39 Stony Hill
Stony Hill is G. E. Smith’s new project. Listeners to Sidetrack Liner Notes know G. E’s stellar resume. He’s entered a new phase with this collaboration with Seattle singer songwriter Leroy Bell. We coaxed them to the microphones for this podcast following a photo shoot for their new album “Stony Hill”. It is obvious from the music these guys create that they are glad the found each other, having a good time and creating great music for us to enjoy. This free flowing podcast is pretty enjoyable also. Check out “Stony Hill”.
You can just feel how much fun these guys had creating this music
Here is the Epiphone Sheraton that is currently Mr Smith’s favorite electric guitar. Don’t tell his blackguards.
Down in George’s basement a while ago. I think most of these were “catch and release”. Probably wish your basement looks like this.
I Think that is enough for now.
39 Stony Hill – Sidetrack Liner Notes
42 Analog Man Mike Piera
Trained as an electrical engineer but with a passion for music Mike Piera aka Analog Man is the perfect guide to the extremely dense world of effect pedals. He started by repairing desirable vintage pedals which led him to modifying, reproducing, and eventually manufacturing his own line of Analog Man Pedals. We visited with Mike in early March 2020 for this SLN podcast where we discuss the ever expanding world of effect pedals. His shop-office is a veritable museum of vintage pedals and musical ephemera. It is also the production line for his Analog Man line of pedals. If “Boutique” was a tern stolen from the fashion world let’s describe Analog Man pedals as “Bespoke” which means “Made to Measure” because Analog Man doesn’t build them until they are ordered. “Snake Oil” and “B S” are rampant in this corner of the music industry but Mike is the rare exception a straight shooter who knows his subject and tells it like it is.
You’ve been warned his pedals are highly addictive.
To Answer the U S made Gibson Maestro Fuzz Tone, Macari’s Music Exchange of Denmark St. in London commissioned the Tone Bender. It was a favorite of the early UK rock guitarist, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Mick Ronson and Pete Townsend. The circuit and housing /brand changed over time. The Sun Bender is Analog Man’s answer to that answer.
Everyone wanted more output and sparkle (treble) from their amps. Which had been Fenders sound from the beginning. Vox added “Top Boost Circuit” to some of their amps. Another U K way to achieve this was the Rangemaster Treble Booster. This unit predates “Stomp Boxes” intended to sit on the floor. The Beano Boost is Analog Mans way to get you there.
Forever held in high regard because of Jimi Hendrix use of them the Fuzz Face was sold in vast quantities. It’s safe to assume that in the Analog Man homage The Sun Face the original’s problem of picking up AM radio stations has ben solved.
Ahh The Ibanez Tube Screamer. You can spend a lot for an original and still not know what you’re getting. Much easier to get one from Mike that he’s optimized and be sure. If ou want a deep dive into The Tube Screamer go to Analog Mans website and check out his tube screanmer lore.
Mike’s tribute for the in demand Ross Compressor is his Analog Man Bi Comp. 2 count em 2 compressors in one! The Ross Compressor on the left and the MXR/Dan Armstrong on the right usable separately or together.
Mike tells us in the podcast that the chorus was the first pedal he produced for the Analogue Man line. Like all of his pedals the build quality of this pedal to say nothing of the rich sounds more than outpaces the competition.
Les Paul was one of the first to manipulate the musical signal of his early electric guitar to create recordings. “How High the Moon” and “Lover” had high pitched overdubbed parts resulting from sped up magnetic tape. To use in live performances, he directed the Gibson company to make 2 miniature replicas of his then current “Gold Top” guitar model. The guitar is one piece of mahogany neck and body with a rosewood fingerboard and headstock veneer. These small guitars allowed the audience to believe Les was actually playing the high pitched sounds on his recordings. In fact he may have actually used them since they are completely playable.
Another early effect with a sound all it’s own is the DeArmond Tremolo Control. Not electronically advanced today put still a marvel of mechanical engineering. It achieves its distinctive “warbling ” effect by routing the guitar’s signal through a glass vial of electrolytic solution that is vibrating. This vial of liquid is attached to a rubber edged wheel that is held by a spring to a tapered shaft that emerges from the center shaft of an electric motor. The speed of the motor is controlled by the “Speed” pot and the wet to dry depth is controlled by the Pot labeled “Increase” All very Gyro Gearloose.
If you’ve ever watched the great You Tube “Uncle Doug” you know why he’s our Mister Rogers. In the attached video he builds a replica DeArmond Tremolo Control, an absolute Must Watch for gear heads.
