Other Guitars

NGD or What’s the weather in hell today? A modern Fairy Tale.

26

I also don't see many lap steels with a pair of pickups (though surely others make them). My other lappers have all had just one, and I find having two just as useful for varying and blending tones as they'd be on any electric guitar.

Plus, I instinctively like a single-coil at the neck and something a bit fatter at the bridge, so the usual Duesenberg arrangement suits my ear.

27

Workmanship is flawless; the best I can make out through the fluffilous intentional obfuscation of Duesenberg's website is that the woodwork and paint are done in Korea - and assembly in Germany from parts sourced all over the world.

One of the many things I deplore about the Duesenberg operation is the cloud of mystical wonder they spin around the product, trying to trade on the majesty of German engineering and precision while "honoring" (more like appropriating) a purely American automotive, design, and guitar heritage - while obscuring the apparent fact that there's no German "manufacture" involved, just assembly.

There's nothing wrong with that model for producing guitars. It's just galling that they simultaneously (if grudgingly) only almost own up to it - while implicitly pretending it's something else.

But. There's no denying the quality of this instrument throughout. The woodwork and paint appear flawless. The hardware is all beautifully machined and gorgeously plated - even the jackplate is a thing of architectural splendor.

And the solid mahogany body sustains approximately forever.

28

Presumably the "made in Germany" charade is intended both to glorify the product (while simultaneously perpetuating the prejudice that Euro/Western manufacture is somehow superior to Asian) AND to justify the asking prices, which are probably twice what the product is "worth" by comparison to competitive products built with complete or significant Asian labor and skill (like, say, Reverends - which are on par with this).

And still, even at the around-2k price of the guitars, they're "merely" on a par cost-wise with other professional-grade instruments.

That was NOT the case with the Duesenberg automobile, which embodied both state-of-the-art and decades-ahead engineering, along with bar-no-expense design and manufacture. When you could buy a "good" car (say a Buick, or even a Cadillac) for 1,000.00 - 3,000.00, the mighty Model J Duesy was 12,000.00 for the chassis - and then you added a body custom-ordered and built to your specs. So you ended up with 18,000.00 or more by the time the car was delivered. (Which is why only 480 were sold over 7-10 years.)

By that math, if you can buy a "good enough" guitar today for 500.00 - 1,000.00 (and you can), a guitar that lived up to the Duesenberg heritage today should cost six to 18 times that...or, say, 15,000.00 or more.

There are truly custom guitars in that price range - though they tend to bear names not stolen from the past, but of their true builders. Duesenberg guitars don't rise to that standard.

Thus, one of my bitches about Duesenberg is that they don't cost enough (nor are they so good that they really should).

However, this ludicrously named Fairy Tale lap steel is closer to the mark. It does embody genuine innovation in the benders and the sliding capo-nut, and in materials and workmanship it's built to the standard. It's also ludicrously priced at around 2,400.00 retail - 4 or 5 times the cost of a other "good" lapsteels, and probably (realistically) twice what even one with this innovation should bring.

But at least it is a multiple of several premiums over yer common everday lapper, which makes it more genuinely Duesenbergy (at least in the domain of pricing ratios).

Least that's my rationalization for letting Dieter take me on this very expensive ride.


Other than lacking a couple extra strings (which in honesty I wouldn't know what to do with), this is all I can imagine wanting in a lapsteel. And even though I bought on Reverb and didn't pay the retail tag, it was still a ludicrous sum of money to spend on such an instrument, so I feel all deluxe now and everything. And foolish. Foolish too.

29

"He drives a Duesenberg," is what the car's original advertising said - with a picture of a man of business, success, charm, and leisure.

That's me, man. I paid the money and Dieter says I bought the cred.

In truth, I am having a blast with the benders, and I think it will take me places musically I can't go on (sniff sniff) lesser steeds.

However, this is not a camel's nose instrument. There will be no more Duesenbergs in my stable. I have no interest in the guitars - that hasn't changed.

But you can't completely dismiss a guy who machines truss rod covers this extravagant.

