Ron Asheton, in a 1995 studio shot, favored wearing shades and turning his amps up loud, preferring amp saturation over pedals for his distorted sound. The guitar in his hands is a Guild X-79.
Photo by Ken Settle

The guitar anti-hero who started the Stooges and changed the sound of rock 6-string’s future, paving the way for … everything.

Late 1960s Ann Arbor, Michigan—a sleepy college town about 45 minutes west of Detroit—is the unlikely birthplace of punk. But it was there, led by a local band called the Stooges, that America’s most visceral, degenerate export was born.

The Stooges weren’t Eastern Michigan’s most popular band at the time. That honor went to the MC5. But the Stooges may have been the most important—even compared to Michigan artists like Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, and Ted Nugent, that would go on to sell out arenas in the next decade. The Stooges classic songs, like “T.V. Eye” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” have been covered over and over by numerous artists. The chaos they inspired is today standard behavior at most punk, hardcore, alternative, indie, and metal shows. They embraced noise. They were aggressive and confrontational. They weren’t hippies, despite their late-’60s pedigree. They were ahead of their time and—this isn’t clichéd or hyperbolic—pioneered the next half-century of alternative rock.

In addition to his band’s influence, the Stooges’ guitarist, Ron Asheton, made a significant impact as well. He embraced power chords. His tone was grating and jagged. He didn’t play with that vintage tube warmth associated with many of his contemporaries. And he loved feedback and noise. As his band’s only guitarist, he found ways to make his 6-string sound like more than one instrument. He explored non-Western tonalities and experimented with drones.

In hindsight, the Stooges are famous for their nihilistic, antagonistic performances and their lead singer’s self-destructive antics—some say Iggy Pop invented stage diving and crowd surfing—as well as their straightforward, no-nonsense songwriting, and Asheton’s innovative guitar playing. But at the time, no one was interested. The Stooges released three albums that didn’t sell well. They played to half-empty clubs and were taunted and harassed by their audiences. They didn’t have a loyal fan base and they weren’t popular overseas. In 1974, plagued by drug use and mismanagement, the Stooges broke up.

Not that anyone noticed.

But payback is sweet. The mainstream may have ignored the Stooges, but the underground grew to adore them. Over the next three decades, young bands dissected their music, copied their sound, and used them as a starting point to invent new genres and movements. Their legend grew and their albums, while never radio-friendly, continued to sell.

“Ronny never got into the drugs,” Kathy says. “He was very angry when the Stooges broke up, because he was just sitting by and watching this all deteriorate.” —Kathy Asheton

In 2003, after a 29-year hiatus, the Stooges regrouped with Mike Watt on bass for a one-off performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. That performance led to a tour, which led to a full-fledged reunion. But unlike the old days, the reunited Stooges headlined major festivals and played to enthusiastic crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. What’s more, they weren’t a nostalgia act. Their audiences were young and the old-timers kept their distance. It was as if the culture had finally caught up with them.

Ron Asheton died in 2009, and although the Stooges’ story has been told many times over, those retellings usually focus on the band’s iconic countercultural status and Iggy Pop’s larger-than-life persona. Much less has been written about Asheton’s guitar playing, sonic choices, and gear. Our hope is to remedy that. We spoke to his family, roadies, old friends, collaborators, and bandmates, and bring you this picture of an important and influential talent.

The Beginning

Ron Asheton was born in Washington, D.C., on July 17, 1948. His father’s business took the family to Davenport, Iowa, and then, following his dad’s heart attack, to Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Our mom’s parents and family were in Michigan,” Kathy Asheton, Ron’s younger sister says. Ron was the oldest of three siblings. Stooges drummer Scott Asheton was in the middle. “They decided—not sure how our dad would be doing—to move so we could be near family. Sadly, about a year later, our father passed away, in December, 1963.”

Asheton’s mother, while still in Iowa, encouraged her children to take music lessons. Ron studied the accordion, Scott—years before discovering rock ’n’ roll—took drum lessons, and Kathy sang. Those music lessons stopped with the family’s move to Michigan—along with the uncertainty that accompanied their father’s illness and early death—and Ron put his interest in music on hold.

At least, until the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show. “The Beatles came in February of ’64, right after our father passed away, and that got Ronny going,” Kathy says. “From that point on, that’s what he wanted to do. He wanted to play guitar. He wanted to be the Beatles. So that’s how that started for him.”


With “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “1969,” the Stooges’ 1969 debut alone would be enough to qualify Ron Asheton, at right, just behind Iggy Pop, as a guitar giant. His drumming brother, Scott, is at center, with bassist Dave Alexander at rear.

