Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Collard Greens and Gravy

This is another one of those ancient reviews of mine that disappeared along with The Delta Snake website and I thought maybe had disappeared for good. Even though I had the foresight to print off my website submissions back in the day, it didn't mean that I was diligent as far as where I stuck those bits and pieces and it has taken me awhile to find this one back again.

I fell under the spell of Australian Ian Collard's harp tone as soon as I heard the first fat licks that he was slammin' down on his band's first CD called Collard Greens and Gravy. I had ordered both this 1999 release and the 2000 follow-up called More Gravy and was absolutely blown away by the talents of these Aussie blues guys. Even though I've bought literally hundreds of CDs since then, these two stay close to my stereo just to remind me of what Collard can get going with a harp in his mouth.

Soon after the release of these two gems, the trio ventured to Memphis and impressed the masses assembled for the International Blues Competition and claimed the 2nd place prize (I wasn't there, but I can't see anyone beating them). A few years later, they made their way back to the U.S. and flew into Houston and added to the substantial talent that gathered for one of Sonny Boy Terry's Harmonica Blowouts and I got a chance to hang with this harpmaster for a short time. My buddy, Stephen Schneider rounded up a few additional gigs for them, including an outstanding harmonica clinic conducted by Ian for our local HOOT (Harmonica Organization of Texas) chapter. He solidified my opinion of his skills during his stay and I found him to be a darned nice guy.
So, without further ado, here's the review from back in the day:

Collard Greens and Gravy
Collard Greens and Gravy
More Gravy
Black Market Music

Don't know for sure, but there must be a Delta somewhere in Australia that rivals the Mississippi to conjure up music with this level of conviction and emotion. This trio of musicians have the mojo in their souls and it literally oozes out of these two releases.

Collard Greens and Gravy get a pretty darn full sound and makes plenty of racket with just harmonica, guitar and drums laying out a pattern of music that is solidly built on the tradition of the Mississippi modal structure and Chicago blues blasting. They cover songs by R.L. Burnsides, Little Son Jackson, Skip James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and add a heaping helping of original material. Led by frontman Ian Collard, they prove once more that blues is definitely a state of mind and not a state of geography. Collard is one of the most exciting harp blowers to come along in quite some time. He takes the harp and pulls just about all the tone that you can get out of every reed on the instrument before the songs on these two CDs are finished. He gives lessons in just how far the harp reeds can be bent up, down and maybe sideways, because he gets some sounds that elude most harpmen. Some of the tones will have the hair on back of the neck sit up. He has a way of keeping any amplified tone from getting boring and far from stale. It doesn't matter if he hits on licks that may have been applied a time or two throughout recorded blues harp history, because it is the way that he attacks the instrument that is so fascinating and tonally satisfying. Check out what he does to the original, The Wind Is Blowing, on the first disc, where he uses most of the entire harp to get his message across. Or where his resonant tone with tons of sustain plays the middle harp notes effectively on Circles Going Round (which contain some of his best lyrical ideas).

Well, I can go on forever about Collard's harp playing and it is the focus of CG&G's sound, but they are a band and guitarist James Bridges and drummer Anthony Shortte are just as much an important part of the sound machine. Bridges proves that he can pull out the blues grooves regardless of which way Collard wants to head. He attacks Little Walter's Hate To See You Go (1st CD) with some mighty fine bending that is sweet, helps propel Bo Diddley's Pretty Thing into the rhythmic grind called for (2nd CD) and gets some real, authentic, traditional slide worked up on quite a few numbers such as; She's Gonna To Take Sick And Die (1st CD), More Gravy (2nd Cd) and Out In The Desert (1st CD). Of course, without a bass carrying the bottom, he must use a pretty rhythmic style of playing to keep things kicking, which he does quite well with Shortte's able stick swinging, which is inventive and full of plenty of variety to drive this trio's sound. Many harpmen will profess to using the drummer's cadence to bounce their licks off of, hence a drummer many times is the blues harp's most important element in finding the right mojo. Shortte proves on every song that Collard has a well chosen man on the drum kit to propel the CG&G in the direction they aim and the target that they hit.

