“It’s A G Thang” . . : Keith Richards and Open G Tuning

As a guitarist, I’ve was never that much into open tunings. I had enough of a time understanding the guitar in standard tuning to be bothered with learning a different one (What is an open tuning? It’s when you tune the guitar in such a way that the guitar plays a major chord when all the open stings are strummed.). That was before I took up the dobro (see my previous post https://roymusicusa.com/2020/09/03/wire-wood-steel-an-new-acoustic-music-project/). The dobro is tuned in what is referred to as “dobro open G” tuning (low to high G-B-D-G-B-D). The open G tuning that is commonly used for guitar is slightly different (low to high D-G-D-G-B-D) due to the guitar neck not being strong enough to handle the extra tension on the low strings. Despite the differences with standard guitar tuning, I was able to adjust quicker that I expected. The second, third and fourth string are identical in both tunings so that provided a base to work off of.

Open tunings are commonly used with slide guitar but the guitarist who is most identified with using open tunings in the context of rock guitar must be Keith Richards. Using a open G tuning with the sixth string removed, Keith came up with some of the most iconic riffs in rock music. We’re talking songs like ‘Start Me Up,’ ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’.

The videos below delve into Keith Richards and his take on open G tuning. Exploring a new tuning can really unlock some new ideas if you’re feeling like your playing has become stuck in a rut. Definitely worth the effort to check it out.

Keith Richards Demonstrates his 5-String Technique

Riffs in the Key of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on Guitar (Open G)


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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“A Good Feelin’ To Know” . . . : Rusty Young & Poco

I read that pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young passed away recently. Young was one of the first musicians to integrate the pedal steel guitar, an instrument associated with with country music, into rock. Young’s playing was central to the band’s goal of fusing the two genres. As a founding member of the band Poco, he helped define country rock and establish the pedal steel guitar as an integral voice in West Coast rock.

Formed in 1968, Poco originally included the singer-guitarists Jim Messina and Richie Furay — both formerly of Buffalo Springfield, another pioneering country-rock band from L.A., along with Rusty Young, the drummer George Grantham and the bassist Randy Meisner, a future member of the Eagles. (Timothy B. Schmit, another future Eagle, replaced Mr. Meisner after he left the band in 1969.)

Rusty Young said in a 2017 interview that “the concept was to take rock and roll lyrics and melodies, chord changes, and add country instruments as the color around them, because I play steel guitar and banjo and mandolin, all the country instruments I could add that color and Jimmy played that James Burton, Ricky Nelson-kind of guitar. We could use this kind of country colors palette to choose from, and have it be rock and roll.”

Poco they never had the big hits of the Eagles or the critical acclaim of the Flying Burritos Brothers but they gave off a good-time, crowd-pleasing vibe that was best captured on their 1971 live album Deliverin‘.

After the first three albums I lost track of the band as they evolved into a soft country rock sound but those first three records are pretty good with a bunch of excellent songs to be found.

Below are my personal favorites.

Poco – You Better Think Twice

Poco – A Good Feelin’ To Know

Poco – C’mon

Poco – Keep On Believin’

R.I.P Rusty Young

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Shaken, Not Stirred”. . : James Bond & Spy Music

It started with Goldfinger. Despite my young age (I don’t remember exactly but I was pretty young), I somehow wound up going to see a double feature of From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. And it was the coolest thing ever!! The laser beam, the Aston Martin DB5 sports car with the gadgets, the henchman Oddjob, Honor Blackman (no, I won’t use the character’s name)!! And the music! I always thought of it as a weird blend of talk show big band jazz playing a cheesy version of exotic music mixed with surf rock guitar. It was very much of it’s time yet somehow remains timeless.

For Eon Productions’ first Bond film, Dr. No, producer Albert Broccoli first contacted Monty Norman, a British theater composer. Norman recycled a tune from a shelved theatrical project but the producers felt it needed more work and hired an up-and-coming composer named John Barry to finish it. He rearranged the theme with an arrangement for his jazz group and orchestra.

