General Board » Duane and Jimi

  • RickC

    RickC third stone from the sun

    Along with other stuff in rotation, I've been listening to a lot of "Jimi Hendrix: Live at Berkeley" lately, and it started me thinking about Jimi and Duane, and inspired me to write this rainy day dream. I'd like to talk about guitars. Now, the guitar afficianados who read this will probably howl at the gross over-simplification I'm about to make, but please indulge me a bit. There are two main trunks in the great family tree of modern electric guitar: Fender and Gibson. Pretty much every successful guitar design since has either been an off-shoot of one of these two primal seeds or an attempt to combine them (e.g., Paul Reed Smith). The significant design features of each are: Fender - longer scale (playable length of the strings, 25.5") bolted on maple neck single coil pickups Gibson - shorter scale (24.75") glued in mahogany neck dual coil (or "humbucking") pickups In some sense, they are pretty similar; electric guitar is electric guitar, more alike than say electric guitar and bassoon. But to the player and listener, there are subtle but significant differences between the two. Roughly, these are: Fender - bright, punchy tone thin sounding loose and jangly think banjo Gibson - dark, creamy tone fat sounding tight and articulate think cello Which brings me to Jimi Hendrix. Now, I will argue dusk till dawn with anyone who cares to that Jimi Hendrix was the greatest electric guitar player who ever lived. The big cheese, the grand Poobah, the motherlode, the Rolling frickin Rosetta Stone, case closed, fini. By 1970, he had pretty much shown us what pure expression on electric guitar was all about. There have of course been many great players since, monster musicians who expanded the vocabulary and technique and made some great music along the way. I'm no luddite, and won't deny that guitar playing has advanced (whatever that means) since then. But listen to anyone else side-by-side next to Jimi and one thing stands out; he is channeling from a whole nother world. Everyone else sounds like a "guitar player"; Jimi is speaking in tongues. It's like he's tuned to some alien radio station, feeding us small glimpses of the stream in his head, cause if he gave us the whole thing it would literally blow our minds. There is something other-worldy about everything he does, even the little finger spasms between tunes or the off-hand flourishes at the end. And Jimi was a Fender man. Jimi's weapon of choice was the Fender Stratocaster, and it was ideally suited to his style. The loose, jangly feel worked well with his funky chording, the relatively thin tone of the guitar worked well with the multiple effects pedals he liked to pile into his signal chain. And those effects gave Jimi access to the vocal, howling, weeping sounds that allowed him to realize his unique visions. A thicker sounding guitar would've been trickier to use with all those effects; in fact Jimi did occasionally play a Gibson, and sorta made it work, but the Fender was really his home and where I think he sounded best. Which brings me, finally, to Duane Allman and Gibson. For occurs to me that Duane and Jimi are from more of the same cloth than might first appear, and that in some ways Duane was the "Gibson" version of Jimi. Or something like that. For my strongest evidence, consider the recently released Allman Brothers Band at Stonybrook College, recorded 9/19/71, just weeks before Duane's untimely death. This is to my ears the most psychedelic Allmans on record. When I listen to Duane's playing here, I get that same feeling I get with Jimi; that he is tapped into something no one else had access to. It's like transmissions from some ancient civilization from another galaxy, filtered through the swampy blues sensibilites of the American South. Stonybrook really clued me in, but when I went back to the earlier recordings - Fillmore, Atlanta Pop, Ludlow Garage, etc - there it was again. Bruce Mandaro from the band "The Knot" put it best when he once told me "what I like about Duane is that you can never predict where he's going". It's true. He doesn't play like a stock "guitar player"; his lines and ideas seem to come from another realm. Like Jimi, he's on a different frequency than the rest of us, and the results are always unexpected, stunning, a surprise. And Duane was a Gibson guy. Duane's style and sound, the fluid moan and the fierce bite, are intricately linked with the Gibson Les Paul that he played. Unlike a Fender, the Les Paul is a difficult beast to play with a lot of effects. It's tone is already so full and distinctive that any attempt to add more seasoning can overflavor and muddy things up. It is hotly debated in guitar circles whether Duane is using any effects at all on Stonybrook, or any of the other famous live Allman recordings; the consensus is probably not. Just a guitar plugged straight into an amp, yet consider that sound he gets; vocal, howling, weeping, beautiful. He got to a similar place as Jimi, just via a different route. The Gibson route. So there you have it. Duane and Jimi, Gibson and Fender, the twin towers of modern electric guitar. It almost had to be; each great instrument deserving of it's own worthy champion, each towering genius deserving of his own special Excalibur. Ain't it kinda cool that there were two of them? There's such a nice symmetry to that. Fly on, chicken wing... /rick

    Along with other stuff in rotation, I've been listening to a lot of "Jimi Hendrix: Live at Berkeley" lately, and it started me thinking about Jimi and Duane, and inspired me to write this rainy day dream.

