Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Art of the Telecaster

As a professional musician with nearly 40 years experience under my belt, I can say this: There is no electric guitar in all of the instrument's history that can rival the elegance and simplicity of a Telecaster. Not a one.

Some of my 'kids'. Lots of hot-rodded Telewhackery going on here!

It's been said that a Tele can sound like anything but nothing sounds like a Tele. This is pretty much true. Tonally, it can cover any and all ground a guitarist could want. It's a totally utilitarian instrument, which given my political bent could be one of the many things that attracted me to it. It's basically a slab of wood with a neck and pickups. The bolt-on neck can be easily replaced or removed. In this day and age, that makes it perfect for the travelling musician. Take the neck off, put both pieces in your luggage and you can pretty much fly worry-free (provided the airline doesn't lose your luggage).

When Leo Fender and Doc Kauffman built a crude prototype in 1943, the demand from local country pickers told them they were on to something big. Many manufacturers had been trying to come up with an amplified guitar but the successes were few and far between. When Leo & Co. came up with the Esquire, and later the Broadcaster (which due to legal hassles had to be renamed) the legendary Telecaster was born.

I know a lot of guitarists who have issues with the Tele. I'll wager that this is due to one simple reason: They don't understand the techniques involved with getting a Tele to sound the way they want. Like I stated, it's a workhorse of an instrument. You can get out of it whatever you want...but you have to know how.

This is no slight to any picker's playing abilities. This is more a tribute to the brilliance of the Tele, both literally and figuratively. The Tele, by nature, can be an almost overwhelmingly bright/trebly instrument. It will give more twang than you'll ever need. The neck pick-up is often described as "creamy" sounding. Having been playing Teles since 1981, allow me to give you the #1 trick to a good tone on a Tele: Start with the tone knob rolled about halfway back. It wouldn't hurt to roll the volume knob back a bit as well, giving you the ability to raise your volume during a solo. Do these two things, set your amp and GO!

Great for rhythm or lead, the Tele is all ya need! The neck is designed for play-ability with ease of access to the upper frets. This is something most younger pickers will take for granted, Nowadays, even most acoustic guitars have a cutaway body. I remember when I first started playing guitar on an old Silvertone classical. Getting past the 12th fret took some real work! The design of the Tele neck makes is easy to play anywhere on the neck. Sure, one can go down the rabbit hole of which Tele neck shape, radius, etc. is 'best'...but that's up to each player.

Some of the best players on the planet have all used least at some point. Danny Gatton, considered by those who know, to be the best there ever was, originally hated Teles. He was more into Gibsons. He started out with big ol' hollowbodies and was often seen playing a Les Paul...until he found the right Tele. Look the story up. I won't go into it here...suffice to say, few have achieved the level of mastery that Danny did with a Tele.

Not being a guitarist, Leo Fender managed to create the awesome instrument...but there are a few tweaks players may want to do to their Tele. The #1 is one shown to me by Bill Kirchen (one of the baddest Telewhackers out there!). He flips the control plate around. This puts the volume and tone knobs in closer proximity to the picking hand, making it easier to access them for on-the-spot changes as needed. Utilizing these techniques on a Tele, the player can (and often will) modify volume and tone with some frequency during a song.

I'm a fan of brass and silicon nuts on my guitars. The brass gives a little more sustain, although some may argue that. It's always worked for me. The silicon nuts (and saddles) also help reduce string breakage.

I rarely use stomp boxes but for those that like them, a Tele will respond to them as well if not better than most guitars...and still retain it's twang.

If you're a working guitarist, you should probably have a Tele in your arsenal. If you're just a bedroom picker, you just might want one simply because they're cool. The best part, you don't have to pay a fortune for a good one. I just bought yet another Tele. A Mexican-made* one. Even with Custom Shop Nocaster pickups it was under $350. Sure, you spend a grand or more on one...but you don't have to. If you like spending extra money, go for it. Just realize you don't have to.

I'll leave you with some prime Telewhacking, courtesy of The Twangbangers.