“Dr No” Opening Titles

 

It doesn’t get better than the theme song for Goldfinger, sung by legend Shirley Bassey.

Goldfinger (Main Title)


The music became so associated with the spy film genre that it was “borrowed” by P.F. Sloan for the theme of an American broadcast of Danger Man, a British series licensed by CBS. The theme for that show became Secret Agent Man, the No. 3 hit for Johnny Rivers in 1966 (and one of the coolest songs ever IMO).

JOHNNY RIVERS – Secret Agent Man 1966

 

 

Finally we have a video by Rick Beato where he gives a great musical analysis of the James Bond Theme. I have previously written about Rick’s amazing YouTube channel (https://roymusicusa.com/2018/07/26/what-makes-this-song-great-rick-beato-videos-look-under-the-hood-of-classic-songs/) which is a goldmine of information for those who want to know how music works (my peeps!).

 

The James Bond Theme – The Sound of Film Noir

 

 

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis, Music Theory

“Ten Albums For $0.01” . . : Columbia House Music Club

If you are of a certain age, you must of seen the ads in the magazines (remember magazines?). You know the ones, “10 Albums For A Penny”. Well my brother and I certainly did and when one of my brother’s friends told us how we can get out of the minimum purchase requirement, we were in. We both ordered a whole bunch of records, some of which had a lasting impact on my musical development. Some of the albums we got through the Columbia House introduction deals (as well as it’s competitor RCA Music) included Disraeli Gears (Cream), Tommy (The Who), Woodstock (the soundtrack), Johnny Winter (the first Columbia album) and Climbing! (Mountain). After we did this a couple of times our parents found out about us “cheating” and made us stop, fearing that the police would come and take us away (that didn’t happen till later).

I find the economics of the music industry fascinating (and as a musician, incredibly depressing). The videos below explore one of the little known aspects of what I call the Entertainment Industrial Complex.

What happened to Columbia House music club? And were their record pressings really that bad?



How Columbia House Sold 12 CDs For A Penny

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“Small Cogs Make Big Wheels Turn” . : Lou Ottens and Henry Goldrich

I recently learned of the deaths of Lou Ottens and Henry Goldrich. These are not famous musicians but their impact on popular music was immense.

Ir. L.F. Ottens, 2007.jpg

Lou Ottens

Lou Ottens was a Dutch engineer credited with inventing the audio cassette. As head of product development for Philips in 1960, he led a team that developed the initial portable tape recorder; he then introduced the first cassette tape at a Berlin electronics fair three years later.

The cassette tape made music portable, as part of car dashboards, boomboxes and eventually walkmans. Cassettes allowed you to make your own mix tapes, making it possible to personalize your own music experience. It make it easier to make copies of music to turn your friends on to, something the music industry tried to discourage as they felt it cannibalized their record sales. As a deadhead, it made possible the trading of live tapes. Prior to tape trading, only way to hear unofficial live material was from “bootleg” records which were not easy to find. When I discovered live tapes, a whole new world of music became available. Thank you Mr. Ottens.

 

Obituary of Henry J GOLDRICH

Henry Goldrich

Henry Goldrich was the proprietor of Manny’s Music in New York City. Manny’s, which closed in 2009 after 74 years in business, was the largest and best-known of the music stores on the West 48th Street block known as Music Row. Manny’s was the place where the top musicians went. It’s walls were covered with the autographed pictures of it’s customers and it was a who’s who of great musicians dating from the swing era onward. Both Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton went there and supposedly it was Mr. Goldrich who turned them onto the wah-wah pedal. Just think about that . . .
John Sebastian, founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful, recalled in an interview how Mr. Goldrich helped him select the Gibson J-45 that he used on early Spoonful recordings like “Do You Believe in Magic?” He similarly matched James Taylor with a Martin acoustic guitar early in Taylor’s career and Sting used the Fender Strat that Henry Goldrich sold him to write “Message in a Bottle” and many other songs for the Police. Almost every weekend I would make the pilgrimage to Manny’s and the other stores on Music Row so I can look at the cool guitars, maybe even try a couple if the sales person was nice. Eventually, when I had saved enough to get my first good guitar, I bought it at Manny’s (a black Fender Telecaster with a maple neck, still have it too).

