Saturday, 1 November 2014


Watcha Brummies, Brumettes, Brumbeaters and Mates around the world,

It's yer man again, the computers coal box is stoked and full of words so  I thought I'd yak on about the electric 12 String guitars rise to popularity in the mid sixties, riveting I know!  However, to spice things up a little more there's "How to tune yer Geetar, Nashville Style",  a chance to share your Germany memories and to conclude, a touch of the Hollick and Taylors.  So there you have it, a Right Rollicking Read for the Rumbuncious, Rotund and Rum amongst us few Brumbeat survivors.  Including, naturally, you myriad readers from all parts of the world who welcome me into your own bit of cyber space.  I love you and so does Mrs Bob and the dogs, well except for Charlie, he needs persuading with a chocolate digestive and then he could be yours for life. 
In 1965, us Brummies and the rest of the western world, all went crazy for The Byrds 'Mr Tambourine Man' with it's chiming 12 string guitar intro.   Some Brummie groups adopted the Byrds sound along with a lot of The Byrds material included in their repertoires.    Hartley Cain, guitarist of The Monopoly who included Raymond Frogatt in their line up, went absolutely barking mad and made his own eighteen string guitar, I seem to remember something like chess pieces being used for tuners.   Hartley is still playing with Froggy .   The Move too played quite a bit of Byrds stuff and would finish their act with 'Eight Miles High'.  Flashing lights, strobes, fireworks, explosions, with Charlie Wayne destroying a TV with an axe as Roy Wood Wah Wah'd his way way to the end end, the sign of effects to come from the 'bearded one'.

Lots of 12 string action since then, Jeff Lynne's acoustic sound trademark, Tom Petty, The Eagles and Jimmy Page to name but a few.  If you want to hear the real possibilities of it though, then listen to Leo Kottkes classic CD. 6 and 12 String Guitar
The 12 String has been around since the 1930's and was an instrument favoured mostly by Blues singers, notably the fabulous Huddy Ledbetter, Rev Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and also Folkies like Pete Seeger.   It's advantage was added volume and presence as an acoustic instrument but the disadvantage being that you were limited by its playability as a single note instrument. It was regarded as something of a novelty for many years and owing of its limited playability there was never a large amount of those guitars available in the early days.
Pete Seeger

The first commercial 12 string 'hit' was 'Walk Right In', released in 1962 by a trio called The Rooftop Singers, the song itself, was a cover of a 1921 blues song.   The two guitarists decided to use two 12 strings to get a bigger sound but, such was their rarity, they had to have Gibson make two acoustic models for them before they could record the track.   
It's often said that The Byrds copied the Beatles sound but David Crosby is quoted as saying that they had been impressed by the sound of Liverpool's, The Searchers.  They had a big 1964 hit with a Jackie de Shannon song 'When You Walk in the Room' and should you listen to the opening riff of that song it is not a million miles away from the feel and notation of Mr
Mike Pender The Searchers
Tambourine Man. The Searchers were heavily into that 12 String sound from then on, following up with Malvina Reynolds, 'What Have they Done to the Rain' which was in the current 'protest song' vogue.  The Byrds were of course influenced, like every musician of the day, by the sounds and innovations of The Beatles but the comparison stops there.

RICKENBACKER, made the first electric guitar so it was only right that they would make the first prototype Electric 12 string in 1963 and by the time the Beatles toured America in 1964, that prototype had just evolved into the famous 360/12.   Rickenbacker seized the opportunity of gifting one to George Harrison, supposedly the second ever made by them.  On his 21st birthday that guitars' sound was first recorded by way of The Beatles 'You Can´t Do That', which was the 'B' side of 'Can't Buy Me Love' and from then on they used it liberally and as a foil to the sound of the sitar on Norwegian Wood and others.  

Harrison's 12 string riffed, 'If I needed someone' was recorded by The Hollies as a single so that fuller, melodic 'Sound' was really popular then and the R&B Beat  Phase coming to a close.

The Who's Pete Townshend bought a harder and grittier aspect to the guitar as he thrashed it around a few stages and when I saw The Who, live at Midnight City in Birmingham its effect on the opening of "Anywhere, Anyhow, Anyway" was brilliant and full bodied.  It chimed it's way right through the Summer of Love with all those, trippy solo's man'.   

I have to say, this early 360/12 was, and still is, a beautiful guitar, the neck was unbelievably light and the sunburst, lustrous.  The famous, art-deco like, F Holes made it very attractive and the sculpting for the tail piece beautifully echoed the same design line across the scratch plate. The later models had more rounded edges that gave the guitar a 'toy like' look , I've never liked them since.  To me that design difference is like comparing the first E Type jaguar with later models, they got it right the first time.  I can tell you that the sound of this guitar is luscious and warm and if I could, this would me mine right now. 

