Nov 13

Jazzmaster Clone


Photo © 2013 Cursesfoiled.

I recently completed assembling a Jazzmaster clone guitar. Well, not entirely a clone, because it uses a vintage 1960 Jazzmaster neck and some Fender Reissue hardware. But everything else was cobbled together using aftermarket parts, new and used, in an effort to save money. A “partsmaster.”

I did use some very good aftermarket parts, such as Seymour Duncan pickups that I bought used for a song. There is also a custom tortoise shell celluloid pick guard made special order for me by Mark “Spitfire” Townshend. And a Mark Jenny painted alder body, in vintage Olympic white.

The guitar I was been planning to complete in 2013 wasn’t going to be a Jazzmaster. It was going to be a 25.5″ scale Jaguar. The Jaguar was fully assembled and all that was left was to paint it, but after months of work I decided to scrap what I had (read: sell) and go over to making a Jazzmaster.

Apr 13

Cleaning a Vintage Celluloid Pickguard

For my 1960 Jazzmaster guitar, I finally found a vintage white celluloid pickguard of the right year for it to wear. It came to me from Scotland via eBay.

Photo © 2013.

Photo © 2013.

I’d been using a Fender American Vintage Reissue replacement pickguard since I had the guitar refinished a few years ago. Although it wouldn’t look any different, I was anxious to get the real deal pickguard onto the guitar. The only issues were that the vintage guard had one small break and was painted over. The break adds character, but I can’t abide the paint.

These old early-60′s celluloid white guards are called “mint green” because they turn a shade of green as they oxidize. Somebody had painted this one white to recapture the original color, but then the paint started yellowing over the years. That’s where I swooped in to rescue it. The old pickguards are practically unaffordable unless you find one that’s got issues like this. The mint green has more charm than the paint, but to reveal it would take some work.

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Oct 12

Visiting the Fender Guitar Factory

Fender Visitor Center, Corona, CA. Photo © 2012.

I made a special trip this October to pay homage to guitar-maker Leo Fender, the originator of the Stratocaster electric guitar and other saintly miracles like the Jazzmaster. I went to California to take the tour that Fender offers at its current Corona guitar factory near Los Angeles.

The Fender Visitor Center, which is the public lobby for the factory, had an impressive display of most of their current guitars, surrounded by reproductions of memorabilia from over 60 years of guitar selling history, but the gold for me was in the factory tour.

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Aug 12

Two Grand Ole Oprys

Opry in Nashville. Photo © 2012.

Opree in Saskatchewan. Photo © 2012.

One summer Saturday morning (August 4th, 2012), I left home in New York and flew up to Saskatchewan, Canada, to visit my family. My Aunt Linda’s new husband Garth had a magnificent prairie barn with a converted hay loft made out for dancing and a stage for a country band. They had a hand painted sign that read “THE GRN OLE OPREE.” After dancing and singing that night at my aunt’s country wedding reception, I had to get back quickly to the United States and go to Crawfordsville, Indiana, to deliver book files to the printer RRD Donnelley. This was for a project I was working on for Little, Brown and Company. A very long road trip ensued on Sunday and Monday. By Tuesday, I was even farther south, in Nashville, for more book production work. At this point, after many driving miles with very little sleep, I couldn’t resist visiting the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, the stage at the Ryman Auditorium. Two Oprys on the same trip! Technically, I did see the newer Opryland, the location of the newest Grand Ole Opry, too, so it was three, I think. But I lost count.

Jul 12

The Lumberjack Canadian Sandwich

Photo © 2012. “Lumberjack” Breakfast Version, left. “Lumberjack” Poutine Version, right.

As a Canadian living in the United States, I consider the 1st of July (Canada’s “Dominion Day”) as an opportunity to celebrate my Canadian heritage and share Canadiana with my American friends. I’ll name drop northern legends like David Suzuki, Anthony Henday, P.K. Page, and Cordell Barker for blank looks. It’s also my birthday.

So, along these lines, I feel the need to do at least one thing “Canadian” for my birthday if I’m stuck in the United States. I had discovered that there was excellent French-Canadian Poutine to be found in Brooklyn at a Montreal-inspired diner called Mile End, and lunch there for Poutine with Smoked Pork on a previous July 1st was delicious.

For 2012, I decided to make something “Canadian” for myself. I pondered building a Poutine sandwich… is that possible? I’d try. I coined it “The Lumberjack.” I planned it for a couple of weeks, daydreaming of a Canadian sandwich to end all sandwiches. I finally settled on a basic foundation, a French Toast “Monte Cristo-style” sandwich, with Canadian Bacon and Cheese Curds. French Toast substitutes for the French Fries. Then it gets better with Breakfast (sweet) or Poutine (savory) variations. And it works.

I found all the ingredients throughout Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill over a few days. Cheese curds are the hardest to find in NYC, while Saskatoon Jam has to come from Canada, and sometimes you just need a lil’ jar of Heinz gravy instead of making a pot roast just for the drippings. Lumberjack instructions follow…

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Jun 11

1963 Fender Jaguar Restoration

Photo © 2013.

Photo © 2013.

In 2010, it was my 1960 Fender Jazzmaster restoration, but in 2011 it was a ’63 Jaguar that I brought back to life. It started with an original body and neck, but no original hardware. The neck was oversprayed with new finish, starting to front bow (from being unstrung for too many years), and had been treated badly in the past. The body had been professionally refinished, but had new deep scratches, and was drilled for tune-o-matic bridge posts. It was going to take some work. I was going to need to resource everything else from 1963.

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Apr 11

Quote Unquote

“Punk had winnowed its heritage down to one single inbred white gene, working hairsplitting variations on a simple theme […] since nothing with that blue-collar sound could be underground anymore, indie rock became increasingly the preserve of the more privileged strata of American youth, who favored cerebral, ironic musicians…”

“Perhaps to make up for the seeming elitism, such musicians placed even less of a premium on musical technique than ever. But maybe that was just a flip of the bird to the traditionally working-class emphasis on artisanal values like chops, speed, and power.”

“Punk confrontation was largely gone from the indie world; in its place was a suffocating insularity, whether it was Cat Power’s depressive mutterings or Pavement’s indie rock about indie rock, however beautiful or evocative they might have been  […] Many musicians sought refuge in irony, where nothing was revealed and all could be denied.”

“By the mid-Nineties, the indie community began to cast about for new sounds […] Some musicians delved into the past; classic artists as disparate as Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and the Beach Boys […] The trend eventually bubbled back into indie as “record-collector rock,” an extended game of spot-the-influence.”

— Excerpt from 2001′s “Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991″ by Michael Azzerad