Jimmie Webster Tribute Page 


          A musician and inventor worthy of remembrance 

 

The technique of "hammering on" or "tapping" strings against frets is as old as strings and frets.  Jimmie Webster (1908-1978) was a guitarist who was an early proponent of vastly expanding the role of hammering-on, or tapping, in the playing of the newly-invented electric guitar.  He published a simple method book in 1952, and he referred to his method as the "Touch System".  Jimmie never claimed to have invented the technique, and wrote, "Credit for the discovery of the 'TOUCH SYSTEM' belongs to Harry De Armond...."  Here is a picture of Jimmie demonstrating the technique.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.  Note how the fingers on both hands are parallel to the frets:

Jimmie recorded an album in December of 1958. Chet Atkins was one of the producers. It was probably the first album recorded where all the songs were played with this unusual guitar technique.  This album, "Webster's Unabridged, Jimmie Webster's Stereo Guitar" was released under the RCA Victor label, the premier record label of its day.  Copies of this album are hard to find today.  Below are a few short excerpts from this album.  Regarding the front and rear cover of the album, you can click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures of the album covers:

Excerpts from side one are:

St. Louis Blues,  Needle in the Hay,  Fountain Mist,  A Wonderful Guy,  Harbor Song, Caravan

Excerpts from side two are:

Doodlin' Around,  Night and Day,  A Latin in Siam,  I'll Remember April,  Scarlet Mood,  Lover


Jimmie was also an inventor who held several utility and design patents related to guitars.  The complete patents can be found at www.google.com/patents, and searching for "James D. Webster" including the quotes.  You can click on the thumbnail pictures to see a larger scan from a portion of each patent.

Adjustable bridge, allowing for adjustment of spacing between strings (1959).  U.S. Patent 2,918,837.

Stereo pickup for electric guitar (1960).  U.S. Patent 2,964,985.

Fingerboard improvements for better intonation (1963).  U.S. Patent 3,103,846.

Ornamental design for an electric guitar (1963).  U.S. Design Patent Des. 196,609.

"Tone changer" for a guitar (1963).  U.S. Design Patent Des. 196,678.

Muting device for guitars (1964).  U.S. Patent 3,134,288.

Tremulo device for guitars (1964).  U.S. Patent 3,162,083. 


Much more detail about the life and career of Jimmie Webster can be found on Jean German's "Websterfiles" pages. 

The Gretsch Guitar company has also prepared a page about Jimmie Webster.

A Gretsch Guitar Guide from circa 1951 is shown here.  If you click on the number 13 at the bottom of the image of the front page of the guide, you will go to the first page of his description of the "Touch System."

Also, someone has put up a Jimmie Webster tribute site on MySpace, with full-length samples from the "Webster's Unabridged" album.


So, what about the tapping movement today?

Some modern examples of two-handed tapping of electric guitars include:

Adam Fulara of Poland

Hanspeter Kruesi of Switzerland

Mathias Sorof of Germany.

Jesus Aunon of Spain.

And (of course), Stanley Jordan.

Want to try two-handed tapping with a regular electric guitar?

Stanley Jordan's instructions on how to set up the guitar can be found here.  In general, the neck needs to be straight, and the action low.

I find a more vertical orientation of a regular guitar to be more comfortable for two handed tapping.  I came up with a simple lap bar assembly, that can be applied to many body styles of electric guitars.

Another way of having a more vertical orientation of a regular electric guitar is to modify the guitar with an additional strap button, and using two guitar straps.  A link to a video describing this procedure can be found here.


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