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Author Topic: Beach Boys Gear  (Read 56817 times)
Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #150 on: January 15, 2021, 02:31:23 PM »

Hey all--as part of my academic research, I'm getting into a sort of thread of "pop music organology". (organology is not the study of organs, but in fact is the study of musical instruments.)

I'm trying to gather actual citable quotations or hard information about the Round wound vs Flat wound guitar- and bass-string trends in the zeitgeist surrounding the Beach Boys' ambit--the boys themselves, plus the session people.  If anybody can think of any direct quotes from primary sources about what strings they used, what strings they felt like they should use, when they changed from one to the other, etc, I would appreciate a tip.  It's a very nerdy avenue, but I think there's some merit in investigating this avenue of guitar culture.
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« Reply #151 on: January 17, 2021, 10:13:35 AM »

There was a video of David Marks talking bout the strings he used.
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« Reply #152 on: January 19, 2021, 09:14:37 PM »

Well all fenders came with flat wounds. Rounds weren’t even appearing till 66? 67? And fender didn’t immediately adopt them. So I’d imagine all the way up to pet sounds is almost entirely flat wounds. Especially on all electric fenders.
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« Reply #153 on: January 20, 2021, 05:05:19 AM »

.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2021, 04:03:30 AM by SaltyMarshmallow » Logged
Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #154 on: January 20, 2021, 07:29:56 AM »

I think it's a myth that everything was flats.  Recall that round wounds were actually invented in the 17th century and by far the more common string throughout the history of strings.  I agree that Fender was flat-biased--in fact I've read that they designed their pickups specifically with flat wounds in mind.  And certainly, the electric bass was a new thing just a short time after flatwounds were invented (sometime around 1940-45 is when flats became available), so it does seem likely that pretty much every bass player was using flats through the mid 60s.

That being said, Carol has also stated that her Dano was strung with rounds, something that seems corroborated by the apparent fact that dano basses were shipped with rounds from the beginning.

However, after installing rounds in my own Dano bass, I'm not entirely happy with the sound vis-à-vis what bass VIs sound like on Beach Boys records.  (Of course, it's rarely Carol that's playing her dano on a Beach Boys record.)

As for guitars, I don't think the flat supremacy was quite as prevalent.  Barney Kessel, for instance, was known never to have switched to flat wounds, preferring burnished rounds on all his guitars.  I also read somewhere that Howard Roberts never liked flats.  Carl, in that gear interview with Billy Hinsche, said that he switched to lighter strings at some point in the 60s, before switching to really light strings in the late 60s.  I see no reason why he couldn't have started using rounds after his Jag got stolen and he stopped using Fenders so much.

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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #155 on: January 20, 2021, 09:04:05 AM »

Answering this question about strings defines the term "Herculean task" lol. You can sometimes narrow it down using specific info from factory shipments and anecdotes from individual players, but it has to be remembered that each of what we'd call the most well-known players were experimenting and changing setups constantly, and what one guy did in 1963 was not what that same guy did in 1967. The specifics we do know are more general overviews than individual standards, unless the info comes directly from a certain player saying "I did this on that record".

Having said that, we can clear out the easy ones.

No electric bass part recorded on a standard electric bass of its day prior to the mid-to-late 60's was played on roundwound bass strings because they didn't exist. Rotosound developed the first set in the mid-60's, and it still took years for them to catch on. Players across the span of musical styles used flatwound strings on electric bass, and in the 60's it was John Entwistle who I believe is still credited as the most prominent player to openly use and endorse roundwound Rotosound strings.

In terms of studio use in the 60's era, it's a bit of a no-brainer: The players and producers wanted to avoid excess string and finger noise, simple as that.

