News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

Dear Jimmy,

As the bassist for notable Louisville real rockabilly specialist Ricky Feather and Bodeco, perhaps you could explain how that music came out of those particular guitars back there in Louisiana and created that particular sound: raw and rough and fast and simple. Playable when drunk? Nobody really had heard all those guitar licks to come, after all.

A Fan

Well, I am not really quite sure how to answer that one! Hmmm. Let's see, Ricky Feather, rockabilly, Bodeco, Louisiana, old guitars, drunk, raw, rough, fast, simple. Maybe I would have better luck if I deferred to the William Burroughs method of cut and paste. It might make just as much sense. But then again, perhaps there is some connection to all this.

So, let's start by going to the closest source. I asked Ricky Feather about this the other night, and he pretty much summed it up by referring to the aura, or "Ti Bon Ange," if you will, of the particular guitar you might be playing. Once again, we must acknowledge the intangible aspect of used instruments having some sort of living personality. Coupled with the person playing that instrument, comes the music.

With the birth of rock and roll, - blues and hillbilly being the progenitors - the guitar came more to the forefront than ever before. Whereas prior to this, the guitar was more of an accompanying instrument with swing, big band, crooners, country, et al., now the guitar was coming out to front and center. No longer was it going to be left up to the horn, the harmonica, the fiddle or steel guitar to take the solo. Now the guitar was going to shine, one note at a time. Since this was all relatively new - and keeping in mind that prior to the television age, the country was still very much segmented into particular regions - music developed by trial and error. Also, guitarists tended to use whatever guitar was available. If it was cheap and it worked, well, all right.

Since it is probably easier to develop single note solos on a horn or keyboard, where everything is laid out in a line, converting this to the guitar was more of a challenge. Now, I don't believe you have to be drunk in order to do this. In fact, I know you don't have to be drunk, or even drinking, for that matter. But I can just imagine the scenario: some Cajun barnyard hoedown, a little moonshine, some pretty young girls, well, you get the picture. So, you take a guitarist, give him a hillbilly rock beat, add a little brew if you will, then try to play a Charlie Parker-inspired sax solo on your old cheap used guitar. If you break a string just improvise, and perhaps then, just perhaps, you might be on to something.

Well folks, I don't know. It coulda happened. Perhaps some things are better left unknown. But, what the heck: the music did get invented.

So I guess that's all for now. Until next time,

Keep Rockin