I found this guy at Atlanta Discount Music around '88 sometime.
I knew the guy, Jim, that worked there and it was his guitar hangin' on the wall.
Asked if it had anything weird besides the spray paint red refinish. “Nope, just don’t play it anymore.”
Asked him about the refin, “Came to me that way”.
You can easily spot it was the normal sunburst finish underneath the red. I thought I might get it restored someday. Nah, I like it red.
Can’t see the serial number, but it has a tell. When they first started making juniors, Gibson really was making a bottom of the line, fully functional electric guitar. A student model.
So as a student model, they didn’t bother putting any pitch from neck to body on them from their introduction in 54 through the beginning of 56. Straight line. So, near enough it’s a 55. Hard to get a bridge on it, or change strings because of the lack of angle.
Classic wonderful Louisville Slugger neck (saw a baseball bat in half vertically, fret it, and glue it into the body) from back then. Hard to find that much mahogany in a neck anymore.
And it sounds like it wants to get dirty when it plays, but most old Juniors do.
So many songs on the Chefs record. Yeah, that’s it on the right side on Chase Scene. I think it didn’t make an appearance on 2 songs.
Red does a whole bunch of the talkin' guitar stuff. Rhythm work requires me to ease up on my right hand’s natural flailing technique. I’ll knock a note sharp if I’m chording and flailing and that usually sounds like ass, no matter what I’m playin'. But that tone is worth me being a little careful.
If I get my mind right and put it through the brownface Deluxe, I can get close to Woody in the Faces tone.
'61 or '62 Fender Deluxe
Almost all the talking guitars (we started calling them “talking guitars” years ago when I’d lay what I heard as a melody without words down for Joe Blanton (Secret Chef) to hear my melody and cadence) went through this l’il bad boy. A few rhythms went here as well, but they needed the “extra sauce” that is part of Brownie’s sound.
It was a rescue and rebuild, by Dave Sutherland, from a fire years ago.
We figured it’s a 61 or 62. I could care less. The thing wants to rock.
The response to touch is amazing in this small an amp.
I run it at around 3-4 on the normal channel, tone around 6, then use the Deluxe feature of being wired already cross channeled and open up the bright channel (with tone on zero) to add desired beef. Sometimes it stays on 1, sometimes 7. Too much makes it sound floppy in the lows. Guitar, right-hand intensity, job to be done, all figure into where both channels volume ends up.
The nice natural breakup makes it ideal for recording the featured instrument.
Yes, Dave covered it in brown suede, hence Brownie.
I’ll tell the tale this one last time, get it complete, and refer all future questions to right here. This is gonna take a while, settle in.
In early 83, someone broke into my house and absconded with my mongrel Tele that I really liked a lot. Yes, heartbroken and angry. Was living very close to the margin at the time. A fella sold me his Tele cheap, told me it was a difficult guitar, but it was right there and I had a Sats gig at the local club that night. I took it. $250.
It was a dog, just like he said. It got me through, just like he said.
For the next couple of months I was on the hunt for “the good one”.
We were playing 4 nights a week at a place named Hedgens. 3 sets a night, first one starting at 10:00, so by set 3, we’d let about anyone sit in.
About a month into playing “the dog” we had a guy we all knew come up to us and ask if Steve Marriott could come sit in. Oh hell yes! I turned to Rick Richards who was salivating, as was I, and said to Rick, “I want the first song with him. If I let you go first, I’ll never get the chance to play with him. One song only, promise.”
He knew I was right, didn’t like it, but could see my argument was correct. Shot me the laser eyes, gave Steve his Junior, and I repeated “One song.”
Steve came up and we settled on Let It Rock by Mr. Berry, slowed it down to a nasty grind, raising the key as we went until he hit D, grooved for 2 minutes on the tonic, then he turned to the mic and let it rip.
To say Steve blew my head off with that voice coming from 4 feet away would be the understatement of my life. “Holy crap! I gotta learn how to do that!”.
I played the one song, and true to my word, gave it up to Mr. Richards and became an audience member for an hour. “I really, really, got to learn to do that.” running through my brain.
After the set was done Steve, who lived nearby for about 2 years, said “C’mon over to the house, we’ll hang and play some Ray Charles records.” Count me in.
We all follow him over to his place, go in. Steve says “the main level isn’t furnished, don’t know why I bought such a big place, let’s go upstairs.”
