I had other title ideas for this post: “Listen to the Music” and “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” but I’m not a big Doobie Brothers fan and I thought the other title, which comes from the Wild Cherry song, might be a little obscure to some people. So I went with the title to Joan Jett’s defining song (which was actually a cover… It was first recorded by the Arrows in the mid 70s).
For as long as I can remember, music has been a part of my life. My mom had an organ and played often, especially leading up to Christmas. My maternal grandmother also had an organ and played frequently until her death in 1980. My mother inherited her mother’s organ and still plays occasionally.
[All photos below can be clicked to view a larger photo.]
I never took formal music lessons as a child. My mom taught me some stuff on her organ and I used some books to learn how to read music as well. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ll remember that my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Weiss, was offering guitar lessons. I wanted to take them, but I wasn’t allowed. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was Mr. Weiss who discouraged my parents from letting me take the lessons or if it was my parents who said no. In junior high school, I took band, playing the cornet. I wanted to learn drums too, so I took a band class in summer school, but my teacher put me back on cornet part way through the class since there weren’t many trumpet/cornet players in the class. I think I had a solo in the summer concert. I continued with band in 9th and 10th grade. In 9th grade I was in Intermediate Band and switched to French horn. In 10th grade I made it to Varsity Band, playing cornet at football games and various parades. I quit band in the second semester of my 10th grade year to take a brand new computer class being offered by Mr. Prelle, my high school’s chemistry and physic teacher. As for guitar, which I’ve been playing off and on since 1980, I am self taught, using a variety of books, magazines, record albums (vinyl), cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, digital music, video games (Rocksmith), the Internet and a little help from my friends, especially Tim, who rekindled my interest in guitar when I met him working at the Sugar Shack at Magic Mountain in early 1980.
Unfortunately, I never really got involved with any rock bands for the long haul. During the summer of 1982, Tim recruited me to play bass in a band he was in. The bass player was also the lead vocalist, but had difficulty singing and playing at the same time (it’s not as easy as it looks). I borrowed the bass player’s bass and amp at my first band practice. Practice was in the drummer’s bedroom. There were six of us and our gear crammed into that small room: two guitarists, the drummer, me, the bassist now lead vocalist and a keyboard player. The only song I remember playing was “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey. I used the lower four strings on my guitar to practice bass lines at home in preparation for future practices, but, alas, there were no more practices. Internal politics of some sort broke apart the band before it ever got started. If it had kept going, I’d have figured out some way to buy a bass and bass amp.
In the summer of 1983, I lived in Fayette, Alabama, a small town about 45 miles north of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. While working at Hardee’s that summer, I met Tommy, who also played guitar. He knew a guy, Ned, who also played guitar. The three of us got together occasionally to jam. A rock radio station in Birmingham, Alabama was sponsoring a contest. Bands could send in one or two songs. The winner received $25,000 in Rickenbacker equipment and a recording contract. Ned already had one song, “Rock and Roll Dream,” recorded. Ned brought in a bassist and drummer. We recorded “Innocent Bystander,” a song written by one of Tommy’s friends. We changed the chord progressions during the guitar solo section from the original so that it wouldn’t sound like part of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Tommy and Ned didn’t realize it, but the new progression sounded like part of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” We didn’t win, but we had fun. We practiced covering some other songs. The only one I can remember playing is “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest. I had to leave the band at the end of the summer to go back to college at Mississippi State University. They carried on for a while without me. They played a gig, probably unpaid, at the local junior college. I was able to make it there to watch. They played Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” and “Stone In Love” by Journey. I’m pretty sure Tommy was upset about forgetting the lyrics to the 2nd verse. They kept playing though, and Tommy got back on track when the chorus came around.