Collard has a fine voice chock full of emotional aspects needed to get the blues across with conviction. He gets a little affective on a song or two (such as emulating Skip James on Sick Bed Blues), but for the most part his vocals are as tonal as his harp playing is. He does the dark, brooding, pleading side of the human condition exceptionally well. (Back in the day, I was taken to task for my opinion of his Skip James affectation and the taskmaster was right. Collard does nail down the soul of the song with his vocal shift).

Hard to pick one CD over the other. They could have just as well been packaged as a double disc because they are so closely akin to each other and that tells me that this is what they are all about and plan to be about. Consider the latter release, More Gravy, as just a sequel that works was well as the first.

These guys do it up right and anyone that has pressed the Mississippi saxophone to their lips and tried to suck and blow tones from it must check out these two releases. They are keepers. Anyway--there it is as it was, but...

Since this was written the band has released a couple of additional CDs on the Black Magic Label. Silverbirdd (2004) builds on groove that the band established with the CDs reviewed here, but with tunes that are all Ian Collard originals except for three cuts. He also debuts his considerable skills as a guitarist and bounces ideas back and forth with Bridges. There are a few less harp driven numbers as a result, but as a result there is also a bit more variety thrown into the mix. A little Hill Country blues mixes and meshes with those Delta sounds that were highlighted before. It is tough today to get something original going with the blues, but Collard's writing, singing and blowing along with the CG&G groove certainly puts a nice spin on the genre.

Many harp fans are going to quibble with the release of Devil In The Woodpile, that Collard has forsaken that deep, fat toned amplified harp tone for its prequel in capturing what CG&G was hinting at on the previous release. They are stomping out the sounds of the hypnotic, groove driven, Mississippi Hill Country Blues which is not known for harp tones in general, but Collard is slapping the harp down and making it fit along with his rhythm and slide guitar. So, yeah, there is a bit less harp going on, but he does get the wild thang going when he does get going. This is just Hill Country Blues according to Collard Greens and Gravy and they get it right.

They put out Live At The Northcote Social Club, that took me a bit of tracking down to get it in my hands, that captures the band in all their glory last April. Great stuff, there. I finally found it at The band has a website at and pages at and Go there to listen to their music and view videos and you won't be disappointed. Tell 'em Ricky sent you. Anyway--

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jan Reid & Redneck Rock

The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock
By Jan Reid
Photos by Scott Nelson
New Edition-2004
400 pp., 77 b&w illus
University of Texas Press

I don't know how I missed this book when it was released back in 1974. As a student journalist, I was a Texas Monthly subscriber and a fan of Jan Reid's articles. I guess it was because I was still a college student at Southwest Texas State University and didn't enter bookstores unless it was to buy or sell back a textbook that I was required to read. It might have been that I was still a member of the music fan base that he was documenting in his book, so I was kind of living what he was writing about. Regardless, I really wasn't aware of this book until my son-in-law, Brad Knapp, loaned me a copy of the updated version that was released in 2004 (I was clueless as to that release also). So, I'm kinda catching up with what is definitely a must read for anyone hanging out anywhere near Central Texas during the late '60s through the '70s and witnessed the development of this musical history. It is also a must read for anyone with the least curiosity as to just what was going on back in the day.

The value of the book for me is the fact that as I read the chapters, in many cases, I could actually say, "Yeah, I was there that night!". Or, "Oh yeah, I still have that Willis Alan Ramsey record." Jan Reid has documented a good part of what I was doing during my leisure time--listening to some of the greatest musicians playing in our great state at the time. Of course, in many cases we had no clue of just how successful some of these folks would become, but when they did it was no surprise.

