Fast Samba

I recorded this to test a couple of different mics for recording the cajon.  I used a Sennheiser E 602 II, which I used to mic my kick drum with, on the cajon port, and an Avantone CK-1 small capsule condenser on the face.  The mics performed well, I think, especially the Sennheiser.  The Casino is used for the sort of dreamy chords in the background and the lead is my tele on the bridge pickup.  When I do tracks like this, I am mostly going for a mood.  It is repetitive, but it is only 1:33 long.

The cajon sounds quite punchy.  I am pleased.  The lead is just sort of there to be a wandering contrast to all of the repetitious patterned stuff.  Eventually I will put all this stuff together into an actual song.

Yeah, it’s kind of Dire Straits meets “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.” Influences show.

Update: Craig put some different lead guitar ideas on the track:

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Cajon in 6/8

In creating this track I had two purposes.   First, try out a new plugin called Bass Professor II from Sonic Anomaly.  Second, I have been practicing a cajon pattern in 6/8, so I wanted to try it out.  No amps or amp sims were used.  The bass is my Douglas Beatle-style bass direct into the UR 44 interface, with Bass Professor II giving it some dirt.  The guitar is my Casino, also direct into the interface, with a touch of Dragonfly reverb. The Casino sounds surprisingly good with no amp sim.

The bass playing is pretty lame.  Please have mercy.

Note: Remixed to emphasize the cajon more on 4/23/19.  Later that day, added the organ pad suggested by Brian.

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A Dylan Cover

I don’t do covers very often, but I felt like playing “She Belongs to Me.”

It’s the Casino, the cajon, and the solo is, surprisingly enough, my guitalele.

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More Old Recordings of Old Originals

I seem to be encountering old recordings of things from my past these days.  I have posted a new version of an old song.  Now I have some more old versions.

Back in the 1970’s my friend Craig was in a band with Maury Manseau and a bass player named Bruce Buell.  As far as I know, they were known as Maury, Craig, and Bruce.  That’s what I called them anyway.  Let’s call them “MC & B.” Maury had been in a band called “The Sunshine Company,” which had a couple of hits, one of which was “Back on the Street Again” by Steve Gillette.  You can find this on YouTube.

MC & B were being produced by Bill McEuen, brother of John McEuen, famous banjo player in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  The Dirt Band had had a big hit with their album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”  MC & B were playing five of my songs.  At the time I thought they were going to be big and I was going to have a career as a songwriter.  They recorded a demo at United Artists studios with a drummer named Phil Valentine who I didn’t know, but who had gone to the same high school as Craig and I.  I guess he played in different bands.  I never had a copy of the demo, but Craig still had an acetate, of which he made a digital copy for me.  They played two of my songs.  The first is “Waiting,” of which I have already posted a version here recorded a couple of weeks ago with Craig playing guitar and singing and me on cajon.  The version from the UA sessions, probably 40 years ago, has Craig on vocals and Maury playing lead guitar on a Gretsch Country Gentleman through a borrowed Fender Twin Reverb on 10.  It is pretty amazing.

The UA demo also has another song of mine, “I Might Have Known.”  Here Maury sings and Craig plays flute.

Finally, Craig discovered a cassette tape of a performance he did at the Penny University Theater, a venue that existed in San Bernardino from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s.  These days he fingerpicks, but in those days he was an accomplished flatpicker.  He is at the top of his game for the time.  And at the end of that tape, he plays a song of mine that I had forgotten I had written, “If You See My Highway.”  It has a surprisingly positive outlook.

MC & B had a falling out with Bill McEuen and the demo, other recordings, and my songs never saw the light of day.  So instead I became an English professor.  So it goes.  And the wheel turns.  It is all for the better.  I suppose.  But this is pretty good stuff that has been hidden for a long time, so I am happy to put it on the internet.

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A quick track with the Casino and the Cajon

This track is with the new Lollar pickups through the direct out of the Katana. Rhythm and lead are both the neck pickup because that was what worked for the track.  The rhythm is the clean model, the lead the super saturated “brown” model.  On the cajon I am actually playing 16th notes with the left hand but all that gets covered up by the guitars so all that you can hear is the heavier hits with the right hand.  I have to work on that.

I know the lead is excruciatingly corny.  Oh well.  I suppose it is the David Gilmore wannabe in me.  At least it is not a black strat.

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Lollar 50’s Wind Dogears Installed

I haven’t picked it up yet (will do tomorrow), but Craig and Mike the tech say that the pickup transplant was a great success.  According to Craig, “The guitar surpasses all expectations . . .ideal scenario manifested completely . . .a joy to play in all positions, keys, pickup positions, volume levels . . . tone unmasked . . . cat’s out of the bag . . . it purrs it growls it shakes it shimmies  . . . success!”

Now it looks like this:


Cherry Red Epiphone Casino with Black Pickups and Knobs

Craig sent me a clip demoing all the pickup positions with bits and pieces of various songs.  He is playing through a Magic Vibro-Prince, a boutique version of a Fender Princeton amp.

The guitar sounds glorious in all positions.  This really is a special guitar, and with these pickups (and new tone pots, capacitors, and wiring), the special character shines through.

