Played some 'bursts for the first time

Discussion in 'Vintage Les Pauls' started by space_chase, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    so at the arlington guitar show this weekend, i had the pleasure of meeting tom wittrock. i'm sure many of you are aware of his mind-blowing les paul collection. he had a very unassuming booth near the corner of the convention hall, and i almost passed it until i realized he had one '58 and a '59 sitting on some cheap guitar stands. i found it cool that he had them out in the open. it pains me to see guitars locked away in glass cases.

    anyway, i walked up to him and we started shooting the breeze about old texas psych bands (the elevators, josefus, bubble puppy etc) and then he asked me if i'd ever played a real burst. the moment i'd been hoping for!! he sat me down and handed me the '58. unfortunately, i don't remember the serial number - from the ones i saw on his collector's page on the LPF, i think it was either 8-5388 or 8-5386.

    i figured it would be interesting to share my impressions of the '58. i very briefly strummed on "Donna" (CC#5), but i spent a good amount of time with the '58. now keep in mind, this is coming from the perspective of someone who loves the mystique and history of the sunburst les paul, without having actually played an original until now.

    disclaimer: i did not plug the guitar into an amp. i only played it acoustically. i realize that this can make a huge difference, but i've bought many guitars before without plugging them in. the overall "feel" of a guitar is the most important aspect of finding a good one - to me, anyways.

    -the neck on the '58 was surprisingly slim. i expected a very chunky neck, but the profile was almost exactly the same as my 2010 custom. very comfortable with a bit of shoulder, pretty much the same width all the way up and down the neck.

    -the string action was pretty dang low. too low for my tastes, honestly. no buzz, rang out clearly up and down, but quite low.

    -the guitar was very light. must've been around 8 pounds. again, not what i was expecting at all. it felt extremely solid, almost like a single piece of wood. kinda hard to describe.

    -the guitar's finish had worn to an interesting greenish-gold color (see the picture at the end for reference)

    -the tuning keys felt so, so smooth. i understand the gas for vintage kluson tuners now. tuning up and down was like turning a well-lubed volume pot.

    -the centralabs pots themselves had a good amount of resistance. they felt totally different than newer cts pots. all of the mechanical parts of this guitar felt like they were extremely accurately machined, like nothing was gonna fall off.

    this may be an unpopular opinion here, but it's the truth: after the initial elation (again, see the pic attached, lol) i was a bit underwhelmed. i've played lots of reissues that i would prefer playing over this burst. it was kind of a head-clearing moment for me, i realized that even if a guitar is a piece of history, it's gotta fit with the player. there's a great video of bernie marsden talking about reissues vs the real thing, and how he had a friend who had always preferred his old hagstrom to les pauls. i get it!

    i hope this is interesting to someone. i really enjoyed the guitar show. i met tom and really enjoyed his company, and i also met a wonderful guy named ryan who let me spend way too much time playing his '59 high powered tweed twin and all of his old guitars.

    tom took this picture of me when i first picked up the guitar - i'm sure i'm not the only one who has had the same reaction.

    IMG_9867.JPG

    :cheers2:
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  2. judson

    judson Senior Member

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    that is cool....others have said the same about the feel of the neck being thin or less chunky that what they expected, you can chalk off touching one from your bucket list,

    as much as my playing is limited i still would have liked to plug it in on barely audible volume but just enough to hear....that is great story:thumb:
     
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  3. kakerlak

    kakerlak Senior Member

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    That's pretty neat! My dad played in an old Texas psych band, lol.
     
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  4. Andy California

    Andy California Senior Member

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    Nice job :)

    A good eye opener :)
     
  5. Duane_the_tub

    Duane_the_tub Senior Member

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    Absolutely. This has also been my experience with vintage guitars. Of course there is something inherently cool about a 50-plus-year-old instrument (something that CANNOT be replicated, no matter how professionally "aged" a modern one is). But by no means does that instantly equate to a great guitar. My dad has a '57 goldtop that he has owned since he was a kid; I have played it for countless hours throughout my life, and honestly it can't hold a candle to my current No. 1 (a luthier-built replica). Is it worth 10 times more? Yes. But it's not as good, in the way it feels or the way it sounds.

    I thought about this when "Fried Okra" Kris flew all the way to Scotland to plunk down God-knows-how-much for the Kossoff Burst. Of course it's a piece of music history, one of the most famous guitars in existence, and massively valuable.