While reading Reid's book, it brought back long forgotten memories of venues such as the Soap Creek Saloon (where Doug Sahm held court), Rome Inn (where the T-Birds & Stevie Ray put it down), the Broken Spoke (where Asleep at the Wheel & Alvin Crow kicked it up), Luckenbach (where Jerry Jeff Walker hung his hat), the Armadillo World Headquarters (where I saw ZZTop play for $3) and many more. Even though San Marcos is not mentioned much in his book, venues such as the Nickle Keg Saloon, the Cheyenne Social Club and Cheatham Street Warehouse were on most of the artist's circuit route. So, when he mentions someone such as Rusty Weir, I can still see him doing his thing at the Nickle Keg almost on a weekly basis and Freda and the Firedogs (Marcia Ball) frequenting somewhere in the city at least monthly. So, I can relate to this book on a personal basis.

The real value for music fans are the plethora of interviews conducted by Reid back in the day. We get to know Michael Murphey (the original Cosmic Cowboy), Rusty Weir, Kinky Friedman, Kenneth Threadgill, Steve Fromholz, Willis Alan Ramsey, Jerry Jeff Walker, BW Stevenson and many, many more as they were in the early '70s when they were beginning to make some noise on the scene. Having witnessed that noise and reading these pages, I feel like I actually know these guys. Wonderful stuff.

The book is not just a reprint. Reid revised this edition by adding additional information to his original observations and including four additional chapters that pulls the story into the late '70s and beyond. Of particular interest to us blues fans is the Part Four section detailing the blues revival sparked by the Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson/Jimmy Vaughan and the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble.

So, if you were there, then you have got to get your hands on a copy of this book and take a deja vu trip to back in the day. If you weren't there, then you owe it to yourself to discover a marvelous period in the history of Texas music. Thanks, Brad! Anyway--

I think you can order directly from this site:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rob Roy Parnell & The Navasota Bluesfest

I met Rob Roy Parnell one night over in Bryan, Texas at the Third Floor Cantina (same place that I met Sam Myers & Eddie C. Campbell--wish someone over there booked up the blues like they did back in the day). I mentioned in an earlier post about also meeting Johnny Moeller, who was playing guitar with him that night. They played a crackling set that night and we chatted between sets and after the gig we swapped phone numbers when my intentions to write an article about his exploits became clear. When I called him on his cell, he insisted on calling me back on his "dime" as they were pulling out of Corpus Christi the morning after a gig. We covered quite of bit of territory while they were covering quite a bit of territory between Corpus and San Antonio.

When I wrapped up writing the article, Rob Roy suggested sending it into the Allman Brothers' unofficial official magazine called Hittin' The Note. I told him that I would try Blues Access magazine first, since they published my Sam Myers story. They agreed to publish the article, so I submitted it and sat back and waited for word on which issue to expect it to appear in print. The magazine fell into the same type of schedule as the other two major blues magazines and was published on a bi-monthly basis. I remained fairly patient, until so much time passed that I decided that contact was needed, plus they had hired a new managing editor that maybe needed a reminder that my article was in the magazine's hands. So, I contacted the new guy (who'll remain nameless) and was assured that Rob Roy's article would see print in the next issue. Good! The issue came in without a whiff of my stuff and I re-connected with the managing editor, who assured me that it just had to be bumped for good reason. Can't remember now what that was, but long story short is that my story still hadn't seen the light of day a year after submission.

Rob Roy suggested Hittin' The Note again and I agreed. I contacted the managing editor by e-mail and explained that it was not quite fair to keep delaying the debut of the article and that after a year, it definitely needed updating and that I had other placement options, so I would just like to have it back. I think I came off as being quite irritated and the reply suggested that I not to tell him how to do his job and that the article was not really up to snuff by their standards anyway, so they had no use for it. So, Hitting' The Note, issue 32, Fall 2001 ran the article on Rob Roy Parnell as a companion piece to an article on his brother Lee Roy Parnell. Sweet!

