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2013 The Year of The Les Paul

2013 Year of The Les PaulHey Everyone,

Almost no single piece of initially derided genius has ever had more impact on the music industry and instrument field than what the “Wizard of Waukesha” aka: Lester Polfus aka: Les Paul did originally in 1946.  That year saw Les create the first solid body guitar known as, “The Log.”  Originally rejected by Gibson, and largely panned by critics Les became known as, “The Broomstick Guy.”  The Log was a 4x4 piece of pine with a set neck, homemade pickups and bridge, and two semi-hollow body Epiphone wings attached to the sides using brackets.  But all this changed when Ted McCarty, then head of Gibson, summoned Les Paul and took another look at the idea of a solid body and in 1952 the Les Paul was born.

The first production runs were Gold Tops with a trapeze tailpiece and soap bar P-90 pickups.  Today Gibson USA has reissued this very guitar as a tribute to Les Paul. The entry level LPJ has become an instant classic with its Les Paul looks, maple neck, rosewood board, maple top and a traditional weight relieved body with the 498/490 pick up combos.  Other guitars in the 2013 line are the LP ‘50’s tribute with P-90’s, the ‘60’s tribute with Burstbuckers, and the ‘70’s tribute with a volute and Dirty Finger.  In the true spirit of Les Paul’s innovation each of these models can also come with the revolutionary self-tuning keys the Min-ETune.  Also new to 2013 in the Gibson USA line is the Les Paul Signature T with 57 classic coil taps.  All of these guitars are handcrafted in the Nashville plant and represent over 50 years of a true genius that changed music forever.  Thank you, Les, this  is your year.

Posted: 8/1/2013 9:44:57 AM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Living on the Edge: Inside the Firebird X Revolution

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a while and I want to bring everyone up to speed on what I’ve been working on and where I’ve been. Last year, Gibson embarked on one of its most ambitious projects in the history of the company, the Firebird X. It all started as an extension of the robot guitars, namely the Dark Fire and the Dusk Tiger. These guitars coupled self-tuning with digitally EQed pick-ups that took guitar technology to new heights. Gibson has always been known for cutting-edge guitar tech and now we are pushing the envelope even further.

Every time a new guitar technology comes along, there are doubters and naysayers. Master classical guitar genius Andres Segovia decried the electric guitar, which he thought would ruin all guitars forever. Countless musicians complained when the first solid bodies came out. Who in the world would want to make and play a slab of weird-shaped solid wood? Visionaries and revolutionaries, that’s who. It takes courage and a lot of vision to drive the status quo into new realms of thinking. It also takes times time. None of these historic innovations caught on right away.

The Firebird X is a radically new digital eco-system for the new millennium. My journey with the FBX started in the summer of 2010. The developers had been working on the ideas for a while and it was time to see what response the Firebird X would receive. In the summer of 2010 we had our first prototypes presented to the professional community in beta tests with top guys in NYC, Nashville and L.A. These beta tests provided unbiased feedback to gather info on players’ opinions.

I worked on the project with Echo Audio, Tronical Gmbh, Craig Anderton, Gibson’s Frank Johns (R&D), Julie Hining (head of Gibson USA), David Billen (software) and David Wright (outside software). We took the feedback from the beta tests and made design and software changes. Driving it all was our leader, Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s Chairman and CEO. Henry is smart – he is a visionary! After more feedback from trade shows, long days and nights in the R&D studios, and round table discussions, we finally launched the FBX in September of 2011. My major contributions came fairly late in the game when I was working on the sound design and helping the developers to bring the project home. In my next blog I will talk about the development process and the truly amazing features of the FBX.

Posted: 11/28/2011 4:26:01 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

How I Got the DLR Gig and Other Survival Stories: Part 2

I begged, pleaded and worked in the tobacco fields in North Carolina to purchase my first Teisco Del Ray guitar from a department store with a small amp. This was one of those three-pickup jobs with all the switches and action so high I couldn’t believe guitar players were anything short of super-human. From there, I got a little stereo set-up with a turntable and spent every dime I had on the early and mid ’70s albums and every waking minute scraping the needle over and over again trying to learn licks by Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, GFR, and any great guitar-driven band of the ’70s.