But there was a room on the main level with 2 cool looking guitars. One was an old Gretsch with the G brand and I bet it was great, but the other guitar which had an actual aura surrounding it (I'm not kidding, a f’n golden aura) was his old Esquire. I asked right before he and the gang went upstairs if he minded if I played it. “Have at it mate. Treat it nice, it’s the one I used on Tin Soldier.” They all split upstairs. I picked it up, and the next thing I knew 3 hours had passed, the sun was coming up, and the party was shutting down.
I told Steve, “If you ever have to sell this guitar, please let me know. I will do any and everything in my power to make it happen.” He knew I was genuine.
For 6 weeks I pined for that guitar. Would tell all my friends that was “the one”.
One such friend was Jeremy Graf, who worked at a nice vintage guitar store I frequented and told him about the Esquire and my absolute lust for it.
As fortunate would have it, Steve also frequented the store and came across a blonde 59 335 that would be his main guitar for the rest of his life. Jeremy made the deal with Steve. He was trading in a guitar that he said was as good as cash. He pulled out the Esquire and said “There’s a guy in town named Dan”, and Jeremy finished with “Baird. I know”. They both had a yuck at my frenzied desire for it. Closed the deal and Jeremy proceeds to give it a new set of strings and a little clean up love, which it did need.
He knows I’m on at 10 that night, like usual, and walks in with a blanket, obviously covering a guitar. Walks over to me, and says “Gimme your guitar.” I look at him with the RCA dog look, he repeats “Gimme your guitar.” I do. He then pulls IT out from under the blanket. My mouth drops all the way open. He says “I believe you play 10’s, you owe me $275.” (I did use 10’s at the time, $50 a week, every week until it’s paid off).
I’m shaking, but I plugged it up, tuned it, hit the standby switch, hit the big A chord. Eargasam. Rick snaps his head around and says “God damn that sounds great!” I look out at Jeremy, I may have been cryin, who knows, and say, “I cannot thank you enough.” He holds up one hand and says “It’s in the right place, we all know it.”
Years later Steve moved back to England and the Sats, meanwhile, screwed around and made it happen to the point we were an international touring act.
It seemed every time we played London we had a night off prior to the gig and Steve was playing a big pub somewhere nearby. Went down every time, and every time Steve would gimme a wink and ask “How’s our guitar?” “Fine Steve, just fine.”
I still think of it that way, our guitar.
All over the Chefs’ record and has made at least one appearance on every record I made. Did every show from 1983-2013. 30 years of my sweat and abuse made it impossible to take out anymore, but turns out, I was only just a few years behind it. Neither of us can take the road anymore, for about the same reasons.
Can’t remember when I started calling it “the Old Man”, but it seemed to fit when I did.
Years later I asked Ian McLagan about it the authenticity of the Tin Soldier story. Total confirmation. He then filled me in on the big history of it.
Seems Steve had a 61 Esquire and Ian had a 57. Both guys loved their own sound, but the other guy’s neck felt better to them. They did the logical thing and swapped necks and both guys were happy.
It’s truly a magic guitar. They don’t make many. I am lucky.
And Steve, our guitar is a little worse for wear and tear, but at the end of the day, really, “It’s just fine.”
Master Chef's The WORKHORSE
The first Hiwatt I ever had. 100 near-perfect watts. Pots dated 71. Bought it from Jeff Glixman, the Sats producer in 1983 after we’d recorded the Keep the Faith EP. I’ve had 4 others. Traded those 4 for different gear. This is the one. Still has “the Satellites” red stencil on the bottom.
The baritone, Gretsch, cleaner Teles, and Les Paul Jrs all came through the best tone behavior modification unit I’ve ever heard. No, it won’t go to Cookie Monster music tone, but I don’t go to Cookie Monster music, so everyone’s happy. Even Cookie Monster. All the controls actually do what they say on them! Miracle!
Now, I don’t drive the channel volume when I want a clear, tight tone. The Partridge transformers make this thing weigh a bunch, but also make it non-floppy in the low end. And who doesn’t like a tight bottom? It will “go large” and did a few times, but it flat shines as a clean machine.
It would be the last amp I would sell if I HAD to sell my amps. But I don’t right now, so “no” is the answer. You can buy them for under $3k nowadays, but finding “the one” is hard. MC