Hoochie Koochie Man

Hoochie Coochie Man was written by Willie Dixon in 1953. It was first recorded by McKinley Morganfield AKA Muddy Waters In January 1954. It is an erotic song and talks about black magic. I got a Black Cat Bone,,, I got a Mojo too. I got a Johnny Conquer root,,,,, Talks about the magic number 7. Slang words for alcohol and sex, Hoochie Coochie Man, goes on to reference a Gypsy woman’s prophies, It’s the story about the mysterious ways of life in the Cajun delta. Those things coupled with swaggering guitar and harmonica riffs with powerful stops put Willie and Muddy on the music map! 

Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns

     Manfred Mann was the first noteworthy cover followed by a flurry of whos who. Jimmy Smith, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Steppinwolf, Allman Brothers, Buddy Guy, Motorhead, Eric Clapton, Etta James,,,etc,,,etc,,,   
     Buddy Black’s version is perhaps the most powerful and moving yet. His guitar work is unsurpassed. His vocals are deep and hypnotizing. It’s a natural performance because it’s Buddy Black’s real life. He is the Hoochie Coochie Man,,, Enjoy!  

Gibson Maestro Volume Wha Green Pedal

It started here. In 1975 I was in a music store in Milwaukee and saw a Gibson Maestro Volume Wha pedal for sale. A guitar player I shared the stage with had one he was very fond of. It was pretty reasonable and left the store with me that day. The love affair began and continues today. I mostly used it as a volume pedal to make steel guitar bends on my old Gibson SG sound more believable and to turn the volume off to change guitars without making noise. I put a battery in it one day and things changed forever. The Wha effect was unlike any I had ever tried before. The sweep was totally different from the Morley and Cry Baby versions. It was magic. made the guitars come alive. Enhanced the mid and upper mid tones and added clarity like nothing I had ever tried to use. I would save it till just the right time of the performance. If there was a guest player on stage, I used it to gain unfair advantage!
How long will it last? I‘m not a fan of effects and have never owned a pedal board, but that thing has been on stage with me every performance since the day I first put a battery in it. After an uncountable number of jobs I started getting worried that it would fail and the hunt began for a backup. The collector part of my personality took over and in a few months I had gathered up 5 of them. I carried one to a gig and when I punched in the Wah,,,, NO MAGIC????? How can this be? It’s a Gibson Maestro Volume Wha???
Modded? I took it and my original one apart and saw that there was a resistor between the two pots on my old one and none on the replacement. It seems that some electronic genius had modded my magic pedal. I have always been pretty lucky, and this was just one more example. I put the same value resistor on the replacement and VOILA!! the magic was there. I had told many people about the incredible sound I got from my Maestro over the years. I wonder how many guitarists found one only to discover it kinda sucked???? The other good news is that after 43 years, the original still works like it did the day I bought it. Get yourself a Gibson Maestro Volume Wha!!

The Most Important Day of the Year

A Tribute To Christmas

One of the joys of working with different artists and genres is the diversity of life experiences each artist brings to their music. Everyone has a different story to tell and a different point of view. When our music is filtered through our own lives, we can share those experiences with others and hopefully bring joy to someone. It is also interesting to observe how different artists celebrate holidays and other occasions throughout their lives.

One of my favorite type songs to record is a Christmas song. Every album that I do with a new artist, I  like to suggest doing a Christmas song. The Christmas season is the most content starved season of the year, so there can never be too many Christmas songs. Working with Blues artist, Buddy Black was no exception. He accepted the suggestion of doing a Christmas song and wrote a heartfelt tribute to the holiday from the point of view of a country family that did not have much, but still had love and Christmas.