I’ve jammed with a couple of friends over the years: Todd in college and Allen, a cool cat I met working at Bally Technologies. Other than that, I’ve been solo. I would like to find some like minded musicians here in Las Vegas, form a band, write some more original songs and maybe play some local shows if everything works out. Or at least find a couple of people to jam with on a somewhat regular basis. I’ve been working on music profiles on a few websites, ReverbNation (Artist Profile), SoundCloud and Fandalism and searching online occasionally to connect with some Vegas musicians. But I haven’t connected with anyone yet who is looking to collaborate on songwriting, jam or put together a band.
It wasn’t long after I got my first guitar in 1980 that I started writing my own songs. Most of my early songs, in my opinion, aren’t polished or worthy of recording and publishing. Even a couple of the ones I did record (but haven’t made public) weren’t all that great. As with most things, practice makes you better, so several of my later songs were much improved and I’m very proud of them. Those are the ones you can listen to in the music players that are in the right sidebar and also available on Fandalism, SoundCloud and ReverbNation (Artist Profile).
“Will You Stay?” is one of the few early songs I wrote that I think is pretty good. The recording isn’t all that great. I recorded and bounced a lot of tracks on a Tascam PortaStudio. Each bounced track adds noise that cannot be eliminated. The drums are canned drum loops from my mother’s organ and the bass is played on the low strings of my guitar. I didn’t have a bass guitar when I recorded it. The guitar solo isn’t that good either as I hit the wrong notes using the whammy bar in the beginning.
“Cuddle Up” was written in 1990. I got the idea for the song from a Bruce Springsteen song. “Tunnel of Love” might be the song. I wanted to set a scene, moving from the outdoors to the indoors, and incorporate as many of the five senses I could through the song’s lyrics and imagery. I think I achieved that goal, along with the sound effects I added. I like the guitar solo I played too. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way that one turned out.
“Chasin’ Tears From My Eyes” was written after a particularly painful breakup. It was originally written on a borrowed 12-string acoustic guitar as was the original, long lost, recording. I re-recorded it with a 6-string acoustic guitar. I still have that recording, but haven’t published it yet. Later, I recorded it with a heavily flanged/phased electric guitar to give it dripping melancholy. Inadvertently, the heavily flanged/phased electric guitar also gave it an early Pink Floyd vibe. This is the version that you can listen to in the music players in the right sidebar. I’m especially proud of the guitar solo I was able to lay down as I’m not much of a lead soloist.
The last song available in the music players in the right sidebar is “Sonrise.” The version that is a available to listen to doesn’t have vocals, bass guitar or guitar solos. I wrote the song many years ago as an acoustic ballad. When a pulled it out of the archives a few years later, I couldn’t remember the chord progressions, rhythm and the verse melodies. So I rewrote the music as an uptempo rock song. The song is about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I need to go back and finish the recording. But since it was recorded using a Windows computer and Windows based recording software and I now have all Mac computer equipment, I’ll have to record everything over again.
An older song that I still like, “Once I Had A Love,” is one I’m going to record again, hopefully soon. The original recording was recorded on a cassette tape with my boom box in my college dorm room. The cassette tape is long gone. But I still remember the chord progressions and melodies. Stay tuned for this one. Once I record it, it’ll be a ReverbNation exclusive.
In the summer of 1993, I wrote some lyrics for my friend, now wife of almost 20 years, Stephanie. I only have the lyrics, not music notes, so I’m going to have to write all new music to this one before I can record it. It’s called “(The Right One’s) Been There All Along.” Hopefully, I can get to this one soon.
I really want to write some new material, but I’m also going to look at my older less liked songs and see about rewriting some of them (lyrics and/or music) to make them better.
My first guitar was an off-brand, inexpensive 6-string acoustic guitar that I bought in 1980. I sold it in 1992 to a co-worker just before I left Homestead AFB for Spangdahlem AB. My first electric guitar was an off-brand Les Paul copy. I think I got it in 1980 too. It had a warm sunburst finish. I think it looked similar to this one. I think I traded it to my friend Tim for an off-brand, stained, wood grain Les Paul copy, similar to this one, but darker brown. In the summer of 1983 I purchased an inexpensive, off-brand, double cutaway electric guitar. It had a two tone natural wood finish; blond wood down the neck, through the bridge to the bottom edge of the guitar. Each of the wings on either side of the blond wood was dark brown. It was sort of like a Stratocaster body, but both horns were the same length.
