Copyright 1997, 20th Century Guitar Magazine.
For this month’s column, I thought I’d share some guitar and amp hunting anecdotes. These are all true as told to me by a very good friend who we shall call Mr. Fox to protect his identity.
Anecdote #1: Mr. Fox's very bad, horrible day...
I found a gem of a deal on an Ampeg V-4B bass amp and cabinet in the local paper. I go to pick up the $149 Ampeg V-4B head/cabinet, and the seller meets me in the driveway. The seller is obviously very high on something...
Seller: Man, like I'm glad you came today, I, like need to sell this thing. I tried it out and it sounds really good. It's really, really huge, ya know.
Mr. Fox: Yeah, I know... (we go in the house)
Seller: Oh, where is it, ha ha, I, like... forgot where it is. Upstairs, that's right, upstairs. (we go upstairs)
Mr. Fox: That's not a V-4B cabinet. That's a B-25B cabinet.
Seller: It's not? How can you, like, tell?
Mr. Fox: It says B-25B on the back of the cabinet in one-inch high letters.
Seller: Uh, I didn't look on the back. Can I sell you something else, 'cause I like need the money.
Mr. Fox: (looking around... GOD! A '60s ES-330TDC in practically unplayed condition!) Hmmm... this is pretty nice (choke!).
Seller: Wow, man, that one's probably worth a lot of money... I think, like maybe $200-300. I don't play guitar, though, so I don't really know. I feel bad about tellin' you the wrong thing about the amp, so maybe I'd sell it to you for, like less... (scratching himself, like bugs are eating him alive)
Mr. Fox: Yeah, OK, I'd hate to have wasted a trip.
Seller: ...if I could, but it was my Dad's favorite guitar and he, like, bought it new, so, like, I can't sell it, man.
Mr. Fox: (CRAP!) I've gotta go...
Seller: Wait, man! My Dad had another guitar he didn't like so much, 'cause it was, like, too heavy. It had three pickups on it and it was black. I could sell you, like, that one, man, 'cause I, like, feel bad. There's the case over there... (points to a beat up, brown Gibson LP case!!)
Mr. Fox: (trying desperately to conceal my excitement) Whaddya want for it? $200?
Seller: Yeah, man, that's good. That's OK. I'll take that. (opens the case, my blood is boiling...)
THE CASE IS EMPTY!!!!!
Seller: Oh yeah... like, sorry, man, I forgot. I think somebody borrowed that one, like, last year.
Mr. Fox: I’m outta here! (This man is assuredly one of Satan’s own henchmen sent to earth to torment me, personally! And doing a darn fine job, too.)
Anecdote #2: Slam, dunk... Bandmaster!
I’m the one who got slam dunked, though! Although I'm usually pretty good at keeping a poker face through price negotiations, this seller knew he had me from the first minute he saw my eyes pop from their sockets on slinky springs, like Roger Rabbit... this Bandmaster's a looker! Freshly tubed and serviced, too. It sounds like the day it left Fullerton: lean, mean and spanky clean.
I must say that this was one of the most entertaining one-on-ones I've had trying to cut a selling price. This guy was so entertaining, I pretty much gave him his asking price! I looked so hard for something to knock off serious points for, but ultimately I came up short. The better man won this time.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... it's pretty clean.
Seller: Pretty clean?! I'd eat this amp before I'd eat the lunches at my son's school. Get some salt.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... no foot switch?
Seller: No foot switch?! No guitar, cord or chops either. You've gotta bring something to the party, too.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... doesn't sound too bad.
Seller: Doesn't sound too bad?! Sounds like Leo's in there pushing electrons around, for Christ's sake.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... where are the original thumbscrews?
Seller: Probably at Parts is Parts. Tell 'em Frank sent ya... that way you'll be able to get 'em at no better than normal retail price.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... some screws missing from the back.
Seller: How does that compare with the carnage in Bosnia?
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... sometimes these old amps can be cranky.
Seller: So can old sellers of old amps. You're way behind, here!
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... the grill cloth material is a bit off-color.
Seller: You wanna hear off-color?! Keep pushing for a deep discount.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... do you know what old Jensens are going for these days?
Seller: Old Jensens?! Do you know what my son's tuition is at private school? Put in public school speakers.
Mr. Fox: Hmmmm... well, look. You've gotta take something off so I can save face. I may not look Japanese, but we do take this stuff very seriously.
Seller: Whadja spend in gas to get here?
Mr. Fox: Nine bucks.
Seller: Make it ten, 'cause I'm that kinda guy. $340.
Mr. Fox: OK.
Anecdote # 3: Hollowbody Madness
I e-mailed a guy yesterday who ran an ad on the Internet. Apparently, he doesn't know what "semi" means... I thought he was selling an Epiphone Rivoli bass (EB-2 type) and asked him if it was semi-hollow, trying to identify it. His response was "no, it's only hollow in some places."
Anecdote # 4: The Relic Twin
I went to a big retail music store on my lunch hour and saw a blackface Twin Reverb that looked like it had been at the Battle of Shiloh, it was so beat up. I mean, it wouldn't have looked any worse if you'd tied it to your car's bumper and driven coast-to-coast with it dragging behind you. So, I commented to the salesman something like, "Wow, that's a road warrior, huh?" This was his response...