The Most Important Day of the Year was written and produced during the recording of an album of the same name. Buddy Black and his Bus for ChristmasThis album shows another side of the blues artist in that it represents his Carolina roots in the form of more traditional country. This  style carried on into the Christmas song as well. Once Buddy had come up with the song, he recorded a  vocal and acoustic guitar track in the studio. I then took the song and built a template for us to record the entire arrangement. This production process was a perfect blend of analog and acoustic with a modern film score work flow. Buddy black played all guitars, including a vintage lap steel, and I completed the rest of the arrangement. The background vocals were sung by Kim Fleming, and recorded in Nashville with Gabe Masterson engineering.  Buddy and I also recorded a short scene as an introduction, complete with a fireplace, young child and a husband and wife trying to make ends meet. I don’t think Buddy or myself could be any more proud of the result. We hope The Most Important Day of the Year will be another family favorite Christmas song for years to come. 

John Forbes

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Boss Tone Guitar Effect Distortion Module

Boss Tone Begins

1966 was a very good year for the guitar players that were looking for something different. Jordan electronics, a subsidiary of Victoreen, a company built on their line of geiger counters, was formed to make instrument amplifiers and guitar effects. Victoreen’s motto was “The Worlds First Nuclear Company” Boss Tone was their biggest success in the guitar effect area. They had already made a line of solid state amps that were referred to by most reviewers only as LOUD! 

Spirit In The Sky

by Norman Greenbaum used the "Boss Tone" guitar effect.

Boss Tone
Victoreen Geiger Counter
Victoreen X-Ray
Jordan SS amp 2-12 model

Alhambra First Then off to Pasadena

The first model has the Alhambra, California address on the back.  Early in their production the company moved to Pasadena and that address was stamped on the back through the end of manufacture, approx. 1970. It was a simple design using 2 transistors. One as a voltage gate and the other as a buffer. Only a fraction of the size of the other distortion effects on the market and priced to sell at $29.95. No consideration was made for the popular guitar, Fender Stratocaster, as it plugged directly into the 1/4″ guitar jack and Fender had a recessed output. It have no shielding, so many times they were the source for a local radio station bleeding through an amp. What they did better than the others was manufacture true colorful distortion. When properly adjusted, there was nothing on the market that came close. Fat, smooth overdrive that was attached to the guitar so it was easily accessible to the player. Boss Tone became a must have for pedal steel players. Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons licensed a version called Sho-Bud Boss Tone. Look carefully at your favorite Nashville type pedal steel player’s rig and you will most likely see one plugged into the output jack!

Sho-Bud Boss tone
Sho-Bud Boss Tone 1
Sho-Bud Boss Tone Bottom w/sticker
Boss Tone Circuit Board

Spiritual Boss Tone

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys uses a Boss Tone. Randy California of Spirit wouldn’t leave home without his. It’s rumored it was in his pocket when he drowned. You can hear it in the first 4 Spriit  albums. Many have been converted to a floor pedal and have shielding added. It seems the Stratocaster players don’t want to be left out!  The first version had a green circuit board, used a transistor made by Motorolla and has a more aggressive fuzz than the subsequent model with a brown circuit board. All versions are awesome but the green board version is highly sought after. 


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Gibson Thick Body SG Fact or Myth?

Different Versions

According to the 1959 price guide and my copy of the 1960 Gibson catalog, the model of guitar commonly referred to as Les Paul Special, was actually the first SG. The double cutaway instrument was the same thickness as the Les Paul standard but with a non carved top. They are flat on the top and bottom. I have seen examples from as early as 1958. Single coil P-90 pickups were installed and they are mostly found in limed finish and cherry red. Gibson is known for it’s lack of dedication to consistency, so I expect there could be some examples of other colors out there. There were a few states of these fine Gibson thick body SG guitars.

First Version

Thick body Gibson SG Version 1The first Gibson thick body SG had a large neck profile, body-neck joint at the end of the finger board and the selector switch above the volume and tone knobs. The neck pickup was about 1/4″ from the end of the body and the bridge pickup was also close to the angled stop tailpiece bar type bridge. The intonation was only adjustable on each end of the bridge. This worked surprisingly well however and the solid connection between the bridge and body make them sing. All I have picked up so far had pretty hot pickups. 


