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Things to Do (During a Pandemic)

Watch some old episodes of “Shindig” or “Hullabaloo” from the mid 60’s. Why aren’t the Hermits’ guitars plugged in? Because there aren’t any amps…it was all lip synched).

Well, this is week number 4 that I’ve been conscientiously social distancing. A few trips to my shop to finish clearing out before my lease expires at the end of the month and one big trip to the local Stop and Shop for groceries and that’s about the extent of my travels. Binge watched “Ozark” and “Unorthodox” and am working on the Aussie quasi soap opera “A Place Called Home”. Oh, and there are guitars here. What to do.

Play. Just sit down and don’t just noodle the stuff you always play. Go to You Tube and learn a new song. Download some blues jams and try to break out of your old habits (I really need to do this). Or just practice your scales and picking. Learn to finger pick if you don’t already do it. Learn alternate tunings (which I’ve never really done other than drop D). For me, I’ve never been able to master any Steely Dan, so I’m going to try to learn a few of my old favorites. My up/down picking can always use a little more practice (I’ve got 55 years of bad habits-I only took lessons for 6 months when I was 11). You a blues player? Play some Bluegrass. A rocker? Learn some country licks. Put aside some time every day to play. I’m lucky to have a space where I can play and not wake anybody up. Play loud-just for fun. If you play sitting down, stand up. If you play standing, sit down. Mix it up. Play along with a favorite song and imagine you’re a rock star. You know you want to-even old guys like me never lose the dream.

Social Media. Post some of your favorite guitars on social media. Sharing your gear with others is a good way to make some new friends. OK, there’s a few douchebags out there who will tell you that your 66 is really a 69 or that the neck pickup looks like a t-top but mostly, everybody is nice. Go to You Tube and look for old footage of your favorite band from your favorite decade. I spent a couple hours watching old “Shindig”, “Hullabaloo” and “Where the Action Is” episodes. For anybody under 60, those were after school American Bandstand type programming with go-go dancers and big pop stars mostly lip synching their hits in black and white (man, I feel old). They aired from around mid 64 until late 66 or early 67. Watch some music documentaries. Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” is wonderful. “The Wrecking Crew” is worth watching as well and there are lots of others.

Maintenance. Change your strings for crying out loud. What’s it been, six months? A year? And oil the fingerboard while you’re at it. Your guitar will thank you. Lube the tuners-nobody ever does this and spray the pots with some De-ox-it. How about you go and clean some of the gunk off your guitars as well. If you’re a gigging musician, you aren’t gigging at the moment and you’ve sweated all over your guitar for long enough. Virtuoso Cleaner is a good product. I’m sure you can order it online. Just let the box sit in the garage for a day or two or open it with your gloves on. This virus knows where you live and will wait you out.

Finally, go and buy yourself a “new” guitar or amp. You know it and I know that nothing makes you feel better than a new piece of gear. I’ve sold an astonishing number of vintage guitars and amps in the last few weeks and while everyone seems to be crying gloom and doom for the vintage market, some folks are taking advantage of that by making offers and getting some deals. A new amp will make you happy and not cost you an arm and probably both legs. I just bought a 70 Marshall JMP 50 because my 55 Twin wasn’t loud enough. Can’t afford vintage? I also bought a 3 Monkeys “Virgil” (best boutique amp out there). Or get an old Supro. A few hundred bucks for a whole new experience.

There’s lots to do at home. Just stay there until this is over. Somebody’s life depends on it. Maybe even yours.

Bored after a few weeks of social distancing? Buy yourself some “new” gear. Here’s a 69 335 in factory black. It will make you feel much better about being cooped up in your tiny apartment or your manor house.

3 Responses to “Things to Do (During a Pandemic)”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, great “sheltering in place” git-tar suggestions as always. I’ve been doing many of those as well as spending time noodling with overdrive pedal and amp settings… I love that cheesy old photo of Hermans Hermits! Not many folks even knew what an electric guitar was back then. (My grandma thought you plugged the guitar into the wall outlet!)
    The photo reminds me of the well-known photo showing Elvis strumming an unplugged P-Bass! All- take heart, we’ll get through this! In the meantime play yer git-tar and stay safe, RAB

  2. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Charlie – Thanks for sharing and my condolences for your having to close down your shop. It’s great to hear your inspiring thoughts and suggestions as we all hunker down.

    I have a recommendation for you to watch on Youtube if you haven’t already discovered them: episodes of a 1966 show out of Nashville called “The !!!! Beat” (yes, 4 exclamation points) hosted by R&B jock Bill “Hoss” Allen, a number of which feature Freddie King. Not Shelter Records-era, polyester-wearing King, but processed hair, sharkskin suit-attired Freddie, his thumb and fingerpick combo teasing licks out of one of your FAVORITE guitars: a stoptail watermelon red, long-guard ES-345. Oh my! And because it’s 1966, a band in matching double breasted blazers AND go-go dancers!! Enjoy and keep the faith!

  3. davek says:

    Good advice Charlie.

    After fixing the shed, the fence and the other jobs I’ve sworn for years never to have the time for, I tackled the worst job of all. Restrung the 1968 ES335 12 string – sheer torture, with the reward that the narrow neck is still impossible to cleanly fret a chord!!! Oh well you did warn about these years ago so its my own fault to have bought it cos it looks so cool with its giant headstock!!!

    Thanks for the Hermits pic, which may have solved a bit of a mystery for me. I bought, on consignment through a top London dealer, Karl Green’s (The Hermits bass player, still touring incidentally) minty 65 CAR Strat. Your pic shows that he’s a lefty, which I didn’t realise, and helps explain its virtually unplayed condition.

    Even in lockdown, your blog just keeps giving enlightenment!!!!

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