So often, almost every time in fact, when I'm playing some songs in a song circle etc. there is almost always one guy with a "look at me" approach to being a back up guy. You know the type - the hot shot guitar player that has to run leads all over the verse and chorus and bridge and then expects an extended solo to complete his performance. The worst case is when someone comes in with the ramrod approach but totally doesn't know the song and for some reason doesn't think about listening first to see what's happening! This is totally not what it's about. Whoever is singing the song is the star of the moment and the guy should be a back up not a forefront! If there's a guy like this in the circle, it makes me want to go home. If I'm in a camp situation, I will sometimes get up and travel around to a spot where each person in the cirlcle is playing a song and the other folks are listening and NOBODY'S jamming!
I often play some sax with various singer songwriters or bands. Most sax players will start right in on the intro playing lick after lick and finding every space to put in a fill. My formula, if there is such thing, is to wait until the second verse at least to come in. Then I play about every other fill, a little solo, then drop out until the end. I try to focus on the main person singing and hopefully add to it rather than take attention away and draw it on myself.
If you are a back up guy, everyone will like you better if you start off by playing HALF of what you think you should play, then take out a little more. Listen to the lyrics and SUPPORT the singer!
When I first set out to do the mod on my Strat, I had a tough time finding out info so i thought I would write down my experience.
Years ago I picked up a Mexican made Strat at the local Banjo Centre for a really good deal. I once had a 76 Strat that I sold for $300 which now would be worth a ridiculous 3 grand but that's another story. The Mex cost less than $300 new with a case and played better anyway.
After a while though, the tone was a bit lacking so I replaced the stock pickups with Fender Vintage Noiseless. Tone was way improved, buzzing somewhat less but not enough.
Next I shielded the entire electronics cavity with some supplies from Stewart Macdonald and instructions on Gear Nuts. The guitar was 99% buzz free!
Somewhere along the way I picked up an Austin Chinese Les Paul copy for $180 on ebay with shipping brand new! These guitars are amazing deals. I ended up playing it a lot. So much so, I got used to the shorter scale and when I would go back to the Strat, it wasn't as comfortable.
I spent months cruising the net and trying t decide what to do until I eventually ordered a new conversion neck from Warmoth. I took a few risks as I opted for a rosewood fingerboard, guessed at the fret size, gambled on the compound radius option. I installed locking tuners - shoulda done those a long time ago.
When I got the neck, I took it to Ralph Luttrell, who's a great luthier in the ATL area. He did an amazing set up and the guitar plays as well as ANY guitar I have ever played!
I also swapped out the cheapo zinc trem for a Callaham package which turned out to be wonderful. Much more tone, a tremolo bar that actually makes sense, great manufacturing quality.
At first I thought there was a problem with setting the intonation as it seemed the screws were too short on a couple strings.Turned out to be not so. The vintage style saddles on the Callaham have an overlap that looks like the end of the saddle but there is actually another 1/4" or so.
Lastly, the doggone thing kept falling off my strap so I put on some Schaller strap locks.
The only original stuff on the guitar now is the knobs and the body. I've actually thought about replacing the body too and rebuilding the original Mex Strat but will probably part it out on eBay and build one from scratch at some point.
It's amazing how you get opinions on the net and they come in totally opposite. I saw a lot of praise for Warmoth and a lot of harsh criticism. I had pretty good luck though and no major problems.
I have to say, the guitar now plays better than any PRS or top shelf Strat I've ever picked up.
A friend of mine and I were talking about whether or not it makes sense to put 600 bucks into a 300 dollar guitar. Makes sense to me if it comes out right and is a customized monster that I won't ever sell!
Never worked with Gino as an engineer but I did play with him very briefly and I think it's a pretty good story.
I was doing a one man band single at a Mexican restaurant and some friends of mine came in with a friend of theirs who, on a break, started telling me about Gino and how he was good friends with him - blah blah blah. Seemed like total BS to me but he asked for a card and told me Gino was putting a band together for a Canadian and European tour. Would I be interested? What the hay I thought. Sure. Forgot about it by the time I got home that night.
About a month later, I got home from the gig, phone rings, and who is it but Gino himself! I about crapped myself. (First though, I thought someone was playing a joke on me and I was like, "Who is this really?")
In our conversation he said that his friend John had spoken highly of me and he went on to tell me he was in fact assembling a band for a tour. Too bad I was in Atlanta and he was in L.A.