He also traveled to England, along with future Stooges bassist Dave Alexander, during his senior year in high school. “There was a good friend of his—also from a very good family in Ann Arbor—and they had moved to England,” Kathy Asheton says, putting to rest a number of myths about her brother’s early days. “It wasn’t like he was just floating off into a land of strangers. He had a family connection there, which was part of the, ‘yes, you have permission to go.’ It was the biggest thing. He’d write letters. Ronny wrote letters to Bill Cheatham—who was his best, dearest friend [Editor’s note: Cheatham was a roadie for the Stooges and also played second guitar in the band for a short period, before being replaced by James Williamson.]—saying that he met Ringo. They started a rumor in high school that ‘Ronny met Ringo.’ But it was really a joke. He never did meet anybody. He saw the Who there, but he didn’t meet any of them.”

After he returned, Asheton played bass in a number of local bands, often running through a fuzz pedal and wah-wah, including the Chosen Few, which included future Iggy and the Stooges guitarist James Williamson. He also shared a stage with the Prime Movers, whose drummer was Iggy Pop.

“He met Iggy at the local Discount Records,” Kathy says. “That’s where Iggy worked, and that was the music hub of Ann Arbor, where everybody connected.”

Ron—as a guitarist—started the band that would eventually morph into the Stooges original line-up, featuring Pop, Alexander on bass, and his brother Scott on drums. “We were all shook up when our father passed away, but Scotty took it very hard,” Kathy Asheton says. “He was hanging out with, say, the wrong people and our mom was concerned about that. Ronny took Scotty under his wing and took him to all the Chosen Few shows, just to keep an eye on him. Scotty was like their little roadie at the gigs. He would help out with the drum kit, and that’s when he started taking more interest in playing drums.”

The band’s original name was the Psychedelic Stooges, which was a tip of the hat to the Three Stooges. “Ron was a huge fan of the Three Stooges,” says Deniz Tek, the guitarist in the legendary Australian punk band Radio Birdman and an old friend of Ron’s from Ann Arbor. “At one point, when he was a kid, he was the president of the Three Stooges fan club. Later, when Ron was living in Hollywood, he knew Larry Fine from the Three Stooges. Larry was in a nursing home in Beverley Hills and Ron would often go visit him and help him out with answering his fan mail and stuff like that. He would get cigars and whisky for him.”

The early Stooges didn’t sound like anything else. They were loud, raucous, raw, free, and improvisatory. They didn’t have a set list—or even established songs—and crafted each performance to fit the event. Their focus wasn’t developing a repertoire, but putting on a show and making each night an experience.

“They were doing what they called ‘Energy Freakouts,’ or jams,” Tek says. “It was fascinating to me as a teenager to attend those shows, because I never saw anything like it. Scotty would bang on 44-gallon oilcans with steel pipes. Iggy made noise, putting mics in blenders and things like that. Ron just had this raw guitar mayhem. They would adapt it to the gig.”

“The gigs were one big jam,” Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose) says. Watt was the Stooges’ bassist throughout their 2003-’14 reunion. “Ronny told me about making noise with an electric blender, Dave Alexander throwing the amp down to make sounds, and Scotty beating oil drums with their horoscope signs painted on them. It was a whole different thing than what we know from Stooges’ albums.”




Back on tour with the Stooges in 2007, Asheton sports one of two 3-pickup Reverend Avenger models custom made for him by company founder Joe Naylor. Reverend’s proprietary bass contour knob was developed at Asheton’s request. Later, Naylor created a V-shaped signature model for Asheton. Photo by Frank White

Elektra Records

The band had a summer sublet, where they first practiced and got their act together, although the Asheton’s basement was their primary rehearsal space. Their first show was at a house party on Halloween in Ann Arbor. They gigged around town and in nearby Detroit, and became part of a scene that included the MC5, the Up, Bob Seger, and Alice Cooper.

“The whole music scene started in the early ’60s with the Rationals,” Kathy Asheton says. “Bob Seger was here. Alice Cooper ended up moving here as well. We had a huge music scene and lots of local bands, but by that time the Stooges and the MC5 were playing mostly ballrooms in the Detroit area, like the Grande, Cinderella, and the East Town.”

It was as part of that thriving local scene, and opening for the MC5 at a gig at the University of Michigan—at the Michigan Union building—when fortune smiled upon the Stooges. Danny Fields, the legendary A&R man who was doing publicity for the Doors at Elektra Records at the time, was sent to Ann Arbor to sign the MC5.

