Stories, sad but true


Wait a minute it is true, I should know I was there

 

Egmond guitars

 

The Lucky 7 was hollow

 

 We copied this amp

 

Vox Super Ace

 

 

I was born at a very young age in the early 50's into a musical family that always had music playing in the background either on the radio or record player. We also had one of those new fangled television sets which was also a radio at the twist of a few dials. I was told that soon after I could walk if left alone I would entertain myself by singing or humming songs that were popular at the time, I can’t remember if I could whistle yet. And when a three wheeled bike came along I would lose myself in the garden for hours riding up and down singing to my hearts content. We lived upstairs to my Nan who had an upright piano in the "parlour" as it was called back then, and if it was raining I would come in from the garden and try to play the piano picking out melodies with one and occasionally two fingers. I obviously couldn't read music back then and still can’t to a certain extent today. I played by ear, it got a bit painful on the earlobes sometimes but I carried on regardless. By now there were television shows with the stars of the day singing and playing their instruments, and I probably saw my first guitar. I remember Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Tommy Steel, Lonnie Donegan, Bert Weedon, and the Shadows all played guitars, and my brain went into want mode.

 

I was about seven years old when my Dad brought home my first guitar, it was an Egmond f holed jazz guitar without a cutaway. I think he bought it from a second hand shop because it was used but nevertheless had all six strings on. Wow, it was almost bigger than I was but I struggled to play it nonetheless. My first mistake was trying to press the dots on the neck, squeezing my fingers through the strings and pressing with all my might, but they never moved… I thought the guitar was broke, I had a lot to learn. The second and most important mistake I made was trying to tune the guitar with the inevitable snap of a broken string, never mind I thought there were five left and surely you can only play one at a time, I didn’t even know how to properly tune a guitar I was simply copying what I saw somebody do with a guitar to make it sound better, I really had a lot to learn.

 

I could pick out the melody and play along to records quite quickly on my Nan’s piano and found it easy to transfer this ability to the guitar but I still only played on one string and could still only play the melody, I definitely had a lot to learn. Eventually one by one all the strings broke (what was I doing) and the guitar was thrown away, yes that’s right thrown away. I had no idea you could buy replacement guitar strings and was simply doing what you did with a broken toy, throw it away. Boy I really had a lot to learn. Anyway that guitar was no good I remember telling my Dad because it wasn’t electric.

 

Yes the inevitable happened my Dad brought home another guitar, it may have been my birthday I can’t remember. This time it was electric, and sort of turquoise to black burst. It was a Solid 7 by Rosetti funnily enough made by the same company Egmond. It appears I was in good company here as Rory Gallagher and Paul McCartney both started with the same guitar, but with a much better idea of how to play it and a lot more talent though. It was Les Paul shaped with a single cutaway and yes it had all six strings, and it also had a single pickup mounted on a white scratchplate with what I think was a volume and tone control and a captive lead. It’s got the wrong plug on it I said after trying to plug it into the wall socket, I had so much to learn. I never actually heard that guitar through an amp and I don’t really remember what happened to it, I think I got a bike around the same time and as it was much easier to ride a bike than learn to play the guitar I guess it got put away somewhere and eventually thrown out, but not before all the strings were broken though I hope.

 

A few years later I found myself with a Spanish flamenco type guitar with nylon strings. I had saved up all my pocket money and bought a pickup with the idea of fixing it to this guitar which I did with a disappointing result, because the pickup was magnetic it would not pickup the vibrations from nylon strings properly. So off to the music shop I went for a set of steel strings, hooray it worked and through the tiny speaker of an inherited reel to reel tape recorder I finally heard the sound of an electric guitar. Now with the aid of a book called "Play in a day" that had lots of simple melodies and chords to learn I thought I would be playing by tea time. As usual I started reading the book from the back thinking I knew all the basic stuff and totally missed the page about tuning up so the fingerings and melodies sounded awful and made no sense at all, I still had so much to learn. I had seen some older boys at our school bringing in guitars so I pestered them for information and tips and was told to make sure the guitar was in tune by any means available before you start playing or learning something and this was the nucleus, or the penny finally dropping on my journey of learning the guitar. After tuning the guitar up on my Nan’s piano the fingerings and melodies actually sounded almost real and recognizable.

