Did you know, in the month of February...
February 1958 ... Gibson launches the guitar that was to stay in the catalogue longer than any other – the ES-335 thinline semi-solid Desperate to find a way to marry the feedback-busting characteristics of the flagging Les Paul models to a more traditional design, director Ted McCarty hit on a solution. Many will point to Les Paul’s 1941 prototype ‘the Log’ as the inspiration, but the new guitar was in fact more similar to Rickenbacker’s ’50s Combo series. A solid maple centre with PAF humbuckers provided smooth sounds, while the chambered body and laminated top added a retro touch and a tonal versatility that rivalled Leo Fender’s Stratocaster. There might have been plenty of higher-spec’d compadres in Gibson’s Electric Spanish range, but that didn’t stop both modernists and luddites alike soon getting hooked.
1975 ... A 20-year-old Paul Reed Smith builds his first guitar as a professional maker The fledgling luthier blagged his way backstage at a local Washington venue and convinced Ted Nugent to commission a solidbody in the style of a Gibson Byrdland. Smith told the Nuge, ‘If you don’t fall in love with it, you get your money back.’ Nugent did fall in love with it – but not before Smith had sneaked it into another gig, showed it off to Peter Frampton, and secured his second commission.
1968 ... Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac becomes Britain’s fastest-selling blues LP ever Made up of Elmore James, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf covers plus eight bluesy songs by Green and Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood Mac showed no sign of the inner turmoil evident in later compositions. It stayed in the top 10 for 15 weeks, but yielded no hit singles. A song recorded too late to be included would break the outfit’s duck: Black Magic Woman, which battled its way up to number 37 in the charts in June.
1964 ... George Harrison gets one of the first 12-string Rickenbackers Rickenbacker had set up a special display at the Savoy in New York specifically to persuade ther Beatles – who were in town to film The Ed Sullivan Show – to sample their new models. George was immediately smitten, and used his 360/12 to record new material including the intro to Hard Day’s Night, sparking a trend which Rickenbacker swiftly capitalised on, issuing two other 12-strings that year – the three- pickup 370/12 and the 450/12.
1981 ... Mike Bloomfield is found dead in his car On the same day that his eighth solo album Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’ was released, the hotshot guitarist – just 37 years old – was found dead from a heroin overdose. As a young teen in Chicago in the late ’50s, Bloomfield was one of the first white guitarists to be accepted by Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and other legends of the city’s South Side. He cut his teeth sitting in with the blues greats, and after backing Bob Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited in 1965 he became one of the most influential guitarists of the decade. His photographic memory for guitar parts was legendary, as was his iMarzio
Photo love of super-heavy strings. He’s also remembered for his work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Electric Flag.
2000 ... Steve Vai launches his Favored Nations label, focusing on guitar virtuosos with mindboggling technique Frank Gambale’s Coming To Your Senses was the debut release, and works by Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa and Allan Holdsworth quickly followed. In 2001 a collaboration between Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton – No Substitutes – earned a Grammy award in the ‘best instrumental pop album’ category. The latest release is Eric Sardinas And Big Motor, featuring slide shenanigans to make even the most proficient bottleneck merchant sweat.
1975 ... Led Zeppelin release the double LP Physical Graffiti – widely thought to be their last great album Led Zeppelin were earning vast amounts of cash by the time their sixth LP hit the shelves; though he was flush enough to buy an historic mansion in London’s plush Holland
Park plus an occult bookshop handily located around the corner, Jimmy Page decided to leave the country for tax reasons. As well as financial exile, 1975 also saw an escalation of Page’s heroin use and, possibly as a result, many thought Zeppelin’s last two studio LPs Presence (’76) and In Through The Out Door (’79) showed a band who had lost their way.
1967 ... Jansch and Renbourn go to the pub and change folk music forever Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, leading lights of the London acoustic guitar movement, met in 1966, playing at a night organised by future collaborator Jacqui McShee. The two hatched a plan to grab the folk scene by the scruff of the neck and drag it into the 20th century. The Horseshoe pub opposite Tottenham Court Road tube station – now a Burger King – was chosen, and on any given Sunday Renbourn could be heard amplifying trad tunes on an electric while Jansch accompanied with a pickup fitted to his acoustic… a rebellious approach at the time. Others were drawn to sit in, leading to the birth of folk/jazz supergroup Pentangle.
146 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012