“Of course, this is well-documented and legendary,” Tek says. “Danny Fields saw the Stooges open for the MC5 and he was enthralled by their presence. He was motivated to call Jac Holzman [the head of Elektra] and say, ‘We’re signing the MC5 and we need to sign these guys, too.’ Holzman said, ‘Offer them $5,000.’”

And just like that, the Stooges were signed to a major label. They didn’t have a fan base outside of Michigan. They didn’t have songs. But they had something, and that something was to prove influential. They were whisked off to New York to record their first album, and John Cale, from the Velvet Underground, produced it.

“When they signed to Elektra, they had to come up with songs,” Tek says. “Ron told me that about two weeks before they went to New York, John Sinclair [the MC5’s manager and a famous ’60s radical] came by their house with a stack of albums—and among those albums were things like Pharaoh Sanders, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and Yusef Lateef. They took some of those albums with them to New York. The night before the first session with John Cale, they were listening to those records and coming up with riffs based on that stuff.” “The bass line in ‘Little Doll,’” Watt adds. “That’s Dave Alexander’s version of Pharaoh Sander’s ‘Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.’”

If they were worried about songwriting before arriving in New York, it doesn’t show. That first album, their eponymous debut, is chock full of classics. It contains the oft-covered Stooges’ staples “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “No Fun,” “1969,” and the 10-minute mantra “We Will Fall.”

“You've got to understand, being with these guys, I would ask them 10 million questions,” Watt says about the recording of “We Will Fall.” “I asked them about that tune. It came from a Dave Alexander chant. They ran out of hash and they wanted to get stoned. Dave Alexander said he knew this chant, that if you chanted this thing, you could get stoned. I had always thought it was from John Cale, so he could play viola.”

That first album also shows the hallmarks of Asheton’s songwriting and sound: one-chord vamps, ostinato patterns, unhinged-but-blues-based solos, fuzz, and copious amounts of wah. “He developed a style that was out of the electric blues,” Tek says. “But a very original and unique version of electric blues—much harder edged and cooler. Most guys who pick up a guitar play blues licks. It wasn’t that. It was back down to the really hard roots of blues. Then a little bit later on he added some jazz elements into it.”

Being the band’s only guitarist, keeping an open string ringing was a clever way to fill space and create the illusion of a second rhythm instrument. It was also in the air—part of the culture of the ’60s—and, along with quarter tones and other non-Western notes, owed an obvious debt to India and the Middle East.

“He knew Larry Fine from the Three Stooges. Larry was in a nursing home in Beverley Hills and Ron would help him out with answering fan mail and stuff like that. He would get cigars and whisky for him.” —Deniz Tek, Radio Birdman

Drones were integral to Asheton’s style, but he didn’t use alternate tunings. “He just used standard tuning,” J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) says. Mascis toured with Watt and the Asheton brothers in the years leading up to the Stooges reunion. “I was impressed, you know. The first time he played you could tell he had never stopped playing.”

Asheton’s gear choices were standard for the times as well. “I didn’t see the Stooges until about 1968, so I can’t speak for before that,” Tek says. “But in ’68 Ron was using a Strat. I think it was a 1957 sunburst Strat. Initially he was playing through a Vox Super Beatle amp, and then he went to Sunns and Marshalls. He also had a Flying V in those early days. He had a Vox wah-wah pedal and an Arbiter Fuzz Face. I think he was then playing through 100-watt Marshall Super Leads and he may have had a Marshall Major as well.”

“His fuzz tone was the round one that Jimi used,” Watt says. “Jimi Hendrix played in Ann Arbor at the Fifth Dimension. There were about only 100 people there and no one would come up to the stage. Ron did, because he said he wanted to look at what Jimi was using. He said he had these fuzz tones that were kind of harsh, but they were round. Plus he had a wah-wah, curly chords, and he said that Jimi was wearing a high school marching band jacket. Ronny was the only one who walked up and went to the front of the stage to see fucking Jimi Hendrix. What a trip.”

The Stooges recorded their second album, their magnum opus, Fun House, in the spring of 1970 with producer Don Gallucci from the Kingsmen. (You know, “Louie Louie.”) The album is raw and was recorded somewhat live. It contains some of their most important songs: “T.V. Eye,” “Dirt” (the bass line is epic), “Loose,” and “1970.” Plus, the album’s closer, “L.A. Blues,” documents to tape—at least, as best as you can—the Energy Freakouts of their pre-record deal days.