And something to consider relative to the guitar discussion to come in a bit, many bassists *never* changed their strings. Two of the most recorded electric bassists of all time, James Jamerson and Joe Osborn were famous for never changing their bass strings, and all of their famous #1 hit records pretty much featured the same bass with the same strings dating back to the early 60's when they first got their instruments. The only "hack" I believe they did to clean the grime off the strings was to boil the strings in water and baking soda to remove the crud. I've done that - it works to a degree. But a lot of these guys never changed strings, and the sound of a sparkling new set of roundwound strings really didn't come into vogue until the late 70's or early 80's. I personally can't stand the sound of bright new roundwound strings on a bass, but if you're doing 80's and beyond styles and need that sound, there's the quick hack on how to get it - Put new strings on the bass lol.

So I'd say simply if you want "that sound" from the 60's era (into the 70's), put flatwounds on a P or J bass. If you want it further, play with a pick with light muting at the bridge. If you want it further than that, play through either a real or virtual Fender tube guitar amp like a Super or Twin, with a touch of reverb and slap echo. Boom, there it is, literally. If you want more of a Motown sound, play through a real or virtual Ampeg style bass amp for more low-end thump...

...even though at the actual Motown sessions the majority of both bass and guitar tracks were recorded direct into the board with no external amp except for a multi-channel amp thing set up by the engineers so the players could hear themselves on the studio floor. Barely any actual free-standing bass or guitar amps were used at those sessions.

But that's pretty much it for bass strings in this 60's era, unless you played bass for The Who or got a set of Rotosounds you were playing flatwounds through a tube bass amp. Most players used what came with the instrument until they wore out or broke, and others just bought whatever set of strings was available short of going to the factory or having a sponsorship.

More to come on guitar strings.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 09:04:48 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #156 on: January 20, 2021, 09:57:29 AM »

Agreed that it's an Herculean task.  Which is the justification for studying it better.
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« Reply #157 on: January 20, 2021, 10:51:09 AM »

Now onto guitar strings of the era, maybe part one of a few explorations because it's literally impossible to nail down minus a few broad generalizations lol. If it would help I have a collection of Guitar Player magazines from 1967 (first year) going into the mid-70's which would feature ads and interviews and the like, but unfortunately before Guitar Player hit the stands there really wasn't a publication specific to guitar players which would list this info.

Just to put another angle on the issue of what strings certain players used, or what sets and gauges of strings, I'll list a few of my own examples. I use a D'Addario hybrid set called "light top heavy bottom", and have been for years if not 20 years on my main instruments. But in the past 5 years, I've been replacing the 10 gauge high E with an 11 gauge. I found it cuts through better, intonates better, and has more heft due to the tension, and does not break as easily especially on the Telecaster. So I buy these sets and then have to buy individual 11's separately for when I change them. On my Jazzmaster, when I first got it new, the factory had either 9's or 10's on it. And to be honest it kind of sucked. The bass E string would constantly pop off the saddle, and due to the fact I got that guitar specifically for 60's style instrumental and surf sounds this was a pain in the ass to constantly lose my bass E string during a song. What I found out was that two major things were wrong with the new models and the setup. First, the originals were designed for jazz guitarists and came from the factory with heavy strings, either 12's or 13's, and also from what I understand again due to the target audience of jazz guitarists they came set up with flatwounds. The neck on the Jazzmaster is a longer scale, and with lighter gauge strings, the unusual tension on that long neck caused the lower bass strings to not sit on the saddles with proper tension so they would ping out if you played harder like I tend to do on the instrumental surf material. As soon as you restring it with the *original* heavier gauges for which the instrument was designed in the late 50's to hold, it helps relieve that issue of the bass strings slipping out. The other issue is the neck length requires a special case to hold the guitar, as normal gig bags and hard cases won't fit the extra length, and it's literally an inch or so difference. Another pain in the ass, but I bought a special case for it and it works fine now.

My Danelectro 6-string bass came with factory roundwounds, and it gets all the classic tones you'd want. A lot depends on the way you dial in the tone on the guitar and amp, moreso the amp because it's best to max out all the tone knobs to 10 for the full voice of the lipstick pickups. I have the "baritone" strings on it, usually tuned A to A. I don't know about the bass 6 set's makeup, the octave under guitar string set, but I assume these have been roundwounds as well going back to at least the later 60's. I could be wrong.