In 1985 I traded in both guitars, plus cash, to buy a Westone Spectrum LX. It wasn’t the guitar I set out to buy. I was planning on buying a Flying V guitar, but I saw this one, played it and liked it. It’s funny. Sometimes the guitar picks you, like a wand in Harry Potter’s world. The official color specification is Candy Blue, which I think is incorrect. It’s actually a deep blue, like the sky is just after dusk. I like to call it Midnight Blue. It has an rosewood fretboard, all black hardware and a Bendmaster Whammy/Tremolo bar. This is the main guitar used on “Will You Stay?” and “Chasin’ Tears From My Eyes” and the lead solo and harmonics on “Cuddle Up.” I named this guitar Midnight.
In 1993, while on temporary duty at Aviano AB, Italy, I bought an Ibanez Performance acoustic guitar from a music shop in Pordenonne, Italy. The acoustic guitar heard in “Chasing Tears From My Eyes” is played on this guitar as well as on “Cuddle Up.”
In fall 2006, I received a small bonus ($500 I think) from the company I was working for. I used that money to buy an Ibanez RG Series 7-string guitar. I wanted to try one out after becoming a Korn fan. Because I have small hands and fingers (not to mention my pinkies are crooked – passed on from my father), I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to play it very well. I tried it out in the store and I was able to play it just fine. I used this guitar on “Sonrise.”
My wife, father-in-law and my father-in-law’s wife pooled together to buy my first bass guitar, an Epiphone Thunderbird IV. While I don’t normally play bass, I wanted one so I can add bass parts to songs I record. It’s neck heavy so I need to remember to keep my hand on the neck to prevent neck dive.
Recording a pure acoustic guitar outside of a real recording studio is difficult because you have to use a microphone for recording. The microphone will pick up ambient sounds, like the air conditioner/heater, kids playing outside, dogs barking in the neighborhood. Acoustic-electric guitars solve the problem, so I’ve wanted one for quite a while. My wife bought me an Ovation Celebrity acoustic-electric guitar for Christmas in 2010. It has a Koa wood veneer and is absolutely beautiful. Sounds fantastic too.
The latest addition to my collection is a Jackson RRXT electric guitar. This is the design Randy Rhoads made famous when he played in Ozzy Osbourne’s band prior to his death. It’s a screamer! My wife bought it for me for my 50th birthday in 2012.
My wife, Stephanie, is the best! How could she not be when she supports my rather expensive hobby by buying me guitars? I don’t have any real desire to buy more guitars, probably to Stephanie’s relief! But, if I do get a hankering to get a couple more, I’d like to add a 12-string acoustic-electric guitar, maybe a Gretsch hollow body guitar and perhaps a Paul Reed Smith (PRS) to my collection.
Gear – Amplifiers
When I bought my first electric guitar, I needed an amplifier, but didn’t have much money to buy one. My friend Tim had one that he wasn’t using anymore, so he sold it to me cheap. I used it from 1980 to 1985, when I purchased a used Crate CR-65 combo amplifier at the same time I bought the Westone guitar. The Crate amp has built-in distortion and reverb. I no longer use it because it’s had some issues for many years. I need to have it repaired.
Not long after I bought the Ibanez 7-string guitar, Guitar Center was selling off its inventory of Crate Powerblock amplifiers at a discount. They weren’t expensive at all, but at $150 it was a steal. It pumps out 150 watts of sonic power. Amazing that such a little amp can put out so much power. I guess that’s the power of solid state electronics. I paired it up with a Marshall 4×12 speaker cabinet.