So, whenever Rob Roy is booked to play the Navasota Bluesfest (honoring Mance Lipscomb's memory), which is 30 miles from my house, I try to make it over to say hello and touch base and did so yesterday (July 9th). I talked my fifteen year old son John into going with me and he was less than enthused, but agreeable to checking it out with me and since he is beginning to show an interest in picking the guitar, I felt he should. I also decided not to subject him to more than a couple of the preceding acts that I felt were representative of good, solid blues musicians.

We arrived at the tail end of Sweet Mama Cotton's solo piano set and she was sounding pretty good wrapping up with some salacious ain't the meat, but the motion and such. As we were standing in line for barbeque, I recognized Bernie Pearl, long time West Coast blues musician, standing in front of us and I introduced myself and my son. He knew that I knew a thing or two about what he does when I mentioned his deceased partner of years past, Harmonica Fats. He had brought his son and daughter-in-law along with him and promised to do his best on some of Mance's material.

After we found a seat, we were treated to some substantially authentic piano blues and singing from Nat Dove, who ran through quite a few standards such as Everyday I Have The Blues. He sang in a wonderful baritone that swung up into the high falsetto range for emphasis at times. He got a rolling, rollicking, boogie woogie shake down going on a few tunes. Pretty sure that he said that he was originally from Bryan, but like a lot of Texas musicians of his era, he migrated to the West Coast and made his living there. Think that he and Bernie had been in some of the same bands, but at different times.

Bernie Pearl had a connection with Mance Lipscomb that went back to when Mance made his first foray out to California after recording his first record for the Arhoolie label back in the '60s. Bernie even made his way to Navasota to meet up with Mance on his home turf. At the festival, he came out nailing Mance's finger picking style on tunes such as Freddie, Baby Please Don't Go, Going Down Slow, Tom Moore's Blues and many others. He proved to be a solid blues singer and let her rip on tunes that were not associated with Mance, but with Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Mississippi Fred McDowell when he produced his National Steel guitar and applied the bottleneck sliding. Mojo Hand and Shake 'Em On Down got him rockin' way back. Good set of solid acoustic blues.

I introduced my son to Rob Roy while he was sitting in his van listening to his latest recording, Let's Start Something. He claimed that he was trying to remember the words to a song from the CD that was going to be featured prominently in his set list that afternoon. The new one is a long overdue follow-up to his well received Jacksboro Highway released at the end of the millennium and ten of the twelve cuts were written or co-written by him. I quit packing pen and paper to gigs a long time ago and if I write a review of such, then I need a lot more total recall than I can summon nowadays. So, I can't tell you what the band began with and everything they played, but can tell you that I'm pretty sure that they wrapped it up with a rocking rendition of Jacksboro Highway with Hector Watt's Strat leading the way and Rob Roy's harp jacking up the ante and leaving the crowd wanting for more.

I do believe that they kicked off with I Know Better that has a '50s T-Bone vibe, jumping the boogie and provided the crowd with the first example of just what the harp can sound like in the hands of Rob Roy, played through his '63 Fender Princeton and Fender Bassman Reissue by way of an old Shure Green Bullet mic. He glissandos up, down and around the notes. Rob Roy carries no horns on the road, but the tune is filled out and driven by the sax of Don Wise and Scott Ducaj's trumpet with James Pennebaker guitar plucking T-Bone riffs throughout on the CD. On stage Rob Roy and Hector Watt were carrying the load, along with Chris Wallis' drumming and Pat Whitefield's bass. They got Parnell's roadhouse rumble cranking in the right direction, right off the bat.