“Their songs always had parts,” Watt says. “Especially something like ‘L.A. Blues,’ which is a big freak-out at the end of Fun House. But, for sure, that was never played the same way twice. We played it every gig, after the song ‘Fun House.’”

But despite being signed to Elektra, and with two albums under their belt, the Stooges weren’t able to grow their audience. “It became apparent very early on that they weren’t real popular, to put it bluntly,” Kathy Asheton says.

The band had internal problems as well—especially drugs, which were the beginning of the end. Alexander was fired sometime in August or September of 1970 and died five years later from the ravages of excessive drinking. Pop was struggling with harder drugs. Asheton was clean, but that wasn’t enough to keep the band together. “Ronny never got into the drugs,” Kathy says. “He was very angry when the Stooges broke up, because he was just sitting by and watching this all deteriorate.”

Near the end of their initial run, James Williamson was added as second guitarist, which turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. The band broke up, David Bowie befriended Pop and got him a deal with his management company—Tony Defries’ MainMan Management—and Pop and Williamson moved to London to write and record a new album.

Iggy and the Stooges

“When James and Iggy took off to go to London and regroup—what became Iggy and the Stooges—they had not considered Ronny and Scotty,” Kathy Asheton says. “But later on, both of them claimed that it was their idea to call them. So we really don’t know [whose idea it was to] call Ronny and Scotty to bring them over to England to do Raw Power. They both said yes. They were not ready to throw in the towel. They still wanted to play.”

On Raw Power, Asheton became the band’s bass player, with Williamson as sole guitarist. Ashton’s bass playing is melodic and tight—he’s not just playing roots—and the foundation he lays down with his brother is solid.

“I know by playing the bass parts that Ronny invested time,” Watt says. “Those are good parts. Smart parts. It’s stuff he’s doing in the moment. Also, they are playing to James Williamson, who’s got a whole different style. Ronny had a lot of little details in his bass playing—lots of detail and also fills between the changes.”



On tour, Asheton preferred renting amps, and his favorites were Marshall JCM800s powering two 4x12 matching Marshall cabinets. His longtime friend Deniz Tek says Asheton used 100-watt Super Leads and a Marshall Major back in his Stooges days. Photo by Tim Bugbee/Tinnitus Photography

According to Watt, Asheton used a Guild bass (probably a JS II). “They were full scale but they looked like an EB-3,” he says. According to Tek, his amp was either an SVT or a Sunn 2000.

“He was a good bass player and took to it,” Kathy Asheton says in contrast to rumors that Asheton resented switching to bass. “He was into it. There weren’t any qualms. And again, I want to emphasize, a lot of the reason it was okay in that line-up was because Ronny and Scotty were together. That was the impetus to their purpose to continue playing.”

But outside factors and drug use also doomed this unit, and by early 1974 the Stooges called it quits. (A live concert from February 1974 was released in 1976 as Metallic K.O. You can hear the audience’s hostility on the recording, including bottles breaking and Pop’s constant taunting.)

Following the Stooges, Asheton formed the New Order (not to be confused with the ’80s post-Joy Division band, New Order) with former MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson. The New Order broke up in 1976. Asheton then joined Destroy All Monsters, fronted by the Detroit-based visual artist and singer Niagara. Later, that band morphed into Dark Carnival.

“Ronny’s stance was always, ‘I am a musician, that’s what I do,’” Kathy Asheton says. “One way or another he kept it going for those 30 years in between. They were also getting royalties from Bug Music [a music publishing company that was sold to BMG in 2011 for $300 million], so Ronny and Scotty had some money from the Stooges. Those albums kept selling, but here’s the thing nobody knew: It was James Williamson who reached out and told Ronny and Scotty, ‘Hey, you know, there’s this company and they’re collecting royalties.’”

Asheton also dabbled in acting. His biggest role was in the film Mosquito, which starred Gunnar Hansen from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was also through film that Watt first got the chance to play with him. “The first time I played with Ron was on the soundtrack for a Todd Haynes’ movie called Velvet Goldmine,” Watt says. “The movie had a David Bowie character and another character kind of based on Kurt Cobain and Iggy. They wanted some music for that character and he had a band called the Wylde Ratttz. They figured, if it’s going to be like the Stooges, why not get the real Stooges guy?” That band, which also included Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Don Fleming (Gumball), and Mark Arm (Mudhoney), recorded “T.V. Eye” for the film, plus an album’s worth of material that was never released.

