Where Gibson Meets Fender

This is the 56 Bassman I just bought. It's got to be a 9.0 or better. It's got the wrong speakers in it right now but I can fix that. Other than that it is totally original down to the smallest resistor.

Buying and selling guitars and amps is not my real business. I don’t make a living from it and that’s OK. I get other good things from it. Yesterday, I hit the road for Rhode Island to pick up a 1956 Fender Bassman. I like a good road trip and even though this one was pretty short by road trip standards, it was still nearly 6 hours in a car. I like going to new places-especially small towns and I always enjoy meeting musicians and ex-musicians. Invariably, I get a little bit of history and sometimes a little glimpse into the musicians life on the road that I, perhaps wisely, turned away from at the age of 18.  At that time I saw a rock and roll life on the road-not a rock stars life but a working musician. I had played in bands since I was 12 and eventually got into a band that had something of a future. But circumstances and immaturity (and then maturity) sent me to college and another life altogether. That’s another story for another time. “Welcome to Portsmouth.” I read the sign as I drove along what looked like one long strip mall-the same as just about every small city in the East. I was to go to the home of the seller – one “RodneyStrat” according to his Ebay name.  I already have one tweed Bassman. It’s too big, too loud and too valuable to take anywhere but there is no better amp in the world. It’s no wonder Jim Marshall used it as the template for his first successful amp-the JTM 45. I really didn’t need another one but I think they are a great investment and I believe that no matter what the boutique makers do, the Fender tweed will never be out of vogue. This was a 2 hole 56 that had been owned by the late blues violinist Don “Sugar Cane” Harris and then by the seller – a lifelong sideman. He showed me a spectacularly sweet sounding ’59 ES-345 that he bought for $300 somewhere on the road.  It has an extra hole for a coil tap and was not in very good shape but what a player. I couldn’t pry it from his hands but he knew I wanted it.  There is nothing like a PAF equipped guitar through a tweed Bassman. I played for 15 or 20 minutes and then we made our transaction and I was about to leave and he asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee and I said sure and sat down at the kitchen table. Rodney told me a bit about life on the road here and in Europe where he travelled with CJ Chenier’s band. Stories like Rodney’s always remind me that the choice of a stable, somewhat domestic life was a good one and that life on the road, while usually pretty eventful, is not always so good. Not that I’ve stayed at home for the past 40 years. I did spend some time covering wars in the Middle East and other places when I was with ABC but mostly, I’ve been a 9 to 5er. Before I left Rodney showed me some YouTube clips of him playing and I was instantly embarrassed by my mediocre playing. The dude could wail. Go to YouTube and search for Rodney Bartholemew. Interesting guy and a pretty fair bluesman himself.

Rodney Bartholemew plays \”Hideaway\”

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