Rob Roy can sing the proverbial phone book and writes tunes that are steeped in tradition in their tonal flavors. He moved from singing his and Will Indian's If Mama Ain't Happy that reminded me of a '50s Jerry Lee Lewis rocker to the ballad Rose Petals with a Louisiana swamp groove, like Matilda, that would impress a Conway Twitty fan with his vocals. He applied his substantial chromatic harp skills on the former and gets melodic riffs from his diatonic harp on the latter. A great deal of Rob Roy's harp licks worked the melodies of his tunes much more than simply blasting generic Chicago blues harp riffs. He proved that he could do that also, though, especially when he lit into That's What The Blues Is All About, co-written with Sarah Brown, when he offers up some Little Walterish stuff played acoustically at the vocal mic and hit the high end Jimmy Reed lick or two. Matter of fact, he evokes Reed's name within the lyrics of the song. The band gave it a Chuck Berry bounce with an infectious groove.

He also got down with it on Roy Brown's Lollipop Mama, most memorably performed my the late, great William Clarke, and he worked the harp hard, emphasizing the middle octave notes that wailed and hitting the low end to make it nice and fat. He turned Hector loose with the Strat and he absolutely smoked it. Before the song, Rob Roy introduced the tune as one recorded by William Clarke and the house was relatively silent when he asked if anyone was familiar with the deceased harp ace. Shame on them.

The band kept the crowd engaged during their hour and a half set. The folks were ready for a full band sound and were up dancing and prancing. They played good time music and the crowd had a good time moving to the grooving and they played most of what can be found on Let's Start Something that can be found on the Blue Rocket Record label. He ventured to Nashville to record the CD and he employed a slew of veterans such as guitarists Dave Milsap, Pennebaker, and Stephen Bruton; drummer Lynn Williams, keyboardist Kevin McKendree, bassist Steve Mackey and others that have graced stages with stars such as Delbert McClinton and brother Lee Roy (who spices the hell out one tune with his slide work). These tunes just flat harken back to the good old days that few folks are recording anymore. He hasn't been just Lee Roy Parnell's little bro anymore for awhile--Rob Roy's his own man making his own racket and I like it. Anyway--


Rob Roy getting his '63 Fender Princeton & Fender Bassman Reissue lined up to crank up in the top photo. He got the reissue the first year that they came out, so it's been around the block a time or two. Then, there's the Bushdog with RR taken by son John, who admitted that he had a good time. BY THE WAY--all you good Aggies need to get out and get this CD from an A&M grad of '84.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blues Education--Pt.5

There were limited publications on the market for the harmonica player, relative to any other musical instrument. The American Harmonica News Magazine was just about it and Al Eichler and his editor Phil Lloyd produced it as a labor of love and almost as a service for us harp players. They happily accepted article submissions from just about anyone that had something to share with the harmonica public. I began to submit music reviews and such to them and did so for a long period of time. I felt that I was becoming a part of this community that found importance in the instrument and it opened doors to interviews with real live harp guys.

I began to feel that I was finding my way around the blues harp pretty well and felt that I was getting it down. What I lacked was any feedback from other harp players telling me that I was or was not. In the Eddie C. Campbell post, I detailed my first experience playing amplified harp from a stage in front of people. Here I was, on stage with "Real Deal" Chicago bluesmen playing Little Walter's Blues With A Feeling to a bunch of Aggies who had no idea who Little Walter was or for that matter Eddie C. Campbell. They were just in a club in downtown Bryan, Texas to have a good time and Eddie C was giving it to 'em. They gave me a big whoop for my efforts and the compliments from the band, including the harp player Mark Cihlar convinced me that maybe I could do this thing.

I had no amplifier nor microphone nor band to play it with, so I didn't exactly rush out shopping. Then, out of the blue (or blues), a guitarist by the name of Craig Watts called me and asked about my harmonica playing. I forget who told him that I played, but he was working some things up with a singer/guitarist from over in Giddings with thoughts of getting a blues band together. He invited me to drop by his house and do a little jamming.

