The Peavey Amp’s Involvement In 80’s Country Music

If you’re ever searching on YouTube for classic country music videos, one thing you should notice is the amplifiers used by the guitar player(s) in each video. For some reason, in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, the Peavey Backstage Plus, and other similar amps in the series, were used almost exclusively by every country artist or their band. If you watch the George Jones Live In Knoxville, Tennessee concert video, you’ll notice that his lead guitarist is using one of those amps in the show. If you watch Conway Twitty’s last filmed concert from the 90’s, not only does Conway’s lead guitar player use one of those amps, but so does Conway himself. Possibly a little earlier than other artists in the 80’s and 90’s, though, this amp was used on a late episode of Hee Haw by Roy Clark. The scene was Roy doing a guitar battle with Jim Stafford. Roy was playing a Les Paul, and Jim was playing a Roland synthesizer guitar. I believe Jim also used one of the Peavey Backstage Plus amps.

The reason this amp was heavily used, I believe, is that it was loud, had good enough sustain, even on clean settings, and you can hear the pick on the strings very clearly, so it doesn’t sound like there’s much technology getting in the way of the pure sound. It’s not my #1 choice for Rock, but it’s definitely a great amp, and certainly serves the purpose for 80’s and 90’s country!

George Jones Live In Knoxville:
Conway Twitty’s last known filmed concert:


Tube vs. Solid State amps

I had this conversation with another guitar player recently. We were talking about the age old question of guitar players, which is easily answered, but not exactly, if that makes any sense. Which amp is better: a tube amp or a solid state amp? Basically, here’s my definite unsolved answer.

There’s no doubt about it that a tube amp sounds much better than a solid state amp, any day of the week! That’s for sure! There’s a warm, vintage tone that comes from a good tube amp! In fact, many players still search for vintage tube amps, because they want a good, clean, solid vintage sound. There are amps being made by companies such as VOX, Fender, and Marshall, that are tube amps, and they’re not quite as good as vintage tube amps, but they’re very good for modern day use! My problem with them: Although tubes may be stronger now than they were before, still, the fact that they have to be replaced at times is a hassle.

A solid state amp doesn’t sound as good as a tube amp, but I like it, because I know I can plug it in, and it’s good to go. I don’t have to worry about replacing tubes. That’s really the only argument I can think of in favor of solid states, but it’s enough to convince me.

Marshall tube amp demo:
Marshall solid state amp demo:

The Difference A Good Soundman Makes

I belive that many of my musician friends, and musician readers, will agree with the statement and topic I’m about to discuss. When it comes to playing live shows, a good soundman makes all the difference in the world! If an artist can’t hear themselves, they’re less likely to deliver a good show. Likewise, if the audience can’t hear, they won’t give the reaction, desired by the artist, and therefore, the show will not be as good. I’ve played shows where the soundmen were terrible. I’ve played shows where there weren’t any soundmen. It makes it much more difficult to deliver, as an artist! When you have a good soundman, it all comes together! That being said, it makes it difficult to make excuses, but that’s a good thing. Having that challenge, knowing that everything else is right, is the best thing for an artist! When the only person left to blame is themselves. I did a show this weekend with a great soundman! Before I even got to the show, he was ready. He had everything set up and the levels set perfectly! THAT’S what can make a great show! THAT’S what makes the difference!

Eddie Van Halen getting mad at a bad soundman:
One of the best sounding shows I’ve been to. Shawn Camp at The Station Inn in Nashville:

Blues vs. Bluegrass

Ever since both genres of music have been in existence, players of both have been in constant denial, as to how similar the genres actually are. I’m, of course, talking about Blues and Bluegrass players. The genres are very similar, yet nobody wants to admit it. Let’s examine this a little further.

First, just look at the phrasing. This is, without a doubt, the biggest similarity. I’m talking about the lyrical phrasing. For instance, here’s an example of Blues phrasing:

From Robert Johnson’s “Rambling On My Mind”: “I’ve got rambling. I’ve got rambling on my mind. I’ve got rambling. I’ve got rambling on my mind. I hate to leave my baby, but she treats me so unkind.”