    I'd like to talk about guitars. Now, the guitar afficianados who read this will probably howl at the gross over-simplification I'm about to make, but please indulge me a bit.

    There are two main trunks in the great family tree of modern electric guitar: Fender and Gibson. Pretty much every successful guitar design since has either been an off-shoot of one of these two primal seeds or an attempt to combine them (e.g., Paul Reed Smith). The significant design features of each are:

    Fender - longer scale (playable length of the strings, 25.5")
    bolted on maple neck
    single coil pickups

    Gibson - shorter scale (24.75")
    glued in mahogany neck
    dual coil (or "humbucking") pickups

    In some sense, they are pretty similar; electric guitar is electric guitar, more alike than say electric guitar and bassoon. But to the player and listener, there are subtle but significant differences between the two. Roughly, these are:

    Fender - bright, punchy tone
    thin sounding
    loose and jangly
    think banjo

    Gibson - dark, creamy tone
    fat sounding
    tight and articulate
    think cello

    Which brings me to Jimi Hendrix. Now, I will argue dusk till dawn with anyone who cares to that Jimi Hendrix was the greatest electric guitar player who ever lived. The big cheese, the grand Poobah, the motherlode, the Rolling frickin Rosetta Stone, case closed, fini. By 1970, he had pretty much shown us what pure expression on electric guitar was all about. There have of course been many great players since, monster musicians who expanded the vocabulary and technique and made some great music along the way. I'm no luddite, and won't deny that guitar playing has advanced (whatever that means) since then. But listen to anyone else side-by-side next to Jimi and one thing stands out; he is channeling from a whole nother world. Everyone else sounds like a "guitar player"; Jimi is speaking in tongues. It's like he's tuned to some alien radio station, feeding us small glimpses of the stream in his head, cause if he gave us the whole thing it would literally blow our minds. There is something other-worldy about everything he does, even the little finger spasms between tunes or the off-hand flourishes at the end.

    And Jimi was a Fender man.

    Jimi's weapon of choice was the Fender Stratocaster, and it was ideally suited to his style. The loose, jangly feel worked well with his funky chording, the relatively thin tone of the guitar worked well with the multiple effects pedals he liked to pile into his signal chain. And those effects gave Jimi access to the vocal, howling, weeping sounds that allowed him to realize his unique visions. A thicker sounding guitar would've been trickier to use with all those effects; in fact Jimi did occasionally play a Gibson, and sorta made it work, but the Fender was really his home and where I think he sounded best.

    Which brings me, finally, to Duane Allman and Gibson. For occurs to me that Duane and Jimi are from more of the same cloth than might first appear, and that in some ways Duane was the "Gibson" version of Jimi. Or something like that.

    For my strongest evidence, consider the recently released Allman Brothers Band at Stonybrook College, recorded 9/19/71, just weeks before Duane's untimely death. This is to my ears the most psychedelic Allmans on record. When I listen to Duane's playing here, I get that same feeling I get with Jimi; that he is tapped into something no one else had access to. It's like transmissions from some ancient civilization from another galaxy, filtered through the swampy blues sensibilites of the American South. Stonybrook really clued me in, but when I went back to the earlier recordings - Fillmore, Atlanta Pop, Ludlow Garage, etc - there it was again. Bruce Mandaro from the band "The Knot" put it best when he once told me "what I like about Duane is that you can never predict where he's going". It's true. He doesn't play like a stock "guitar player"; his lines and ideas seem to come from another realm. Like Jimi, he's on a different frequency than the rest of us, and the results are always unexpected, stunning, a surprise.

    And Duane was a Gibson guy.

    Duane's style and sound, the fluid moan and the fierce bite, are intricately linked with the Gibson Les Paul that he played. Unlike a Fender, the Les Paul is a difficult beast to play with a lot of effects. It's tone is already so full and distinctive that any attempt to add more seasoning can overflavor and muddy things up. It is hotly debated in guitar circles whether Duane is using any effects at all on Stonybrook, or any of the other famous live Allman recordings; the consensus is probably not. Just a guitar plugged straight into an amp, yet consider that sound he gets; vocal, howling, weeping, beautiful. He got to a similar place as Jimi, just via a different route. The Gibson route.

    So there you have it. Duane and Jimi, Gibson and Fender, the twin towers of modern electric guitar. It almost had to be; each great instrument deserving of it's own worthy champion, each towering genius deserving of his own special Excalibur. Ain't it kinda cool that there were two of them? There's such a nice symmetry to that.

    Fly on, chicken wing...

    /rick

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