Craig had a little shack in back of his house that served as his musical woodshed and when I dropped by he had the "Holy Grail" of harp amps sitting in there for me to play. I didn't know a lot about amplifiers that were conducive for coaxing good harp tones, but I had read and researched enough to know that an original '59 Fender Bassman was among the cream of that tonal crop. I didn't have a mic, so I blew through what I remember as being a Shure 58 vocal mic and we played a rather subdued volume--so the Bassman wasn't really whomping the tone that day (I did blow through it with a JT30 on a subsequent trip and the first note that I hit proved the hype was true). After the little backyard meeting, Craig invited me back over for a jam party attended by musician friends from Austin and the local area, one of those being Virgil Brawley. Can't remember the Giddings' vocalist/guitarist first name, but his last name was McBride and he was pretty talented, but it was Virgil's singing that impressed me the most.

Prior to this little jam session, local guitar hero Neil Kulhanek sold me my first amplifier to get me on the tone road which I mentioned in the post called Chasing Down Tone. Neil is pretty close to my age and has been playing anything that has strings attached to it and doing it very well since he was an adolescent and has been playing professionally just about as long with just about everybody. We got to know each other when his Mom babysat my daughters for years. Today, when he is not working his bank job, he's leading the blues/classic rock trio, Neil and the Real Deal. Anyway, it was Neil that encouraged me to drag the amp out to a downtown Brenham club called Patios on a Thursday night and participate in a jam hosted by himself, Sam Murski (local guitar hero II) and Robert Zientek (local guitar hero III). So, I began to ease out into the world of jamming on stage. I still needed a decent harp mic and was invited by my high school principal to take three mics that I found in a storeroom. The best of the bunch was a Shure 545 with a Turner 254 desk mic (which I cut off its stand) running a close second. The Turner worked well until its element died (it now houses a nice crystal element).

Patios' jam nights were extremely friendly affairs and a great deal of what was being played was in the blues category or close to it. Robert Z is an ex-student of mine and he was happy that his ex-teacher was crawling on stage with him. Robert is much younger than Sam and Neal, but he followed along on the same path and was playing professionally while he was in my high school class. Decades of musical experience and talent was on hand directing the jammers. Sam had two bands going at the time called Earlywine, which leaned toward country and the Fireants, which leaned toward classic rock (he has neither today, but his recent bands have played both my daughter's wedding). Robert's band Route 4 was basically country, but would throw down classic rock when the crowd asked for it. These guys made made me feel way more than welcome and put up with my rookie status. Matter of fact, if another harp player wasn't in the house, then they kept me on stage. I wasn't that good, I hit the right notes most of the time, but ran out of ideas quickly and my tone needed mentoring and I needed a better harp amp (achieved and recount under the amps and thangs posts--the amp part anyway). I did learn a thing or two from all these guys during those days. Sam and Neil have allowed me to swap licks with their bands many times over the years.

During this same period Virgil Brawley and Craig "Bonehead" Watts began putting together the first incarnation of the Juvenators, which became the only band devoted strictly to playing blues within 50 miles of my house. I think that Virgil nicknamed Craig for his affinity towards T Bone Walker's stuff. Rounding out the initial core in this band was local veterans Jimmy Bernick on bass and Doug McCord on the drum kit and they also ran with a third guitarist from LaGrange whose name escapes me right now. He eventually slid away from them. An outstanding saxman, Cameron Scott, sat in frequently. They began booking clubs around Brenham, Somerville, Navasota, Giddings, College Station, etc...These guys were really turning into a good blues band. The best part was that they allowed me to sit in with them just about anytime that I wanted to do so. I still had a lot to learn, but I was doing just that. Washington County, Texas isn't made up of a plethora of blues fanactics, but they were beginning to catch on to what the Juvenators were laying down. The crowds were nowhere near what the established bands in the area could draw playing country music, but they were growing when Doug and Jimmy left the band leaving the Juvenators with an empty bottom.