The history of music is filled with these small players in a big world whose importance to the way we enjoy music will never be fully appreciated. Thanks.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Equipment

“From My Window” . . . : Snow Music from Wire Wood & Steel

When I woke up this morning I saw that NYC was in the middle of a pretty decent snowfall. After the morning beverage, I began to play my guitar while looking out the window, not really thinking about what I was playing. After a while I realized that it wasn’t sounding too bad so I decided to just get out my iPhone and just tape what I was playing while looking out the window. Below are what I think were the best bits. Forgive the “oh so less then perfect” audio quality. This was was done very much on the fly as an experiment.


From My Window #1

From My Window #2

From My Window #3

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Improvisation, Jam Band

“Does Your Left Hand Know What The Right One Is Doing?” . . . : Mauro Giuliani 120 Right Hand Studies For Guitar

A bit of guitar geekness this month boys & girls . . .

One of my favorite guitarists, Charlie Hunter (see https://roymusicusa.com/2014/08/22/bing-bing-bing-bing-the-awesome-guitar-of-charlie-hunter/) said that the left hand of the guitarist is the “conception” hand but the right was the “execution” hand. As someone who started out playing guitar primarily with a pick, I spent most of my beginner years concentrating on what my left hand was doing. As I became interested in acoustic blues and folk via artists like Jorma Kaukonen (https://roymusicusa.com/2019/11/29/embryonic-journey-three-guitar-instrumentals-by-jorma-kaukonen/), I began to get into fingerpicking guitar styles and gradually developed some facility with my right hand. The music I’ve been working on lately will feature fingerstyle guitar prominently so I’ve been working on my right hand technique. That brings me to the videos below.

Mauro Giuliani (July 27, 1781 – May 8, 1829) was an Italian guitarist, cellist, singer, and composer and was a leading guitar virtuoso of the early 19th century. He hung out with the likes of Rossini and Beethoven and in his heyday in Vienna, his performances made him the darling of that city. His concert tours took him all over Europe where he was acclaimed for his virtuosity. He was a musical celebrity, right up there with the best of the many musicians who were active in the Austrian capital city at the beginning of the 19th century. His guitar pieces were published by the top Viennese music publishers to wide acclaimed. He also published works that were meant as study pieces, among them: 120 Right Hand Studies.

The studies are deceptively simple, a series of two measure “loops” that alternate between a C major chord and a G7, a simple I-V progression. But they quickly get your right hand fingers to move in patterns that will be unfamiliar and though they are simple, they are always musical. As I have worked through them, I have found myself entering an almost meditative state of mind as I play the two chord passages over and over, focusing my attention on the little details of my right hand technique. An added bonus of the videos below is that they have the studies in guitar tablature alongside the standard musical notation. Guitarist are notorious at being terrible at reading music (if being able to read music at all) so the tablature should make these studies available to guitarists of all skills.

Guitar Method:120 Right Hand Studies (Mauro Giuliani)

 

 

I consider myself an eternal student of music in general and the guitar in particular. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one too so I think you can see like I do the total coolness of something like this: it’s easy to grasp yet opens up a multitude of ways to become better at our craft.

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Posted in Classical, Guitar Logic

“Set Out Running” . . : Friend Of The Devil by Wire, Wood & Steel

I have previously posted about a new music project I’ve started called Wire, Wood & Steel (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/05/11/what-i-did-on-my-permanent-vacation-new-music-project/ and https://roymusicusa.com/2020/09/03/wire-wood-steel-an-new-acoustic-music-project/). After some delays I finally started recording and I thought I would share the first song, an instrumental cover of the Grateful Dead classic “Friend OF The Devil”.

I’ve written before on how the Dead were my entry point to a many different musical genres. Without the albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, I would not be making this music. Hope you like it.

