Friday, October 07, 2011

Rally to Support Gibson

Rally to Support Gibson:

Looking at the sponsors, I think I'll opt out.

#Koch Brothers Astroturf TeaParty Express?

In fact, this is nearly enough to make me sell my Gibson Guitars. I have a great ES-340 TDN. It is a natural-finish semi-hollow electric guitar from about '71 that I bought second-hand, in new condition in '75. I had been playing my '65 Gibson Melody Maker or my Ovation acoustic with a Barcus Berry pickup in ensembles and lessons at Berklee College of Music, and neither of these were cutting it. This was when Berklee was expanding from being a strictly jazz school to a music school for all (pretty much all who had some skill and a means to pay), but most guitarists had full hollow body guitars like Gibson L-5s and ES-175s.

I went home for some kind of a break, and my parents were willing to buy me a more appropriate guitar (thanks, Mom and Dad!). The shop had this ES-340 on the wall, and I asked if I could play it. They warned me that the customer had returned it because it was wired funny, and it had hung on that wall for a few times. I played it, through a Leslie rotating speaker amp (think George Harrison Here Comes the Sun) and I was hooked. We worked out a deal - very reasonable - and I now had an appropriate guitar. It turns out that this model had deliberately different wiring from most, and I've grown to love this aspect. It has a master volume instead of a volume knob for each pickup, and a blend control to continuously vary from one pickup to the other with the middle position being both. The pickup switch was off (very useful)/pickups in-phase/pickups out-of-phase. I found many uses for the out of phase sound, and this is the first Gibson that I knew of with this factory feature (Fender Stratocaster players could put their pickup switch carefully between positions to get out-of-phase sounds, and Fender recognized this and later included 5-position switches to make this an official feature).

Five years or-so earlier, I wanted my first electric guitar, and I bought that Gibson Melody Maker along with a Vox Berkeley Super Twin Reverb (rare tube model) which served me through my awful high school bands.

I still have both instruments.

Henry Juskiewicz has been a controversial leader of Gibson. Buying companies for their technology and then burying it. Announcing advanced tech that never comes to market, or finally arrives a day late and a dollar short. Failing to design modern innovative instruments that don't rely on last century's style and substance. Manufacturing products that are either too expensive for most, or not a good value considering their price premium over other US and imported brands. Just a CEO kind of guy, not apparently a Guitar kind of guy.

And now, for the second time, they have been raided for using endangered species of wood. People are crawling out of the wood-work to defend Gibson, saying this is politically motivated, it's just a bunch of trees, it's just a paperwork error, etc. But in reality, Gibson's competitors have done just fine adhering to the century-plus-old Lacy act. Martin, Taylor, Fender, etc., use the woods we guitarists value for sound, feel, and aesthetic qualities, yet they have yet to be raided.

Gibson plans this rally to engender support, and look who supports them. The billionaire-brothers paying to destroy our democracy, for one, in the form of the Koch-sponsored TeaParty Express. Ted Nugent, an off-his-rocker long-time Gibson player and musical has-been, Newt Gingrich (I didn't know Tiffany sold guitars).

One of the most important things in this country is to vote. One of the best ways to vote is with your dollars. I recommend that no one buys a Gibson, Epiphone, Maestro, or other Gibson product, until they can prove to be good members of the community.

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