To conclude this part, relating it to the Beach Boys and the musicians on their records, I have no doubt Carl's Jaguar fresh from the factory would have been strung with 12's or 13's and flatwound too. I believe that's how they came because again Fender was going after a jazz market and that was the setup for those specific guitars. As far as the Strat, it could have been either. Some guys say flatwounds were king in the early 60's, others say they used banjo strings or roundwounds.

What is known is all electric guitars up to the late 40's or 50's were roundwound strings. The instrument was still new, as was the technology of designing pickups to best amplify the strings. Some players were using acoustic string sets on electrics, and all acoustic strings were roundwound. When flatwounds did hit the market, it became the primary choice for jazz guitarists, and is still considered "the sound" for classic jazz guitar tone. But the early pioneers like Charlie Christian were using roundwounds, specifically Gibson "mona-steel" because that's what came from the factory. It's no wonder Charlie's devotees like Barney Kessel used those same setups - They were following what their main influences were known to use. Whereas followers of Wes Montgomery and 50's era jazz players would want that tone, so they used flatwounds. I think Chet Atkins always used roundwounds too, but knowing Chet (and Les Paul) they'd experiment with anything to try different sounds.

Then there's the whole issue of "ground-wounds", where the winding of the string would literally be ground off and polished for a flatwound feel. There's no way to know who did what in that regard, only that some companies would advertise "ground" strings which they'd actually grind and buff for customers. That's close to what we know as the half-round strings today, and I really haven't known many players who use these in modern years.


Just to sum up that part of it, we can assume players getting a guitar factory fresh in the late 50's and up to the late 60's would get heavier gauge strings averaging 12's or 13's for the gauge, and I can only assume given the model or the brand, some would be shipped with flatwounds and some with roundwounds (nickel).

The era in terms of replacement strings and parts for guitars in general was far, far different than we've had it since the 80's. There were simply no choices in brands for replacement strings like we have today. If you needed a new set of strings, in the US the main if not only choice to buy locally on a budget would be Black Diamond. And those would be whatever gauge the store would happen to have in stock, again usually 12's or 13's and they were not player-friendly. If you lived near a Fender factory or Gibson factory or were a sponsored player artist, you could get more specific with what you wanted, and they'd send test sets for you to try and give feedback.

But for the most part it was heavy gauge, somewhat difficult to play sets like Black Diamond or LaBella if you needed replacements up to the late 60's. Unless you ordered other sets direct from Fender or Gibson.

I'm talking mostly electric...acoustic strings were a whole other deal in terms of design and material/construction.

So the main developments in electric strings came from blues, country, and rock players who needed strings they could bend. You can't bend a wound 3rd string more than a half-step.

James Burton was perhaps the most prominent innovator who didn't invent the practice but made early rockabilly hits when he was a teenager with Dale Hawkins like Suzie Q, where those records featured string bending that was beyond what the available string sets would allow.

Very, very important thing Burton did, as well as others like Eddie Cochran who took it to UK players when he toured there...You'd take a standard string set, replace the high E with a super light banjo string at an 8 or 9 gauge, and simply shift all the other 5 strings over one peg. So the heavy A string became the E string, and you had a light gauge set adding that high banjo string...with an unwound G string as a result.

That was the ultimate trick or hack, right there. Many electric players did it, and it left a lot of excess heavy low E strings sitting unused in cases and boxes as a result. So there was no standard string set or even brand that offered these light gauge setups for players who needed to bend their G string like Burton and others. Prior to that, the best you could do would be a half step G bend or fast slide, which is why you hear players like George Harrison on the early stuff sliding those licks rather than bending.

I believe the first company to actually offer a light set which did not have to be cherrypicked from other string gauges was the Ernie Ball "Slinky" set in the late 60's. All other companies followed suit because of the popularity and demand from players, and heavy strings as the standard fell out of favor to where now almost all electric guitars are factory-shipped with 9's or 10's and have been since at least the 80's. Unless you are playing a specific jazz guitar model.