When I got the bass guitar, I naturally needed a bass amp to go with it. I got this Drive CD 300B bass combo amplifier to play my Epiphone Thunderbird IV through. It pushes 30 watts, which is more than enough for practicing and recording. If I ever join a band as a bassist, I’ll need something that pushes more power, like this Peavey MAX 112 II 1X12 200W Bass Combo Amp, or this Peavey Tour VB-2 Tube Bass Amp Head and Orange Amplifiers OBC Series OBC115 400W 1×15 Bass Speaker Cabinet.
Somewhere in time, probably between 2005 and 2009, I bought a VOX Mini 5 practice amp. It has three wattage settings: .5 watts, 1 watt and 5 watts. It has several on-board effects, like auto-wah, distortion, delay, tremolo and a couple of others. Runs on 120v AC or batteries, so it’s perfect for practice or taking it out of doors.
The amplifier I use most is this Bugera 333XL-212 Infinium combo amplifier. It’s an all tube amp so it gives those warm tones most tube amps put out. It has three channels, Clean, Crunch and Lead, with on-board distortion on the Crunch and Lead channels and on-board reverb. I got this amp in 2009 when it first came out. Most tube amps are expensive ($1,000+) but this one only set me back $599 plus shipping from Sam Ash.
Gear – Effects
In 2009, I bought a Line 6 Pod X3 Live multi-effects board. It can emulate a variety of amplifiers and speaker cabinets. It also includes a variety of effects such as distortion, delay, chorus, wah, flanger, phase shift and more. It also has a built-in tuner. It can be used for acoustic-electric guitars, electric guitars and bass guitars. It comes with many preset amp/cabinet/effects combinations. A couple of the preset combinations are pretty wild and not very useful for normal playing, but fun to mess around with. I can also create my own combinations and save them for later use. I use it quite a bit mainly because it takes up less floor space than my pedal board. But it can be a bit complicated to use.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a a variety of stomp boxes and effects pedals. I purchased a Furman SPB-8 Powered Stereo Pedal Board to keep them organized and for better power management. On the board (clockwise from top left): BOSS Super Chorus, BOSS Mega Distortion, BOSS Blues Driver, BOSS Compression Sustainer, BOSS Noise Suppressor, Dunlop Cry Baby® Wah Wah, BOSS Flanger, BOSS Super Shifter, BOSS Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Amp, BOSS Digital Delay. Not pictured: BOSS RC-3 Loop Station.
BOSS CH-1 Stereo Chorus
The CH-1 Super Chorus pedal delivers a clean classic chorus sound with crystal-clear highs and a unique stereo effect, variable between left and right speakers.
- Classic BOSS chorus pedal with clean, brilliant sound for guitar and keyboards
- Effect Level, EQ, Rate and Depth knobs allow for precise shaping of sound
- Features Mono input and Stereo outputs for connection to dual amps
BOSS MD-2 Mega Distortion
The MD-2 Mega distortion takes the bottom-heavy distortion sounds heard in today’s new-school metal and pushes it to the extreme. The secret is a special dual-stage distortion circuit with an added gain boost-plus new Bottom and Tone controls–for crushing distortion with massive low end. Take your distortion into the future with the MD-2.
- Produces extreme, low-end distortion for modern metal and hard rock
- Gain Boost circuit creates huge distortion and sustain regardless of level
- New Bottom control for bottom-heavy distortion matched to 6- or 7-string guitars
- Tone control adjusts balance between high and low frequencies
BOSS BD-2 Blues Driver
The BD-2 Blues Driver delivers the creamy, yet crunchy sound associated with great blues guitar. This popular pedal provides instant access to the kind of warm overdrive and emotive distortion usually reserved for 30-year-old tube amps.
- Classic “blues” guitar tones with tube amp simulation
- Warm distortion and overdrive
- Responds to nuance and volume changes
BOSS CS-3 Compression Sustainer
The CS-3 Compression Sustainer pedal compresses louder signals while boosting lower signals, providing smooth sustain without degrading the original sound quality. This is the perfect pedal for guitarists and bassists who want to sound their best.
