28th of February, I have an idea for a new Master guitar, I’m gonna call this one ‘The Gypsy Storyteller’. I quickly find out that there actually are books with that title. And every time I open the folder on my computer (every Master-guitar gets one) I dislike the name more. Reason: it is a guitar to be done in my first model, the Electric Gypsy, but inspired on my second Gypsy Arrow guitar, the Scheherazade. I roll that concept in my head, and suddenly I know – she will be called the Gypsy Troubadour! We were talking about one of my first real friends and early band-mates in Sevilla, who became a professional musician just when I emigrated to the USA, and whom I suggested the artist name: Tom Trovador. With which he triumphed.
Gypsy Troubadour. It conjures images of campfires, guitars, singing, storytelling, all under a starlit sky. Luck had it that I made just such a drawing for my first USA solo CD, which will make a great engraving! Actually, searching back, I found photos of an El Dorado that I built in 2010 with that drawing engraved.
Then, in my workshop, I again ran into a guitar body with slight flaws, and a ditto neck. Flaws oftentimes – just like in music – become inspirational. So these parts I decided to use for the Gypsy Troubadour, and to become a prototype for some different pickups that I want to try, and a new circuitry that I’ve been working on, another upgrade to the already fantastic Mood and MOJO knobs. Earlier this year during band rehearsal, I became critical of some of the sounds my MOJO control was producing, or should I say not producing? So i designed my way around that (flaws oftentimes can be inspirational!) and now I need a testing ground. On top of all this, I found a sound that I’ve been looking for for a long time, plus: I have heavily modded one of the newer Ampeg guitar amps, to be more like my many Ampegs from the early 1970’s and this amp has turned into the best Ampeg I’ve ever played! (Got her used off of a musicians forum and modded her without fear… Holy Smokes! Best out of dozens I’ve owned…)
So again, I was looking for that magical Tone I’d always chased, and hooked up my pickups slightly different and …there it was! A friend and customer from the other side of the world wanted to hear what I was so enthusiastic about, so the next day we video-called, and he became as emotional as I, saying two things:
- I did not know this sound even existed, it is so warm, yet with so much bite!
- I want that on my next guitar, Is that possible?
I had some crazy ideas (my wife says that those are my forte) for the finish, and because this guitar is flawed -so I can never sell her- and because there will be no customer complaints (because I will keep her as testing ground and prototype, as well as my demo guitar) I displayed no restraint whatsoever, and just did as I pleased. Always inspired by a sea shell I had found on the beach on a morning walk, as well as always the embers of the many many campfires, I went with the only stain colors I happened to have here in Spain: four bottles of red (!) a quarter of bottle of black, a smidgen of yellow, and a few drops of blue. A few photos of the process:
This type of over-the-top shipwreck I will call F.O.B. finish. For sure people will ask: “Where do you find your wood?!?” to which I will answer: “On the beach”. And my new circuitry, during band rehearsal I noticed that when I turned down the MOJO-control far enough to achieve the Tone I was trying to get, I lost some of the balls, the power, and I ended up turning that control back up a little bit. Great sound, great ‘balls’ and power, but I would have liked a little more thinness. So I went to work with my original experiment board in which I developed the MOJO control in 2014. And I came up with a vastly expanded version in which I used tricks that I also sometimes use in modifying my amps. Adding quite a few passive components and re-routing some of my original wiring, I came up with something substantially better, and I will call it the Ju Ju Command. Like Mojo, Ju Ju is a term that originates in the Voodoo tradition. Ju Ju: A magical property dealing with Good Luck. The ‘Tele-sound’ sounds a lot more convincingly ‘Tele’! It is truly the next step in the development of my original Mood-circuit: first Mood; then Mojo, and now Ju Ju.
I’ve decided from the start that I will keep this guitar for myself: she will have different pickups, my new circuitry, and some other new elements of design and construction, so I will test-drive her on band performances and she will no longer be in ‘new’ or even ‘pristine’ condition.
I have however started on a second Gypsy Troubadour, so if you are getting enamored (like I definitely am) yes, I WILL have one to sell. And this one will carry all the best features, because the 1st (the Guinea Pig) will be mine.
July 2nd UPDATE
Front ebony is cut, inlaid, and glued in place. Frets are in, and hot-dogged (hemi-sphere fret ends) Pickup ring is engraved. Waiting for pick-ups now…
August 30 UPDATE
Played my first gig with the guitar. All first impressions were confirmed! She plays like a dream, balances well, is more versatile, has more bite and the New Ju-Ju-Command is everything I’ve hoped for: I’m now offering this as a drop-in replacement upgrade for existing customers as well as an upgrade on the production guitars. Read all about it here!
October 23 UPDATE
I had a little run-in with my health, but celebrated my 63rd birthday with a show (a tradition I hope to repeat many times still) and again the sound was glorious: Sound Guy did not believe his ears: playing thru what he views as a bass amp (my Ampeg), me miking it from the rear, and then this result…