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Once when singing in midtown Manhattan, a passer-by remarked that he played very much like Reverend Gary Davis, to which Gary replied that he knew Reverend Gary Davis quite well - Barry Kornfeld in Oh, What a Beautiful City

Author Topic: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?  (Read 3374 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« on: April 15, 2013, 04:38:19 PM »
Hi all,
With all of this talk about ladder-braced vs. x-braced guitars for country blues playing, I find myself more and more drawn to the possibility of playing country blues on a big, hollow-bodied electric guitar, a la Arthur Crudup or Merle Travis.  I find the chordal sustain and possibilities for sustain in single-note lines very appealing.  Plus, because it would already be electric, you wouldn't have to worry about sound systems, microphones, crummy sounding pick-ups, the fact that it no longer sounded acoustic, blah, blah, blah.  I was wondering if any of you out there were already doing this, not with Telecasters or Stratocasters, but with big hollow-bodied electrics.  If you have been doing this, I'd be interested to hear how different it felt for you playing this way vs. playing acoustic, and also how people responded to music played this way in performance situations.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2013, 05:54:19 PM »
Funny, I keep eyeing these and have been thinking about exactly these questions recently. I don't have one of these so can't answer myself, but looking forward to responses.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2013, 05:58:39 PM »
You know, it's funny, uncle bud, I used to have a beautiful Gretsch electric of just this type--I've sold it long since, but I sure wish I had it now.  At the time I had it, I used it mostly for playing wedding receptions and casuals, that kind of work, and it never occurred to me to use it for Blues.  It had a great warm tone and sustain.  I guess I'll just have to get something else like that.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2013, 06:36:01 PM »
Don't forget Scotty Moore - essentially a country blues picker.  He had a variety of big honking hollowbody guitars.

I had a big orange Gretch hollowbody too Johnm, and I'd wish I'd kept it!  I'd like to get another .......with the cow inlays.

Offline frankie

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2013, 06:56:11 PM »
I have a Harmony Hollywood that I play quite a bit - that works well. There plenty of Harmony/Kay electric archtops that would serve admirably and relatively inexpensively. Given the choice, I'd go for one of those from the 50s or 60s rather than a less expensive instrument of recent manufacture.  You could always go with a Gibson of one kind or another - hard to go wrong there, especially if a p-90 is part of the equation.

Don't overlook a harmony stratotone - they look like a solid body, but they're hollow, and can sound great. Utah Smith approved.

A solid body guitar isn't a bad choice, either - I have two harmony bobkats - a single pickup model and a dual-pickup. The single pickup is my favorite, but they're fun. I also have a fairly recent danelectro reissue - the stock pickups suck, but I boogered it up with a supro lap steel pickup in the bridge position. Now, THERE's a sound. It's best with a slide.

It would be hard to go wrong with a Les Paul - really. p-90s again. yessir.

And then there's the amp - smaller is better - 5 watts is fine, 12 watts max. The fewer the knobs, the better. Reverb, meh. Tremolo, +1. Any champ or vibro champ will certainly do. Then there's valco - they can be kind of temperamental and the build quality isn't always the best (Leo F. was a great designer), but what a sound.

Anyway, budget will dictate most choices, and you can usually make do with just about anything.

Offline frankie

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2013, 07:09:09 PM »
If you have been doing this, I'd be interested to hear how different it felt for you playing this way vs. playing acoustic, and also how people responded to music played this way in performance situations.

Whoops - I missed the whole point of the post! Playing electric is something I do mainly for my own amusement. I play occasionally with some other guys who are into chicago sounding stuff and they like what I do, although they seem to think it's a little 'disorganized' or something. I've sat in with them for a few dances and that's fun...  one time, I played Babe Stovall's See-See Rider, which went over pretty nicely, and the dancers liked it, too.

Mainly, as long as it's fun for me, I keep doing it.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2013, 07:26:29 PM »
I'd put Kay, Silvertone and Gibson on my shopping list. Crudup is reputed to have used all three brands, see our friends at http://www.earlyblues.com/blues_singers.htm, I trust they are correct.

But anything can jump out at you, if it's hanging on a wall covered in dust it could be the one. I let my '48 ES-125 go to a better home, dogear P-90 pickups are the bomb but it wasn't getting played. So are Teisco Del Ray goldfoil pickups. There's a lot of variation in archtops from that era, when you're looking for a happy accident you won't know it until you play it. The amp is important as I'm sure we all know but upper harmonic distortion is a whole other topic. If it sounds good it probably is good.

Re. playing this style in a band, my experience is stray too far from what the rest of the band is comfortable with and you're in trouble. It's down to picking your band mates. The risk level rises playing with strangers, you have to qualify them up front, sit down with them, listen to records before playing together too much. Sympatico early electric countrified blues bass, drums and vocal people are hard to find. What tends to happen is you get shanghaied into playing later stuff you really don't want to play which, for me anyway, is a dead end.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2013, 08:08:25 PM by Rivers »

Offline Westside

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2013, 07:44:10 PM »
Are country blues played on an electric guitar still country blues?  ;D

Offline Rivers

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 07:57:13 PM »
Absolutely. Listen to Arthur Crudup & Howlin' Wolf. They reside at the intersection of electricity and acousticity, played with the fingers on the picking hand, a very sweet spot indeed. I really hope Johnm runs with this because my gut feeling has been for a long time it's coming around again sometime. Lord, I hope so!

Did anyone mention Memphis Minnie's later recordings with a National electric yet? Honorable mentions go to Pigmeat On The Line and Killer Diller Blues.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2013, 08:14:30 PM by Rivers »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 08:25:25 PM »
I've been meaning to slap a D'Armond on my Gibson L50 for a while now. The L50 has the best neck of all my guitars. They are also not so expensive and sound great as acoustics.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline jrn

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 08:28:47 PM »
How about Mississippi Fred and his Gibson Trini Lopez?
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline jrn

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 08:43:56 PM »
Oh yeah..... What about those homemade guitars of Homesick James's?
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2013, 08:49:31 PM »
Here you go John..built for Merle Travis
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2013, 08:55:42 PM »
Big Joe
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Big Hollow-Bodied Electric Guitar for Country Blues--Anyone?
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 08:57:25 PM »
Mr.Crudup and his Kay
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

 


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