Here’s an example of Bluegrass phrasing:

From the traditional song “Roving Gambler”: “I am a roving gambler. I’ve gambled all around. Everytime I meet with a deck of cards, I lay my money down. Lay my money down. Lay my money down.”

There are repeated lines, and repeated words within the phrasing of both.

Second, and almost more importantly, the song structures and topics are usually the same. Both of the genre’s best songs are about death, hard lives, love gone wrong, etc.

So, next time you listen to either, just remember: you’re listening to both!

Robert Johnson “Rambling On My Mind” :
Roving Gambler, sang by my late, great friend Walt:

Blueridge Guitars: The New Martin

Most acoustic players, not just Country and Bluegrass, dream of having a high end acoustic guitar, and certainly, Martin Guitars are one of the most sought after brands, and one of the highest quality, without a doubt. But, that being said, they’re expensive, for the average player. To get a good Martin guitar, one would have to pay at least a couple thousand dollars. Therefore, many small brands have tried to up their game. One of the best is Blueridge Guitars. They are built to look, sound, feel, and play just like Martin guitars.

While in Colorado last summer, I was on the lookout for a good Blueridge guitar. One of the slogans for the brand is “A Poor Man’s Martin,” and after trying one out at a Bluegrass festival, I agreed! I finally found one that was built just like a D-28. I bought it, and it’s now my main acoustic guitar.

Blueridge are about a third of the price of a Martin, but they’re very comparable, quality-wise.


Gruhn Guitars: The Guitar Mecca

I took a trip to Nashville a few years ago, and I stopped in some interesting places. The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Grand Ole Opry, Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop, etc. But, the most interesting and exciting place was Gruhn’s Guitars! Owner, George Gruhn, has been a vintage guitar collector for a long time. After graduating with a degree in animal studies, George began collecting vintage guitars, and selling and trading them out of his apartment. He later opened his first store. They eventually moved the shop to lower Broadway in Nashville, where it was located until last year.

The first floor was standard new and used acoustics and electrics. The second floor was rare collectible guitars, all of which were their high end merchandise. Vintage Les Paul’s, Stratocaster’s, Telecaster’s, etc. There’s even a guitar, formerly owned by Dan Folgerberg, who originally purchased it from George Gruhn. George also has one of Chet Atkins’s main guitars on the second floor. The third and fourth floors were used for repairs and shipping.

Gruhn Guitars has been a staple for guitar players for years, and will continue to be!

Tour of Gruhn Guitars:
George Gruhn talking about moving the store:

The 1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst

When it comes to electric guitars, the two most popular have always been the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. Though both are solidbody electric guitars, their individual styles and sounds are completely different. An early Fender Stratocaster can go for around $100,000; however, vintage Les Paul’s are much more sought after. For instance, the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst is the holy grail of guitar collecting and playing. A few years ago, while on vacation in Nashville, I stopped by Gruhn’s Guitars. I heard that they had a 59 Les Paul, and I wanted to see it up close and take a picture of it. They agreed, and we proceeded to the 2nd floor, which held many rare, important, historic instruments. But it didn’t take my eyes long to spot my life’s dream. There it was. The 59 Les Paul. The finish was faded on the top, because of exposure to sunlight, but it was still the most beautiful guitar I’d ever seen. I took a picture of the guitar, then the store worker asked if I wanted to take a picture, holding the guitar. I, of course, wanted to! So, there I was, holding a historic 1959 Gibson Les Paul. Before handing it back to him, I asked how much it was. I knew I could never afford it, but I was just wanting to know, for curiosity’s sake. He said “I’ll tell ya what. If you’ve got $158,000 in your pocket, I’ll let you walk out the door with it!” I handed it right back.

Great short documentary about the 59 Les Paul:
George Gruhn’s Guitar Show, featuring the same Les Paul I held: