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Minor Seventh Heaven — 1959 Fender Factory Tour

Aw, yeah. That’s Leo Fender hisself in the office at the beginning of the video. A little later on, you can see Freddie Tavares playing one of the finished guitars. Freddie was a lead designer of the Stratocaster, which is the guitar you mainly see being built in the video. Freddie was a well-regarded steel guitar player, born in Hawaii. How cool is Freddie Tavares? He played the big glissando that opens every Looney Tunes cartoon. That makes Freddie Tavares cooler than everyone you ever met, and everyone they ever met.

I’ve owned a Fender Telecaster. I still own an old Stratocaster. If you bought one of the Stratocasters you see being made in the video and stuck it in your closet, it would be worth about twenty grand right now, according to the place I bought my Strat back in the day, Gruhn’s in Nashville. Stevie Ray Vaughan thought the old beater Strat he played the most was a 1959, but it was probably a couple years newer than that. The 1959 written on the back of his pickups might have thrown him off. Maybe those lovely ladies you see winding pickup coils were winding his right then, and they went in a bin for a while.

I used to work in a factory not far from the Fender factory in Fullerton, back in the early eighties. It looked just like that. Concrete block and a metal roof. It’s hot as hell out that way in the summer, and the doors would hang open a lot, just like you see. I was a welder, and would have much preferred to be bandsawing a poplar guitar body. I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to the neck. Amusingly, I was the only anglo guy working with all messcans, and we had a Hawaiian floor boss, so it looked like I’d have fit right in at Fender. The video can’t capture one aspect of it. I bet that place was loud. And not from guitar music, either.

I’d be able to walk right up to any work station in that Fender plant and start working without training. Part of me –a substantial part — wishes I could. 

I Imagine She Smelled The Same The Day After As The Day Before

1901. The year Victoria died. The year my house was built. It’s a Victorian, natch. I think it’s fascinating that you can watch a video of her funeral.

You know, there really isn’t all that much history, if you’re talking only of civilization. Twelve thousand years ago, there was a wall of ice thick enough to cover the highest mountain in Maine sitting where I am now.  There’s still a wall of ice outside my door, but it’s on the porch roof and we don’t trouble one another.

My father was a WW II veteran, and his father was a WW I veteran, and the last veterans of the Civil War were wandering around, albeit rather slowly, less than a decade before I was born. Four years after Victoria shuffled off, you could have gone to Hiram Cronk’s funeral in New York. He was a veteran of the War of 1812.

George Washington had barely reached room temperature when Hiram was born in 1800. About a hundred years before ol’ borrowed-teeth George, Galileo was annoying everyone with his heliocentrism and halitosis. It’s easy, and interesting, to hopscotch backwards through the calendars like that until you find yourself up against the wall of ice.

Get busy being interesting — just plain old might do — and maybe someone will have claimed to have known you and Kevin Bacon in a blogpost in a century or so.


We’ve lost our power three times in the last day or so; once so the power company could replace the pole that has the drop to our house on it, twice because it snowed eight inches last night and made the utility world go flibbertygibbet for a spell.

I had to sit shiver all night over the stove. When the power goes out, the fan doesn’t run and it overheats. It smells like a tire fire barbeque a bit when it gets too hot. You have to close all its dampers and watch it. I had to open a window at two AM to get some fresh air, and made a fire in the living room fireplace to exhaust the place, and get a little warmth. The former occupants of the house never took care of the fireplace, and actively broke it here and there, too, for practice, I guess. I had to watch the fireplace even harder than the woodstove, lest it pull a Miss Havisham on me and let a log roll out. The power was restored before dawn, and then shortly after winked out, and I had to go through the whole rigamarole again.

I fell asleep around eight this morning while sitting somewhat askew on the couch. My little son came downstairs and stood as quietly as an eight-year-old can stand, which is similar to how quietly an organ grinder with a rhino instead of a monkey might keep silent, and when I opened one eye, he said, ” Wow, dad, you’re finally awake.”

Yes, son. Finally.

The Squeatles!

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze still sings for his supper every night.

The Continental Climate

What is it today? What will wash over us like a tsunami? The ebb and flow of empires is a messy thing. Mongols. Turks. Cossacks. Nazis. Communists.

You can stay and long for a country gone, or go and it’s the same. But all invaders can be outlasted, if you pass down the memory of the time before they came. 

Bela Bartok

Whistling Past

Fine version of an old dirge, Oh Death.

What is this that I can’t see
An icy hand taking hold of me
I am Death, none can excel
I open the door to heaven or hell

O Death, O Death
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year

O Death, someone will pray
Please wait to call me another day
The children pray and the preacher preach
But time and mercy are out of your reach

O Death, O Death
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year

I’ll fix your feet ’til you can’t walk
Lock your jaw ’til you can’t talk
Close your eyes so you can’t see
This very air, come and go with me

O Death, O Death
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year

O Death, please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you would move your icy hand

O Death, O Death
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year

Lauren O’Connell

(Thanks to KCJay for sending that one along)

Honey Bodger Doesn’t Give A Shite

A bodger is a woodworker that makes chairs out in the woods. The term is being debased or resurrected, depending on your outlook, by the Internet, where many use it instead of the term “jerry-rigged.” It refers to a perfectly serviceable ad-hoc apparatus.

These men work the wood “green.” Then they air dry it. They are making Windsor chairs. The British invented the Windsor chair, and the Americans perfected it. Here’s a British one, with the wagon wheel back splat like of the sort being fashioned in the video:

(lots more here)

Here’s a reproduction of an American colonial chair. Wallace Nutting was a collector of American furniture, and was more or less a founder of the Society For The Preservation of New England Antiquities. He had a falling out with them because he wanted to make money, so he went his own way. Now the SPNEA are money-grubbing like everyone else in this world. Nutting died in 1941, and his businesses are just a memory, and he’s ever so much more influential than the SPNEA will ever be.

He had a fairly large business hand-tinting photographs in a factory in Framingham, Massachusetts. (According to this, he sold close to 10,000,000 of them) He wrote lots of books, mostly about furniture and furnishings. After a while, he started making reproductions of the furniture he had collected and cataloged over the years. It’s hard to make money in the furniture business, and Nutting was no exception, but he made nice chairs. His reproductions are worth a small fortune at auctions now.

Here’s his description of the #301 shown here:

“Unadorned in its simple, rugged beauty this true Windsor Chair is indicative of early Colonial sincerity. Honesty of purpose and a determination to excel are apparent in this chair as in all Wallace Nutting craftsmanship. Exact throughout in construction and design this Early Bow-back Braced Windsor is reproduced in the same chosen woods as the original – a combination of selected pine and birch or maple; it weighs but nine pounds.”

 Honesty of purpose and a determination to excel. Hmm. If you ever find that, better take a picture of it. It’s as rare as a bodger these days. 

Related: Hitting Rockbottom With Wallace Nutting

Month: February 2012

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