My Mother Road

Sarah and I were charged with retrieving a brand new 4×4 Sprinter van from Mercedes-Benz of Temecula and delivering it to my brother-in-law in Cedar City, Utah, equidistant between the Benz dealer and Jeffie and Kevin’s mountain home in Old Snowmass, Colorado. I drove the Sprinter and Sarah followed in Vanna White. After we dropped the tall Brotwagen off to an eager Kevin in the Beehive State, we got in Vanna and wandered south into Zion National Park. It was there I found my white whale.

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Shop Update: The Wild, The Innocent, and the C-3 Shuffle

At the end of January I caught a wave of impulsivity. One night after a gig with Bobby Bluehouse I decided that my current road organ, the chopped C-2, was good, but not great, as a live rig. It lacked the responsive key feel and screaming, spitting fury of my other organ, the “studio” A-100. That thing will just cut your coolyans off. That one, I felt, should really be for live use. But the chop wouldn’t be ideal for my recording purposes, owing to its clunky ratcheting drawbars that make smooth timbral transitions nigh on impossible–something that would be very noticeable on a record. Yes, I could always swap out the drawbar rail, but good luck finding a good set of smooth drawbars for less than a car payment, if at all, and the money and time spent on the conversion would be better spent on a -3 series organ, I believe. It was time to do the organ shuffle.

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On the significance of a gone dead Ampeg and the Old Vineyard Way

“But then the fire in my boiler up and quit before I came/there ain’t no empty cellar/need a gone dead train.” –R. S. Newman, 1970

Long before I could drive, or really even play, I fell into a collection of instruments that would make the Silver Lake $100-undercut mavens of vintage skip a collective heartbeat. I was given more cool gear before I was 12 than I would be able to afford until I was in my 30s. Such was the benefit of living among the cabal of doting Vineyard hippies with leaky barns and mildewed basements full of things that hadn’t seen the light of day since Nixon.

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Shop Update: Tallboy Leslie at last fully operational

Tonight I put the finishing touches on the internal restoration and modification of the Leslie 31H, with the completion of the lower motor reconfiguration scheme. It is now a proper two-speed cabinet, using classic two-speed motor stacks and not the—in my opinion, hacky—electronic two-speed conversion kits that are easier but don’t have the right speed and acceleration characteristics. See the video below for a demonstration. Cabinet cosmetic restoration to be completed.

A man, a van, a canyon, Malibu: The mad midnight technical trial of a Transit Connect

The evergreen pursuit of overland speed leads folks to the expected places. Stingrays, Shelbys, a rainbow of subprime-financed and mileage-limited leased German sedans for the temporarily embarrassed millionaires. But some of us have things to do. I can’t carry hundreds of pounds of electric organs, speaker cabinets, and their attendant toolboxes and accessories in a Challenger—ignoring that I gigged on a bicycle and a Harley Sportster for years. You make do with what you have, after all. But an increase in live rig size meant a commensurate increase in road rig size. I also like to enjoy myself while driving. That’s why I keep around a Ford Transit Connect van.

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All Ages Record takes dose of high art, Tall Leslie makes recorded debut, also please stop sharing that “the bee is declared the most important creature” article

Last week, my old friend and Boston’s hardest-working soprano Shannon Rose McAuliffe JetBlew into Tinseltown to lend her trained larynx to the digital wax of the All Ages Record (still as yet unnamed). Since the rest of the album will be performed by a bunch of “far out” ne’er-do-well rock and rollers on the hep “mod scene,” having a true classical musician on board adds a whole different dimension to the project that I could only otherwise dream of. It’s been a long time since I crapped out a Bach Invention at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. On one track, her voice serves as the counterpoint to that of coquettish crooner and known oaf Sean George, whom I’ve been writing and performing music with since before iPods.* His barrel-chested bellow contrasted with her lilting melisma is just a delight, if I do say. This record will have everything: insistent groove, cerebral weirdness, electric disco, folky-dolky sensibility, operatic moments, tender balladry.

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Shop Update: Will it go ’round in circles? Talljack Leslie 31H rotor reconfig

After the amplifier rebuild/modifications, the trickiest part of the Leslie 31H project has been figuring out the most elegant way to reconfigure the rotors so that they’ll work with two-speed motor stacks. Here’s what I came up with.

Shop Update: Leslie 31H Tall-lady amp rebuild complete, I get sound out of it at last

Among the metric plethora of other crap I’m working on or involved with, I’ve been slowly, fitfully working on the grand Leslie 31H tallboy. I finally finished rebuilding the amplifier, but not without a couple of snags along the way. Thanks to the eminent wisdom of Trek II’s Michael Smokowicz, the final word on matters Hammond and Leslie, I got them sorted out and the cabinet is now producing its barrel-chested roar once again. See the video for an explanation. Next comes the mechanical and cosmetic side of things.

Shop Update: To every Hammond BC, turn! Turn! Turn! There is a chorus generator, turn! Turn! Turn!

Further to the recent treatise on my descent into gooberdom, I brought home a supremely junked Hammond BC from a dusty field in Ojai for a song. It’s just about useless, but for its precious chorus generator that I will use in the restoration of another, chorus-generatorless BC. But will this donor generator even turn? I break out the widowmaker and give myself over to the whims of the goddess Fortune.

On the gluttonous maw of Martha’s Vineyard roads

My folks, of the hippie stardust that landed on the deer-ticked dunes of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1960s and 70s, have lived down the same driveway in Aquinnah for the entirety of their five decades there. Locust Lane was a notoriously treacherous gash of gravel and sand that crept through the forest towards Pancake Hollow that down the years had swallowed buggies, pickups, and UPS trucks whole. Its prominent center hump, steep grades, loose stones, and tendency to flood which turned it into a bayou in summer and a solid glacier in winter meant it was only reliably passable by high-set 4×4, Subaru, or toboggan. All others were at their own peril. They always said it kept the Jehovah’s Witnesses away if nothing else.

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