Monday, October 18, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again...But You Can Buy it Back for $10.

My day job took me to Arlington, TX this past weekend for a guitar show. For those of you who've never been or ever even heard of such a thing, a guitar show is a convention of dealers, collectors, hobbyists and pro players. All manner of guitars (and their near and distant kindred), amps, effects, memorabilia and literature are sold at discount "show prices". Thousands of folks show up.

I saw Made in China guitars for $100 and a Fender Broadcaster tagged at $90k. An alleged actual Ray Manzarek Fender Rhodes Bass keyboard was priced to move at $25k, complete with stenciled "Doors" flight case. The exact same cheap Silvertone archtop acoustic my brother played in his high school production of "Lilies of the Field" was marked at $450. It might have cost $70 new in 1968.

Some dealers had meticulous displays for vintage pieces, others brought slow-moving stock, some specialized in pawn shop specials - cheap imported guitars that actually sound great. There's been a 10-year old surge of interest in those models and they were everywhere. I first saw a Danelectro in Jimmy Page photos and even then, those of us with gleaming Les Pauls in our eyes considered that brand a starter guitar. Now the originals draw good prices and the reissues remain popular today.

I found my gold in a big plastic bin of '70's to '80's era music instruction materials and Hit Parader magazines. I had recently been in a conversation about the absolute lack of usable instruction on Rock Guitar that was available in 1975. Mel Bay was the King of Printed Guitar Instruction and his Missouri-based empire paid short shrift to Rock music, with only a couple of titles. The one I remember was apparently written by old-ish guys (judging by the photos inside) who listened to a few rock records and figured they'd write a book on it. At least it seemed that way to me...nothing in there sounded like the records I was trying to play along to.

At some point, on a visit to Madison and Ward-Brodt Music or maybe Patti Music on State Street, I bought a book from Green Note Publications called "Improvising Rock Guitar", written by and featuring Pat Thrall. It came with a 331/3 speed Flexi-Disc with two idiomatic songs on it: "Snaker" a I-bVII- IV bluesy romp in the style of Clapton in the Cream era, and "Homage To Hendrix" a modal-vamp jam with a nod to Santana, as well as Jimi.

The young, long-haired, SG-wielding Thrall covered the pentatonic box system of guitar playing very well and I learned a lot from this book. I learned even more from Pat Thrall when he was the co-guitarist in the Pat Travers Band a few years later. I lost the book years ago, or loaned it out. I had not thought about it in years and here was a mint copy, probably NOS (new, old-stock) since the disc was spotless. The original price for it was $5.95, the dealer was asking $10.

I didn't buy it. It couldn't possibly be as good as I remembered, could it?

Well, after I flew back to Nashville, I started thinking about the Thrall book again. I found it on eBay and other sites and someone has even made the out-of-print classic it available as a torrent, including the audio contents of the FlexiDisc. It held up great and was a blast to listen to again...I was right back in my bedroom, trying to get the rising unison bend delineating the pentatonic scale just right. Thanks Mr.Thrall for giving us small-town rural guitar players the real stuff.