I've got some pretty doggone weird stuff on stage. But oftentimes
I'm too busy to really tell people about my gear,
so I've set aside this part of the web page to let people know
about some of the weird old junk I haul around to give
me "my sound" (whatever that is!).|
Terry MacArthur was an apprentice to Semie Moseley of Mosrite Guitars in 1958 and 1959, when Semie was living in the San Fernando Valley near Granada Hills. He was only 17 and 18 years old at the time, but he had a big interest in guitar building. In particular he was fascinated with the crazy custom doublenecks that Semie had made for Joe Maphis and Larry Collins in the mid-1950s. These were very famous instruments that are instantly recognizable from the many album covers and television shows that Joe Maphis and Larry Collins (as one half of the Collins Kids) appeared on. But other than these two doublenecks, Semie Moseley never made another fancy custom doubleneck like these (until the late '80s when he made one more for Elaine Garton). Mosrite made production model doublenecks, but they were solidbodies and much less fancy than the first two he made.
So, under Semie's tutelage, Terry made two "TNM Custom" doublenecks of his own in high school shop class, using wood and materials he had obtained from Semie. The "TNM" stood for Terry's initials, and "Custom" of course meant custom-made guitar. It was a play on words to emulate the "Mosrite Special" that Semie had put on the headstocks of his Mosrite doublenecks.
The photo above shows Deke's doubleneck in its original form. The picture dates from 1959 or 1960. Terry MacArthur stands in back, the proud maker of this beautiful instrument. Seated, playing the guitar, is Ernie Odom, a local picker that Terry built the guitar for. (The bottom neck originally said "Ernie" on it). For a guitar that was made by a 17 year old luthier, it's an amazingly well-built machine! The top and the back are made from giant planks of maple (the back is bird's eye), sculpted with a deep German carve around the edges, learned from Semie Moseley, who in turn learned it from Roger Rossmeisel at Rickenbacker. The bridges are handmade from scratch. The pickguards, neck inlay and headstock inlay are made from multiple layers of colored plexiglass. The pickups, like Joe's and Larry's, are 1950s Carvin pickups (they were the only company then that sold guitar parts direct to the public -- Semie Moseley used them until the early '60s, when Mosrite could finally afford to tool their own pickups and hardware).
Below is Terry and the first doubleneck he built. He doesn't know what happened to this guitar, so it may still be floating around somewhere out there!
Here are more pictures of the "TNM CUSTOM" doublenecks as they were originally built in 1958 and 1959.
The following photograph recently came to light (courtesy Jody Maphis) showing Joe Maphis himself playing the TNM Custom guitar!!! Yes, it's true, Joe Maphis once played Deke's guitar, and here's the photo to prove it. This happened one night at Tex Williams's Western Village in Newhall, California, around 1960 or 1961. Talk about provenance!
At some point in the 1970s, Ernie Odom sanded all the finish off the TNM Custom with 50-grit sandpaper. He then traded it back to Terry MacArthur for a Vox electric guitar. Terry put the remains of the guitar back in the case for another 25 years to go by, and forgot all about it.
Flash forward many years... Terry makes the acquaintance of Deke Dickerson, who finds out that Terry used to work for Semie Moseley AND that the "TNM Custom" is up in Terry's attic. Here are two pictures that show what Deke & Terry saw when they dug it out for the first time! A very sad sight indeed! The finish was all sanded off, the pickups were missing, and the armrest was broken into a million pieces!
I talked Terry out of the guitar, promising that he would get it restored back to its original glory. I obtained four new Carvin pickups through some crazy horse-trading to replace the ones that were missing. Terry MacArthur got in on the project, making a new armrest to replace the old broken one! Johnny Dilks did the refinishing and new fretboard inlays (I decided a name change to "Ernie" was not in the cards and had new fretboards made to say "Deke" on the top neck and "Dickerson" on the bottom). R.C. Allen, noted Los Angeles custom guitar builder, did the fretboards and fretwork, and Steve Soest did the internal wiring. The entire restoration process took two years. The finished TNM Custom doubleneck weighs 20 pounds, or as much as two Les Pauls put together!!!
The last picture shows Terry MacArthur today, playing the restored guitar! Terry was very happy, and in fact it inspired him to make guitars again! Currently Terry has two doublenecks in the works to be finished in early 2004. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in a real Mosrite Joe Maphis style doubleneck!
For more photos and story...
Fender amps are great. They're just not for me. The two amps that I am currently using are a tube Standel and an Echo-Sonic. These are not your everyday amps, and I get a lot of questions about them.
