An opening act saves the day when John runs into trouble headlining a festival.
John and his heroes, The Kentucky Headhunters, posing for the lousy cell phone photo.
I usually spend festival days hanging in the wings watching the other acts. I was thrilled to learn that The Kentucky Headhunters were playing two acts before us. To stand stage right of Greg Martin’s 1973 Les Paul Custom ripping through his dimed 1974 Marshall Super Lead is a glorious thing. Those 100 watts of ear-splitting power were peeling paint off the stage. Though the playing and tone were brilliant, I felt like I was standing in front of a Boeing 777 jet engine. I caught the back half of the show from Richard Young’s side of the stage, where his 1952 Tele (the real deal) and vintage Fender Bassman felt kinder and gentler to my bludgeoned ears.
An hour later when we took the stage it was immediately clear that something was wrong with my rig. My guitar sounded distant and small. I ran back and checked mic placement and it looked OK. My amp settings looked normal but I cranked it up, then my amp got very loud, then thin, then quiet, then louder, then silent. I bypassed my pedalboard—still dead. I went back to my amp, which was semi-hidden behind our drum riser and turned it on and off … light on, no sound. Fear and frustration set in and I began pounding on it with my fist like a doctor trying to resuscitate a flatlined patient; keep in mind the band is now playing our second song and 40,000 people can see me beating the shit out of something behind the drums. For years I carried a spare head on the road with me, but after it remained unused for a few hundred shows, the optimist inside of me left it at home. I silently cursed my formerly positive attitude.
The next song I had a solo, so our other guitarist Wade Hayes, a talented and generous man, switched to acoustic and handed me his Tele; regrettably, his guitar was way hot in his mix and low in mine, so poor Wade had to suffer through my blowing loud and proud in his ears. During this song I ran over to our sound man and shouted over his mixing board that I’m D.O.A. He ran over to my amp, checked it then disappeared. When he returned, he motioned me to the side of the stage and said that the Headhunters were hooking me up. I prayed that they were bringing the Bassman and not the Marshall. Greg’s tone is fantastic, but would not be a particularly good fit for songs like “Dixieland Delight.” Within minutes, The Kentucky Headhunter’s band and crew rolled an amp case on deck, pulled the top off the road case and plugged my cable into Richard’s Bassman. I was back in the mix halfway into our third song and man, I gotta tell you, playing through that legendary rig was both a thrill and relief.
This was an incredibly kind gesture on the Headhunter’s part. Not only did they have to unpack and repack their gear, but they had to stay until the end of our set, which added hours onto their night. After the show, I thanked them and they couldn’t have been more kind. We ended up hanging out and talking, and they even posed for a lousy cell phone photo.
The Headhunter’s first CD, Pickin’ on Nashville, with it’s turbocharged blending of Cream-era Clapton with Bill Monroe and Don Gibson, inspired me as a kid. I’m not sure I would be living in Nashville today had I not heard these guys. It’s been a while since I bought a CD (I learn so much music for work that my ears need to give it a rest during my off hours), but I bought their newest release, The Kentucky Headhunters Live/ Agora Ballroom. Hearing this honest-to-God live band in full flight made me want to start a band and steal their set list.
Hunter S. Thompson said, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Over the years I’ve seen some evidence substantiating Thompson’s quote, but I’ve also witnessed first hand incredible generosity and kindness from our fellow musicians. It turns out you can meet your heroes and not be disappointed.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who works primarily in television, and has recorded and toured with over 30 major label artists. His songs and playing can be heard in major motion pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of television drops. Visit him at: youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger
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.