- Compact compression/sustainer pedal with high-quality circuitry
- Compresses loud signals and boosts softer signals for a smooth overall sound
- Onboard Level, Tone, Attack and Sustain controls for precise tonal shaping
- Low-noise design for super-quiet operation
BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor
The NS-2 Noise Suppressor eliminates unwanted noise and hum without altering an instrument’s natural tone. It’s the perfect pedal to quiet down any pedalboard or effects setup.
- Compact noise suppression pedal for eliminating noise and hum in guitar and bass effects and amplifier setups
- Unique noise detection circuit preserves the natural attack and envelope of an instrument’s sound
- Threshold and Decay knobs allow for shaping the elimination/suppression as desired
Dunlop Cry Baby® Wah Wah
By rocking your foot back and forth on the pedal, you can change the effect that the CryBaby wah pedal has on the tone of your instrument instantaneously. Toe down will give you more treble, and heel down will give you more bass. The speed and amount of effect you use depends on your style of playing. When placing the pedal in one position, you will hear a boost in that particular frequency. This boost can be used to add sustain and create feedback of a desired overtone.
When you move the rocker up and down, the rocker turns the potentiometer. The potentiometer accentuates a tiny portion of the sound within the range that has been selected. When you put the toe down, your higher frequencies are accentuated. When you put the heel down, your lower frequencies are accentuated. When the rocker is moved up and down, you move between the lower and higher frequencies within the range you have selected.
BOSS BF-3 Flanger
Building on the 20-year legacy of the famous BOSS BF-2, the new BF-3 flanger pedal gives guitarists and bassists an updated version of the classic BOSS flanger with the thickest stereo flanging sounds ever. Two new modes (Ultra and Gate/Pan) create stereo flanging with incredible depth–even Slicer-type effects and sounds that seem to “swirl” around the listener. An instant classic.
- BOSS’ best flanging effects in a compact pedal
- New Ultra and Gate/Pan modes for ultra-fat flanging and futuristic slicer-type sounds, respectively
- Momentary mode turns flanging on instantly
- Tap tempo adjustable via pedal
- Independent Guitar and Bass inputs and stereo outputs
BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter
The BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter is a next-generation intelligent pitch shifting pedal with killer sounds and BOSS first features. This single box provides pitch shifting, harmonies, detuning, and wild tremolo arm/flutter effects–all with simple, knob-based control.
- Compact pedal with high-quality pitch shifting, Harmonist and tremolo arm effects
- Intelligent, key-specific pitch shifting of single notes using simple Pitch and Key knobs with scale display
- Key Shift outputs continuous shifted tone for playing in different keys
- Detune effect provides slight shifting for “fattening” a guitar sound
- Tremolo Arm effect bends single notes up or down to a pre-selected value when pedal is activated; optional expression pedal can be connected for realtime control
- Flutter effect simulates fast or slow “slap” or “slam” of tremolo bar when pedal is depressed
BOSS FDR-1 Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Amp
The second in the new Legend Series is the FDR-1, based on the Fender 1965-era Deluxe Reverb — a coveted tube amp known for its natural touch-responsive and distinctive snappy overdriven sound. In conjunction with Fender, BOSS designed this stompbox to recreate the legendary tone of the 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb amp. Features include the same controls on the original Deluxe Reverb: Level, Gain, Treble, Bass, Vibrato and Reverb. The FDR-1 also functions perfectly as a “pre-gain pedal” placed before an already overdriven amp to add the tone character of the Deluxe Reverb.
- Recreates the legendary tone of the 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb guitar amp
- Level, Gain, Treble, Bass, Vibrato and Reverb controls
- Road-tough BOSS metal construction
- Perfect pre-gain pedal for adding or retaining Fender tone color
BOSS DD-3 Digital Delay
This compact pedal provides a digital delay effect with outstanding quality equivalent to that of a dedicated rackmount delay unit, all with simple stompbox-style control.