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“Waiting” with Cajon

Today I went to Craig’s to deliver the parts that are going into the Epiphone Casino.  We wanted to make some more tracks with the old pickups for comparison.  Craig played the Casino through my Boss Katana 50.  I played cajon.  I didn’t expect to play cajon all day, but I was learning and it was fun, so I did.  I have posted pictures of the Casino, the cajon, but not the Katana 50, so here it is:


Boss is a Japanese company, a division of Roland.  Usually Boss makes effects pedals and Roland makes amps and synths, but somehow Boss made an amp.  The Japanese character there is the hiragana letter that is pronounced “ka.”  A “katana” is a Japanese sword, the big one.  Samurai carried two swords, the katana and the smaller wakizashi.  This amp is an incredible value.  It can be loud or soft, has lots of features, sounds great and costs about $230.

Here is a track from the session.  This was recorded into an iPad using GarageBand.

The song, sung by Craig, is one I wrote in high school.  I think it was the second song I ever wrote.  It was recorded by Mary McCaslin on her record, “Way Out West” on Philo records.  You can still buy the CD, I think.  Nice album.

Update: I should add that the song was inspired by the Sylmar earthquake.  I woke up because because my door was rattling madly as if someone was trying to break it down.  I opened it just in time to see all the electrical transformers on all the power poles in the neighborhood explode with bright white flashes.  I thought it was a nuclear attack.  That is what I meant by “And if it seems, we’ve come to harm.”  I see that the quake was in 1971, so technically, it was a few months after I had graduated from high school.

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New Pickups Coming

I have decided to put new pickups and wiring in the Epiphone Casino.  The options were somewhat limited because of the design of the guitar.  The Casino requires a short dogear P-90 in the neck and a tall dogear P-90 at the bridge.  After quite a bit of internet research and listening to clips, it came down to two companies: either Lollar or Kinman.  The Kinmans are noiseless with some kind of advanced humbucking design.  From clips, they sound great.  They are quite pricey, however.  Lollar makes a short dogear P-90 and the material on his site indicates that he understands Casinos.  He makes a standard and an underwound 50’s style dogear P-90.  I decided on the 50’s wind for this guitar.


Lollar Dogear 50’s wind Pickups

I felt that the stock Epiphone pickups were a bit too hot and a little lacking in high end, especially the neck pickup.  They sounded best with the volume rolled off about 1/4 and with the treble in the amp boosted a bit.  Here are a couple of clips of the stock pickups, recorded through the clean model of my Katana 50:

A blues vamp (neck, middle, bridge):

And another blues, a bit slower (also neck, middle bridge) :

I think the bridge pickup sounds a lot better than the neck.  I will add clips of the new pickups in a couple of weeks, after they have been installed.

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Cajon Track

Recently I acquired a Gon Bops Mixto cajon.  There are basically two types of cajons: the traditional Peruvian type and the Flamenco cajon with internal snare wires.  I couldn’t make up my mind so I got the Mixto, which has two playing surfaces, one traditional and one Flamenco style.  They are both very warm and fat.  The snare side has more snap. Here it is:


I am just figuring out how to transfer some of my drum kit skills to this new instrument.  Here is a slow jam with cajon, bass, and two guitars:

This is the traditional side of the cajon.  The rhythm guitar is my Casino, straight into the interface, with a bit of reverb and heavy use of the Bigsby.  The lead is my Telecaster through the Brown model on the Katana 50.  This is the first time I have recorded with that amp.


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Old Rehearsal Tape

I have been cleaning out my old house and I came across a cassette of a rehearsal tape that Craig and I made for a funeral. Our friend and band mate John Lee had been killed in an automobile accident.  John and I had actually played together a couple of years earlier for the funeral of one of his friends, so this was the second time I had played at a funeral. Ironically and sadly, it was his.

John was an amazing friend.  I first met him at a church group meeting when I was in high school.  He brought his classical guitar to the meeting.  I had a guitar too, but I wasn’t very good. He taught me a lot of chords and songs.  Eventually we started a band with Craig.  John was kind, generous, and actively tried to help people around him who were struggling with coolness, self esteem, or other aspects of life.  He made you feel important.  He always seemed like he was the coolest one in the room, even though his jokes were quite silly and he was always self-deprecating.  He had the driest sense of humor I have ever known.  He was also extremely attractive to women for reasons none of us could discern.

John’s father wanted him to be a lawyer, but he just couldn’t take the law seriously, so he quit law school and started working for an insurance company.  He couldn’t really take that seriously either, but he tried.

I don’t think Craig was too comfortable with playing at John’s funeral, but the family asked me and I had decided to do it.  Craig decided to help me.  The songs we chose were songs by James Taylor and Jackson Browne that we had played together a lot.  John and I went to see Jackson Browne many times–at Ledbetters in Westwood and at McCabe’s in Santa Monica.  We even saw him open for Laura Nyro at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A.

The first song on the tape is an instrumental, a sort of slow march.  I am not sure what it is called (it might be “Such as It Is,” since both Craig and I say that on the tape before we play it) or who wrote it.

This next song is “These Days” by Jackson Browne.  I think we actually learned this from a cassette tape we made of Jackson at Ledbetters.  When he arrived at the venue, we showed him our brand new Sony cassette recorder and asked him if we could tape his set.  He treated us mock seriously and said, “That depends on who you are.”  We said we were just kids who wanted to learn his guitar parts.  He let us tape.  I think this is one of the first songs Jackson Browne wrote.

The next song is “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor.  We were big fans.  I probably learned this song from John.  He was always figuring out songs from the record.

And finally, “Song for Adam,” also by Jackson Browne.

This tape was made at about 2:00 am the night before the funeral, sometime in the early 1980’s.

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