Lanes Laire's Guitars: An Historical Journey (with stories, of course!)
I have to admit I've been putting off writing this guitar history blog because I knew it was going to be a daunting task. But fear not, I promised to deliver...so here you are! There are quite a few to talk about so I figure the best approach is keeping it as chronological as possible. So guitar nerds, nerdettes and music lovers alike, enjoy!
IN THE BEGINNING.....
When I was 13 years old, I found an old acoustic guitar stuffed in the hallway closet. The case was beat up, the guitar had a couple of cracks and it didn't have all its strings. It was an old Kay steel string acoustic circa late 1930's. The guitar was given to my dad from his dad in the early 1940's. My dad didn't play so it just traveled along wherever he moved. And now...I was its saving grace. We took the guitar to Larry Larson Music Studio in Glendale CA and they fixed it up and put new strings on it. Thus, my illustrious music career was born.
Back in the day, it seemed all wannabe guitar players taught themselves the chord progression for Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple, but the first song I taught myself was Day Tripper by The Beatles. I continued to teach myself until about 2-3 months later when I started taking guitar lessons from a guy who came to my grammar school. Finally, I enrolled at the Southern California Conservatory of Music and studied traditional and contemporary jazz (parent's curriculum choice, of course).
And as any budding rock star figures out early on, you gotta get an electric guitar! I know I always say my Fender Stratocaster (which I will get into detail later) was my first electric guitar, I did have one before...a Sears guitar paired with a Sears amp. Yea, I know...Sears, not exactly known for its guitars, but for $40 bucks it was great. I bought it off a kid who lived down the street. Below is the only picture I have of that guitar. My friend Chris played the Sears guitar and I'm playing the Flying V (story coming up soon!). I was always on top of fashion...look how well the "Disco Sucks" t-shirt matches the straw cowboy hat! Anyway, I don't have any pics of that Sears amp but I scoured the internet and found something pretty close.
The Sears guitar was super thin, super light and very minimal tone control, but it was an electric! I remember playing it in church a couple of times in 8th grade. I ended up selling the guitar and amp. Why did I sell it?? Because I happened to see this ad on the back of BAM Magazine:
I saw this and immediately fell in love. This was it!! The holy grail of all guitars! There wasn't any other guitar I wanted. Of course, I'm just a kid and couldn't afford it. My guitar teacher (from the Conservatory) worked at a music store in Van Nuys CA called LeDonne's Music (long gone) and said they were having a one-day 50% off everything in the store sale. I pleaded with my dad to buy this guitar so we went that night about a half hour before the store closed. My dad paid a whopping $466.40 for a brand new Fender 25th Anniversary Stratocaster. Needless to say, to this day the guitar has been my main go-to for almost everything I have recorded and/or played.
The Strat is truly a part of my being. Maybe it's not as valuable as David Gilmour's black Strat, but the guitar is priceless to me. It's my first born....my loyalest friend.
THE COLLECTION BEGINS...
Now, this is important to note. Every guitar that a guitarist buys has a specific purpose. This is what we tell ourselves and that's our story and we stick to it...period. With that in mind, let us continue...
I had a fascination for Flying V guitars. I think the same kid that I bought that Sears guitar from told me about this other guy in the neighborhood who was selling a Flying V. We walked a mile or two to this guy's house and when we walked in, the first thing we saw was a giant poster of Jimi Hendrix. The guy was proud of his poster but when I said I didn't know who Jimi Hendrix was he couldn't believe it. He was so offended. After a quick Jimi history lesson he showed me his Flying V guitar. It was a no name copy, but man, it was so cool! I think he wanted $100 dollars for it but ended up selling it for...maybe $95.00?? Anyway, I had a Flying V!
The gig pic below is at Madame Wong's West in Santa Monica CA. Still in high school, this was our first gig. The band was called EFXX and later became Nirvana (I can do a whole blog about that story). Again, my fashion sense is uncanny as I borrowed the shirt from the drummer's wife. We were all underage playing in a 21 and over club and they banned us from being anywhere near the bar though the lead singer, who was the youngest, tried to convince the bartender otherwise. Pretty hilarious. Also on the bill that night were two other bands...The Plimsouls and The Furys. You'll hear more about The Furys later in the blog.
I don't remember exactly why or how I got interested in bass, but what I do remember is drooling over this gorgeous Rickenbacker 4001 I saw at Guitar Center...tuxedo white with a black pick guard. Classy, exquisite, and frikkin' heavy! Being in 10th grade, I had to borrow money from my mother (not a fun task) and bought the bass.
