on the scanner that they caught some guy trying to set a fire near Camp Seely, Crestline. He's in custody.

We moved to Lake Arrowhead in 1977. We lived on Yosemite which is the northern part of Lake Arrowhead, known as North Shore. Around spring of 1983, we moved to Point Hamiltar, a gated community where my parents reside today.

Growing up in the mountains has a certain carefree memory for me. I remember how fireplaces would fill the air while taking a walk on a 48 degree day, leaves changing into fall colours. I remember going to the store for something with my dad and noticing the snow filled pine trees that were lit up only by the reflection of the car headlights.

Just the feeling of seeing pine trees everywhere is something that I appreciate more now than the time I lived up there. Being a teenager in Lake Arrowhead, you didn't really think anything like a major fire would ever happen. You take it for granted when you're younger, wanting to just get off the mountain when you graduate and make a living in a place that's not so boring. How little I knew then. How little I knew that some of the structures that are now gone, were the last time I would ever see that building or home ever again.

So much history..........I am so nostalgic over the Lake Arrowhead of the 30's and 40's. Men who walked around the popular mountain resort hot spot, "The Village", closely resembling the likes of Bing Crosby. You know, the type that personified the 1930's Hollywood Celebrities of the day. The generation that had class and style and seemed to romance that whole Swiss Alps resort vibe in the mountains. Rock and wood cabins with cross-country skis mounted to the walls next to the deer antlers mounted over the door entrance.

I picture many of these type of homes going up in flames, very much like the time in 1978. I witnessed our beloved historical Village set ablaze from various fire departments; it was called "Learn and Burn". The old Village had fallen to poor earthquake structure codes and was too costly to restore. It was time to make "Lake Arrowhead New Again". Please, a Newport, jetset, high brow, "have more money than you", resort for the Orange County loving visitors. Nothing the local mountain residents would ever grow found of, but instead tolerate. "Fashion Island among the pines". Nothing classy, just commercial. It's so insulting.

Since the last fire, almost exactly 4 years to the date, Lake Arrowhead didn't resemble the Arrowhead I grew up in. Rim Forest with it's pine trees now resembling blackened tooth picks stuck in the ground, vast dirt areas with scattered picnic tables that were once hidden under acres of pines and oaks. I never wanted to go back. Visiting my parents became almost unbearable. I would just focus on the road and force myself not to look around.

I was up recently about two months ago and it was just slightly greener, mostly from oak trees, but not pines. The landscape still sort of resembles a giant scalp with hair plugs.

My parents have evacuated. They are staying in a hotel for the time. Just waiting and hoping for the best but expecting who knows.

I sit here now, with so many feelings, memories, ache, sadness, anger, disappointment, anxiousness, and mostly a heavy heart. I'm left here going over all the old times I had; places I visited friends....neighborhoods I used to trick-or-treat year after year,......a girl's house I drove up to in order to pick up for a Homecoming Dance,...walking down streets with crunching snow at my feet while staring straight up to the sky.....seeing stars that looked like they were 100 feet away, bordered by the silouettes of pines "hushing" through the branches. No street lights, no distant roar of a freeway or car traffic. Just a soft "whoooooosh" through the pines. I can never revisit these places that provided these memories.

Fire fighters in Lake Arrowhead are seeing a different mountain tonight; the wind is gusty at times, stars are obscurred by smoke, and the crunching snow is replaced with the crackling of timber and the idle of a Cummins diesel.

Grass Valley Lake near the Country Club.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's done: Stewmade ------ guitar?

I have no idea what to call it; wall stud guitar, Beechwood house guitar, The House framing guitar? It's actually very resonant, lightweight (very important), and it sings!!! I was sticking to 1950's specifications since the wood used was from my home, built in 1956.

Now the guitar geeks stuff; Gotoh "Kluson style" tuners (Kluson was a tuner manufacturer used by Leo Fender back from '47-67), Seymour Duncan Antiquity 50's pickups, vintage Luxe capacitor (always think of "Back to the Future" when I say that...Flux Capacitor), and a Callaham tremolo bridge. I cut, shaped and slotted the bone nut (the thing the strings fit into at the top of the neck).

I know you musicians know these terms but I've got some non musician types that read this blog.

