Steve recounts his first guitar, a Seville Les Paul copy, and the feelings that went along with it.
I’ve been getting sentimental lately. It could be the change of seasons, but I’m going to call it the first step in gear addiction recovery (see last month’s column). Either way, it seems the memories of my first guitar have been on my mind quite a bit these days and that motivated me to dig a little deeper to find out why.
Do you recall your first guitar? Way back before you knew anything about flametops, PAFs, mojo, and all the other G.A.S.-inducing details we discuss, there was just the guitar. Maybe you had your heart set on a Les Paul or a Strat. Depending on when you grew up it could have been one of those fluorescent colored, pointy-headstock thingies that got you all hopped up about being a rock star. Whatever it was there was innocence to it all, and that my friend is what this article is all about: rediscovering your love of the instrument.
While my first real guitar was a 1980-81 Gibson “The SG,” before that I had another guitar…a Seville Les Paul copy. It was a cheap knock-off with a bolt-on neck, but that guitar meant everything to me. Allow me to share my story… it might even sound similar to your own.
By the time I was 12 all I could think about was playing the guitar. My buddy had rented one and was taking lessons, so any chance I got I’d hang out at his place and watch him play through his Mel Bay Book #1 lessons. Lessons with compelling names like “E-nuff” and “E-string boogie.” It didn’t sound like KISS, but at least there was some semblance of music being made on that first string (he never made it to the B string). It drove me crazy not having my own guitar. I started saving my paper route money so one day I could take over all six strings. Maybe my buddy would even cough up the book since he wasn’t using it anyway.
Going to the music store was like going to Mecca for any young, aspiring guitarist. The best store we had (Mau’s Music) was probably a half hour away and to this day I can vividly recall the anticipation of a weekend trek to scope out what I’d be spending my hard-earned paper route money on. My heart was set on a Les Paul because of Ace Frehley, and this store had a mile of them—hung up, row by row, in every color and style.
Interspersed with the real Gibsons were the knock-off brands that to my untrained eye were basically the same guitar. This particular store carried the Memphis and Seville brands, and somehow the way the sales dude jammed out “Cat Scratch Fever” sold me on the wine red, bolt-on Seville Les Paul copy. It could have been his long hair and cool jeans, or just the fact that he was telling me with these riffs that I too could rock for $99. By the way, the real deal Les Pauls were way out of my league at $600, so I just let it go and wondered why the toggle switch was labeled Rhythm and Treble instead of Rhythm and Lead. There were rhythm guitarists and lead guitarists but I’d never seen a treble guitarist before. I’d have to figure that out later because the Gibsons said the same thing…hmm.
$215 later I had my Seville Les Paul, Rock Amplifier Company Petros I 1x10 combo amp (with a dedicated distortion knob!) and a Lifeline 10’ straight cable. Life was good. I never had the guitar set up professionally, but I came home after school every day and played and played and played. I dug into records and began learning to transcribe when my teacher didn’t want to waste my lessons by teaching me other people’s songs. I didn’t have a tuner so I used my dad’s pitch pipe and a tuning fork for the first five years as a player.
Living the life of a pre-internet guitarist also meant that information didn’t come as easy. In fact, aside from my Guitar Player subscription, the only way to find out about new gear was if a buddy picked something up or I got to go back to Mau’s Music or Custom Music to check out what was going on. Ignorance was bliss and all that mattered was getting better on the instrument and getting together with friends to jam and trade licks. It wasn’t until I broke my first string that it dawned on me that you needed to change strings on the guitar at all.
So why do I point this all out, and what does it have to do with recovering from G.A.S.? Simple. Before any of us had the means to support our habits, it was the love of the instrument and our desire to excel (or meet girls) that propelled us forward. We appreciated everything we had, even if we wanted more. There was real sentimentality connected to that first guitar.
Take a minute to look back on your first one and the story behind it. You probably remember your first guitar very clearly, even if it wasn’t a ’59 Burst. And if your first guitar was a ’59 Burst, please don’t tell me about when you traded it for one of those fluorescent-colored, pointy-headstock thingies…that would kill me. For the rest of you, please share. It’s cathartic and the first step in your recovery.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.