 

I had made freinds with the older boys at school and we formed a sort of school group. Sadly none of us had much in the way of equipment except one boy who had a Watkins Westminister 10 watt combo amp. We plugged everything into that poor little amp by twisting wires and taping leads together. There were: - two guitars, a bontempi reed organ (with a Grundig tape recorder mike sellotaped to it, really all you could hear was the fan) two more tape recorder vocal mikes, and I think there was a bass guitar as well but cannot be sure. Well the din that amp made was probably horrendous but we thought it was rock and roll.

 

The next thing on my want list was to get a proper guitar amplifier, so a tiny Elpico combined amp and speaker unit appeared from somewhere which sounded ok but sadly was not much better than the tape recorder. Again I was in good company here as Mr McCartney also started with the same amplifier, it was probably all that was available to musicians on a budget at the time I suppose. By this time the steel strings had not done the neck or bridge any favors on the Spanish guitar and the action was raising at an alarming rate, some screws in the bridge and one in the heel of the neck stopped the movement for a while. I really wanted a better amp, My dad eventually gave in and made a speaker cabinet and fitted a Linear 15 watt transistor amp on top of it copying the look of a Selmer AP30 amp we had seen. I had collected around a dozen or so ex television speakers from somewhere and we proceeded to fit the largest of these to the speaker baffle and after fitting the speaker cloth and covering the cabinet it looked quite professional. It was definitely louder than the Elpico and looked more Rock and Roll so now I was set. I studied play in a day and learned songs from the charts and was getting, I though pretty good. The school group fizzled out by this time, I think it may have been the summer hollidays so I lost contact with them for a while.

 

A friend of a friend new a group that was looking for a guitarist so I had my first audition, well, boy was I in for a shock, they were older and more advanced in ability than I was. The Keyboard player had a Vox Continental organ and a real Fender Telecaster and played them through a Vox AC30 amp, the Bass player had a Burns bass guitar and the biggest amp and speaker cabinet I had ever seen. The singer had a Shure microphone with column speakers and an echo unit and the drummer had what looked to me like a real professional drum kit. Well I had only ever seen this kind of equipment on television or in expensive music shops in the west end, but set up my poor excuse for equipment just the same and we started playing or should I say they started playing. I had seen lots of groups playing in the flesh in clubs and pubs when going out with my parents which probably started my musical ball rolling in the first place, but never realized how loud as a guitarist you had to be in order to be heard in a group situation. Well I could not be heard at all until they stopped playing that is, needless to say I didn’t get the audition, but they encouraged and advised me to keep practicing and with better equipment I might eventually have what it takes. In my bedroom the amp was really loud and I couldn't understand what was wrong but knew the solution was a louder amp, looking back now I realize how un-grateful I must have sounded to my parents.

 

I thought I had found a stop gap solution because I remember looking into the back of the AC30 and seeing two massive speakers, obviously my puny ex television speakers were not man enough for the job even though I had nine of them. In retrospect I knew nothing of speaker impedence and just wired the speakers up as I thought not worrying about series or parallel connections so the actual impedence could have been way off what the amp was expecting. Size was now everything so pocket money was saved and eventually spent on two twelve inch 15 watt Fane speakers. A new baffle board was cut, covered with grill cloth material and fitted, and looked well, just the same really, but the sound was much deeper richer sounding and above all louder, problem solved.

 

By this time the poor Spanish guitar gave up the ghost, and with a neck shaped like a banana and a one and half inch action at the twelth fret and was finally un-playable. A better guitar was needed and duly arrived in the shape of a Vox Super Ace Strat copy with three pickups and a tremolo or whammy bar and looked real cool, or so I thought.

