Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Gear, Old Memories, and the Birth of Rocksmith

Several nights of playing Rocksmith until 2:00 or so in the morning finally knocked me out. I didn't play at all last night - just crashed. But, I did get some new gear yesterday. Real gear, not just virtual stuff.

New Gear
I found and bought an old Yamaha EG112 with a hardshell case this week. Also found and bought a fairly old Epi LP Junior. The Junior actually has Gibson on the plastic neck-rod adjustment cover. Not sure that's significant, but it for sure makes this the first guitar I've ever owned that says "Gibson" anywhere on it! Can't wait to get them (it's all being shipped from online sellers). I'll update on how they play when they arrive.

Earlier this week I found an old Crate CR-1 amp online and bought it. I recently had a nostalgic streak and got to thinking about the original Crates back when they were built to look like actual wooden crates. Always thought that was so cool - like the This End Up furniture that also looked like it was made out of crates, so you could put your feet on it or put a drink on it and it wouldn't matter if it left a mark. Seemed like such a practical idea. Crate amps also have some sentimental value to me.

My Guitar Story (or at least part of it)
As I've mentioned, I've owned a guitar for years and years but I never considered myself a guitar player. To be fair, I did play guitar in the high school jazz band. But, was only because our band director was such a nice guy. Although I could out-drum the drummer hands-down, the drummer was a Senior and it would have been a bit embarrassing for him to be replaced his Senior year by a Freshman (me). Since I owned a guitar, I was appointed the guitarist in my high school jazz band my Freshman year, which involved strumming a few chords in the background while waiting for the drummer to graduate.

The guitar I played, my first electric guitar, was a sweet Electra LP gold-top copy that I bought used for $125 off of some guy when I was 15. I must have found it in the paper because nobody had home computers, let alone the Internet or online auction sites. So, my parents drove me to this guy's apartment to do the deal. They waited in the car while I went in. I guess he was in his late 20s and was getting married or something so he was selling his toys. I fell in love with the guitar and bought it, complete with a sort of rounded tear-drop shaped, plush-lined hard-shell case.

I remember we got to talking music and it ended up being a while before I came out of the apartment with the guitar. My parents were starting to wonder if I'd been kidnapped or something.

Anyway. I had no amp. I never had an amp. I wanted an amp. I just couldn't swing it. At about $125 retail, the Crate CR-1 was my best chance at ever owning one. I discovered them while looking in the piano and organ store in the local mall. Remember when they had piano stores in the malls? In the late 70s they sold guitars in the back of the store. They also sold amps, including the then-new Crates. They were small but pretty beefy and relatively affordable.

Of course, I didn't play enough guitar to know if Crates were really any good. So, I recruited Greg Meyer, one of the finest guitar players I've ever known, to come to the mall and check out the CR-1s with me. He brought his Gibson hollow-body ES-335, which is a pretty impressive guitar even if you can't play it. Greg could play it. He plugged into the CR-1 and just started noodling. Customers stopped and stared. Salesmen stopped and stared. Guys teaching lessons in the little glass rooms next to the guitar area stopped their lessons and watched. Thing was, Greg wasn't showing off. He was just fiddling around. He put the amp through its paces and pronounced it worthy. That was good enough for me. But, I never managed to scrape together to cash to buy one. The only amp I ever played through was the Acoustic bass amp that we used in jazz band.

When I got to college, I found myself needing cash more than I needed a guitar that I really couldn't play and didn't have an amp to play it through if I could. So, I took the Electra down to some consignment shop in town where I went to school and sold it for the same $125 that I'd paid for it five or six years earlier. I didn't lose any money on the deal, but I should'a never done it.

I'd love to find that guitar and buy it back, but that'll probably never happen. That was 25 years ago. But, I did find one of the original Crate amps for sale online this week so I bought it. Can't wait for that to get shipped. Not that it's any better than any of my other amps. I just can't wait to re-live some old memories with this amp. I think my next search will be for my old friend Greg Meyer.

The Birth of Rocksmith Story from Rolling Stone Magazine
Finally, while I was surfing this week, I found this great story from Rolling Stone Magazine on the conception and birth of Rocksmith:

Sounds like we came dangerously close to never seeing Rocksmith! That would have been a tragedy.


  1. Cool story. Hope your Crate turns out to be everything you remember.
    That was a great article in Rolling Stone, thanks for sharing it. Rock on!


  2. Even though I subscribe to RS, this article had somehow slipped by. Thanks for sharing the link.