Tag Archives: Stratocaster

Our Typical Evening is NOT a Typical Evening

Me, Recording in the House
Me, Recording in the House

Our typical evenings aren’t too different from most families.  On any given night we’re usually eating at the kitchen table, not the dining room one.  It’s too far removed from the kitchen, feels too fancy, and quite frankly it’s a carpeted room and I don’t want to clean up food off the floor at the end of the meal.  I get home each night, make our dinner, which I try to plan out at the beginning of the week, and then the kids clean up after.  Since they’ve gotten home from their grandparents’ house I’ve done a better job of continuing what they did in Nebraska and I’ve also done a better job of keeping on them so they do it.

To give you some context . . . every summer at the end of the school year, my kids go to visit their grandparents.  It’s like summer camp except they work harder and get to sleep in a bed instead of on the ground.  After their mother, my wife, Andrea, passed away in 2011, it’s become the tradition that has to happen so that I can continue to work.  Otherwise I have nobody to watch the kids.  My oldest, Abbi, is 18 now, sure, and the kids came back a lot earlier and she watches them for that very reason, but I didn’t want Abbi, at 16, to have to act like Mom to her brothers and sister.  So for 2 summers she went to her Grandparents’ house, too.

But I digress . . .

Our typical evening centers around the meal, the kids will watch a little TV – with it being summer, Abbi turns on Hulu and they watch a bunch of British comedies because there’s nothing on American TV right now they want to watch.  Sometimes we’ll have a fire outside and roast marshmallows.  More often than not I’ll make a dessert and we’ll eat it after dinner at some point.

But when inspiration strikes, I record.  It’s really that simple.  I have a ProTools setup that allows me to record in my home.  I use a “click” track that keeps beat and I have mics that I use that are specially suited for guitar/vocals and high-impact/high-volume, like a guitar amplifier.

Friday night I was in that mode.  I’ve been working on a song that is, I’ll just say it, is a bit personal.  As a result I wanted to get it right and hadn’t gotten it right in over a week’s time.  I’d re-recorded it twice.  I was on what felt like take 64 when I was recording an electric guitar line with my green Fender Stratocaster, “Dot”.  In the middle of the rhythm/lead I was recording I noticed the lights turn on, bright and a bit disconcerting, but I wasn’t going to change what I was doing.

After the take Abbi came up and said “did you know Instagram lets you do video now?!”
I did, they’re battling with Twitter’s “Vine” app and this is how.

Her inaugural video was me up there, bobbing back and forth to the rhythm and saying “recording night in our house.”

I hadn’t thought about it until tonight . . . this is normal for my kids.  Two to three years ago this would never have happened.  Oh, sure, I had the ProTools setup, but I would never have done it, not in the evening.  My wife barely tolerated my being a musician.  My kids . . . well they tolerate it because they have to, I suppose.  I’m the Dad, after all.

But for them, this is normal.  On any given night they might hear Dad belting out a vocal line and hear no music.  They might hear a cranked-up “Adamamp” amplifier with a Clapton Stratocaster plugged in and turned to “11”.  But for them it doesn’t phase them.

These are the things that have changed.  My daughter’s friends have visited our home and found it “eclectic” because of the records, turntable, guitars and amps sitting out, like decorator items, in the home.  But they all get used.
“This is just our home, our family,” is the response my kids give.  Their Dad records.  I send the demos to my brother.  I put together the songs that will likely be the next LP.  I have dreams of cutting some of this stuff as vinyl.  It may seem a pipe dream, but in today’s world, that’s not so much of a dream any more.  Beside that, my kids see me creating and enjoying and I have even had them be a part of it.  This is how our lives has turned out and I do the things that help me, the kids, all of us survive.  Guitars sitting around and an evening recording session may seem odd to some people, but for us it’s normal.  It happens a lot.

And who’s to say what’s normal?

Before You Accuse Me

When I was just in a rock & roll band in 1989 I owned a Fender Stratocaster – because it was Clapton’s guitar of choice.  But when I found out he had a signature model – one that came with a warning sticker that Fender, the guitar’s maker, was not responsible for the damage that the guitar could do to your amplifiers – I was starry-eyed!  I saw Clapton onstage with a fiery red one.  He favored a pewter/silver one.  I tried one out, turned up the bottom tone knob and the amp blew even more volume and distortion out its speakers.

I wanted one!

I spent weeks . . . months even just scrimping and saving.  Every penny from every gig that didn’t go toward guitar strings and new guitar cables went to savings for that guitar.  Finally, at the end of the year I made a trek to Kansas City – the only dealer that had Clapton Stratocasters in-stock.

I walked in and went straight to the expensive, hands-off section. While it was a year old, never bought from the dealer when I got it, I had no intention of buying the sparkly, bright-green strat. I walked in looking for a Torino red or a Pewter colored EC. Then I saw her . . . a 7-up green strat, lace sensor pickups covering the normally exposed pole pieces, and it spoke to me. I had to ask to try it out and must have looked like a non-sale because they handed it to me and walked off.  I plugged it into a Fender amplifier like my own and started to play.  It didn’t take me five minutes.

I was hooked. Just a few weeks after owning it it fell off its guitar stand on stage and the wood of the neck split, right in the middle.  Fenders are known for durability.  I was beside myself.  I called the dealer who told me “too bad.”  I called Fender customer service, angry, and was connected to a man I thought was simply a member of the company.  He asked me the dealer’s name.  Then he asked me to send him my Clapton Strat.

“That’s an expensive strat, it shouldn’t do that.”  I agreed.  I sent it off and a couple weeks later I got a call . . . it was Fender’s custom shop.  A few minutes later I was on the line with the very man who’d taken my initial phone call.  He was one of their chief luthiers.  They’d “taken care of” the dealer, which made me smile.  Then he informed me that my strat had shown a flaw in their design . . . the bodies were routed wrong and put too much tension on the neck.  They could split.  He personally crafted a new body for me, grabbed a new neck off the line and then asked me what color I wanted.

I still said green.

It’s my favorite guitar, my old standby, the wood aged, the pickups perfect, and the neck fitting my hand like a glove. A couple years later my older brother looked at it and remarked that it was like the 7-UP commercials and their campaign with the “dot” in them.

From that point my EC was affectionately dubbed “Dot.” It’s been the reference ever since. I’d never seen a video of Slowhand playing a green one . . . until now.  To this day, it’s my old standby . . . and I pair it with the amplifier my brother Adam built . . . and it’s perfect!

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