That's just one rundown of how strings are known and accepted now as standard setups versus how the original "vintage" instruments when they were new were actually strung and set up. It's pretty fascinating but at the same time nearly impossible to pin down because so many players did their own hybrid sets, and after Burton (among others) scored those hit records with that wild new bending sound for its day, the game was on as far as players doing their own stringing setups to access those same sounds and techniques.

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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #158 on: January 20, 2021, 11:29:43 AM »

Thanks for that overview, Craig.

One of the primary strands of my scholarship has been considering the relationship between the musician and the instrument--looking at the psychology of why musicians choose to play the instruments they do, vs. the instruments they choose not to play.  This has taken me as far back as the 18th century.  It seems there has long been a tension between sonic aesthetics and visual aesthetics, plus the intangible factors of cultural, sentimental, and hidden biases.  There are so many different considerations in different instrument families, and the guitar family has its own set of choices.  I'm interested in the idea of looking at why people play what they do. 

To reference Craig's outline, how many guitarists simply use what their guitar came shipped with and never thought about it?  Did Carl play heavy flats on his Jag because that's what it came with?  Or was it more like, all the surf guys getting Jaguars played heavy flats because that's what they came with?  When does a guitarist start to think about what they actually want to hear and feel vs the utility of not putting a lot of thought into it?  Or how many people played the strings their mentors and idols play?

This goes beyond strings, of course.  What were the factors at play in Carl's mind when he chose a Guild Starfire VI to replace his Jag?  Why did he jettison the Fender XII for the Rickenbacker?  These are discrete choices he made, and that all musicians make, and I am fascinated by that mental process.
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« Reply #159 on: January 20, 2021, 02:11:08 PM »

Another thing to consider is: the 1960s studio scene was all about breaking rules & creating new standards. To me, that is one thing that quintessentially separates the '60s from the '70s and beyond- music industry standards were continually in flux to the point that they really had yet to be distinctly established IMO. This is exemplified by the fact that somewhere around say, 1968- it was common for a pro studio to have a 4-track, 8-track, 12-track, and/or 16-track recorder. By the time you get to the mid-'70s, every studio would be 24-track.

In terms of guitar strings ... we have things like Nashville tuning, Dano bass, Bellzouki, etc ... if you look at the back cover of PF Sloan's Measure of Pleasure record, you can see he's strung up his 12-string with something like 9-10 strings in a particular arrangement.

What I'm getting at is the people we are talking about - were all about breaking convention. So while they may have accepted certain conventions, they also may have challenged others and been an exception.
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« Reply #160 on: January 20, 2021, 02:43:50 PM »

I met PF Sloan, and that was indeed a convention-challenging dude right there.

It's a good point, Donny.  The 60s is of interest to me for the same reason -- the Standard Operating Procedure had not been settled upon.  There were standard ways of doing things, but these things were much more localized.  There was a standard way to record an orchestra playing classical music, and a standard way to do film scores, but popular music had yet to truly settle in.

And of course, in the 60s you really had the ultimate apotheosis of the promiscuity of the establishment and those looking to mix things up.  Never before and never since have we had someone like Barney Kessel playing guitar with somebody like Glen Campbell on, say, a Sinatra record.  But the funny thing is, you could look at Barney Kessel as an establishment, pro jazz guy, but he was really innovative in his jazz world, even if he seemed conservative to somebody like, Glen or Jerry Cole.  And then you have people like Brian Wilson whose influences were really not like his contemporaries, using these people in his own way.

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« Reply #161 on: January 20, 2021, 09:11:02 PM »

Just popping in to add that it would be interesting to know if/how John Maus might've influenced Carl and David's string choices if they went off stock (a teacher can have a more direct influence).
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« Reply #162 on: January 20, 2021, 11:50:07 PM »

I met PF Sloan, and that was indeed a convention-challenging dude right there.