The Stooges Revisited

In 2000, Watt was recovering from a life-threatening illness. “I had tubes in me and I couldn’t play bass,” Watt says. “When they pulled the tubes out of me and I started hankering to play—to get gigs, not just get better—I asked J Mascis and he got Murph from Dinosaur Jr and we did some Stooges. When it came time for his solo album, J Mascis and the Fog, he asked me to be on bass.”

“We did a couple of Stooges songs when Watt was my bass player, and he would sing,” Mascis adds. “We were playing in Ann Arbor and I asked Watt, ‘Why don’t you call up Ron and see if he wants to jam? I know you know him from the Wylde Ratttz.’ Ron came down and we played. I kept asking him if he wanted to go on tour, and so he toured with me and Watt for a while. We went to England and did different shows, and SXSW. Then Thurston Moore asked us if we wanted to do Stooges at a festival. He said, ‘Why don’t you get Scott Asheton, too?’ That was the first time I played with Ron and Scott. It was in L.A. at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival that Thurston was curating. Eddie Vedder, Josh Homme, and Kim Gordon all sang different Stooges songs. We went out in the summer and we went on some festivals, and I think that’s when Iggy heard about it, because we were playing around.”

It was those Asheton, Asheton, Mascis, and Watt shows that piqued Pop’s interest. “I remember Ronny told me about the call he got,” Watt says. “It was Ig. ‘Hey, who is this indie guy stealing my treasure?’ Ronny told me that he said to him, ‘My treasure? You know where I live.’”

“Scotty was the one who kept pursuing,” Kathy Asheton says. “Every now and then, he’d call up Iggy and say, ‘Do you want to get the band back together?’ Iggy would say no. It would be the decade joke. ‘Okay, so 10 years have gone by, what do you think? Do you want to get the band together?’ No. ‘Twenty years?’ No. But it was really J Mascis, Mike Watt, Ronny, and Scotty. When they started playing Europe and doing all kinds of shows, they would do Stooges music and the people would go crazy and yell, ‘Stooges! Stooges!’ When Iggy heard rumors and saw the success that they were having, that’s when he became interested.”

Pop had the Asheton brothers play five songs on his 2003 solo release, Skull Ring. Ron played guitar and bass on those sessions. But the big news of that year was the official Stooges reunion—with Watt on bass—at Coachella.

“Ronny told me about making noise with an electric blender, Dave Alexander throwing the amp down to make sounds, and Scotty beating oil drums with their horoscope signs painted on them. It was a whole different thing than what we know from Stooges’ albums.”
—Mike Watt

“Ron used a Strat for the Coachella Festival that they played,” Chris Wujak, Asheton’s reunion-era guitar tech says. “I was not at that first show. The story I was told was that it was just a one-off. It was supposed to be a fun gig. But that turned into a tour, which turned into six years of touring, and then continued after Ron passed away.”

Asheton’s guitars, once the reunion was underway, were two Reverends—and eventually Reverend created a signature model as well. “Ron started using Reverend guitars at the beginning of the reunion,” Joe Naylor, Reverend Guitar’s founder, says. “He had bought a few Reverends at a music store in Ann Arbor, so he already knew about Reverend. When the reunion was getting ready to start, he contacted us and wanted to know if we could work with him on maybe a couple more guitars for the reunion.”

Asheton’s reunion-era rig, similar to the gear he relied on in the early days, was simple. He used an Ibanez Tube Screamer or Reverend Drivetrain II as a boost for solos—otherwise his distortion came from the amp—plus a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah and a Boss Chromatic Tuner, which he used as a mute. On tour, he rented amps, which were usually Marshall JCM800 heads powering two 4x12 Marshall cabinets. His strings were GHS Boomers—their standard .010–.046 set—and plastic picks (customized with a Stooges logo) that were the equivalent of a Fender medium.

The reunited Stooges were the real deal and, according to Watt, that different dynamic was noticeable as soon as Pop and the Ashetons got back together. “When me and J were playing with the Asheton brothers, it was different than with Ig and the Asheton brothers, because that’s the Stooges. With Ig, they have their own language—their own authentic thing. The Stooges music has lots of dimensions to it, even though some parts seem very simple.”

The reunited Stooges were not a nostalgia act. Watch the concert footage and look at the crowds, you won’t find many elderly hippies or relics from yesteryear. For the most part, the audiences were young. “The people we were playing for, there were hardly any people our age,” Watt continues. “The people seeing the band were much younger, because people wanted to know about this.”