    But what if, when Kris finally picked it up and started playing it, it was a dog? :hmm:
     
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  6. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    which band? as a texan i always love finding obscure music from around here.

    exactly. there is such a massive amount of hype and almost mythological reverence for these guitars, it's hard to imagine finding one and not being somewhat disappointed. i am definitely thrilled that i got to experience playing one for a good while myself, but now that i have, i can't help but feel a little silly for obsessing about them without getting to even touch one in the past. but hey, it's all about perspective. 50 years of aging has a serious effect on an instrument, that can't be denied. some are willing to pay a premium for that, and that's their prerogative.

    about 15 minutes after playing the '58, i picked up a gretsch electromatic (about a $500 guitar) that felt 20x better to me than the 'burst. i can't imagine trying to justify a $250,000 guitar, unless i really had that much cash just burning a hole in my pocket. diminishing returns!
    :hmm:
     
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  7. chasenblues

    chasenblues Senior Member

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    :dunno: Never heard of him...





    :laugh2:
     
  8. kakerlak

    kakerlak Senior Member

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    Here you go: Lost in Space: The Epic Saga of Fort Worth's Space Opera



    My dad was a drummer -- he told me to be a guitar player when I told him I wanted to play drums as a kid.
     
  9. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    no way! i love this band! that is seriously too cool. i'm from fort worth so i've always loved bloodrock and space opera. tell your dad i think that he's an excellent drummer! my friends will get a kick out of this too. thanks for sharing!
     
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  10. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    just a little aside here... i definitely understand the reverence for '59 tweed twins. that amp was magical. the dynamics and response to picking and fretting technique were unbelievable. ryan, who i mentioned earlier, found it at an old man's garage sale in a shed with cans of old rusty nails perched on top. he bought it for $10 - let that one sink in!
     
  11. cousingrandpa

    cousingrandpa Senior Member

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    I have played many vintage Gibsons & Fenders, lots of Les Pauls, SG's & strats. None have been even close to my R9 in any aspect, others have said the same of mine. Found quiet a few that I really liked, one particular 56 at Mike's Music in Cincinnati that was beet to hell & played incredibly & was a Les Paul version of SRV's strat, really wanted to bring that one home. Unplugged it sounded identical to my R9. I do like the vintage Fenders better than the new Fenders though.
     
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  12. MonsterPaul

    MonsterPaul Senior Member

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    Tom is a great guy and one of the most knowledgeable vintage guitar dealers on the planet. If you have spent anytime researching and or looking vintage Gibson, his name comes close if not at the top of the list. I cannot think of anyone that would let a complete stranger play any his guitars north of $500K and not bat an eyelash. More dealers should follow his lead. If it wasn't for him, I would never have laid my hands on an original burst. Thanks, Tom...
     
  13. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    i've only ever seen bursts in cases or on stands that are obviously for display only, so i was shocked to see tom's just sitting out in the open. a very down to earth guy. i'm sure anybody who is decent to him would get a chance to play one of his guitars.
     
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  14. NINFNM

    NINFNM Member

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    I like that
     
  15. sws1

    sws1 V.I.P. Member

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    Sounds like you were looking for a 10lb, fat neck, easy knob turning, difficult to tune guitar.
     
  16. Truth011

    Truth011 Senior Member

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    What a class act to let a complete stranger hold and play a vintage burst. We all owe a debt of gratitude to guys like him.
     
  17. space_chase

    space_chase Junior Member

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    the weight, neck, tuners i all really enjoyed. just wasn't the guitar for me. kinda toward the top of my budget, too ;)
     
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  18. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Tom is the nicest guy you'd ever meet and his attitude towards guitars , old and new is exactly on the mark IMHO, always has been. I've only met him once in person and I haven't played any of his guitars but I'm going to be the guy stating the obvious (at least to me): If you ever come across a truly exceptional Burst there is nothing that will come even remotely close. Check my posts on this or the other forums, I'm not a vintage nut, far from it but if you get to play an exceptional example and are underwhelmed you're not doing it right. Take it from a guy who's played his fair share of underwhelming vintage guitars.
     
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  19. Kris Ford

    Kris Ford Senior Member

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    Very cool!

    Semi related..I LOOOOOVE STONE AXE!!!



    The break down in this is just SICK.
     
  20. etzeppy

    etzeppy Senior Member

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    Tom is a great dude and always brings of couple of his vintages pieces to the show. Did you see the 60 burst in the other hall? It was in the Case Candy booth. They let me play that one for a bit. Really fast, smooth neck. It had stainless frets, which seemed like an odd choice for a vintage burst, but it did play well.
     

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