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September, 2009:

Collectable Guitars pt 35 – Fender Duosonic

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481The Fender DuoSonic guitar was first produced by in 1956.

It was meant to be a student guitar. It featured a short, 22.5 inch, scale length that was considerably shorter than the 25.5 inch scale used on standard Fender guitars.

Fender Duosonic Guitar

The DuoSonic, which is sometimes spelled as Duo-Sonic or Duosonic, has two, single coil, pickups and a vertical pickup selector switch that is placed on the lower horn of the body.

Duo-Sonic II

Fender released a new guitar called the Mustang in August 1964. This guitar was an economy model and was designed for student guitarists. This guitar featured a new design of tremolo arm that many guitarists found impractical. At the same time Fender also release the Duosonic II which had the same offset waist body but did not have the tremolo arm.

Fender discontinued the Duo-Sonic II in 1969.

This model was only in production for 5 five years. It has become Fender guitar that has a growing collector value due to its rarity and player demand.

Many guitar players prefer the Duo-Sonic II to the similar Fender Mustang. This is because they prefer the more practical fixed bridge to the Duosonic II as compared to the troublesome tremolo bridge of the Mustang.

The Duo-Sonic is closely identified with Liz Phair though it was used by David Byrne of the Talking Heads early in their career as well as Jimi Hendrix (when he toured the under the name Jimmy James with The Isley Brothers).

Johnny Winter also used a modified Duo-Sonic during the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly on his first few albums.

Patti Smith also plays a Duo-Sonic and has featured her guitar in song lyrics, for example in “Radio Ethiopia/Abyssinia” from the Radio Ethiopia LP.

Tom Cummings from Human Condition uses the late 90’s remake Duo-Sonic.

The Duo-Sonic I and II are both considered rare and have displayed growing collector value. The Duo-Sonic II in particular is often seen as a desirable alternative to the more popular Mustang, since it negates the difficult-to-maintain tremolo bridge.

Fender have recently re-issued very cheap “Squier” version of the duosonic, but original 60’s ones are still available for under $2000. Well worth a look at that price!

Westone Cutlass Rebuild pt 1 – The Background


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When I first started this site, one of the reasons was to get back into restoring, customising and fiddling with guitars.

Westone Cutlass restoration project

I have played around with guitars all my playing life (30 years this month!) as most of us players do. It is always useful to know how to fix your own gear, and sooner or later a pickup will need changing, or a machine head will break and all of a sudden you find yourself up to your eyes in bits of guitars.

Last year I was browsing Ebay and I found a Westone Thunder for sale in appalling condition. It really was the worst I had seen, with virtually every piece of it broken in some way. I bought it and restored it, and the story is on this blog here.

As part of  the process during the restoration, I used my Twitter account to alert readers to new updates, and to publicise this blog. I was contacted during the build and asked if I would be interested in restoring another Westone.

It’s a Westone Cutlass, which was built in the UK, not Japan in the late 90’s and is actually a really nice guitar. I have been researching them and I’ve put togther a short history of the Westone Cutlass here.

This one was in pieces, but complete when I got it with a few scratches and marks in the clear lacquer, and a small break in the scratchplate, near the bridge. Originally it was to be painted in the same colour blue as my Thunder, but after discussion we decided it would look better natural, in keeping with its original look.

Here are a few shots of the guitar as recieved, next installment will deal with the body refurbishment.

Westone Cutlass restoration project

Westone Cutlass restoration project

Westone Cutlass restoration project

Westone Cutlass restoration project

Bill Wyman criticises ‘Guitar Hero’ style video games

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Bill WymanBill Wyman, the former bassist of the Rolling Stones, has claimed that Guitar Hero, Rock Band and other music games discourage children from learning real instruments.

His criticism comes on the eve of the release of  ‘The Beatles Rock Band’ computer game, which allows players to play along with to band’s back catalogue.

“It encourages kids not to learn, that’s the trouble. It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument,” Wyman told BBC News. “I think it’s a pity so I’m not really keen on that sort of stuff.”

Nick Mason of Pink Floyd supported Wyman’s comments, saying, “It irritates me having watched my kids do it. If they spent as much time practising the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now.”

However, he also confessed he wouldn’t mind his band’s tracks being used on such games as they provide a new audience for their songs, adding, “I think everyone’s looking at new ways of selling the music because the business of selling records has almost disappeared”.

Alex Rigopulos, one of the co-founders of the company that creates the Rock Band games, defended his product and claimed, “We’re hearing from fans who were inspired by Rock Band to start studying a real instrument”.

The Guitar Hero series alone has sold more than 25 million games globally collecting revenues of $2 billion and can claim Simon Cowell among its celebrity fans.

Telegraph.co.uk

Steve Lukather sells his surplus gear on Ebay

Ex Toto guitarist and all round session superstar Steve Lukather has listed a whole bunch of instruments and gear on Ebay through L.A. Vintage Gear.

Steve Lukather Ibanez Prototype GuitarIncluded are a very cool looking Rickenbacker 6/12 string double neck and a unique 26 year old Ibanez prototype of a potential Lukather signature model that never made it into production. Bidding starts at $18,000 so start raiding your piggy banks!

