Other Players

Who was known for playing a Tennessean “back in the day”?


I've been trying to remember the Tennessean players from back in the '60s and into the '70s. This is what I can remember:

George Harrison -- Beatles, Hilton Valentine -- Animals, Gerry Marsden -- Gerry and the Pacemakers, Gene Clark/David Crosby -- Byrds, Declan Mulligan -- Beau Brummels.

Can anyone add to it. Seems like there were more at the time.


It was one of the most popular electric guitars of 1965-66. I think the guy in Tremoloes used one. But you covered the best known ones for sure. Hey don't forget the vid up here recenly of Boyce and Hart both playing Tenny.


Not sure if it amounts to "known for" having played one; but definitely known to have played one--Steve Marriott when in the Small Faces before moving on to his 6121. And here it is:


Bob Weir played a 6113 Tennessean precursor in the Grateful Dead precursor, the Warlocks.


Is anyone known for using the single pickup version???


Also Glen Buxton way before his time with Alice Cooper... only seen Chet with the single pickup one and that was just for an album cover.


Does Mike Nesmith's 12-string conversion Tenny count?


Grass Roots - definitely had a Gent and I’m pretty sure I saw them in 1970/71 with a Tenny.


I've read somewhere that the guy with Tommy James and The Shondells was another.


Animals the house of the rising sun footage


I've read somewhere that the guy with Tommy James and The Shondells was another.

– tubwompus

Saw him with a DC Nashville (6120) but don't recall a Tennessean,


Animals the house of the rising sun footage

– Toxophilite

That would be Hilton Valentine as I indicated in the OP.


ooops missed that..Kind of wish my name was Hilton Valentine!


Kind of wish my name was Hilton Valentine!

Yep, I always thought that was one of the great names in rock.

And "House of the Rising Sun." Talk about bedrock guitar DNA for guys of a certain age. I can't even remember when I first heard it. I think I heard other 10-14 year olds trying to play it (sometimes succeeding) before I ever heard the recording. It was very much a rite of passage to learn to execute it passably: durn F-chord.

Then it was one of those records (like "Whiter Shade") that sounded not only like a very old song, but a very old recording. It seemed timeless. It's like I was born familiar with it, like it never didn't exist. Yet I can remember the first time I heard my first Beatle song.

That brittle, dry, sinewy guitar progression. So simple in technique, and delivered with such simple directness, but certainly an uncommon chord progression for a pop record. Does it sound so inevitable and primordial to us now because its internal logic really has that much gravity - or because we're just so familiar with it?

I spent most of one winter in the mid-90s playing it for hours a day, moving it to different keys, revoicing the chords in multiple ways, finding countless voice leading paths and harmonic extensions in it, variations on a theme. The more I dissected it, the more I found in it. Durn thing turned into a musical Mandelbrot pattern.

I like the length of the progression - that it takes four 4-measure cycles to complete - and the hymnic A-B-A-C internal structure; the way the Am-E-Am in the last quatrain brings it home is like the voice of judgment. You know it's coming and you get hit anyway. And I love the 6/8-ness of it; the jazz waltz with the cadence of a walk to the gallows.

The Animals' version is the definitive recorded version, and probably deserves to be. The guitar part is the indispensable armature on which it's built, the organ exercises are epic in their way, and Eric Burdon's vocal really kills it. How'd a kid that young dig that deep, sound that ancient? For all that, the bass&drums seem kinda desultory to me, lacking dynamics and imagination. I've seen an impassioned Animals performance from a TV show of the era that improved on the rhythm section and delivered more soul than the record.

I've heard a bunch of covers - Frijid Pink's late-60s garage-psychedelic-metaloid romp was a favorite when I was in Jr High - but I think maybe there's still a better version lurking in the song. Keep the theme of the guitar but extend some of the chords and develop more variety through the verses, replace the wheezy warbling Farfisa (or was it a Vox Conti?) with a mighty B, turn the groove into muscular rock thunder, vary the dynamics of the verses. Or maybe the fully apocalyptic version can only exist in the imagination.

In any case, the unique bone-dry sound of the Tennessean is the skeleton on which the song is built. A Tele or any other guitar might have worked - but just that hint of a little thin-hollowbody air around those arpeggios, the quick attack and quick-dying banjo articulation so characteristic of the Tenny establishes the vibe. It sounds like it's recorded in a stone cell. When I was 11 years old, THAT'S what an electric guitar sounded like.

And for all that the guitar sound helped make the song, it's also an honor and a credit to Gretsch that Hilton Valentine gave the Tenny a place in an immortal bit of songcraft and recordmaking.

It wasn't till I fell deep into the Gretsch rabbithole as an old bastid that I learned what guitar was used on the record, and then I thought it helped explain why Gretsch hit me so hard when I finally discovered it after 40 years of playing. That tone was just that imprinted on me.


Tim, you've famously pointed out that the lyrics to "Pinball Wizard" will fit just about any rock song, so if you haven't already heard this, I think you'll enjoy it. HOTRS is a Christmas Carol, as the lyrics to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" fit perfectly, as demonstrated here by Seattle DJ Bob Rivers and his crew of brilliant soundalikes:


tim lynch of the original flamin groovies



the lyrics to "Pinball Wizard" will fit just about any rock song.

Well, not just rock. I can make them fit "Misty."

"O' Little Town of Rising Sun" is priceless. What a hoot. Might even put me in an Xmas mood.

OK, not...but close. Thanks for the link.


Try these too!

This one features Alan White on drums and Randy Hansen as Jimi

And the Chairman of the Board does the Stones:


Not politically correct but funny:

Problem is that once you hear them, when ever you hear the real song you hear these in your mind.

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