- Compact delay pedal with superb BOSS sound quality
- Provides 3 delay time modes and a Delay Time control for quick adjustment of exact delay time between 12.5ms – 800ms
- Hold function repeats delay sound indefinitely for interesting effects
BOSS RC-3 Loop Station
The RC-3 is powerfully equipped yet conveniently housed in a compact pedal. Enjoy up to three hours of stereo recording time, storage for 99 loops, a “real drums” rhythm guide, and USB 2.0 compatibility all in a small BOSS stompbox.
- Compact and powerful stereo stompbox looper
- Massive internal memory with up to three hours of stereo recording time
- 99 onboard memories for storing loops
- USB 2.0 port allows you to connect to a PC and import/export WAV audio
- Rhythm guide with real drums
Gear – Recording
In the early 1980s, the only way to record music was to rent a studio, which is usually pretty expensive, or use a tape recorder. Home computers and computer recording software didn’t really exist yet. If it did, it probably cost more than renting a studio for a few hours. I originally recorded “Will You Stay?” and “Once I Had A Love” on my boom box. Those original recordings are long lost. I had to do multiple takes because of background noise in my college dorm room. But I will say that my college dorm room, with its painted cinder block walls and linoleum type tile flooring (and little furniture other than a bed built-in desks/closets and some metal shelves I brought from home) had rather good acoustics – at least it gave the original recordings a bit of natural reverb.
In 1987, Tascam came out with the PortaStudio, which was a portable 4-track cassette recording studio. You could record up to 2 tracks at once, plugging directly into the unit or using the speaker output on the amplifier and plugging into the PortaStudio. You could bounce tracks to a different track as many times as you wanted, but each time you did, noise was added to the new track. That’s why you hear some noise on “Will You Stay?” “Cuddle Up” and “Chasin’ Tears From My Eyes.” All three were recorded on the Tascam PortaStudio I purchased in 1987. It served its purpose. I got rid of it during one of our last moves since I’d started using computer recording software and no longer had a need for it.
In 2008, I purchased Mixcraft and Beatcraft from a company called Acoustica. Mixcraft is a digital audio interface (DAW) or computer recording software. It’s what I used to record “Sonrise.” Beatcraft is what I used to create the drum track for that song. Unfortunately, the software is not available for Mac computers and I refuse to put Windows Parallels on my MacBook Pro.
In 2009, I purchased a Presonus FP-10 Firewire Recording Interface. While I have a USB Lightsnake Guitar Cable and a Rocksmith USB guitar cable that I can use to connect my guitars directly to my computer, they aren’t a perfect solution. First, I usually want to run my guitar through one of my pedal boards and amplifiers before sending the signal to the computer. Running directly to the computer means I have to add amp, speaker cabinet and pedal effects on the computer, which I may not always want to do. And secondly, those cables don’t have XLR jacks, which is what my microphones use. So I needed something that I could plug anything into so that they could all interface with the computer. That’s where the Presonus FP-10 comes in. I can run my guitar signal and microphones through it. I can adjust the output levels for each channel separately so that I don’t overload the signal on the computer, which can distort the sound (and that can’t be corrected after recording). And, I can record up to 8 tracks simultaneously, which could come in handy if I ever join a band and we want to record some demos. I now use Apple’s Garage Band on my Mac for recording. I could also use Garage Band on my iPad with the appropriate interface cable to record, but I haven’t had a need for that.
I have several inexpensive microphones, including one I bought at Radio Shack in the mid to late 1980s. I had two, but one was broken in one of my military moves. The other one still works great last time I used it. I also have several mic stands, a Mackie studio monitor and a pair of pretty good headphones, which are essential during post-production and mixing.
So there you have it: my musical education, scant rock band involvement, songwriting endeavors and a fairly comprehensive list and description of my music gear. I know this post was a long one, so if you made it to the end, I hope you enjoyed it and I thank you for reading the whole thing.
STAY TUNED… I’ll be publishing some more songs soon.