I had it for two or three years when I decided to trade it in for a "real" Gibson Flying V. I still loved V's and always wanted an authentic Gibson. I took the Ricky to a music shop and made the trade for a Gibson Flying V2, plus paying an additional $200.00. Even though I loved that bass and was hesitant to do the trade, I did it. As time went on I regretted it. I found out later on that the tuxedo white version was rare and sought after so that put even more salt in the wound. Not that the V2 was a bad trade because it's now a collector's item, but I do miss that Rickenbacker. I even did a serial number search to see if I could track it down but no luck. I know...get over it. And actually I'm ok because that V2 really does rock and I'm glad it's part of my arsenal.
There are more basses in my guitar history so I'll do a bass only section later on in this blog. The action shot below was taken at a gig around LA quite a few years ago. They sure got one hell of a show!
As time went on and guitar technology advanced, I found myself getting into guitar synthesis. Roland had come out with the G-707, this funky looking guitar controller which had this giant 25 pin cable as the guitar chord. The cable went into a synthesizer floor unit (Roland GR700) with pedals that you stepped on to change sounds and do other "synthy" things. You can play the guitar like a normal guitar or choose only synth sounds or combine both. Pretty high tech!
Even though this was the best on the market at the time, there were a couple of flaws. One was a latency issue, or slight delay of sound when you hit a note so you had to be aware of that when playing. The other issue was if you broke a string, the entire guitar went out of tune and that meant death to your synth sounds. Anything you played was completely at the wrong pitch. I learned that the hard way during a live gig.
The solution was to buy another G-707 guitar controller as a backup. So I had a black guitar and a silver guitar. Roland made this guitar in only three colors...silver (most popular), black (a bit more rare) and red (very rare). A few years later I saw someone selling a red G-707 on eBay so I bought it to complete the color collection. Again, like I stated before...there is a purpose for every guitar I buy.
By the way, the extra black bar attached from the body to the headstock is called a "stabilizing bar" that was supposed to keep the neck from unnecessary vibration and make the synth pickup track better. Maybe a gimmick, but obviously Howard The Duck didn't think so! My three triplets are still with me.
After that last prog rock band I took a break from the music scene but then came back with a country vengeance! Yup....yeehaw country. I even took a trip to Nashville and set up meetings with record execs and shopped my demo. I also played in all the famous clubs out there like the Bluebird Cafe. Before the trip, I had recently purchased a Gibson Chet Atkins nylon string acoustic/electric solid body from ABC Music in Burbank CA. And off to Nashville we went.
I was doing country blues and did a coffeehouse tour. Playing coffeehouses was the "in" thing and actually made some money between being paid by the coffeehouses and also the tip jar. Got to play with some cool cats like Leo LeBlanc, a fantastic dobro player who played on countless rock and country albums.
While doing a country open mic night at a bar called The Butcher's Arms in Burbank CA (torn down and replaced by a mall a couple of years later), I saw this acoustic three piece called The Horse Soldiers. At first I didn't know what to make of it. They dressed up in Civil War outfits and sang songs from that era. I was intrigued. Shortly after I saw them, their 12-string guitarist quit so I asked if I could jam with them and the next thing I know I was a member of The Horse Soldiers.
I decided to pick up a cheap 12-string for $120.00 to fill that gap. It was an Arbor, a brand I never heard of and not an easy guitar to navigate around. There was no pickup so I bought a Dean Markley acoustic pickup that fit in the sound hole which did the trick.
I was NOT used to playing a 12-string so my approach was the following rule...anything I can do on a six string, I can do it on a 12-string. Obviously, there are things like true string bends that just don't work on a 12-string, but I figured out ways to get around issues. The pics below are when I toured the Southwest with The Horse Soldiers. Before we toured the other guitarist left so for a while we were only a duo. Luckily my skills on the 12-string improved greatly and somebody gave me a crazy nickname that stuck...the "12-Stringer Slinger." Too frikkin' funny!
The Arbor served its purpose but I needed a better 12-string guitar. My old bass player from the LA prog rock days called me and told me about this 12-string cutaway in the used guitar section at Guitar Center. I went down to check it out and $600.00 later I became the proud owner of a Washburn Newport 12-string acoustic/electric, circa 1991. What a great find! Like the Strat, this 12-string is my go-to when it comes to an acoustic guitar. In fact, I feel more comfortable playing a 12-string acoustic than I do a 6-string acoustic. The Washburn is all over the 11:11 album.