Second Version

Thick body Gibson SG Version 2The second version had a little thinner neck. The pickup selector was moved to the area that became the standard for subsequent models. It was now in front of the volume controls adjacent to the pick guard. All I have seen of this version have a serial number that begins with 9, then a space followed by the rest of the digits. The neck joins the body the same way as the first version with the bridge pickup still very close to the end of the body. Both of these first versions had a high percentage of failure. There was simply not enough wood left in that area. Many have had repairs. 


Third Version

Thick body Gibson SG Version 3The next version of the Gibson thick body SG seems to have happened around 1960. The neck was moved into the body and joins at the 22nd fret. They had similar spacing for the neck pickup, about 1/4″ from the end of the fret board. This neck profile is my personal favorite. Thin and wide. Serial numbers were ink stamped like the earlier models with a 0, a space, then the rest of the numbers. 


Fourth Version

Thick body Gibson SG Version 4

Version 4 was exactly like the previous one except the neck pickup was moved a little further, approximately 1″ from the fret board. They used that spacing through the production of Gibson thick body SGs. 

5th and final Gibson Thick Body SG

Thick body Gibson sg version 5The last change to the Gibson thick body SG before extinction was moving the stop tailpiece anchors in line with each other and using a compensated bridge. All I have seen of those had pressure stamped serial numbers and were made 1961 on. The latest one I have seen was 1963. 

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Gibson SG Guitars


According to my copy of the 1960 Gibson catalog, the model of guitar commonly referred to as Les Paul Special, was actually the first SG. The double cutaway instrument was the same thickness as the Les Paul standard but with a non carved top. They are flat on the top and bottom. I have seen examples from as early as 1958. Single coil P-90 pickups were installed and they are mostly found in limed finish and cherry red. Gibson is known for it’s lack of dedication to consistency, so I expect there could be some examples of other colors out there. There were a few states of these fine Gibson thick body SG guitars.

Epiphone By Gibson

The Korean Connection

In 1985 Gibson commissioned Korea based Samick Guitar builders to begin making a few models under the Epiphone trademark, moving their manufacture from Matsumoku Japan. The most popular of them was the Sheraton II. A run of about 50 were made with the first version of lettering on the headstocks. These were premium quality instruments but the logos were a bit unrefined. Buddy Black has been searching the world for these rarest of the Sheratons and as of this writing has found and purchased 2. Buddy says, “I would have loved to have been in the Gibson board room when the Samick representatives walked in with the first ones. Not sure if there was laughter involved, but I expect they left with urgency to make a more acceptable model!!” There were at least 2 more subsequent states of headstock lettering that were increasingly better refined. All of the Korean made Sheratons are examples of superior fit and finish. They play like a dream with very low action. The frets are smooth as silk, binding is nearly perfect and the paint is as well masked and applied as anything Gibson ever did. They mirrored the upscale combination of mother of pearl and abalone position markers used in the 50’s and 60’s models. 5 layer binding around the neck and headstock and 6 layer around the top. Those were accented by a thin layer of black between the binding and the body color. As in the better Gibson models, they have binding nibs at the fret ends. They even bound the f-holes! About 1989 Samick changed the headstock logo to only Epiphone, with Gibson etched into the truss rod covers. The gold plating is as sturdy as Gibson. All said, they are some FINE guitars.