So what’s the deal with Clyde McCoy and why is this trumpet players name on the Wah Wah pedal used by guitarist ? In the early 1960s in Southern Calif. The Thomas Organ company were the importers (and eventually manufactures] of UK designed and produced JMI Vox amplifiers. Brad Plunket their engineer developed the pedal with an eye to marketing it to horn players who routinely took the rubber end from a “plumbers friend” which they held in their hand and fluttered in front of the bell of their horns to achieve a vocal like “Wah Wah” effect. For an endorser The Thomas Organ Co settled on local trumpet player of some note, Clyde McCoy. After all it worked for Gibson with Les Paul. Mr McCoy had nothing to do with the design or marketing of the device. The first Wah Wah pedals were made in Italy and featured a portrait of Clyde on the bottom soon to be reduced to just his name.
To see the Purple Peaker effect plugged directly into his Fender Jaguar, you’ll have to kook in the extreme lower left corner of this photo of Ry Cooder performing at the Ritz in NYC late 1980 . Dan Armstrong designed a line of 6 effects all housed in these small square boxes. The Purple Peaker had 3 positions : a hump in the treble, a hump added to the bass and no humps at all but still a low impedance signal for noise reduction and boost of low output but still good sounding pickups. This was a great show. Bobby King on vocals and John Hiatt who fooled the entire audience with a story about thanking Mr Cooder for hiring him on a work release program because he had been found “Guilty” by 8 men and 4 women “Guilty by the Jury of Love”.
July 25th Newport, R.I.
55 years ago today
41: G.E. Smith
Of course GE has done it all. He started playing publicly in Pennsylvania when he was 11, did the obligatory 10,000 hours with The Scratch Band in Ct., produced hit after hit and toured with with Hall and Oates, lead the powerhouse Saturday Night Live band in New York, toured the world playing with Bob Dylan among others and is active today with a newly recorded album waiting in the wings soon to be released. His first hand knowledge of instruments and equipment can not be matched. The man knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t hold back. This is a much anticipated and enjoyable podcast recorded on a sparkling day in Amagansett. He is most generous with his time and stories. Settle in for a pleasurable and wide ranging conversation with one of the smartest, most talented and just plain nicest musicians today.
G E and Cesar Diaz started their quest for vintage instruments when neither they or the instruments were old.
Cesar and GE couldn’t buy beer legally but they were rocking!
He didn’t wast much time graduating to the good stuff.
G E gained wide exposure when he led the Saturday Night Live band during their heydays. He got a chance to play with most of his musical heroes. Many viewers tuned in just to see what cool old guitar he was using that week.
Peter Wolf’s Soul review The Beacon Theatre NYC.
Backing Irma Thomas on a Jazzmaster.
Percy Sledge singing “When a man loves a woman” like it was the first time.
Mike Eldred of Fender Honors George with introduction of the G. E. Smith model Telecaster. which is based on George’s love of Leo Fenders earl lap steels. Note the neck markings and unusual pick up mounting.
This video was created to help settle the question of this Telecaster’s authenticity as belonging to Mike Bloomfield.
Once again George leads a band. This time for Les Paul’s 100th birthday celebration. Another group of great guitarist takes their direction from G E.
40: Thomas Goldsmith
Tommy Goldsmith writer, musician, record producer, historian and raconteur has just released “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The Making of an American Classic”. Sure there are musicians who have left their mark on music. Will anyone ever play the cornet like Louis Armstrong, the cello like Pablo Casals, the saxophone like Charlie Parker, or the electric bass like Jaco Pastorius ? Earl Scruggs not only excelled at his chosen instrument, the 5 string banjo but created a music that can’t be played without his style. Goldsmith tells the story of Scruggs development and of Bluegrass Music itself from the inside. His 30 years of writing on music and culture for newspapers in N.C. and Tenn. along with producing over 20 records for various artists in Nashville give him a unique perspective. As a musician himself Goldsmith understood exactly what Earl was talking about when he interviewed him over several years of their friendship. Goldsmith also edited “The Bluegrass Reader” which won the Best Journalist award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
At last we have a sit down with a fellow tar heel and it’s nothing but fun. Who knew that King Records artist, The Stanley Brothers recorded their label mates, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters hit “Finger Popping Time” ? This is the kind of detail true music enthusiasts are eager to share.
Spotify Playlist for songs in this podcast
Bluegrass Canon or Cannon Fodder ?
We presented the following LPs to Tommy for his reaction..almost all were Canon almost no fodder.
in 1972 Earle Scruggs released “Earl Scruggs His Family and Friends”. It featured his sons Gary and Randy, The Byrds, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan among others. “Nashville Skyline Rag” from this LP is one of 4 tunes recorded with the Scruggs featured on 2019’s “Bob Dylan Travelin’ Thru The Bootleg Series Vol. 15.