30

Good looking instrument. Congrats

31

Could've been worse.

At least it isn't an accordion.

– wabash slim

Could've been disastrous......bagpipes!

32

Ist das nicht ein Duesenberg?
Ja, das ist ein Duesenberg!

33

Cracking piece of kit.

34

I get to play along with my buddy Dave, every Monday evening, and he's got a Dusenpedaless steel, too.

He's had it long enough where he can now finesse it to get really good pedal steel sounds.

35

Congrats, Tim! What a beautiful ax!

I had to trade in my Phaeton. Couldn’t fit a 26” bass drum in it. (They did give me a good deal on a RAV4 from it, though. Those Phaetons were notorious for leaking blinker fluid.)

36

Nice one! Never knew they were available with those palm bend thingies. I've been wanting to experiment with a lapsteel for a long time, but that's on the never ending "to do" list...

37

Three whines in paradise, though:
- The “goldburst” finish isn’t as transcendently luminous as suggested by the marketing photos on Dieter’s website (though my pics show it fairly).
- Seems like the relatively plain (anodized aluminum) fretboard and diamond markers could have been fancy-pantsier.
- One of the bespoke Greman-engineered bender levers squeaks. I’m sure I can lubricate it somehow, but REAL Duesenbergs automatically lubricated their own chassis on schedule.

39

For those none of you who may be curious about these lappers, and wondering about the image Mr Tubs posted, there are now three very similar lapsteels in Dieter's garage.

All have the same 25.5" scale, come with the sliding capo/nut and two palm levers, and have the same roller bridge and nut axle. Each has a slightly different body style. They differ in pickup complement and body wood.

The Pomona (in Mr Tubs' post) has an asymmetrical mahogany body painted yeller, and pair of kinda mini-buckers, advertised as higher-gain-friendly.

The Fairy Tale has a symmetrical mahogany body in "goldburst", with one of Dieter's "improved P90s" at the neck (with offset polepieces) and humbucker at the bridge.

The new Alamo has a different, more complicated symmetrical korinna body in Ivory, with "Vintage Trouble" screen-covered single coils. It probably sounds funkier, and had I been aware of it, I might have gone that way instead. Looks thus:

https://reverb.com/item/134...


What's with the names? To me they all reveal some combination of ESL language deafness/poor translation and a degree of misunderstanding of American history and culture.

Pomona? Am I missing some crucial crumb of guitar lore and history? Is Pomona a hotbed of country/lap steel/pedal steel development and culture - or just a random place-name from southern California?

Fairy Tale? A self-mocking reference to the notion of a lap steel with pedal-steel features being fictional? Or a skewed translation of something that in German might mean legendary, mythical, mystical?

Alamo? Is it supposed to conjure up echoes of Western Swing? An intentionally belligerent attitude of revenge? A rental car company? All I can remember is the Alamo...a last-stand defeat and war cry.

So I don't get that.

But OK.

40

Oh no ! You've gone to the dark side.

Very cool instrument but I am a bit surprised. Good on ya!

41

I'd have sworn hell had just frozen over,only its so hot over here!

Congrats Tim.

42

Considering your historical "bent" regarding the Duesenberg guitar, I'm a bit, well, astonished. I seem to recall my rather overly excited post some NAMMs back about what I felt a rather magnificent Duesenberg I'd wandered across, and your "comment." I knew that simultaneously was my "strike one and two" and that I'd better not stray so far from "proper" down the line. But, I do fancy your new acquisition--it's a doozy!

44

Anyone else thinking "time for an intervention"?

I double don't get it. You live in the country where the lap steel was invented, and at different times mass produced, and enthousiastically played by anyone from schoolkids to enthousiastic grannies to badasses in cowboy-style band uniforms playing to the dancers in tin-roof shack Honky Tonks in places with names like Pomona....making a generation of dustbowl-displaced Okies and Arkies fraternize, dance, drink and fight to the exotic, electric sound of western dance bands with steel players dying to try their newest Joaquin Murphy lick on the next uptempo instrumental...

