Guitar Jam Daily
Home Columnists A Fan's Notes A Fan's Notes: Telecasters and Tele-Masters at Work
February 20, 2020
A Fan's Notes: Telecasters and Tele-Masters at Work PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 July 2007 18:09
ImageBy Chip Lovitt
"Well, they put six strings on a maple stick.
Stuck it on a slab of ash.
Sold one to Luther [Perkins], threw in a pick,
Sent him out with Johnny Cash."

That's how Bill Kirchen describes the birth of my favorite guitar, the Fender Telecaster, in the title track of his recent CD, Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods. It might just the best song ever written about a guitar.

In the song, Kirchen describes the Tele as a "thunder and lightning rod," and notes that "it was born at the junction of form and function. It's the hammer of the honky-tonk gods."

Backed by a rocking beat, Kirchen pays tribute to Leo Fender's basic but highly influential instrument and the guitar heroes who used it: Buck Owens and Don Rich, Merle Haggard and Roy Nichols, Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Jimmy Bryant, James Burton, Muddy Waters, Albert "Iceman" Collins, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Cropper, and Keith Richards to name a few.

Kirchen is best known for playing lead guitar with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen from 1967 through the mid-70s. He's one of those great guitar players who fly under the commercial music radar, but thanks to constant touring and tons of talent, he also enjoys loyal following of fans wherever he goes.

Kirchen, a master of the Telecaster plays a brown, beat-up '50s Tele (its exact pedigree is unknown). He's the king of what he calls "dieselbilly," a high-octane blend of rock, rockabilly, and country that has all the energy and power of a semi truck in overdrive. His guitar tool box includes tricky, pedal steel-like bends, high-speed boogie bass lines, chiming harmonics, shimmering western swing chords, as well as rich, ringing melodic lines perfect for a slow ballad.

kirchen-towne crier 1.jpg I recently had the chance to see Bill and his excellent band, Too Much Fun, at the Towne Crier, a small club in Pawling, New York. Besides being an amazing guitarist with a million licks and tricks at his fingertips, Kirchen is a warm and witty entertainer, and a solid vocalist whose songs conjure up images of truck stops, fast cars, and the open road. But it's his twangy Tele that's the centerpiece of his sound and style, and few can wield the instrument with Kirchen's taste, tone, and authority.

The two sets featured a variety of original tunes from his new CD and cover songs, including Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changing." The highlight of the first set, though, was his show-stopping rendition of "Hot Rod Lincoln." In addition to the rapid fire rockabilly riffs that kick off the tune and his ability to make his Tele sound like sirens, car horns, train whistles, and squealing truck brakes, Kirchen delivers an amazing instrumental break in the middle of the song.

Riff by riff, he pays tribute to dozens of guitar heroes-playing the signature hooks from songs by Johnny Cash/Luther Perkins, B.B., Albert, Freddie, and even Peewee King, Link Wray, Stevie Ray, Alvino Rey, Duane Eddy, Marty Robbins, Don Rich, Merle Travis, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Beatles, Stones, the Sex Pistols, Jimi, Cream, and even the Monkees. I've seen Kirchen do the tune a dozen times, and it never fails to please and astound the fans.

The highlight of the second set was Merle Haggard's classic cut, "Lonesome Fugitive," where he was joined onstage by another ofkirchen-towne crier 2.jpg my favorite Tele players, Arlen Roth. The two engaged in a jaw-dropping display of country-style bends, twin harmonic leads, and a call-and-response segment that tapped the styles of Roy Nichols-Merle Haggard's original guitarist in the Strangers-and Roy Buchanan, who also did a famous version of the song. It had to have been one of the most dazzling displays of guitar work I've seen in years.

Earlier in the month at the Towne Crier, I had actually seen Arlen Roth do a set with his own band, featuring guitarjamdaily.com's own Matt Rae . Arlen's string-bending abilities are in a league all his own, with double and even triple string bends, lightning fast double-stops up and down the neck, volume swells, and harmonics at every fret. He and Matt engaged in a series of breathtaking guitar duels that wowed the crowd of mostly guitar players. The highlight of the set for me, as usual, was Arlen's instrumental take on Percy Sledge's classic hit, "When a Man loves a Woman." It was a true twin-Tele showstopper.

Another great Tele player who flies under most music fans' radar is Redd Volkaert . Volkaert, a stocky, red-headed guitarslinger currently based out of Austin, Texas, may be best known as for playing lead guitar with country music legend, Merle Haggard. However, he's got a long string of credits that go back to his days as a teenager in Canada when he backed up a variety of country music artists. Later he would move to Nashville, and then Texas, where his lists of credits grew to include the likes of Buck Owens, Hank Williams III, Dwight Yoakum, Merle Travis, Bill Monroe, Alison Krause, Dolly Parton and many others. He's also jammed with the best-Albert Lee, John Jorgenson, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, and Eric Johnson, just to name a few.