Clapton was my first rock god guy because he had it all: tone, feeling, phrasing, vibrato… And I knew, whatever it was, I wanted that. From there, I graduated to Jimmy Page, Ted Nugent, Joe Perry, Pat Travers, and then it happened… There are times in your life when you can remember exactly where you were and the circumstances in which something comes to you: this was one of those times.

A kid I knew at school kept telling me about this band and this guitar player that was one of the most incredible things he’d ever heard, because he knew I played guitar. I didn’t really listen to him because I didn’t believe anybody could be better than Jimmy Page or Ted Nugent; it just wasn’t possible. Finally, this kid tracked me down and stuck an album halfway jutting out of my gym locker called Van Halen.

I took the record home and put it on the turntable—in the studio that me and my dad had constructed in our backyard as a full rehearsal place—and dropped the needle down on track 1 of Van Halen’s first record. After the second track, which ran 1:42 (entitled “Eruption”), my life was forever changed. Some people call these things epiphanies, some call them religious experiences—but I can tell you right now I had no (expletive) idea what I’d just heard. But I knew whatever it was was the coolest, most bad-ass recording I’d ever heard up to that point. I was hooked.

I was privileged to see Roth and Van Halen on every single tour up until 1984. I wasn’t really a Roth fan so much as I was an Ed junkie. I had assembled a high school band with the best musicians I could find around me and we had a repertoire of over 50 songs by the time I was 16. We started garnering a lot of local recognition playing bars and high school dances and I was making more in one night with a band than I’d made in my dad’s shop all week—plus there were the chicks.

I’d always been good with books and able to squeak by and I, eventually, was accepted at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. I went to fulfill my parents’ wishes, but I was really looking for better musicians to play with. Within a week or two of being on campus, I’d already formed a band.


Posted: 4/28/2011 1:22:14 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

How I Got the DLR Gig and Other Survival Stories: Part I

The music biz. Just staying alive sometimes is a daily struggle in order to feed the creativity beast and passion for music. Hunter S. Thompson said once, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

Now that’s a pretty fair assessment considering the lineage of the fallen… but somehow I have always managed just to play myself through all the bull. Not that I am that good or special; it’s just because I had the drive and I LOVE what I do. I have that passion for Gibson, but I’ll write more on that in another blog.

I come from a speck of a southern town in N.C., just outside of Winston-Salem. It was a rural, agrarian upbringing. Not a lot of culture, but I had three things in particular: great parents, a stereo, and a famous great-uncle. My first exposure to guitar and all its wonders came mostly from a man named Cecil Campbell. Now Cecil to me was my “Curtis Lowe,” like the Skynyrd song. He was a pioneer in early country music. We are talking ’30s-’40s Carter family stuff. He played guitar, lap steel, banjo, and sang. His band was the Tennessee Ramblers. They were featured in many of the early Gene Autry movies, like Ride Ranger Ride, and he got quite famous at one point. He used to come to my grandmother’s house on Sundays and bring a lot of his pickers along with him. The living room was filled with banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, and old country songs he’d written through the course of his lifetime. But to me, the best of it all was an old flat top.

Now I was about seven years old when all of this started, and the only thing I had was a beat-up Sears guitar my parents bought me out of a catalog, after much pleading. I would sit cross-legged at Cecil’s feet, watching everything he did, and try to emulate some of that early rural blues and country that he was famous for. Cecil was a very patient man and would start to show me some of the songs they were playing during breaks, while all my other cousins were out in the yard playing football. I was mesmerized and took it all in. Some of the first songs I learned to play were “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family and “Under the Double Eagle,” plus some of Cecil’s originals. I practiced ’til my fingers bled (not a cliché, they actually did).