I wrote a history of Standel Amps for the new Standel company, which is making great reissues of the early Standel amps. I won't reprise the whole story here, but I will tell a few details. Standel started in 1953 with a man named Bob Crooks, who built custom amps in his garage in Temple City, CA. His amps were used by Merle Travis, Joe Maphis, Speedy West, Grady Martin, Chet Atkins, etc., etc.
Standels were known for their clean, twangy sound. They were only made on a custom basis and used exceptionally large output and power transformers coupled with a JBL 15" speaker, which gave the amp a very solid low end (with no distortion) and made it very, very loud.
The first custom-made amp, known as the 25L15 (which stood for 25 watts, Lansing 15" speaker), proved too expensive to make, so after about 75 amps, Standel switched to mass-produced amplifiers.
I own two 25L15 amps. The white amp is an original 1950s Standel. It is not a production model, but rather an unusual prototype amplifier, or "Shop" amp used for several different prototype models. Bob Crooks told me when he saw my amp that the two tacks placed on the top of the amp (noticeable in the picture of the top and back of the amp) meant that it was prototype number 2. After borrowing Merle Travis' amp from R.C. Allen, this amp was changed back to the original 25L15 schematic, though it uses EL34 tubes instead of the original 807 tubes.
If you look at the picture of the back of the white Standel, you can see that it has one of the earliest JBL D-130's in it. This D-130 has a squared-off magnet with no breather hole on it. The model number is engraved in one of the spider arms, and a decal is on the side of the magnet that says "James B. Lansing speaker co., Los Angeles, CA." I've never seen an earlier JBL D-130.
The second Standel I use is one of the new reissues made by the new Standel company of Glendale, CA. They are doing a phenomenal job of replicating both the original Standel 25L15 amp and the JBL D-130 speaker. You can order these new amps with any color naugahyde you desire. I chose a red/black/red two-tone. Besides looking great, these amps are LOUD and CLEAN. You can get information about ordering these new amps from the web address above.
A guitar amp with built in tape echo? Yes, they exist, but just barely!
The sound of the Ray Butts Echo-Sonic amp is instantly recognizable... We know the tone of this amp from Scotty Moore's guitar licks on early Elvis Presley hits like "Heartbreak Hotel," "Mystery Train," "Too Much," etc. Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins (who used the Echo-Sonic on his hit recording of "Mr. Sandman") are probably the two most famous players who used an Echo-Sonic amp, though other celebrities like Carl Perkins, Luther Perkins, Gary Lambert (with Glen Glenn) also used them.
The Echo-Sonic amp was made in extremely small quantities by Ray Butts, a radio-TV repairman from Cairo, Illinois, in the mid-1950s. The amp cost $500 in 1955, or twice as much as Fender's top-of-the-line Twin amp. It had a built in tape echo (a tape loop built into the bottom of the amp) with variable echo sensitivity, multiple repeats, and footswitch. The only thing you couldn't change was the length of the echo -- it was fixed at one certain delay time -- but one that proved perfect for rockabilly music.
Here's a picture of the back of the Echo-Sonic. You can see the tape loop down in the bottom of the amp.
In the late 1950s, Rickenbacker licensed the schematic from Ray Butts and made extremely small quantities of their own version of the amp, called the Eko-Sound. The amp was exactly like the Echo-Sonic in every way; it was a straight copy of Ray Butts' design.
I got my Echo-Sonic from a gentleman in Orange County who used to walk past the Rickenbacker factory every day. One day in the early '80s, he passed the factory and the dumpster was full of amplifiers! He went home, grabbed his pickup truck and took them all home. Among the amps was this Echo-Sonic, covered in Rickenbacker amp tweed! It was probably the amp that Rickenbacker obtained from Ray Butts to manufacture their own version.
What can be said about the Echo-Sonic? Plug your guitar in -- instant Scotty Moore! You play the lick from "Mystery Train" through this amp -- it gives you goosebumps!
Lots of people ask, "What is an Ecco-Fonic?" Good question! Besides being one of the best bands in the country and a great record label, it's also the name of an early guitar tape echo unit made in Los Angeles in the 1950s.
They sound good -- but were notoriously unreliable. I can relate... I own five Ecco-Fonics and none of them work properly.
Here's a picture of one of my Ecco-Fonic units, just so you can tell your friends "I know what an Ecco-Fonic is!"
All the Ecco-Fonic drummers use our 1950s Gretsch orange sparkle drum kit. Not only do the smaller sizes of the shells (20" bass, 14" floor, 12" rack) sound better for our music than giant rock drum sets, but they also barely fit into the van after the guys load their monster amps in, so drums even an inch bigger wouldn't fit! The bass drum head was painted and pin-striped by famed L.A. Car Kustomizer, pinstriper, and "low-brow" artist Von Franco.
Well, that should answer all your "gear" questions. If anyone has further questions, such as what picks or strings we use, we suggest getting a life.