Lately Redd's been playing a band called Heybale, featuring among other, the legendary session pianist, Earl Poole Ball, who's backed up countless artists including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, as well as lending his talents to the classic country music album by the Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Fresh from their red-hot weekly Sunday night shows at Austin's Continental Ballroom, Heybale came to New York City recently, and me and the rest of the local chapter of the Tele-toting Redd Volkaert fan club were there. Redd and Heybale brought their swinging country sounds to a brand-new venue in New York City called Hill Country Barbecue, and the music was as tasty as the food and as cool as the beer.

Redd is steeped in the sounds of guitar players like Roy Nichols (Merle Haggard's pioneering lead guitarist) Don "Buckaroo" Rich, and countless pedal steel players. He is equally adept at honky-tonk and western-swing styles, chicken pickin', rockabilly and all-around Telecaster twang. In short, he's a master picker, and a solid vocalist to boot. He's released three solo CDs, of which my favorite is Telewacker, which features a number of red-hot instrumentals that show off just what a Tele can do in the hands of a master.

Redd has also teamed up with Bill Kirchen, in a band called the Twangbangers, who released a CD back in 2001. For Telecaster and country music fans, it's a must.

The three evenings of music fit my musical and guitar tastes to a "T"-as in Teles, tone, and twang!

Photo credits: Frank Wesley

 
ADVERTISEMENT

Daily Video Lesson

Daily Video Lesson
  • 02:41 - 01.10.2008 Spotlight >> Spotlight
    A five week long, cross-country tour featuring some of the best known and most respected figures in rock and blues has been set to celebrate the legacy and music of Jimi Hendrix. Presented by Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., the Hendrix family-owned company founded by James A. “Al” Hendrix, Jimi’s father, entrusted with preserving and protecting the legacy of Jimi Hendrix together with musical instrument giant Gibson Guitar, this year’s Experience Hendrix Tour represents a dramatic expansion beyond last year’s seven sold out performances.

    Featured artists who will be performing music written by and associated with Jimi Hendrix include blues giant Buddy Guy, contemporary guitar greats Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Eric Johnson, Cesar Rojas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos as well as Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford.
    Read more...
  • 01:53 - 26.09.2008 Spotlight >> Spotlight
    Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) and Italian distributor M.Casale Bauer proudly announce the grand opening of the Fender Custom Shop Showcase Italy. It is the third such international exclusive Fender guitar destination, joining the elite Fender Custom Shop Lounge (Düsseldorf, Germany) and Fender Showcase Tokyo (Japan).

    The Fender Custom Shop Showcase Italy is in Bologna, Italy, and is housed in a building by California-born Italian designer Gretchen Alexander. The showroom is located near the offices of M. Casale Bauer, Fender’s Italian distributor since 1962, and was created to provide Fender dealers, their special guests and artists with a comfortable place to find, try and buy some of the most beautiful guitars in today’s market. The showcase features an impressive array of high-end guitars crafted by the master builders of the Fender Custom Shop and provides artists and dealers (and their VIP clients) with access to some of the most unique high-end Fender instruments ever made available in one place. The showroom houses an unparalleled selection of Fender Custom Shop instruments, as well as Bauer’s personal collection, one of the largest and most valuable in the world.
    Read more...
  • 03:41 - 23.09.2008 Spotlight >> Spotlight
    Los Angeles, CA – World-renowned Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel will  release Center Stage, a live concert DVD on October 14th via Favored Nations Acoustic.  
     
    The full-length concert DVD follows the recent release of the Center Stage  double CD, both having been recorded live for the PBS television series “Sierra Center Stage.” Filmed in eye-catching high definition, every element of modern technology was used in production, creating a stunning package, both aurally
    and visually. 
    Read more...
  • 00:09 - 19.09.2008 Spotlight >> Spotlight
    Montreal, Canada- September 16th, 2008: Renowned guitarist Daryl Stuermer will be giving Godin Performance Clinics in and around Quebec and Eastern Ontario from September 29th to October 3rd 2008.

    Having performed in studio and toured the world with both Phil Collins and supergroup Genesis for years, Daryl is a player who is on top of his game and has the chops to prove it. Performing as the Daryl Stuermer Duo, he will be accompanied by keyboardist Konstantin Efimov during the clinics and will also be giving attendees his perspective on playing live, recording, technique, and his gear, by fielding a Q&A session after each performance.
    Read more...
  • 09:29 - 03.06.2008 Spotlight >> Spotlight
    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (June 2, 2008) -- Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) announced today that it has acquired certain assets of Groove Tubes LLC. Among other assets, FMIC purchased the Groove Tubes brand. Groove Tubes company founder Aspen Pittman will continue in a consulting role.
    Read more...