The Juvenators' kept rolling and managed to get themselves booked at the first Navasota Blues Festival(1996) honoring Mance Lipscomb. Sam Murski's Fireants also were on the bill, so Washington County was well represented at what was a long overdue tribute to one of the masters of the music. Oh, and the fact I just might get to honk on a couple of tunes was exciting.

I met one of the chief organizers of the festival, Richard Chase, who was originally from New York, but had followed Mance around learning his licks back in the day. He was checking out the Fireants at a local gig and we swapped stories and he convinced me to pitch in and help out with the promotional part of the fledgling festival. So, I interviewed and wrote up several of the artist's profiles for the program brochure and I went around Brenham tacking up promotional flyers. I'll get back to the festival story at some other time.

In the meantime, Virgil decided it was high time to move back to Mississippi to be closer to an ailing mother, so the Juvenators disbanded a couple of weeks before the festival. I do think that they would have found an extremely receptive audience, but it wasn't to be. Richard Chase really believed that the acts booked represent a little eclectic spirit because Mance was a songster and not strictly a bluesman. I ended up being talked into opening the show with Allison Crowson, who is a great country crooner and the closest we got to the blues was Patsy Cline's Walking After Midnight. I had to stretch a bit, but I could claim that I played on stage there. (Allison's was an ex-student of mine, who eventually became my assistant pricipal, who eventually joined a band with Sam and played my daughter's wedding.)

The highlight of that first festival was meeting Sonny Boy Terry, who was Houston's premier bluesharp man. I introduced myself as a writer for American Harmonica News Magazine (which I was) with an interest in writing a piece about him (which I did) and we've been close friends every since. Most important for me, though, was that I found out just exactly what seperated me from the BIG BOYS--TONE. Sonny Boy wasn't playing through an amplifier--he was going straight into the p.a. with a vocal mic and from the sound of his very first lick he was putting down exactly what I was missing. He was getting some kind of fat stuff happening and he didn't need an amplifier to do it. Here was the REAL DEAL. I had seen Charlie Musselwhite a couple of years earlier, so I knew what a pro sounded like, but Sonny Boy showed me then and there just how much of a rookie I was. Anyway, 'Nuff for now--

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ol' Smoky--Revisited

I decided to jump in and try a simple mod that my amp guru Stephen Schneider suggested that may just put my Ol' Smoky amplifier more into the harp tone zone. Since I had the amp unbuttoned, I also decided to depict the guts for all to see in the photo above. For those that haven't read the previous Ol' Smoky post, the official name for the amp is a Bell 3725 built by Bell Sound Systems many decades ago. I related in the post that it had a decent sound for amplified harp, but was a bit cleaner sounding that my main squeeze--the Silvertone 1483. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see a bunch of new capacitors, resistors and wiring that replaced those that were toasted from a pre-owned chassis fire. What Stephen suggested was to unhook a lead from one of the pre-amp cathode bypass capacitors and try it and then unhook the other other one and see how it sounded. The capacitors are the small black 50mfd/50vdc Sprague Atoms in the upper left hand corner of the photo.

Pulling the first cap from the 6SF5 tube made a slight difference played through my JT30 crystal mic and the Python 4x10 cab (posted about earlier), but it wasn't significant. The tone improvement took place after snipping the capacitor shared with the 6N7 tube. Ol' Smoky bloomed into an amp that exhibited better compression than before and had a bit of a crunch that wasn't happening prior to this modification. The bottom end tonal range had more thump to it and was getting mighty close to what I liked about the 1483. I A/B'd the two amps and the 1483 still has it beat, but the differences are way more marginal now. I now have a couple of 2-6L6 amplifiers that can do-the-do. Hats off again to S.S.

Stephen tells me that he is now following his own advice with his 3725B models, but with some additional mad science experiments. He has the advantage of being able to jump out into a live stage gig scenario, that proves the pudding much better than me rattling around at the house. He'll get back to me on those. IF I try some of those, I'll get back here and report the results. Right now, the Ol' Smoky's got it going on much more better. Anyway--