* Which would you prefer? A Telecaster made in Mexico by Mexicans or a Telecaster made in the Mexicans. ;-)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breaking Bread

Back in the 80s, I often said that I could end the Cold War. With a BBQ. The US would supply the ribs, sauce and beer. The Soviets would supply the vodka, spuds, and whatever else they wanted. All countries interested would be invited...but they had to bring food and beverages. It would've worked.


You get any people together from different areas and one of the things they're going to talk about is food. It's easy to go EWWWWWWW rather than try something different. I was the King of EWWWWW for years but in my 20s, I made a conscious effort to change that.

I'm still a picky eater. Those who know me know my avoidance of cheese and my severe issues with certain textures. But at least I try stuff. Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I don't.

For Easter this year, I decided to try to make some authentic Middle Eastern food. I can tell you this: IT WAS AWESOME!!!!! While a chore to make, it was beyond delicious.

Instead of all of this fighting and moaning all about we sit down to a pot luck dinner. If something is being served that is way outside of your comfort zone, just try it. Ask the origins of the dish. Learn something new. In learning about the food, you'll learn about the culture...and probably realize that people aren't so different.

In my travels, I've tried a number of different things...some of which I will run a mile from if I ever see them again. Some I try to add my regular diet. Some are more of a treat.

See how many of these you've had and which ones you'd like to try.

Vegemite: I love it! It's an acquired taste for an American but if you use it correctly, it's awesome

Jellied Eel: Run. Just run.

Laver Bread: No thank you.

Gumbo: I liked it so much I mastered it!

Maqluba: Mercy this is good eating!

Currywurst: You're probably not worthy but try it anyway.

Fried Catfish: I don't like fish. Period. But...deep fried in beer batter with hot sauce, I can do this!

Buffalo: AWESOME!

Ostrich: See above.

Wild Boar: Again, see above.

Elk, ram, moose, rattlesnake: Yep...see above.

Kangaroo: Now that's eating!!!!

Crocodile/Alligator: Not for me. I've tried both. In future, I'll politely pass (if at all possible).

Faggots & Peas: Once you get past the name, good eating!

Shandy: Why would anyone mix beer and lemonade? Pick one or the other.

Pork Pie: Sounds odd. Tastes great. Even cold.

This is just stuff off the top of my head. There are some dishes I've had that I'm pretty sure were so traumatic that they're now repressed memories,,,but I tried them. I said Thank You and cleaned my plate. I've only ever once vomited at a table and that was as a kid when Dad and I had a stand-off over cooked spinach. He learned his lesson. I can now enjoy raw spinach, on a salad or sometimes on a sammich...but I still won't eat cooked spinach by itself. I don't care who serves it.

Think about it. Everyone eats. Everyone has their favorite foods. Discuss that instead of personal things like religion or politics.

I'll leave you with the immortal words of GK Chesterton, "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Just One Good Thing

I've seen evil up close. It ain't pretty. That said, I try to hold to the belief that everyone has at least one redeeming quality. True evil reared it's head at least a few times in the 20th century. Hitler and Manson come to mind. One would be hard pressed to think of two more evil beings.

That said, even these two utterly despicable beasts had a spark of beauty deep inside them. Manson was a musician and a songwriter. Hitler was an artist. Neither were considered 'good enough' by those considered the experts at the time.

Manson's music, which I've heard alleged recordings of, was pretty average sounding mid 60s proto-hippie stuff. I've heard worse. I've heard better. I've written worse. But it was his music. His art. It meant something to him. Being a musician, I can imagine how he felt playing it, writing it, and being given the opportunity to record it. I can also imagine the pain he felt when it wasn't considered 'good enough'.

I doubt this was the defining factor that turned him evil. If anything, it was the one pure thing about him that defined him as a human. He could relate to art and beauty. As could Hitler.

The history books will tell you that Adolph Hitler was a failed artist. This isn't quite as accurate as told. He did manage to make a meager living as an artist for a short time. He mostly painted landscapes and postcard images. While no da Vinci, his art wasn't horrible. It wasn't groundbreaking either. I've seen images of some of his work and as one who grew up around the art world, I can say I've seen worse go for relatively high prices. I personally like his Madonna and child painting. I doubt that his career would have ever gone to any great heights but an artist should never produce his/her art, regardless of the medium, for profit. If one can earn a living from it, that's great. More often, the artist will create simply because, as the old song says, "It's in him (or her) and it's gotta come out!"

Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ (1913 Hitler)

I doubt that Hitler's shortcomings as an artist made him into a monster. As with pretty much anyone, look deep enough and you'll find that one redeeming quality. The one thing that makes them human. The thing that shows their vulnerability. The one quality that shows that they are capable of creating something good.

I've tried for a long time to find something of quality about the being currently holding the highest office in our country. I am beyond sad to say that I have found no such thing.

Donald John Trump may actually be the Anti-Human. I don't believe he has ever done anything for anyone but himself. Perhaps his father's shadow looms so great over his psyche that it damaged him beyond help from Day 1. I doubt we'll ever know the whole story.

As an American, I've been aware of Trump most of my life. He was the scumbag slumlord-turned-real estate developer who we've all heard about for years. The media often touted his latest scheme or latest failure...and he's had many of the latter. It wasn't fake news when the media created the caricature he became.

His so-called charitable foundation was a scam. His "university" was a scam. The few things he's actually built are tacky beyond belief. That's why he's taken to simply putting his name on other's work. Most of it is still pretty tacky.

This is a man who has lost more money than even many of the rich will ever even have. He has always seemed to bounce back. How? Because he's a whore who will sell himself just for the momentary belief that he's beautiful. While I can't say for certain, I'd guess he does this because he realizes, deep inside, just how truly vile he really is.

I'd like to believe that there is one good thing about him. My faith practically dictates that I look for it. I've tried and tried. I just can't find it. Not one good thing.

I'd like to think that maybe, just maybe, he's done his good at home, away from prying eyes. Maybe his good was done in bringing up his children to be good people. From everything we've seen of his progeny, it appears to not be the case. I worry that his youngest, possibly doomed from the start, will grow into something worse. Just imagine knowing that your family is among the most despised on the entire planet.

I'd like to find one selfless beautiful thing he's done. I keep looking for it...and yet it escapes me. I've asked those who admire him...none can answer the question. They'll say things about his business empire or his business acumen. Well, his so-called empire only exists because of the money of others. He has ripped off those who built his walls. He'll most likely continue because let's face it, old habits die hard. No one can tell me one good thing.

I'm honestly starting to believe that he may just be the most evil person ever. He lives to want, not to give. His beliefs are based on greed and power. Those are the things a weak person strives for. A strong person strives for better. He just strives for more.

I don't think he's mentally ill. I say that from nearly three decades working with the mentally ill. I'd wager that he knows exactly what he's doing. There's no genius to it. There's no crafty long game to it. He's the ultimate spoiled brat and he just doesn't care about anyone but himself. I can imagine him blowing up the world just to try to save face.

Yet I'm still looking for one good thing about him. Just one good thing. Is it some well-hidden secret? If it exists, let us know. If there is that faintest glimmer of hope, show us. Show us just one good thing.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Been posting this for over 10 years now. Seems especially important this year. - MM


Thanksgivus: that's what she called it. The 'she' in question would be a very short, loud, middle aged black woman with retardation who I supervised for years. Her name is Omega...fitting because she truly is THE END!

Omega didn't exactly have a speech problem but I think her hearing wasn't 100% on the mark, as certain words would get slurred together such as "Thanksgivus". Another fave was her version of Social Security, which often sounded more like "sociable secretary" (of which I've known a few).

Thanksgivus (which is what I now prefer to call the US holiday Thanksgiving) is the last Thursday of November (this is for my overseas friends who may not be fully knowledgeable of the subject). It is the holiday where we Americans give Thanks to God for giving us BIG tasty birds, punkin pie & cranberry sauce...all courtesy of a tribe that we soon took great pains to wipe out. In short, when those Pilgrims (essentially English religious nuts) 1st landed at Plymouth Rock, they didn't have a CLUE what they were doing or what they were in for!