Fender, not wanting to be outdone, made their 
own model, The Fender XII, and they obviously took this guitar seriously as it was a brand new design, not just a Stratocaster adjustment.    Wow!, we had been living with those fab Fender guitar names so what a shocker then, when they gave it such a bland obvious name, albeit in roman numerals? and if the product name of the guitar wasn't that inspirational, this 'thing' was the best they could come up with.  It must have been the result of a bar room brawl by the design team, with the dopiest one winning. They somehow managed to combine total blandness with a hideous disregard for style and I particularly hate the headstock.   It was a very playable guitar though and was used extensively by a whole host of folk and interestingly also by The Beatles.  In later years some people took off the thinner set of strings, raised the action and used it as a slide guitar.   This was the type of 12 string used by The Move.

BURNS.  Not to be excluded from the musical fun, Cliff and The Shadows had a 1964, 12 string, hit on their hands with 'On the Beach' and for which Burns had designed a 'One of a kind' Double 6 for
Hank Marvin, the only one fitted with a Rezo tube tremelo.   This was a popular 12 String and even Elvis used one. I think it looked great in Green, great playability and much prettier than the Fender. Burns still make this guitar and it now comes with a Trem system like Hanks.

VOX  bought out their Teardrop and Phantom 12 strings, and the teardrop was certainly used a lot by The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and acoustically, was to the fore, for songs like Ruby Tuesday, Angie and As tears go By.

I was never a fan of VOX guitars so can't really comment on its playability, I can't seem to remember anyone else playing this model of 12 string either.

As soon as you pick up a 12 string you would instinctively play Mr Tambourine Man and Beatle songs and in later years Hotel California then you would run out of suitable songs for it.  I never bought one  because it's expense was wasteful, considering it's usefulness.  Once again, in 1967, Rickenbacker came up with an ingenious idea to solve that problem..

This Ricky 620/12 has a comb device which, when levered into position, hooked onto the high set of strings and pulled them down, leaving you to play it as a normal six string guitar.  I can't say it's attractive in any sense and it's mechanics seem to be a bit Heath Robinson but apparently it worked effectively.  This would be a good guitar to have in a collection.
Ricky 12 string  Convertible with Damping Lever
This comb fitting was available on the the 360/12 too between 67 and 1970.
So if you see one, snap it up, it's only going to become rarer and rarer, a real keeper.
These days I do have a 12 string acoustic with a pick up fitted, just to have that sound available if something suitable ever comes along when I'm writing, or maybe to use in company with friends.  I have to say that it is my least used guitar of all.

If you had a mind to want to record a twelve string sound but don't have the dosh to get one then you could try using a spare guitar and change all the strings to use what is known as Nashville Tuning.  After removing all your strings, replace them, starting from the high E with the following strings

010 Plain
014 Plain
009 Plain
012 Plain
018 Plain
027 Wound
nashville strung guitar

Then tune your guitar as follows:
First two strings E and B as normal
then the remainder of the strings are tuned as normal (GDAE) only ONE OCTAVE higher so you'll really have to wind up the tuners and use an electronic tuner if you have one.   The result is very pretty and if, when recording, you overdub a normally tuned guitar with the nashville tuned one, you will have the 12 string sound.  It also sounds nicely different played on it's own.

Tanya Day, Raucous Brummie singer during the early 60's was backed by The Beatles at the Star Club, now that's living the dream eh?.   Several Brummie bands sought their fame and fortune in Germany, probably in the hope of emulating The Beatles success.

So here's a call to all you people who went to Germany during the 60?s, playing those interminably long hours for little money but improving as a band and experiencing life outside of Birmingham for the first time.    Brian Nicholls,
Brumbeat guitarist and music historian is writing an e book about the 60's and is looking for contributions and stories from those of you who went on the overnight ferry to Hamburg or one of the many other German destinations that Brummie bands played at.  If you have photos that would be even better!!

Here's a great chance to get your fifteen minutes of fame and keep your history alive.  

You can contact Brian at:

Had a comment from Jeff King saying that he has got two private Hollick and Taylor 78 rpm recordings (Goodness gracious that's going back some!!).   They have the H and T yellow label with two hand written titles on one of them, 'Home Sweet Home' and the other, a strange title here
 ' Just a Wearing For You'.   

The second 78 has nothing written on it at all and there are no marks in the dead wax either.    So if you were the person or band and recorded either of these pressings, although I can't imagine anyone saying
"Yes, I was on the second??"
I know Jeff would love to hear from you on 0121 3730394.

A fond farewell to Jack Bruce, I'm glad I was alive to enjoy him.
Special Christmas Blog next Month and only 54 shopping days till Christmas.

OK you guys, I'm off to continue knocking out the living room fireplace, I left Mrs Bob barrowing out the rubble whilst I came in to 'touch the blog up a little'.   
I know she's had a recent injury but really, if I don't keep an eye on her she slows down to a dead stop.    She's made up her own work chant though, I can hear her singing it now....."Oomebak....Oomebak....oomebak!".   How inventive she is.  Where's my guitar? I'll see if I can come up with some music to go with her lyrics.

Toodle Ooooo!

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