The 5 string is not Mr Goldsmith’s instrument of choice but he looks so good here I couldn’t resist posting this
After you’ve gotten your copy of “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The making of An American Classic” then you can shop for “Speed Bumps On A Dirt Road When Old Time Music Met Bluegrass”, John Cohen’s magnificent new book of photos that overlaps the subject of Tommy Goldsmith’s podcast perfectly.
38: John Hammond pt. 2
We return to John Hammond’s place to continue our conversation that was recorded in SLN #37. In this podcast he discusses some of his favorite guitars and why. He shares great stories of the Greenwich Village scene he was so much a part of in the 60s and the shift to electric music that he helped bring about. We continue his tales of touring and recording which continue through today.
Professionally it probably started for John at The Newport Folk Festival 1963. He left there with a manager and a recording contract.
A photograph of Blind Boy Fuller inspired John to start playing a metal bodied National Duolian
A 1930’s National Duolian. A metal bodied guitar with the bridge resting on a spun aluminum cone that amplifies the vibrations of the strings. Mass production, available by mail order, relatively inexpensive and almost indestructible. They found their way into many roots musicians hands and onto their 78s.
John Hammond as a New York native was at the heart of the Greenwich Village Folk Music scene in the 60s. His stories of the musicians and clubs are fascinating. below is a shot of The Cafe Au Go Go with John’s name at the top . Could this have been the week he took Jimi James (Jimi Hendrix) there to launch his career?
2 books that cover the “Folk Scare” are : “The Face of Folk Music” photos by David Gahr, text by Robert Shelton published 1968 and “Folk City” which accompanied a major exhibition of the same name at The Museum of the City of New York. 2015.
Below the 3 photos that John discusses at my request. These were shot at the recording session for Bob Dylan’s “Bringing it all Back Home” LP in January of 1965. The first 2 are widely published. The 3rd with a seated solo John Hammond holding a Stratocaster I’ve only seen in Daniel Kramer’s book “A Year and a Day”. John Sebastian and Dylan are playing acoustic guitars . Hammond is seated behind a Wurlitzer Piano . However as John explains in SLN podcast #38 in all of the photos he is actually holding and playing the Stratocaster. Glad we cleared that up! Bonus points if you remember this is the month that CBS’s Clive Davis negotiated the purchase of Fender Musical Instruments.
Photograph © Marla Hammond Taken week of 9/23/91 Russian Hill Recording Studio San Francisco “Got Love If You Want It” John Hammond, Tom Waits, John lee Hooker, J.J.Cale
“Wicked Grin” The “Must Have” album of John’s brilliant interpretation of Tom Wait’s songs. If you haven’t heard this you have a major treat in store
The Delaney and Bonnie Sequence, as promised.
37: John Hammond
The Blues have always been John Hammond’s musical passion. Throughout his career he has explored all facets of The Blues from primitive solo acoustic to sophisticated urban played with a who’s who of stellar accompanist. He started in his hometown of New York City as a member of the folk revival but his emphasis was on the blues always leading the pack with his deep knowledge, ability, taste and charisma. He was performing Robert Johnson and incorporating electric accompaniment long before anyone else. He has always performed live throughout his career and generously shares great stories of his life both as a performer and recording artist. In this Sidetrack Liner Notes podcast (the first of 2) we trace his career by exploring his LP s in chronological order. It is with a small amount of pride that we note the John Hammond performed at The Sidetrack Coffee House in 1965.
How Badass could you be in 1964?
History made here. Full on electric blues using his friends from Toronto Garth, Levon and Robbie (of The Hawks soon to become The Band) and a few Chicago pals, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite. Who was hanging out at this session getting ideas about “going electric”? None other than his Village friend Bob Dylan.
Most of us first heard about blues legend Robert Johnson from the work of John Hammond. This new book recommended by John goes a long way to clearing up some of the myth and legend without diminishing the the music.
Another must read is this new book about the A&R men of early American roots music recordings. John Hammond’s Father the important Columbia Records executive is given justifiable praise in this book
36: Steve Earle
Most of us found out about Steve Earle when his first album, “Guitar Town” came out in 1986. It is still one of the best first album from any artist ever. To date he has released 17 albums and won Grammeys for several of them. If that weren’t enough, he has appeared in 2 television series, “The Wired” and “Treme” and written 2 books, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” and “Doghouse Roses”. His most recent album “Guy” is composed entirely of songs by one of his Texas songwriting mentors, Guy Clark. 10 years ago he released “Townes” comprised of songs of another of his mentors, Townes Van Zandt. In this podcast Steve shares his strong opinions on a range of topics: recording techniques, musicians who deserve the designation- genius, his admiration for his touring band, The Dukes, (should have asked him if they are The Dukes of Earle ?), the quality of certain acoustic and electric guitars etc. It’s a rapid fire conversation where the facts and anecdotes come at you fast and furious. If you’re a SLN listener you will love this podcast.