Friday, July 20, 2018

1958 National Bolero

The little guitar that could.

I owned this guitar longer than any other. Unfortunately, its longevity came at a terrible price. Due to its low cost ($45 in 1975) and its slab construction this beginner guitar became a test bed for pickups, switches, knobs and other such nonsense. It was quite petite and was used primarily as a ‘travel’ guitar. Its neck left something to be desired. Although it was reinforced, it was not adjustable and never really played very well. The end of the fret-board hung over the body and had a tendency to lift. I removed the last fret marker and screwed the end of the fret board down a bit, allowing it to be playable. I ultimately threw it out after numerous routings and other butchery had made it un-restorable. In the current market one in very good condition sells for about a grand. I still have one of the knobs.

Here’s a really nice YouTube video of the deluxe version from the great web site Drowning in Guitars:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer Serenade

Babes in Toyland, 1995

For a brief period in the nineties August brought those of us living in the Minneapolis area a street party known as CedarFest. Held in what was long considered a 'bohemian' area of town—The West Bank—this free event had dozens of bands which were picked for their potential, not their achievements. Mike Doughty and Soul Coughing, G. Love, Jonny Lang when he was still a kid, Frank Black and many more musical hipsters. The sun was hot, the crowds were cool. If you weren’t of age, this was a great chance to see bands that usually only played in clubs. If you were, you could even get a beer or two...

Which was the end of it. Someone OD'ed on alcohol, and the event’s organizers were sued for allowing him to be “overserved.” A lawsuit that, even if you were successful in defending yourself, would bankrupt all but the richest pockets. There are still a few free festivals, but they are smaller in scale and usually pretty tame.

Summer re-run, first published in FITK August 29, 2008

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Love

In keeping with the spirit of the season, here is a re-run from 2008:

Dandelions flyin', kids were fryin'
Bugs with a magnifyin' glass
The sun had every body jumpin'
But I was cool as a seven pound bass...

In the summer of ‘65, our neighborhood rock band played a series of impromptu concerts in various locales, one of which out family garage. The neighborhood urchins would quickly assemble and, on one occasion, a new girl showed up. She hung around afterwards, and we got to talking. She was from Onamia, a small town in central Minnesota, she was staying in the city with her aunt and uncle and their children who lived in a house on the corner of Dupont and 51st, about a block away.

The clouds were pumped up
And so was I
That day I saw your lovely face
all across the sky...

So we started to "see" each other a little. I was, being fifteen and in a band and all, a 6 foot tall, 125 pound stick of macho dynamite. Her name was Angie, she was thirteen and liked to smoke cigarettes. She would tell me of things she would do to pass the time back in Onamia, such as hanging out, stealing cars, and sniffing gasoline. Her mental acuity seemed to indicate that she wasn’t lying about the gas-huffing.

I was always a passer-by
I never had much of any style
But you walked up and talked with me baby
Don't you know you made my whole life worthwhile?

One day we went for a walk and ended up at the Top Diner. This small cafe was on a truck route, and it had the usual fare: burgers and fries, special of the day and pie for dessert. I bought us fries and a coke (two straws), Angie asked me for a quarter for the jukebox. She choose her three songs: The Beatles, Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five. When she said “let’s dance” I was feeling Glad All Over.

Oh! How wonderful Fate can be...
How did you really happen to be?
The day I heard your sweet voice
Sing a song in me...

We managed to stay out of trouble, probably because she was only able to kiss for a few seconds at a time (asthma?), the only time we were almost caught was when we were in her aunt and uncle's kitchen and they came home early from shopping (I made it out the front door.) The last time we saw each other was when we were with a group of us kids were hanging out in the park.  A bunch of rowdies with hot-rods cruised by. Angie flipped them the bird. They were ready to to kick our asses, but a police car drove by at just the right time. The next day she went back to Onamia, and our 'affair to remember' was soon forgotten.

Well, I waited here for the sunset
I thought that you would too
Now you're somewhere out there in this great big world
And I've lost my heart,
My summer love...
To You...

Summer Love original lyrics by Jimmy Derbis, copyright 1976

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, July 13, 2018

1962 Fender Stratocaster

A borrowed guitar.

Yours truly, Minneapolis, October 1967

The Strat in question was “shell pink” in color (a girl guitar!) with mismatched strings—the A string was wrapped in black plastic. I don't remember it as being special in any way, it probably needed a proper set-up.

Having had sold my Les Paul Special a few months prior, I needed a guitar to perform with a country/jug band, The Hungry Freaks. We performed a down-home version of Hank William’s Setting the Woods on Fire for our high school homecoming. It went over so well that we found ourselves playing for a dance and a talent auditorium.

At the time I was known as “Fuzz King”, note the Maestro FZ-1a effect pedal in front of the Gibson GA-95 RVT Apollo amplifier (both borrowed as well.) There were two microphones plugged into the first channel—the amp was also used as a PA! No recordings exist of this group, which may be a good thing.

Here’s a video of a much better Strat player:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Milestones in Haberdashery Revisited

The Setwell Hanger

In the history of mankind clothing was, from its earliest eras, a distinguishing hallmark that separated man from the lesser beasts. Traditionally, pants were the one iconic piece of clothing that signified masculinity. This state of affairs has changed somewhat in recent years, but one need look no further than the universal sign for ”The Men's Room” to see how that imagery still persists. One problem remained, however. In order to maintain a man’s trousers in a state of tidy readiness various remedies were tried. All were found wanting.

Enter the Setwell pants hanger: Patented on April 24th, 1934 by F.K. Deknatel. The Setwell is a must-have for men of style and fashion. True, there have been numerous knock-offs of this classic, but one only has to compare them to the original to see how superior it still remains.

The keen-eyed observer will no doubt notice the suit-grade flannel (#11) or the precision roller bearing (#20), or the piece de resistance: the tempered spring (#22) which opens the hanger automatically, with minimal effort, yet holds the jaws tight when closed.

Fashions may come and go, empires may rise and then fall, even the mightiest of mountains will someday return to the sea, but a well-hung pair of trousers will remain the standard by which mankind is judged.

This is a re-run of a FITK post of July 29th, 2008. This post has the most comments and has been the most-searched for post, consistently receiving dozens of hits per year.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Surreal Saturday

All I was trying to do was to go to a baseball game, but got lost on various tangents instead.

This display of severe angularity at the train station was only a hint of things to come:

When I got downtown it was still too early for the game so I took a stroll along Hennepin Avenue. Some seedy alcoves still exist there—if you look up:

After a while I got the unnerving sensation that someone was staring at me:

This crushed cigarette butt was a metaphor for the “street of broken dreams… ”

But back at the stadium a different form of art incited passion in the younger set:

Once inside angularity returned:

Until my warp drive became fully engaged:

I guess there was a game going on,

But I was too easily distracted.

BONUS CONTENT: Tom Waits and Hennepin Avenue:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Fifties Harmony H62

Another post in my “guitar series.”

This was a found guitar.

I was helping my father clean out a rental property. This Harmony H62 was left behind. The neck had been detached from the body. I did reset it, but my skills in lutherie at the age of 16 left a lot to be desired. It never did play right but one of the Gibson-made P-13 pickups found its way into my Alamo Fiesta. Its ultimate fate was destruction by fire. The knobs, pickups and hardware are worth serious cash today. A complete one in excellent condition recently sold for over $1500!

Here's a really nice YouTube video of a H62 in action:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2