A Pretty Good Day for a Vega C-66


This month I revisit a song I recorded as an instrumental for Red Wiggler. They have a wonderful promo video (see above) celebrating their 20 years growing vegetables in Montgomery County, Md. I have had a long association with this amazing nonprofit organization, and I was thrilled when they asked me to provide the music for this project. Recently, the video got some airplay in a college course, prompting one of the students to reach out to me through the magic of the internet and ask about the chords in the song. So in addition to a vocal, I have added a second video with a haphazard tutorial!

About the Guitar(s)

For the Red Wiggler instrumental, I used my very reliable Sigma Martin dreadnought, purchased back in 1988, I think. I bought the guitar in Indianola, Ia where Naomi's childhood friend Margaret Nichols (soon to meet and marry John Baldridge) was starting out as a violin faculty at Simpson College. The cash for the guitar came from one of the first bonuses I ever earned as an engineer. That would have been at Compressor Controls Corporation, of Des Moines, IA, and if memory serves, the check was given to me at the Christmas party, where Paul Negley did his annual schtick, and Naum Starolselsky would hand out the annual bonuses. I went to the guitar shop in Indianola because it was reputed to supply acoustics to all the hotshot bluegrass players in central Iowa. I figured they would have a good selection of flattops, and I had grand visions of buying a genuine Martin guitar with all that bonus money. Of course, I had no idea how FREAKING EXPENSIVE an honest to god, made in America, Martin guitar was, and how small my bonus was in the cosmic scheme of things. The proprietor took some pity on me, and steered me towards the high-end versions of the Sigma Martin guitars he carried. Sigma's were Martin guitars manufactured in Korea. Ostensibly the same materials and designs, just lower cost because of cheaper labor. EVEN THESE WERE TOO EXPENSIVE. The guy kind of shook his head, but seeing how pathetic I was, showed me a factory second that he would let go for a greatly reduced price that happened to coincide with how much money I had. He would get a few of these, he said, because he was a Martin dealer, and he could request a few blemish rejects to sell to students at reduced prices. I don't know if I believe all of the story, but I do know I got a pretty great guitar at a price I could afford. I played the hell out that thing as my main axe in All the Fixin's and it was the only instrument I played through my Ph D, post doc, and the first 15 years at NIST. I've gotten the archtop bug pretty bad in the last five years, so the Sigma hasn't been seeing as much action, but when I absolutely have to have something that will play in tune and sound good without any fuss, it is what I reach for. Bullet proof.

For this month's video, my archtop jag got the better of me, and I pulled out the C-66 yet again. This time it gives a kind of old timey sound that I thought was appropriate. Plus, I didn't get a lot of rehearsing in because Naomi and I had a gig for my niece's wedding, and this particular blues wasn't something we had worked up for that occasion. So in addition to being a guitar with the right kind of sound, it had the distinct advantage of being the one I am most used to playing these days, and it feels very comfortable in my hands. My Regal parlor would, of course, be the MOST appropriate. But that thing needs a neck reset, and I didn't want to fight super high action while playing a song I hadn't practiced much.

About the song

A straight forward fingerstyle blues with a D7 an A7 and an E7 chord. The chromatic descending A7 thingy is common as hell, but I encountered it, and learned how to play it, listening to Lucinda Williams sing "I asked you for water, You gave me gasoline". Tickled me pink to get a You tube comment asking about how to play the song. And from a complete stranger!

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