Where once upon a time you could walk into the local guitar emporium, music store or even pawn shop and find a stack of non-pedal steels in the corner, with names like "Gibson", "Fender" "Rickenbacker", "Supro", "National", "Bronson", "Kay" and "Oahu" on their dusty old headstocks, discarded, forgotten by the times, made obsolete by changing tastes and fashions, begging to be taken home for a few measly dollars, hoping to be strung up and polished to their former luster, plugged in, and perhaps even make that glorious, almost-forgotten, mythical, microtonal sound again....

Where the average kid in Europe who finally found out which instrument was responsable for that high pitched melancholy wail on his dad's Hank Williams record had to make to with a..... Framus lap steel with a bent tuner and two missing knobs if he could even find that rare bird.....our prolific midwestern GDP poster goes out and buys.....a ...gulp....Duesenberg lap steel....?!? Seriously? Tim? You probably still have time to send that back and get a refund. Come on. We're counting on you.

45

Brought tears to my eyes, Walter.

47

Oh yessir, WB, I know. I know all that. And for the record, I’ve had pawn shop and flea market lap steels for 35 years, including Supro and National. A few months ago I lucked into a 50s triple-8 National here on the GDP, with three extended tunings I’m trying to come to grips with.

I’m the guy who always shows up with a lapper at gigs and Roundups (where I take a Gretsch, out of fittingness), and almost always have the only such instrument on the premises. Likewise the 1932 National biscuit-bridge reso my band built an entire Appalachian-Delta roots set around, which somehow always seemed a novelty when we played - believe it or not, actual Americans asking “what is that thing?” We tried to do that set at a blues festival at Bean Blossom Indiana, a bluegrass venue, and the Stevie Ray biker crowd stared like we had three heads.

You evoke lovely images of the development, evolution, and impact of the steel guitar in America, though you can’t be under the illusion that those were universal experiences. I suppose it’s somehow my fault, but growing up in the rural Midwest, not 50 miles from Columbus and 80 miles from the Ohio River and Kentucky, I didn’t share that experience. I suppose I saw Western Swing bands in old movies on TV, and we had Midwestern Hayride, a Grand Ole Opry clone from WLW in Cincinnati - but neither lap nor pedal steels stand out in my memory from those sources.

Of course I was aware of Hank Williams, but I never wondered about the keening whine of the sliding bar - and in truth I associated the ubiquitous sheen and weep of pedal steel with the kind of country music I had never liked. That there was hillbilly music, favored by the country boys and factory workers living hard lives most of the middle class was trying to rise above (at least in my neck of the woods).

When you really WERE a hillbilly (my grandparents from West Virginia and Kentucky), and you lived on the striving edges of a suburbanizing area trying to escape the shadow of the persistent poverty and privation of Appalachia (substitute “rural south” or “dust bowl”), you didn’t wear the designation proudly. You got sick of the insult.

I suppose subliminally that music reminded me of a past my grandparents had left the heart of Appalachia to escape - or at least to transcend economically. It didn’t sound like the bright new future. It wasn’t fresh and bright and exciting and occasionally transgressive like the rock that followed the British Invasion. In short, country music (with the steel guitar that accompanied it) was Not My Thing.

My parents’ taste didn’t run toward country either: they were about Big Band, show tunes, mainline pre-rock&roll pop - and the “classical” music they felt duty-bound to introduce us to. And, of course, Methodist hymns. Hundreds of hymns, at four a service, every Sunday and choir practice on Wednesday.

So. Nother words, my young musical influences and tastes were determined by the place, time, and cultural environment in which I grew up - and on the GDP, I sometimes feel there's something inauthentic about a rural Midwesterner whose earliest guitar memories are surf music and who was most deeply imprinted with Brit invasion rock and its later derivatives.