Wire Wood & Steel – Friend Of The Devil

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Guitarist Tony Rice 1951 – 2020

On Christmas Day, 2020, guitarist Tony Rice passed away at the age of 69. Rice was a pivotal figure in bluegrass guitar. His music spanned from traditional bluegrass to jazz-influenced New Acoustic music to songwriter-oriented folk. I first became aware of him reading Guitar Player magazine who gave a glowing review to the 1977 album, The David Grisman Quartet, a landmark of acoustic string band music. The album was comprised of original material that blended jazz, bluegrass, and classical styles and totally blew me away and I became an immediate fan. The album became a huge influence on musicians like Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas and Mark O’Connor who all went on to create their own versions the music.

David Grisman Quartet – E.M.D. (David Grisman, Tony Rice, Mark O’Connor, & Rob Wasserman)

David Grisman Quintet Reunion – Swing 51 – Floyd Fest 2003

 

Before that, Rice, as an integral part of the bluegrass band JD Crowe and the New South, helped to define the template of the progressive bluegrass band with their highly influential, self-titled album for Rounder Records, known by its catalog serial number “oo44.”

In the early ‘80s, he made another classic record, “Church Street Blues,” which consisted of just himself on guitar, as well as records with his band, the Tony Rice Unit records and collaborations with Norman Blake, Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs and his brothers Larry Rice, Wyatt Rice and Ronnie Rice.

Tony Rice – Church Street Blues

 

The Tony Rice Unit – Blue Railroad Train

The Tony Rice Unit – Tipper

 

Tony Rice & Norman Blake – New River Train

Tony Rice – Gold Rush

 

Tony Rice & Friends – “White House Blues” ( Tony Rice, along with Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck & Mark Schatz,)

Tony Rice with Bela Fleck – Whitewater

Tony Rice & Friends –  “Freeborn Man”

 

Most Deadheads may be familiar with Tony Rice when Rice recorded what became the Pizza Tapes with Grisman and guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1993. The session recorded at Grisman’s studio was eventually officially released in 2000 after bootleg recordings circulated for several years. Strengthening the Dead connection, Rice came together with Peter Rowan for tours and albums, releasing the Quartet album on Rounder Records in 2006 with Bryn Davies and Sharon Gilchrist. Deadheads familiar with the Jerry Gracia bluegrass band Old and In The Way would be familiar with the material.

Peter Rowan – Tony Rice Cold Rain and Snow


Peter Rowan Tony Rice Quartet “Midnight Moonlight” 3/26/2005, Live Oak, FL


Peter Rowan Tony Rice Quartet “Hobo Song” 2/17/06 Asheville, NC


Peter Rowan – Tony Rice – Shady Grove

Time and touring took it’s toll on Tony Rice. In the 1990s, he was diagnosed with muscle tension dysphonia, which impaired his ability to sing. His last public vocal performance occurred in 1994. Eventually, other health complications forced Rice to stop playing guitar altogether with Rice’s induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall Of Fame in 2013 being his last public performance.

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“A Merry Jerry Holiday” . . . . . . . . : 25 Days Of Jerry

Happy Holidays everyone, we made it through a year in hell.

Weeping Willow Guitar Lessons is an excellent YouTube channel for Deadhead/ABB fan guitarists (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSqUU4fjNPVq6NvKtNIWKOQ). He’s been putting out some serious high quality content: solo transcriptions, breakdown of guitar parts and backing tracks. This year he did something really cool. Everyday for 25 days, he put out a video with a short Jerry Garcia solo transcribed in both music notation and guitar tablature. The transcription scrolls along the bottom of the screen while the solo is played so you can follow along. For the harder solos, he’ll repeat it at a slower tempo. Going through the solos can be a little work. A separate hard copy of the transcriptions would be handy as a reference but the process can provide a guitarist with a wealth of Jerry guitar vocabulary to study and absorb into your own playing.

25 Days Of Jerry (Weeping Willow Guitar Lessons) –

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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