My aunt, who was the hippest of the bunch, had an 8-track cassette player that she blasted tunes out of at family gatherings or when I begged to listen to them. These were songs by The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, and later Grand Funk Railroad. 

Grand Funk Railroad, I was hooked. Grand Funk Railroad Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1968 made an indelible impression on me that lives on with me to this day. Then I heard Deep Purple’s Machine Head and I forever left country and bluegrass and my uncle’s songs in the dust.

Posted: 4/7/2011 4:10:32 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

The Les Paul 2010 Standard Limited

I’ve been playing this guitar a lot lately and just recently started getting into the R.I.P. and the Chameleon editor software and I totally love it.

The guitar itself is a beautiful Fireball finish that blends Heritage Cherry elements with a vintage tobacco sunburst to create a totally unique aesthetic. It has a Burstbucker 3 in the bridge and P 90H in the neck with an ebony board. But the coolest thing of all is that it has the exact same onboard technology as the Dusk Tiger. It comes loaded with 11 factory robotic tuning presets and 11 Chameleon tone presets. The Chameleon tone presets emulate very famous guitars through a 4-band parametric EQ, pick-up selections and wiring variances. In addition, there are 8 banks of 11 customizable user presets that can edit pick-up EQ’s and tunings for total of 88. The tuning is faster than ever before and the Chameleon tone editor is one of the slickest things I have ever seen.

Let's talk a bit about the editor. You will need to purchase a R.I.P. (Robot Interface Pack) aftermarket to be able to use the editor.  The R.I.P. is a firewire I/O as well as a firmware updater and editor sync. Creating new tuning presets and orders has never been so easy. After downloading the software from the site, I simply click the notes I want on the digital headstock, save, and then drag and drop the new tuning to any of the tuning and/or custom preset banks. I can place the tunings in any order I choose on the MCK with custom names. Now I have my tunings in the order I like. 

In my next blog we will take a look at the pick-up editor.


Posted: 8/5/2010 10:28:22 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Good To Be Home

Hello, all! I am back at USA starting my 7th year with Gibson and it does feel like coming home. We have the most dedicated and talented staff of any guitar company in the world and it makes my job a joy to wake up to everyday. In the coming weeks and months, I will be hitting the road to show the world some of the most new, unique, exciting and innovative guitars ever. Bleeding edge technology that meets the heart of true craftsmanship. That’s what Gibson stands and has always stood for. Stay tuned…

Bart H. Walsh

Posted: 7/13/2010 3:54:03 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Meet Bart Walsh

Bart Walsh - Gibson USA Guy

Bart Walsh brings more than 30 years of guitar playing and teaching experience to his Gibson guitar clinics. From his early days touring the Southeastern club circuit to his world tours with Van Halen’s David Lee Roth, Walsh has developed an encyclopedic knowledge of rock and blues guitar styles—and the music theory that makes it all work.

The North Carolina native began playing in club bands in the late 1970s. During touring breaks he also started to teach guitar professionally. In 1986 he moved to Hollywood, where he broadened his skills by studying at the Musicians Institute with such influential guitarists as Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Frank Gambale, and Howard Roberts. He later taught at the Institute.

Bart immersed himself in the L.A. rock scene, founding several original rock acts, as well as the Atomic Punks—an in-demand Van Halen tribute band that swept the West Coast club scene in the mid-’90s. Bart built up an impressive list of credits as a session player, contributing to recordings with David Lee Roth, Tia Carrere, and Brett Michaels, and provided tracks for TV shows King of the Hill, Special Ops Force, and Snoops. In 1999, Bart embarked on a three-year stint with David Lee Roth’s band that took him on two worldwide tours, playing in front of a million fans on three continents.

Bart Walsh’s Gibson guitar clinic is a comprehensive tour of rock and blues music. Bart’s wide range of performance and teaching experience, his knowledge of music theory, and his deep understanding of the history and construction of Gibson guitars proves him time and again to have the riff, the explanation, and the anecdote—whatever it takes to make you a better player.

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Posted: 7/8/2010 10:55:04 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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