After that 1st winter (what do you mean "No Central Heating"???), most of the Pilgrims had died off. A few hearty ones remained (probably by eating the others...but that story seems to have vanished in the annals of history) and it was looking bleak for them, as they didn't know SQUAT about farming North American soil. Luckily, the Indians (bite me, I will NOT be PC) took pity on them, showed them what to do and the Pilgrims survived. They did sooo well, in fact, they had a big feast and invited the Indians. When the Indians showed up, they realized that white folks are either really bad at planning feasts or are just stingy, so they sent some braves to go kill a half dozen or so deer....gotta make sure ya don't leave the table unless yer ready to burst....STILL an American Thanksgivus tradition. NOWHERE on the menu was green bean casserole....PLEASE make note of that! (the Americans reading this will get the humor)

Finally, sometime in the 19th century, after decades of confusion as to what this "New England" holiday was and when it was supposed to be observed, some mad woman wrote everyone in the colonies suggesting the last Thursday in November...just in time to mark the start of Xmas shopping season!

Now, contrary to what some of my English colleagues have been lead to believe, Thanksgivus is NOT the American Xmas. Trust me, NO ONE on this planet overdoes Xmas like the Americans! Here it is, the Sunday BEFORE Thanksgivus and I'm looking out my front door at my neighbor's Xmas lights! 1 month 5 days before we celebrate the Man's b-day (even though we have the date wrong)...1 month 5 days of looking at those damned lights! Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays as much if not more than most people...but I like things to be done for the right reasons...not just to be the 1st, best or brashest.

For the holidays, I wish you all peace, happiness and a full belly. May your homes be filled with laughter (and not just the canned version coming from your TV). May your pockets never be empty, maybe your fridge always be full (with at least 1 6pack of decent case I should stop by lol) and may your troubles be few & far between.

In fact, I don't just wish you these things for the holidays...I wish them for you all EVERYDAY.

I'm having a few friends over (as usual) this year for Thanksgivus. It might not be the fanciest dinner but I hope to guarantee all a good meal, a full belly and someplace to sit and digest and enjoy some good company after (and long as they stay OUTTA MY WAY in the kitchen.).

We will revel in the death of a turkey. We shall take delight in the taters, which will be mashed. The rolls will hopefully not be slightly burned on the bottoms...but if they are, that's what butter, gravy & butter knives are for! The veggies will be plentiful and not overcooked. The pie will be chocolate cream...NOT PUNKIN! (my tradition...not yours, OK? ) And yes Virginia...there will most likely be cranberries of some sort...JUST NO DAMNED GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE...PLEASE!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What if...

Ask yourself this: Why does Donald Trump want to be President? What could possibly be in it for him, aside from the need for power and to make himself look like a big shot? If he's worth anywhere near his claims, the $400k annual salary is chump change to him.

Should he be elected, consider this: there's a strong possibility that he'll just quit. He has a long history of walking away when he can't personally benefit or when a situation no longer does so. Remember these?

Trump Airlines
Trump beverages
Trump: The Game
Trump casinos
Trump magazine
Trump Mortgage
Trump Steaks
Trump's travel site
Trump's comms company
Trump Tower Tampa
Trump University
Trump Vodka

These are just some of his more notable business failures. And what did he do? He walked away.

So what if he gets elected and we don't all bow before him? If that wall isn't at least started within his first 100 days, he'll begin to lose the faith that his deluded followers have. His approval ratings will redefine 'low'. Chances are he'll walk away. He wouldn't be the first Republican POTUS to resign.

Now ask yourself who is going to become President should this happen? Look at any of the short lists for potential GOP running mates and ask yourself, "Do I want this person as President?"

For all we know, this could be the endgame. Elect a seemingly unelectable lunatic, he resigns, and we the people get stuck with someone clever enough to have run the scam on us.

Trump will walk away, write a book, give lectures, and return to real estate. If he's worth the billions he claims, it would just be another chapter in his memoirs.

Pay close attention kids! It's about to become very, very interesting.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Frank & Bacon

If you think this is gonna be about your favorite pork product, I'll tell ya's not.

I was supposed to be sitting in at a friend's gig tonight stuff. Nuff said. Got to spend some quality home time instead, which I'll take any day.

At one point this evening, conversation led me to thinking about an old friend of not only mine but our entire family, John "Bacon" Adams.