Now, I've never owned a high quality 6-string acoustic guitar that was a steel string. I really loved the sound of my Washburn and I knew there were 6-string versions of it so I was on the hunt. I finally found the perfect 6-string...with one little minor alteration....it has a 12-string attached. An acoustic doubleneck?? Awesome...so I bought it!
Here's the cool thing about this guitar. It was only manufactured during a four year period (1996-2000). The serial number makes this #35 off the assembly line so it's one of the first. The list price when it came out was $19,999.99. No, that's not a typo. Insanely expensive! And no, I didn't pay anything near that. Although a bit wide and better to play standing than sitting, it's actually easier to play than it looks. And it sounds just as fantastic as the Newport.
There is one more decent 12-string that's part of the collection. I picked up this Martin in Boise Idaho. I needed a 12-string out there since I had some gigs lined up. It's not one of the fancy, really expensive ones, but has a nice warm tone and the action on it feels really good under your fingers.
Since I don't shy away from guitar oddities, this next one is definitely no exception. I wanted a practice guitar I could leave at RRP Studios in Sedona where I do a lot of music work. I found another doubleneck acoustic made by Busuyi, except it was a flipper...6-string on one side and a 12-string on the other! Very novel and picked it up cheap because the guy who owned it couldn't wait to get rid of it. Granted it's funky but it serviced its purpose. I am considering parting it from the collection so if anyone is interested in owning a guitar from the Lanes Laire collection, hit me up!
SHE'S A BASS!
Aside from the Rickenbacker regret story, I didn't start playing bass professionally until I was asked to play bass for the newly reformed post punk/new wave band The Furys (remember I mentioned them earlier?). The Furys were very popular back in the late '70's through mid-'80's. I had acquired a cool Peavey Millennium BXP Quilted Tiger Eye 5 string bass. I always felt most comfortable with the 5 string, though would take my Ricky back in a heartbeat.
I wanted to up my game so I was looking for another 5-string bass and came across a gorgeous 6-string Carvin LB76 custom bass at a really great price. A six string? Hmmm...guitar oddity? I'll take it! The bass had a good sound but the low note sustain was a little bit lacking. The pics are from a gig we did in downtown LA sponsored by LA Weekly.
Both the Peavey and Carvin were fun basses to play but I eventually sold them. In the meantime, I was talking to a bass player friend of mine and he told me about this crazy bass made by Warwick. It originally was a gift made by a Japanese company to honor them on their 30th anniversary but then Warwick actually made a few of these "W" basses. I managed to track one down and bought it from a shop in Japan. I used this bass at church gigs so it was affectionately dubbed the "Worship" bass.
Most bass players don't take this guitar seriously but it did have authentic Warwick electronics so it sounded pretty good. I used it a few times but decided to sell it for another 5-string.
I happened to receive an email from Ibanez about their latest line of basses and they had a beautiful 5-string which caught my eye immediately. I was able to track down a used one at a good price and bought it. Looks great, sounds great, plays great...super nice!
This bass is pretty awesome so it will remain in the Lanes Laire collection. And just when you thought you were safe...........
Guitar oddity strikes again! I had seen this crazy custom built 9-string bass that was both fretted and fretless. It was a 5-string fretted bass AND a 4-string fretless. Never saw anything like it. Then by chance I saw that Ibanez had come out with their own fretted/fretless hybrid bass.....the 7-string Ashula SRA7-DEB. I always wanted to play a fretless bass, but to have both on one instrument...genius! And as fate would have it, I found a used one, well technically used. The guy who owned it never played it. I guess the hybrid was a bit too overwhelming so I got a great deal.
I didn't care for the factory string configuration especially since this was a 4-string fretted/3-string fretless bass. The fretless was strung A-D-G, dumping the low E and the fretted was strung E-A-D-G. I decided to dump the G strings completely and re-string as E-A-D for the fretless and B-E-A-D for the fretted. The wider neck and lowest string in the center of the neck took a little getting used to but it's a pretty brilliantly designed bass. I actually go from fretted to fretless in the same song and it's seamless. I love having that option right at your fingertips. Really happy with this hybrid bass and it's also a keeper.
And that, my friends is Lanes Laire's Guitar History.....for now. I know there are other guitars I NEED that must be added to the collection, which will serve a purpose for the greater good of all mankind! I hope you had a fun time reading this as much as I did putting it together. Daunting...yes. Enjoyable...absolutely!!