Howlin’ Wolf Live In England From 1964

17 08 2008

Chester Burnett, the one and only Howlin’ Wolf, performing Charley Patton’s classic “Smokestack Lightning” with Tommy Johnson’s trademark yodeling thrown in for good measure. There are better recorded examples that display his singing prowess to full effect but you can clearly see the elements that made Wolf the best blues singer to ever walk the earth. He was the genuine article.

Here’s a clip that features the audio of Wolf’s monumental 1956 version of the song. Willie Dixon on bass and Hubert Sumlin on guitar are on both tracks.

John Lee Hooker With The Groundhogs In London 1964

17 08 2008

John Lee Hooker and Britain’s superb Groundhogs tear through a grinding Hooker classic, “I’m Leaving” on the short lived “Beat Room” program on the newly launched BBC2, October 5, 1964. The track features the kind of tremendous hypnotic riff that is the hallmark of almost all of John Lee’s best and Hooker’s singing and playing rides over the groove effortlessly. Led by guitarist Tony McPhee, the Groundhogs recorded their debut album in 1968 and are still around today in various incarnations after sporadic breakups and reunions. In 1979 they backed up veteran harmonica player and singer Billy Boy Arnold on his excellent album, “Checkin’ It Out”, very much worth tracking down.

Gatemouth Brown Live With Canned Heat From 1973

15 08 2008

The legendary Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown james live with Canned Heat at Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1973. Gatemouth makes an Acoustic amp sing like a vintage Fender as he teaches Canned Heat a thing or two about showmanship.

BB King And T-Bone Walker Live From 1967

9 08 2008

T-Bone and BB share an amp and the stage at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival in this magnificent video. King was influenced by a lot of musicians, and not just guitar players, but none shaped his playing quite as much as T-Bone Walker.

In the opening sequence, King sounds much more “jazzy” to me in his phrasing than usual and is playing at top speed. Walker follows that with an earthier riffing passage that shows the influence he’s also had upon Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix.

Both men are getting gorgeous tone from their gibsons injected directly into the super reverb. Walker’s L-5 has a nice raspy edge while King’s ES-335 or 355 is exploring somewhat smoother territory on the neck pickup.

After a short break, T-Bone does East Texas proud as he kicks off the slow blues number, Sweet Sixteen, in his unique, stabbing style before BB takes the ball and displays the remarkable vibrato that revolutionized blues guitar playing and inspired millions to take up the pursuit.

Taking turns on the verses, the pair show off great vocal chops as well as the ability to snake superb fills between the other’s singing.

The giant of 1940’s blues guitar shares the stage with the giant of 50’s. Does it get any better than this? 

What amp are they playing through? Narrow panel and rear loaded controls like a tweed Fender Bassman or Bandmaster but it’s covered in black tolex so it can’t be a Fender!

If It’s Valves You’ve Come For…

6 08 2008

The 6BQ5, also known by it’s European designation of EL-84, is renowned as one of the most prized tubes among amp designers and it’s characteristically sweet tone is the foundation of the Skylark’s sound. The other valves in this amp aren’t so familiar. The 6EU7, which Gibson used a fair bit in different 1960’s tube amps, is a low noise alternative to the more commonplace 12AX7 but the two preamp valves are of equal gain values and overall are ,very similar. The 6C4 tube was used in many applications, such as organs, ham radios and even TVs but Gibson used them in amps as either rectifiers or in this case, a phase inverter.

It’s All About The Glass

5 08 2008

As can be seen here with the photo turned upside down, there are four tubes in the Skylark; a pair of 6BQ5, a 6C4 and a 6EU7. Going from left to right, the 6EU7 serves as the power tube and its faint red RCA marking is barely legible. Next is the phase inverter, a 6C4 bearing the yellow script “made in USA for Ampeg by Sylvania 939 JFO”. The first 6BQ5 in the lineup sports the “RCA electron tube” marking while its partner 6BQ5 makes do with “RCA USA”. The tubes are old but after warming up a bit, still kick out a toneful 4 or 5 watts.

A Peek Under The Skirt

4 08 2008










The Skylark is a pretty clean machine under the bonnet; four tubes, three pieces of iron, an old tremelo switch footpedal and big ol’ 10 inch generic speaker. The power transformer is a bit rusty but looks original? Stamped on it is the sequence “TF-105-P 9966606”. The output transformer bears “TF-504-0 549-6538” while the choke is branded “TF-1001 D 757 6549”.  The underside of the chassis has “insp by 152246” printed on it with the “15” being larger than the following numbers.