Quick thinking on my part. "Well, as a matter of fact, I am going to be in L.A. in a few weeks. Maybe we could meet then." Gino said that would be great. Call him and let him know when I was coming and we would set up an audition. (The spot was for keyboard bass and sax.)
As soon as I got off the phone I made plans for the trip and went out to L.A., did the audition. The studio was in Agoura Hills in a "middle of nowhere" sort of place. We ran through a few of his songs, and then he had me sing a few to check vocals etc., then I played sax along with some tracks they had.
Gino was like some sort of metaphysical zen master mystic in conversation. All proverbs and philosophical sayings. Kinda weird. His brother Joe was the most down to earth guy you'd ever want to meet and was talking to someone about his lawn mower problem he was having.
Joe told me to try and get Gino to tell me about the time they were in Peru and he got up from the table at lunch, walked up a mountain in his sandals and was gone for three days. Came back and told Joe he had had an enlightening spiritual experience. Three days, just the clothes on his back. . . .
At one point there was a break during the audition and Joe was reading Keyboard magazine. There was an article and an ad for a new Roland keyboard. He said to Gino he'd like to check it out and then got on the phone with somebody. The new keyboard was dropped off a couple hours later by a Roland rep. Impressive.
We finished up and Gino said they had ten more L.A. guys to hear and he would let me know something. At this point I'm figuring well it was a pretty cool once in a lifetime opportunity and just cool as hell to meet him and hang out for a while.
I remembered driving my dad's old Mercury to high school and hearing "Mama Coco" on the radio and thinking it was the coolest sounding thing. It was very surreal to to meet him and audition.
About a month later, I get home from a gig at the Mexican joint and the phone rings again. "Hi Bill, this is Gino. Let me tell you what songs we're gonna be dong on the tour."
I was very calm and said, "Cool." Inside I was jumping out of my skin.
A few weeks later I'm in L.A. for rehearsal, having canceled all my Atlanta gigs.
The drummer's name was Vito. There was Italian slang bouncing all over the place.
Gino is driving the oldest clunkiest giant Dodge 4x4 truck when we go to lunch the first day. This thing has shag carpet and little tassled things hanging down from all the windows. It's a dirty coffee brown color and covered in mud. An ugly bouncy loud and smokey truck. I was amazed. I did not know rock stars drove stuff like this.
We get to the cafe and the waitress is taking drink orders. Gino says, "Double decaf iced cappuccino." Joe says, "Double decaf iced cappuccino." Vito says, "Double decaf iced cappuccino." I think I said "Sprite." I never felt less Italian than that day! (I have no Italian in me what so ever.) Right then I knew I was not a Beatle.
On Thursday of the first week, we go to lunch and Vito is freaking out. He says, " I can't do it Gino. I know it's ridiculous, it's been my life's dream to play in this band but I miss my wife and kids. My life is shit." Gino says, and I am not kidding or magnifying the story in any way, "A wise man once said, when life is shit, you must become a fly." (I was like what the?)
I show up for rehearsal on Friday and learn Vito has shipped back to Canada and dropped out of the tour.
Monday and Tuesday we start auditioning drummers including the guy who played on Brother to Brother! Mark Craney! But he had been really sick and did not look well on that day and his drumming was just not happening. I could not believe it was the same guy. Sad.
Later Tuesday afternoon there is talk that the tour is already $85,000 over budget! We hadn't even gotten on the road yet! Not only that but the pay for rehearsal will be less than what it was supposed to be and the actual pay for the tour will be closer to what the rehearsals were supposed to pay. Originally it was supposed to be $400 per week for rehearsals, $900 per week for touring plus a per diem of $25.
Turns out I will be knocked down to $200 per week for rehearsals and $400 per touring week with no per diem. This is looking a lot less attractive but still, it's Gino Friggin Vannelli! Also it was in 1990 or so - money went a lot further then of course.
Wednesday I show up for rehearsal and Gino says, "Bill I need to talk to you." We go out in the hall and he says I am not cutting it and they are sending me home. My stomach sinks. I think of all my musician friends and well wishers back in Atlanta and the chance to get out of the crappy bar gigs I had been doing and everything now going up in smoke.
Turns out I would go back home and land a house gig that paid more than the tour would and later find out that I was headed for a divorce. With a one year old son caught in the middle.
Later on when Gino came through Atlanta, (I didn't go), friends told me the keyboard bass spot had been eliminated. The parts had been sequenced and a roadie came out and played sax on a couple numbers.
The next album did not do well and the tour was not well attended. Still it was a kick! My brush with greatness!