I never knew why his nickname was Bacon. Might have been because he was a chunky dude. Not fat but he had an obvious affinity for carbs. I'll tell you this, and I mean it as no insult to my brothers, Bacon was the big brother I looked up to.

If you ever wondered how I learned to play guitar, you can thank Bacon...but I'll get to that in a minute.

Bacon was seriously one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to know. Friendly, outgoing, athletic, fun to be around. He was the sort of guy who would give you his last dime. He definitely liked a good time, and this was eventually his downfall.

He loved music. When I was 11 or so and first started to play guitar, he gave me an old Beatles record, and a few months later, after deciding I was ready for it, gave me a copy of Jimi Hendrix's 'Electric Ladyland' record. Mind blown? Damned straight!

As I struggled through teaching myself chords from an old folk guitar book, I'd listen to those records and wonder just what the hell they were doing to make them sound so amazing. Bacon started introducing me to more and more blues records - BB King, John Lee Hooker, and a lot of funk. I took it all in.

I wanted to play everything. I attempted to build a drum kit out of old pretzel tins. I finally got my hands on a used Slingerland kit, courtesy of one of my sister's boyfriends. $110! I mowed a lot of lawns to get that! For my birthday, my parents got me my very own electric guitar, a Fender Musicmaster. I tried everything I could to make it sound like what I heard on records...but I was missing that magic.

One day, Bacon and another guy, Frank Prolago, were over visiting my oldest brother. They heard me in the basement and came down and changed my life forever. Bacon could play a little bit...nothing flashy but like I said, he knew how to have fun. His friend Frank, now that guy could play and could play any instrument! He sat down at those drums like he owned them. He played my guitar like a King. I was mesmerized. The two said that they'd come by later on in the week and show me how to really play. I couldn't wait!

The next time they came over, Frank had his guitar and Bacon brought his, a beautiful old Guild Starfire 3. Damn, I loved that guitar. They sat me down and taught me how to play some simple 2 and 3 chord blues rhythms. Then they gave me the greatest lesson of my life: they taught me to improvise.

Neither were trained musicians. Frank could hear a song once and play it on any instrument. He was really that good. Bacon, his talents were limited by comparison but he knew how to have fun with it.

They showed me how to start a solo. They showed me certain 'shapes' where I could play something that sounded reasonable. They taught me that if I hit the wrong note, to just bend it until it sounded right. Somewhere is an old cassette tape of the 3 of us playing. I'd love to hear it again...but I remember every note by heart.

A few weeks later, Bacon came by the house with his Guild. He decided to loan it to me for a while. I was in awe! This was a REAL guitar. This was something a pro would use. Sure, it was almost a dozen years old at that time and had a few scratches on it (which my dad fixed) but damn, it was an amazing guitar! It sounded like nothing I ever heard...before or since. I could get Beatles sounds out of it, blues sounds, even Joe Negri jazz sounds, even if I couldn't play any jazz chords. The tone was in there! I had that guitar for about two years and played the hell out of it!

The three of us would often get together and they'd teach me more. One of my brothers had an old electric bass and they showed me some bluesy bass lines. They taught me about I-IV-V progressions, one of my first real AHA! moments. I still couldn't figure out what the hell Hendrix was doing. I mentioned having seen the concert film of the Monterey Pop Festival and how absolutely amazing Jimi Hendrix was. His version of "Wild Thing" almost ruined me. I knew it was just 3 chords but was like something from another planet when he played it. That was when they taught me "the Hendrix chord". I thought I was the baddest know-it-all lil sumbitch in the world at that point.

As we got older, Frank and Bacon didn't come around much anymore. They were both partying a lot. I remember running into them one afternoon and they were both obviously wasted. Bacon lectured me that the only wine to drink was some cheap swill he was swigging from a bottle in a paper bag. It kinda broke my heart to see him like that. He eventually had to take the Guild back. I was worried he was going to pawn it. To my knowledge, he didn't...although no one knows what happened to it.

A few years later, Bacon stopped by the house. He was so happy with himself. He had stopped drinking and doing drugs. He had lost weight and was really cleaning up his act. I remember how proud my dad seemed of this turn of events. Even my grandmother and auntie were thrilled. That's how Bacon was. His personality was infectious.