"It's not what it looks like. It's a recent reissue... some complete moron came in here with it asking $1,500. When I asked him why he thought it was worth that much, he told me that he'd just seen the prices of Fender Relic guitars and that he decided his amp would be much more valuable if he beat the living piss out of it. After a while, he said he’d started really getting into it... with every ball-peen hammer blow, coat hanger scrape and mud pie he rubbed into it, he felt sure he'd be rewarded with more folding money. Anyway, the jerkweed got a bit abusive when I told him I really wasn't interested in buying it. But, I took it in on consignment just so I could tell people this story and have a good laugh!"
Anecdote #5: Mumbo Jumbo
This anecdote can be subtitled, “Blowing Smoke - A Technical Explanation from a Non-Technical Person.” This particular excerpt is from Mr. Fox trying to explain the tremolo circuit in an Ampeg ET-2 Super Echo Twin stereo amp.
Well, is there only one tremorato circuit in an ET-2, or are there still two discrete tremorato circuits operating under one set of controls? My hypothesis is this (admittedly, having a hypothesis at this point at all is pretty stupid, since I've never even heard one): two tremolo circuits beating against each other are likely to throw off different harmonics and varying intensities of harmonics over time depending on speed/intensity settings of the controls, and the character of the input signal wave (notes/chords being played, etc.), i.e., one modulates the other. The physical location of this modulation is not necessarily in the electronics at all, but out in space, in front of the twin speakers. This would produce not a pitch change over time regarding the fundamental, but certainly would produce an undulating shimmer not altogether unlike multiple bandpass filters opening and closing, with the Q (resonance point) constantly shifting. Is the pitch changing? Yes, but not all the way down, and for the most part, just the overtones as they beat. And every overtone is actually another fundamental with its OWN harmonics, all combining and recombining with each other to form new mini-fundamentals which come and go from the moment a string is plucked until fade out. This sounds something like... a barely engaged flanger. Is there only tremolo circuitry engineered into this amp? Yes, but it actually produces a change in pitch, and this is more than a perception.
Anecdote #6: Mr. Fox’s Buying Tactic
Mr. Fox has occasionally used the following (unsuccessful) approach:
Dear Mr. Gagliano:
Current research shows that original Ampeg ET-2 covers (only) were comprised mostly of highly unstable carcinogenic polymers. Better dump them FAST! I can't imagine anyone who'd take them though.
Prop., Mr. Fox's Highly Unstable Carcinogenic Polymer Disposal Service, Inc.
Anecdote #7: Road Trip
Whilst on a guitar and amp finding trip, Mr. Fox found ways to amuse himself...
After about ten hours on the road, you start to get a little crazy and find yourself reading bumper stickers, etc. for entertainment. As you pass the Mason-Dixon line, "Nine Inch Nails" stickers gradually metamorphose into "Skoal" ones and Boston College rear window decals turn into, I don't know, Richard Petty Community College or something, if they appear at all. So imagine my delight and surprise when I see a pickup with a college decal prominently displayed in the typical style: blue and white blocky letters... in the heart of Richmond County. Now in Richmond county, college decals are about as common as Yo-Yo Ma signature model cellos.
So, continuing to play "guess the college" to keep myself sane (much like a prisoner of war), I can't quite place this one. It looks unfamiliar, but I'm getting closer. I'm almost there... now I can finally read it! It says... "Electrolux!"
Anecdote #8: Shut Up, Beavis!
This is a verbatim from a conversation Mr. Fox had with the used item info hotline at a well known vintage instrument dealer in the Upper Midwest.
Mr. Fox: I'm calling about the "As Is" Magnatone, stock number (blah, blah)...
Dealer: Did you have a question about it?
Mr. Fox: Well, yeah. For starters, is it solid state?
Dealer (with a pause that suggested that I asked the specific gravity of Kryptonite): Oh, I don't know. Uh... tube, I guess.
Mr. Fox: I suppose you're not anywhere near the amp, right?
Mr. Fox: OK, have you ever seen the amp?
Mr. Fox: Do you have any other information about the amp?
Dealer: No. The information I have is here on the screen, or just what you have... I guess. That's all I can answer questions about.
Mr. Fox: OK, could you tell me what "POS" (in the listing) means?
Dealer: I don't know. I think it means something to people who might know something about amplifiers. It's, like, an amplifier word.
Mr. Fox: Is there anyone else there I could speak with who might be familiar with this amp?
Dealer: You could try calling back later.
Mr. Fox: Sure... is there someone I should ask for?
Dealer: I don't know.
Mr. Fox: I did call the used item info line, didn't I?
Dealer: Yes. Is there something else I could help you with, or did you have any other questions?
Mr. Fox: No, thank you, you've been very helpful.
Dealer: You're welcome.
Mr. Fox later discovered that “POS” in a listing denotes “Piece of S--t.”
About the author: Greg Gagliano can be contacted c/o TCG. Correspondence to Mr. Fox may be sent c/o Mr. Gagliano.