Here are the links to some of the more interesting auctions:

Ibanez Prototype

Rickenbacker 362 /12 Double Neck Guitar

Valley Arts guitar

1966 Fender Electric XII

Gibson Chet Atkins

Fender Blackface Princeton Reverb amp

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 6…Finally finished!

I can’t believe that last update on this subject was December 31st 2008!

Sorry for the massive time lag, in truth the guitar was finished months ago but I had been busy writing on so many other subjects I just forgot to tie this subject up.

In the last post I alluded to the wiring issues I was facing. It took a bit of head scratching and some advice from a few knowledgable friends to finally solve the issue I had with an earth type buzz. It turned out I had bought a stereo jack socket and wired it wrongly. Once that was solved, and I found a great wiring diagram from the fantastically useful Westone Info site I was sorted. I used new shielded cable for all the new wires and resoldered all the joints on the existing wiring.

All that was then left to do was restring it and set it up. After a little tweaking of the string heights it was playing great.

It’s a heavy guitar..almost in Les Paul territory..and this adds to the feel of solidity when you play it, although I think the shape is more comfortable than a Les Paul. The pick ups are gutsy, and the coil tap switch adds a nice dimension, allowing some decent “thinner” single coil tones through for clean picking. The worn lacquer on the neck sides adds to the “patina” of playing an older guitar, and the paint finish, although not perfect, is certainly a big step from the way it looked when it arrived!

Overall its a versatile guitar and well beyond the feel of being the budget instrument it was originally marketed as.

Since this project started I have been approached to do another westone rebuild, a Cutlass, which is in much better shape. I’ll be filling you in with the details in the next post.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on this project, particularly the guys and girls over at the Westone Forum for their advice and encouragement.

Rebuilt Westone Thunder 1AT

Rebuilt Westone Thunder 1AT back

Epiphone 1966 “worn” Wilshire


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A year or so after Epiphone’s lovely but hugely expensive 1962 Wilshire reissue, they have now announced a much cheaper, but just as tempting 1966 model, in the nicely faded “worn” range. The following is directly from the press release;

Epiphone brings back the Wilshire with a faithful reproduction of the 1966 model. Like an SG guitar, the Wilshire’s double cutaway Mahogany body with a glued-in Mahogany neck that joins the body at the 22nd fret gives you ultimate upper fret access.

Epiphone 1966 Lightweight and comfortable, the Wilshire has excellent resonance and natural acoustic tone – even unplugged! Featuring Epiphone’s LockTone tune-o-matic/stopbar combination, the transfer of string vibration is improved even more giving this guitar excellent sustain and clarity. But here’s what separates the Wilshire from the SG. Most early Epiphone guitars including the Wilshire were equipped with mini-humbucking pickups and Epiphone carries on this tradition.

With its smaller size, narrow magnetic field and unique design combination, the mini-humbucker produces bright and focused output while retaining famous humbucker “hum-free” performance. A replica of the originals, they feature adjustable pole pieces, enamel wire, bar ceramic magnets and rounded nickel plated covers set in an original style black mounting ring with height adjustment screws.

Cool Retro-Looks! Also unique, the Wilshire features Epiphone’s own “batwing” headstock. A classic design that improves tuning ease and accuracy by offering a straight string-pull design, the headstock is adorned like the original with the vintage “Epiphone” logo in gold. Other features include a 1960’s SlimTaper neck profile with Rosewood fingerboard, premium 14:1 die-cast tuners and individual Volume and Tone controls for each pickup. And to give it that worn-in look and feel, Epiphone tops it all off with a thin satin finish.

No word on prices that I can find, but the other “worn” guitars aren’t too expensive, so I think these guitars will offer great value and a nice retro/vintage vibe. I’ll be getting one!

Collectable Guitars pt 34 – Gibson Nighthawk


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Gibson’s radical Hawk series was another shortlived attempt to modernise Gibson’s image in the 1990s. It lasted from 1993 to 1998 and the series comprised 5 models.

In the mid 1980s Gibson released new models that were nothing like previous ones to try and compete with new companies in the market.

Gibson Nighthawk guitarThe Corvus (radical new shape, covered elsewhere on the site), Victory (Strat shaped), RD Artist (Firebird shape with complex active electronics) and M-III (superstrat, also on the site) were launched and all three were shortlived and relatively unsuccessful.

Ten years later another such attempt to crack a new market was planned. This time Gibson played it slightly safer by using an updated version of the Les Paul shape, an iconic Gibson trademark.

However, this body was less well-proportioned than Gibson’s original, and as such looked vaguely like a squashed Les Paul.

This did the model no favours.

The pickups were two stacked P-90s on the semi-acoustic Blueshawk, two standard humbuckers on the Hawk model, one standard and one slanted humbucker on the Nighthawk Standard, and the same on the Special and Custom Nighthawks, but with a single-coil in the middle position.

The Nighthawk Custom had a flamed maple top and a Floyd Rose tremolo. All the Nighthawks had a maple top and a mahogany body, the basic Hawk did not have this luxury, and the Blueshawk had a maple top and a chambered poplar body with f-holes.

The guitars were unsuccessful and were unceremoniously dropped in 1999, apart from the Blueshawk which continued until 2006.

Values now are available on the very good website www.blueshawk.info, from which I found that Blueshawks retailed for £792 new (price taken from 2002 catalogue) and are now worth about £550 for a good example. Nighthawks are similar in value but because of all the different models used prices vary.