It's a good point, Donny.  The 60s is of interest to me for the same reason -- the Standard Operating Procedure had not been settled upon.  There were standard ways of doing things, but these things were much more localized.  There was a standard way to record an orchestra playing classical music, and a standard way to do film scores, but popular music had yet to truly settle in.

And of course, in the 60s you really had the ultimate apotheosis of the promiscuity of the establishment and those looking to mix things up.  Never before and never since have we had someone like Barney Kessel playing guitar with somebody like Glen Campbell on, say, a Sinatra record.  But the funny thing is, you could look at Barney Kessel as an establishment, pro jazz guy, but he was really innovative in his jazz world, even if he seemed conservative to somebody like, Glen or Jerry Cole.  And then you have people like Brian Wilson whose influences were really not like his contemporaries, using these people in his own way.



Wow really? You’ve got to tell me about meeting PF Sloan. He’s up there to me with Brian Wilson, I have  all of his records. Very inspirational and super underrated. I also found his book very moving.

https://youtu.be/w1HG6ATknOA

He also was basically the artist for most of the first Grass Roots record (1966), a classic that has gone way under the radar.

https://youtu.be/JvHlbwQiCtA
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« Reply #163 on: January 21, 2021, 07:21:08 AM »

Just popping in to add that it would be interesting to know if/how John Maus might've influenced Carl and David's string choices if they went off stock (a teacher can have a more direct influence).

Great point.  Maus is such an interesting shadowy figure to me.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #164 on: January 21, 2021, 07:33:13 AM »

Wow really? You’ve got to tell me about meeting PF Sloan.

Sure.  Although this is going to be a sort of embarrassing bit of name dropping...

I met him at Alan Boyd's house sometime in 2006 or 7.  Cameron Michael Parkes was over there producing some tracks for the Jan Berry tribute record.  Alan had a pretty solid recording set up and he and I were doing the engineering.  We worked on the "I Found a Girl" cover.   Probyn G came over to put some trumpet and horn parts on it, and PF came by to put harmonica on it.  He wasn't there for long--just did a couple of passes into my Shure 545.  But we chatted a bit.  He was super into Westerns, which I am not, so he talked about those.  He seemed well, but with the same sort of tiredness-of-spirit that I felt from Brian.

I have a photo or two somewhere.  I'll see if I can find them.
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« Reply #165 on: January 21, 2021, 07:54:06 AM »




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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #166 on: January 21, 2021, 07:54:53 AM »

Looks like we ended up using my Rode NT-1 on PF.  We may have auditioned my EV RE-15 too, you can see it there.  Hope you enjoy the photos.  It was quite a day for me.
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« Reply #167 on: January 21, 2021, 12:07:26 PM »

Rearding what kind of strings the Boys used, here is David talking about it shortly at ca. 7:36 mins.


Beach Boys: David Marks Guitar Clinic Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-HhvXO7O4
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

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« Reply #168 on: January 21, 2021, 01:16:14 PM »

Rearding what kind of strings the Boys used, here is David talking about it shortly at ca. 7:36 mins.


Beach Boys: David Marks Guitar Clinic Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-HhvXO7O4

Skipping ahead a bit because David Marks naturally covered one of the main topics on the list to consider!  Grin

Confirming the issues about the "stock" string sets available and how they did not allow the kinds of bends players would hear and want to do, players like Carl and David who were learning Chuck Berry and T-Bone Walker and James Burton licks would either need to do the hack I described above where you'd get a thin high E from a banjo set and move the other strings one over, or compensate like George Harrison did playing those licks by sliding or doing a half-step instead of a full step bend.

Enter Ernie Ball, and a very big factor in a lot of these histories and backstories: Timing AND location.

Ernie Ball had been trying to get manufacturers to make an actual string set to match what the players had to do with banjo gauges and existing sets. None of them wanted to do it and rejected Ernie's ideas, so he found a factory who would make string sets to Ernie's specs.