The only thing missing is the custom engraved neckplate that's being made as we speak (click on the image below).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fear Factor: Crippling Stage Fright!

Unbelieveable! I don't know what to do about it. All my life I've been this way, parents encouraging me to play my guitar for the grandparents, friends, friend's parents. Never really done well in front of just a few smiling faces.

Once I got into college and joined "Cops in Concert" (mid 80's Riverside City Police officers did a Blues Brothers type show), I had no problem playing in front of people. But I was playing rhythm with an awesome guitar player who took over the lead parts. Until one night, that guitar player didn't show up. I had to cover all my parts and his, on the fly (musician jargon for improvisation). It was hell for an hour and a half. Good money though.

I have been playing lead for about 10 of my 30 years guitar experience. Two years before the last 10, I've spent almost every night just playing anything while watching TV, not really paying any attention to playing notes or anything recognizable. This got me comfortable with the guitar in my hands. This process helped me slightly consider playing solos. I figured out fingering patterns and also caught myself trying to play along with TV jingles. This is a trick that Larry Carlton recommends. Works well.

I relate to Michigan J Frog (image above). Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, Saturday morning cartoons; this is a story about a man finding a small box at a demolition construction site. He opens the box and out pops this singing frog. The man visions his future fortunes when he tries to convince everybody about this great frog. Only problem is, the frog only sings alone when it's only the man and the frog. I play very well when I know nobody is listening. The minute I'm aware that I'm being heard, I either stop playing or start making mistakes. I project my perceived critical assessment on others, you know, others evaluate my playing as harshly as I do.

Back to my stage fright. Large crowds, no problem, the bigger the better. That's why I have no problem playing at the Grove...well, used to. I have a self image problem that I'm working on. I know it goes against everything I'm supposed to think but it's an insecurity that is constantly being adressed. Wow, large screens at church, me 20 times larger than life. I'm concentrating on playing, yet I look upset, mouth agape, and head tilted upwards. When I'm soloing, I'm not aware of the first two but the looking up part is due to looking to God and praying to "get through this gig". The open mouth thing I've noticed recently. Actually I'm not aware of it. Kind of reminds me of this guy.

Big Al, Country Bears Jamboree, now "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh"

Now I have this new sense of body language awareness on top of concentrating on playing. So I played at Java Bliss, a local coffee house. Our band, Quick Before Sinking played out for it's first time. All eyes watching. The whole time I'm thinking, "keep your mouth closed, don't look upset, oh man, there's other guitar players here, don't mess up, oooh, don't look up, have fun, darn missed a note, oh no, this is Adam's song, don't mess it up, man my hands hurt, Aggie's so so cute, oh wait, do I sing backup here?, I wish I brought my song book and in order, oh oh someone is taking pictures, I wonder who's blog that will end up in, I hope I didn't have my mouth open, doh, I'm looking up again, what no break? am I having fun?, relax don't do it, Frankie?, maybe I sing here, wait a minute, Adam is changing his phrasing while I'm singing with him, I think that means don't sing here, oh man I messed up his song, hey it's 8:39 PM, I think I'll sell my equipment."

I miss recording.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Allison turns 13 today.

Allison, playing with our fog machine in October 1999.

Well my little girl turns 13 today. Ever since she turned 10, there were signs that the once little girl with bangs and silly giggle was turning into a teenager. Allison has been waiting for this moment since the was 9. Finally getting to wear some makeup, nails painted, that sort of thing. Seems like her turning 13 happened overnight. Although she no longer giggles like that little goofy 5 year old, we still love her very much and she's lots of fun to have around. We find ourselves wanting to share more time with her while she constantly plans time away from us, spending time with her neighbor friends and talking on the phone.

She's turning into quite the musician lately. She's been begging us for an acoustic guitar for months now. Last month, we went to the Guitar Center and looked around in the acoustic room of silence. She picked out this Fender acoustic and loved it. I went back a few weeks later trying to find something wrong with it (Fender electrics only, right?). It plays great and has a built-in tuner so she no longer has to ask me to tune my guitars (which she's been borrowing constantly). I believe I may be able to borrow it on occasion. ;)

So Allison's day will be filled with spending time with friends and family at the ice skating rink followed by an awesome sleepover in Idyllwild. My youngest and I will be holding down the house at home with a living room camp out. Our new wood floors in the hall and bedroom addition a drying from the final coat of lacquer.