Less than a year later, I remember coming home one day, my best friend Paul with me. We hadn't been in the house 30 seconds when my dad asked Paul to go upstairs and wait for me...he had something serious to talk to me about. In my mind, I was trying to think what rotten thing I'd done and had been found out this time, and how much trouble I was going to be in. Dad took me into the living room, had me sit down...and told me that Bacon had died. He had gone out with some friends, had made the decision to 'party' a little bit...and long story short, his body couldn't handle the drugs anymore. His mother had found him in bed the next day. He'd died in his sleep. I was crushed.

I rarely ever saw Frank after that. I have no idea whatever happened to him. To this day, I think of those two every time I pick up a guitar. I especially think of Bacon. I remember thinking about him as I stood onstage in Narooma, NSW in Australia, playing my first show there. I couldn't help but chuckle to think how Bacon would have reacted. I think he'd be proud. At one point, I remember playing a chord he taught me...and he was with me for a brief moment onstage...10,000 miles from where we grew up, playing to thousands of screaming fans.

Like I said, I was supposed to be sitting in tonight at a friend's gig...but like I said, family stuff. Family comes first. Music a close second. I'll be playing the blues this weekend...and I can guarantee you, I'll be thinking of Frank and Bacon. Mostly Bacon. I wish he could be there to hear me play.  I wish I could thank him for all he taught me about music and life in general. In the scheme of things, I didn't know him very long...but sometimes all it takes is one moment to change a life.

Friday, February 19, 2016

America Town

Some years back, I read an article about a TV show in the works called America Town. To my knowledge, it never happened...and I can't find the article or any other mention of it on the internet. The concept was probably too realistic and terrifying for American viewers.

In a nutshell, the premise was simple: mid 21st century, in a large city in some other country. The once United States of America had finally imploded and the majority of it's remaining citizens living their worst nightmare. Many had escaped, emigrating to other countries, looking for a better life. These migrants clustered together in America Town...a ghetto neighborhood in a foreign, formerly friendly land.

Imagine the American version of Chinatown or Little Italy. Fat, badly dressed Yanks and Seppos living in slums, selling hot dogs and other classic American cuisine from pushcarts or small, family-owned eateries. From their windows, one can hear the strains of "America The Beautiful" or some other long-forgotten melody. The 4th of July is just another day. Their kids are trying to just be part of the crowd, but they carry with them the stigma of their parents' homeland. The other kids tease them. Cultural slurs are tossed about.

It can't happen. Or can it?

Look around you. We're on our way.

This country doesn't really produce much, and what we do, we outsource to other countries. MADE IN THE USA doesn't mean much these days.

Our rich get richer off of the backs of the rest of us. One day, someone will have had ENOUGH, and the first shots will be fired in an effective direction. The target will be a CEO, politician, banker, etc. It will ignite a spark in the masses and all Hell is going to break loose - a civil war unlike anything the world has ever seen. Americans do everything bigger.

Living in Prague or Paris or Rio, "Press 1 for English" will no longer be an option. We'll be the ones trying to take the jobs...just to feed and house our families. We won't understand why everyone hates us. We'll be forced to rely on each other while we attempt to assimilate to life in our new homelands.

How many of you know someone already considering leaving the country? How many have already done so? How many more have tried and failed?

Think this can't happen? Again, look around. Land of the free? Free to do what? Work long hours at a job you hate, earning just enough to keep you there a little while longer, until 20 years of your life is gone. You can't afford're still paying off your old school loans. Everything you buy, regardless of the cost, is essentially disposable - by design - so you'll have to replace it, and spend more money.

You're taught to hate the wrong people. It's a con job. You're taught to hate the poor, not the people and corporations making them poor and keeping them that way. You're taught to hate and fear immigrants who might take YOUR job, but not the employer who will happily hire them to keep profits high. You're taught to hate anyone who differs from YOU. You're convinced to build walls but not bridges. You're convinced we need bombs more than schools. You're convinced to eat garbage.

It's what you'll miss the most living in America Town.