Ernie had a music store that only sold guitars and accessories, and that shop was in the same area as the LA session players and The Beach Boys. This was before Ernie became a brand that stocked other music stores, and he sold these strings out of his shop to the "local" players as word spread of his light gauge bendable strings.

So The Beach Boys were not only in the same general area (relatively speaking) as the Fender guitar and amp factory, but also relatively close to the one guy who was changing the string industry by selling actual string sets that previously were not available unless players did the banjo hack.

I don't believe Ernie's "Slinky" strings went fully national as a brand until the later 60's (fact check?)  but he and his strings were available to Carl Wilson and David in his early days, so they could get the bendable Ernie Ball light strings as well as guitars, basses, and amps fresh from the Fender plant, for a terrific matching backline of white guitars and basses (along with Fender piggyback amps and reverb tanks) of the type young players would covet when they saw the cover of "In Concert" and other photos/films.

Location, location, location. And timing too. Those are often the key factors in which players used which gear at a given time.
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« Reply #169 on: January 21, 2021, 08:46:11 PM »

WOW/ thanks for those pics! Really cool man.
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« Reply #170 on: January 30, 2021, 09:07:23 PM »

Billy Hinsche was playing one of Carl Wilson's acoustic guitars on his show tonight:
https://www.facebook.com/billy.hinsche/videos/5661595767200003

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« Reply #171 on: February 02, 2021, 01:35:49 AM »

Billy Hinsche was playing one of Carl Wilson's acoustic guitars on his show tonight:
https://www.facebook.com/billy.hinsche/videos/5661595767200003




Billy just posted a couple of pictures of it along with this message:

Beach Boy CARL WILSON’s personal guitar - the extremely rare and valuable 1971 vintage DAVID RUSSELL YOUNG custom made 6-string acoustic I played during my recent LIVE FROM BILLY’s PLACE show #44, on loan to me from its current owner, my nephew - JUSTYN CARL WILSON ...


And this link:

https://www.fretboardjournal.com/columns/catch-day-1972-david-russell-young-custom-dreadnought/?back=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fsearch%3Fclient%3Dsafari%26as_qdr%3Dall%26as_occt%3Dany%26safe%3Dactive%26as_q%3DDavid%20Russell%20young%20guitars%26channel%3Daplab%26source%3Da-app1%26hl%3Den&fbclid=IwAR2xduImXJpZ7Kbfs92vk_VM56RyeE5kA86NHu735JEWGaxZiV34Pb1K320
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

- Jack Rieley
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« Reply #172 on: April 08, 2021, 12:44:39 PM »

Posted this link in the Pro Shot Concerts List for more information of date and place, but what I just saw and wondered: What kind of guitar is Carl playing here? At first I thought it was a Tele but a closer shot put that to rest. I don't think I've ever seen him with this one:


Ca. 1992/1993

https://youtu.be/6OUv8O_bSxA?t=1020
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

- Jack Rieley
Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #173 on: April 08, 2021, 01:21:27 PM »

Posted this link in the Pro Shot Concerts List for more information of date and place, but what I just saw and wondered: What kind of guitar is Carl playing here? At first I thought it was a Tele but a closer shot put that to rest. I don't think I've ever seen him with this one:


Ca. 1992/1993

https://youtu.be/6OUv8O_bSxA?t=1020

Some kind of off brand tele copy... 
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c-man
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« Reply #174 on: April 09, 2021, 05:23:51 AM »

Posted this link in the Pro Shot Concerts List for more information of date and place, but what I just saw and wondered: What kind of guitar is Carl playing here? At first I thought it was a Tele but a closer shot put that to rest. I don't think I've ever seen him with this one:


Ca. 1992/1993

https://youtu.be/6OUv8O_bSxA?t=1020

Some kind of off brand tele copy... 

Could be a custom-made job modeled off the Tele design - the Stones have used a lot of custom-made Tele, Strat, and Les Paul copies over the years.
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