Happy Birthday Allison.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Emotions of a '57 Goldtop.

Ever since Brian recently told me about his Les Paul Goldtop purchase, it's got me thinking more and more about my Goldtop and how I came to buy one.

About 1995, I saw Larry Carlton play at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. First off, I was sort of disappointed to see Larry play a Les Paul. I was really turned onto his Strat playing in '92. He still played the Strat that night. But what got my attention was Larry got out his original 1957 Goldtop and played this song. This song totally reached into my heart and hit every emotion with each note. I was speechless. So a few months later I was looking into buying a Les Paul. I also later bought a 1994 Fender Blues Deluxe in tweed. I got the tweed amp because Larry was playing straight into a '57 Tweed Twin. I remember how fuzzy and freyed the tweed covering was. It looked like Larry let 10 cats use it as a scratching post.

So this song is called "Emotions Wound Us So" (iTunes Jazz/Emotions Wound Us So/Last Nite live/Larry Carlton). He utilizes all 3 positions of the pickup selector switch. He starts out using neck only, then around 56 seconds into the song, switches to the middle position, switches to the bridge to "bring it home". He commands so much sustain and controls his harmonic feedback perfectly.

Larry plays this song differently every night. Each time topping the previous nights efforts. So Brian, this is for you, the new proud owner of a Les Paul Goldtop.

This is one of the main reasons why Larry is such a huge influence on me as a guitarist. Enjoy. And guitarists, get a box of Kleenex.
Larry in '95 playing his '57 Goldtop. (Sniff).

Friday, October 5, 2007

The HB Pier at 10:30 AM today.

Lately, I have a webcam of Huntington Beach Pier on my web favorites. It's updated every minute. It trasports me every time I check. (Sigh) Wish I was there today.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

One of Elvis Presley's last bass players, Tommy Hensley, played a StewMade Jazz bass replica!

A year ago, I built a Jazz bass replica for a guy named Robert "King" Williams. King as he's known, does sound for the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN. He saw some of my work from my webshots photo gallery page and contacted me in building one for him. He was interested in a surf green '64 Fender Jazz bass replica I had made a few years back. But King wanted his to be finished in a slightly used condition. You know, used but still kept in it's case over the years.

So I ordered all of the parts and painted the unfinished wood parts. I used Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Jazz pickups (think Jaco Pastorius tone). Funny this would be one of my last Fender replicas only because I have a great relationship with the folks at Fender and this could end up being a problem for me.

After I sent out the bass upon completion, King emailed me about a week later saying how much he loved the bass. As I remember King telling me, a man named Tommy Hensley was playing at the Grand Ole Opry that night and noticed King's surf green J bass. Now Tommy was one of the last bass players for Elvis up until 1975. In fact, Tommy attended Elvis' funeral.

According to King, "Tommy really loved it." In this picture, you can see the Grand Ole Opry stage behind him while he was playing. Thanks to King for taking this picture. Very cool.

Tommy Hensley at the Grand Ole Opry holding a StewMade '64 replica bass, Nashville, TN 2006.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Not Bad: It looks too nice!

I can't believe it turned out so well. It was planed down a bit so some of the original screw holes are almost gone on the front. Some you can see on the back. So my 100+ year old framing studs look pretty darn good. Plus the neck is also made entirely from the old studs. The frets are locked in for life. I can't wait to wire it up. I want to replace the rounded edges between the stud glue points. You know, to make it look more....studly? What do you think. Would this ruin the look or add to it?
100 year old wood studs
Framing Studs Glued Up and Ready To Cut.

Framing Stud guitar
Planed, Cut and Sanded.

This one's for Brian and his new Goldtop!

Here's a clip from the recent Japan tour with Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. Robben is playing Larry's original 1958 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with original PAF's. Too bad he never switches to the middle position pickups. My favorite Les Paul pickup setting; a little overdrive and the middle position for blues.............

A well worn '57 Les Paul Goldtop, Larry is playing his '67 ES-335. Song is called, "Cold, Cold"