“It was crazy,” Kathy Asheton agrees. “I had thought, ‘Can they really just resurrect the Stooges songs and be successful?’ Boy was I proven wrong. That just took off like a bullet. People went crazy. You go into the shopping malls now and you see teenagers wearing Stooges t-shirts. There was a time when you’d go, ‘My brother plays with the Stooges.’ Who? And now almost everybody knows who you are talking about. That was the coolest, greatest thing ever. The success, oh my God, it was so big for them.”

Ron Asheton died of a heart attack in early January 2009. His body was found in his house, the house he grew up in—the same house the Stooges used to rehearse in—a few days later. He was 60. The Stooges soldiered on. They brought James Williamson back from retirement and introduced songs from Raw Power into their shows. That line-up continued to tour and record—the Ron Asheton reunion-era Stooges had recorded an album of new material, The Weirdness, in 2007 as well—until Scott Asheton died, also of a heart attack, in 2014.

In 2010, the Stooges were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “I didn’t want to go,” Kathy Asheton says. “I felt a little bitter, I admit it, in the sense that it’s too late. Ronny’s gone and now you’re giving them this award? I was happy for Scotty. I was happy for Jim (Iggy). I cried all the way through it. But I went to ghost him through it. I figured where he’d be in it, how he would be, and everything. That’s how I handled that: just thinking that I am ghosting Ronny’s position being there. It was the right thing to do, but it was hard.”

Over the decades, the Sex Pistols, the Damned, Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Slayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Cage the Elephant, and many others have covered the Stooges’ songs. Kurt Cobain, Slash, and publications like Rolling Stone have listed their albums as among their favorite and most influential. You’d be hard pressed to find a rock band that hasn’t attempted a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at some point in their career. But that recognition was a long time coming.

“I remember Ron telling somebody once that he felt like the old blues guy on the porch,” Watt says. “People, like us, coming up to him, wanting to know things. Everybody always knew where he lived, but took him for granted.”


 

Building Asheton’s Signature Model

For the Stooges’ first reunion gig at Coachella in April 2003, Ron Asheton used a black, Mexican-made Strat. But once the band was officially back together, he reached out to eastern Michigan builder Joe Naylor, of Reverend Guitars, to discuss a 6-string.

“I met Ron in the late ’90s,” Naylor says. “He played Naylor amps, which was the company I had before Reverend. He wanted something with three single-coil pickups. The classic setup for him with Iggy had been a Stratocaster, but he was looking for something a little fatter sounding. He also wanted the option to be able to thin the sound out for the traditional Strat sound if he had to do that.”

Naylor’s solution was a passive bass-roll-off control. “I built him a 3-pickup guitar, which back then was called the Avenger model, and I installed a knob on it that would cut bass out of it,” Naylor says. “It was a variable knob. He had full control over how much he wanted to thin out the sound. If he turned the knob all the way off, it sounded like a traditional Strat. That later became the Reverend bass contour control, which we use on almost every guitar now.”

Asheton’s signature V, which Naylor designed a few years later, was made with a stop tailpiece, a set neck, and three P-90s. “It sounds kind of like a giant Strat,” Naylor says. “He wanted that attack that you get from a single-coil pickup. Of course, a P-90 is a single coil pickup … it’s just a large one, but it does retain some of that string attack, which is essential to that Stooges ferocity.”

Proceeds from the sale of Asheton’s signature V go to support the Ron Asheton Foundation, which works to help abused, abandoned, and orphaned animals, and partners with various humane societies.

 

Essential Asheton

This full-set Stooges performance at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival, with Ron Asheton on guitar and Mike Watt on bass, is badass—right from the introduction, where Iggy Pop is referred to as a “leathery exhibitionist pensioner.”


Witness the peanut-butter-smeared mayhem of the original Stooges in this live performance of “T.V. Eye” and “I Feel Alright” from the 1970 Cincinnati Pop Festival, and absorb the overflowing fuzz from Ron Asheton’s guitar and Dave Alexander’s bass. The performance is comically enhanced with play-by-play commentary from the local affiliate that aired the festival live.


Ron Asheton tells the story of how the Stooges got together and formulated their sound in the first installment of a three-part interview at his mother’s house in Ann Arbor in 1988.

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Options for self-expression through pedals are almost endless these days. It’s almost hard to imagine a sonic void that can’t be filled by a single pedal or some combination of them. But when I told bass-playing colleagues about the new Dunlop Justin Chancellor Cry Baby—which combines wah and fuzz tuned specifically for bass—the reaction was universal curiosity and marvel. It seems Dunlop is scratching an itch bass players have been feeling for quite some time.

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  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.

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