 

You would not believe the tuning problems I had or how many top E strings I broke with that tremelo. Summer was over by now and I was now in the school group again and gradually we all aquired better equipment and practiced and practiced endlessly. I resigned myself to not using the tremelo at all and removed the bar altogether which slowed down the string breakage and improved the tuning somewhat. I knew my next guitar was not going to have a tremelo though. We played at a school assembley and I remember the goosebumps on my arms and the hairs standing up on the back of my neck during the applause, I was hooked, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life I thought.

 

I did paper rounds in the mornings, worked on a stall in a local market after school and at wekends and saved up money and bought a white Vox Les paul copy and a few months later a Vox AC30, now I was set. By now the rest of us had proper equipment and the borrowed snare drum from school was returned and replaced with a Broadway drum kit. We built speaker cabinets for our PA system and bought a small mono microphone mixer and a couple of Shure Unidyne B microphones from a group fund we had started, we played at parties, at a wedding, and in a local youth club, we were on our way to the big time and thought we were going to be the next Beatles, yeah yeah yeah right...

 

I did not concetrate too much on school work during that last year and therefore my exam results were at best average and not what I was really capable of and I decided to leave school and get a job which I did and never looked back. I remember the other members of our school group stayed on at school another year and a few got A levels and eventually good jobs, I didn't need good exam results for what I wanted to do or so I thought. I soon realized work was crap and although the money came in handy I wished I had made an effort and got better exam results and stayed on another year at school.

 

We still constantly rehearsed two or three nights a week in our keyboard players bedroom and were really getting better and tried ever harder and more complex songs like "Highway star" from Deep Purple and "Yours is no disgrace" by Yes, in hindsight what understanding parents our keyboard player must have had as we played songs over and over at full volume till we eventually got it right never thinking of the din we must have made.

 

We met a man in a pub who told us he could get us bookings up north in clubs and we agreed, telephone numbers were exchanged we awaited his call. A weekend tour of Sheffield was arranged with accomodation and everything layed on. We had to hire a van for the gear and travelled in two other cars to the meeting point on the M1 where we were to meet our agent/manager "I've got umber" he said in his northern accent meaning he had a Humber car and we were to look out for it at the meeting place. We met up and followed him to a transport cafe and was shown our accomodation, a six berth caravan. Needless to say being a transport cafe the food was all deep fried even breakfast but we didn't care as we thought it was all in the aid of rock and roll. Three bookings were arranged for Saturday night, Sunday dinner time, and Sunday night. The Saturday night gig went well and we all went home to our caravan and slept quite well as we were tired from all the travelling. We awoke to "open up lads it's the Police" yeah right, we thought the singer was messing around and shouted go away and included a few expletives just for good measure. A quick head count and we realized we were all in the caravan and it really was the police, oh dear...

 

"Cafes been screwed" they said did you see or hear anything? no we were sound asleep we all exclaimed, check the van someone muttered see if our gear is still there, we all breathed a sigh of relief when the van was found to be un-touched with all our gear still in it, phew.

 

The Sunday dinner time gig didn't go too well as they said we were too loud, all they really wanted to do was play bingo and eat hot meat pies. You'll be sorry our bass player said to the entertainment person who verbally threw us out, when we're famous we're going to come back and buy this dump and throw you out. Sunday nights gig went well and we were also asked for autographs, wow. We left for London and I arrived home half an hour before I was due to get up for work, ah well thats rock and roll...

 

We did this tour of Sheffield about three times but sadly after paying for the van, petrol, accomodation and food, we all came out of it owing money, this was not rock and roll we thought...

 

Careers got in the way, musical differences and arguments ensued and I cannot remember who left first but one by one we parted company.

 

I had seen Jimi Hendrix on television playing a Strat through multiple Marshall stacks and guess what I wanted next, time to start saving money again I thought. I did eventually get a Marshall and two four by twelve cabs but transporting them was a real problem even with a small car I had saved up for, should have got a van.

 

fast foreward a few years and

 

 To be continued...