I have deeper musical roots which I suppose created context for and contrast to that music - but they’re buried, and even when I uncover them they don’t look familiar. (My grandfather’s 1918 Gibson tenor banjo evokes the string band music of THAT era, not country.) What’s “authentic” for me IS Brit Invasion, blues rock, and prog. My first conscious musical exposure to lap steel might have come from Steve Howe or David Gilmour - before I heard the rootsier stylings of even David Lindley.

As for the SoCal country scene, how was I to have any idea? I get it now - the Hawaiian influence and George Beauchamp, the Dopyeras, Rickenbacher the machinist, the dust bowl migration, WWII jobs and industrialization, displaced populations bringing their music, Western swing, the post-WWII fluorishing of innovation, P.A. Bigsby and Merle and Leo and Les and the rest. But believe it or not, they didn’t teach that in our history (or music) classes in the 60s, and I can’t think of anyone I knew who would have had a clue about it. It’s all stuff I’ve learned (and developed a taste for) in the past 20 - 30 years, back-filling my own musical education. I’ve learned a lot on the GDP - or at least been pointed in some useful directions.

I’m re-reading Babiuk’s Bigsby book now, looking for some mention of Pomona. It’s come up as the location of a motorcycle race. And it seems Joaquin switched to pedal steel as soon as P.A. built him one.

So that’s my context, as I’m able to reconstruct it. I think I’m as authentic as I can be vis a vis lap steels. I have old ones with crumbling tuners. I’ve saved a couple from music stores (whether or not I had the proper reverence for their proper use).

I’ve learned to appreciate pedal steel. I love the extended harmonic complexity and the fluid melodic possibilities. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the coordination, control, and discipline exhibited by good players. But I can’t see myself ever mastering the string relationships and lever and pedal work involved.

At the same time, I’ve certainly felt the limitations of the lap steel. God and anyone who’s heard me know I could be better with slant bar technique. Getting both majors and minors is a problem, and changing keys involves re-tuning for any but the most superficial “yep-that’s-a-steel” effects. And it does occur to the player that changing the pitch of a string independently might be useful sometimes.

Thus the Duesenberg. I know you despise the brand, for some of the same reasons I do - as well as from your own hands-on experience with the generic blah of the guitars. As I would think my ample postings in this thread made clear (along with mocking myself for buying one after all my bluster), I have no more respect for the brand and its positioning than I ever did.

But I don’t know of anyone else making an instrument with the hybrid features this lapsteel has. The benders give it what may be just enough pedal-like capacity, and I expect the sliding capo-nut will facilitate key independence. They’re the ONLY reason it caught my eye in the first place, and remain the only reasons I bought it.

As you must know, I’m not going to use it in any genre-authentic fashion. It will be employed in my bastard approach to hillbilly misunderstood Deltappalachian blues rock prog waltzes. With effects. Or whatever inclination and its possibilities suggest to me.

I can’t tell if you’re recommending I stick with plain ol’ non-bending lap steels, switch to pedal steel, change the deplorable cultural past that led me to this sorry pass, or exactly what. But if you find me another lap steel with bender levers and integrated “capodaster”, I’ll sell the Fairy Tale and buy it.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, Dieter really HAS invented something new and useful here, and not to take advantage of it because of my long antipathy to his operation would seem to hurt me more than it punishes him. (I did buy it used, so at least I didn’t increase his sales.)

48

I was mostly just kidding and feeling a little creative there Tim, that's all!

Though I honestly am shocked and slightly amused you of all people got something by the "D" company, and there still was a little bit of my frustrated 19-year old self in there too, by that time realizing you could buy all these treasures for fairly normal-people-money in the US that I was lucky to gawk at in books, articles and record sleeves.

You'll re-gain my respect when I see you with a beautiful old american-made steel guitar you had rigged with a bunch of rube-goldberg-esque string- bending contraptions made by your handy brother in law Tru-Arc machinist! (kidding again!)

49

I think that Walter has some part of his tongue planted in cheek notwithstanding his concerns about the brand and its owner.

I say, ignore the assorted comments and learn to play the hell out of that thing! No one who knows you will truly believe that you are a tiger who has changed your stripes.

50

But can you play the RAMONES on it?


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