Epiphone First State

Epiphone First State

Epiphone First State

Epiphone Second State

Epiphone Final State


More Epiphone History

Epiphone Sheraton – Wikipedia
Under the ownership of Epaminondas (“Epi”) Stathopoulo, Epiphone was a leading manufacturer of hollow-body and archtop guitars. Epi Stathopoulos died in 1943. Control of the company went to his brothers, Orphie and Frixo. In 1951, a four-month-long strike forced a relocation of Epiphone from New York to Philadelphia. The company was bought out by their main rival, Gibson in 1957. In 1958, Gibson began to expand upon its Epiphone line of semi-hollow guitars. They reworked Epiphone’s old Century archtop into a thinline electric fitted with a single P-90. This was followed by the introduction of a twin-pickup, double-cut thinline semi-hollowbody, the Sheraton. The original Gibson-made Epiphone Sheratons were up until 1970, when production moved to Japan, and major design changes began to occur.
Gibson used the same body for the Sheraton as it was using for its new ES-335, ES-345, and ES-355 models. It featured the same double rounded horns, and had similarly placed electronics. The Sheraton was fitted with a set glued-in neck, in accordance with Gibson’s standard practice. Distinguishing characteristics of the Sheraton included its multiple body binding (like that of its top of the line Gibson cousin, the ES-355); its Frequensator tail piece; and its headstock and fretboard inlays. Unlike any of the semi-hollowbodies in the Gibson line, the Sheraton’s headstock featured Epiphone’s traditional fancy vine (or “tree of life”) inlay on its headstock, while its fretboard featured a block and triangle (or “V”) inlay of mother-of-pearl and abalone, as well as binding on the fretboard’s surface, inset slightly from the outer edges.


Rare White Epiphone

Natural First State Epiphone


1958 Epiphone Sheraton introduction specs:

 Thin body, double cutaway, semi-hollow with solid maple block down center; 2 Epiphone “New York” (single coil) pickups; 2 volume and 2 tone controls with white ‘carousel’ knobs, and a pickup selector switch; tune-o-matic bridge with no retainer wire; gold plated metal parts; Frequensator tailpiece or Bigsby vibrato; bound tortoise-shell pickguard; Epiphone ‘E’ tuners; multiple bound top and back; single bound rosewood fingerboard; abalone/pearl block “V” fingerboard inlays, neck joins body at 19th fret, 5-piece neck (from remaining Epiphone-built inventory) has a “V” chunky back shape; tree of life pearl peghead design; sunburst or natural finish. 1961 Sheraton specs: Parts begin to change to Gibson-made parts. The pickups are changed from the New York single coils to mini-humbuckers, knobs become gold gibson bonnet knobs, tuners become Grovers. Serial number now pressed into the back of the peghead between the D and G tuners, in addition to being on the blue Epiphone label in the bass “f” hole. The new Epiphone “Trem-o-tone” adjustable vibrato tailpiece is introduced. 1962 Sheraton specs: Production changes from NY-made Epi necks to Gibson-made mahogany necks. Cherry red finish introduced (this will remain the rarest Sheraton finish throughout Gibson’s production period of the 1960s). “Epiphone” script inlay on headstock becomes more streamlined in appearance. 1963 Sheraton specs: Peghead shape becomes more elongated. Binding on fretboard moves to outer edges (no longer inset). 1965 Sheraton specs: Sunburst finish becomes more two-tone (tobacco to amber). Late 60’s to 1970: Neck width narrows to 1 9/16″, as on many Gibson-made guitars of the era.
Sheraton production totals (data from 1961 to 1970 only): Cherry – 53 Cherry w/vibrato – 20 Natural – 59 Natural w/vibrato – 49 Sunburst – 243 Sunburst w/vibrato – 197

In Conclusion 

In 1970, production ceased in U.S., and began in Japan. Mini-humbucking pickups were discontinued on the Sheraton, changing to standard full-sized humbuckers; serial numbering system changes. Body and headstock shapes began to evolve, as they will continue to do throughout the 1980s and into the 2000s, as production also shifted from Japan to Korea. Korean build manufactured up until at least 2012 however serial numbers changed to an all number type after 2008. To tell if it’s Korean built, it will have the following prefix: I=Saein, S=Samick, U=Unsung, and R or P=Peerless and if all number type serial number will be identified (Unsung for example) as ’21’ as the 5th & 6th numbers.
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