FENDER & THE SOLID STATE
My first guitar in 1991 was a Japanese Fender Squier, and my first amp was a Peavey Rage 108. That rig served me during my grunge garage-band phase, for about a year, but once I joined the Jazz Band in High School, I had to change it up a little. My second guitar (in addition to the Squier) was a cheap Aspen Les Paul copy and my second guitar amp was an 80’s Peavey Classic VTX which had a solid-state pre-amp and a 6L6GC tube power amp. That rig served me well during my time with the Cary High Jazz Band, as well as with my garage band, Xenomorph. During that time I was introduced to my first Carvin electric while hanging out at a friend’s house. His neighbor knew we were in a band together and let us borrow his Carvin DC-135 for an afternoon. I really dug it.
SWITCHING IT UP A LITTLE
At some point in the late 90s traded in my Aspen Les Paul and bought a cool WashburnMG200 electric with a flamed maple top, rosewood fingerboard, and HSS pickup configuration. For Christmas my Mom got me a Korg AX100G guitar effects processor. Both of these items expanded my guitar gear experience and ended up helping me buy one of my most memorable guitar rigs.
Years later, I traded in the Peavey Classic VTX, my Yamaha, and my Korg AX100G for one of my favorite guitar rigs: a 1998 G&L Legacy stratocaster and a 1998 Peavey Classic 50 4×10. I played that rig for years, even during my first few years with The Bottom Dollar Blues Band.
In 2001 I got engaged to my wife, and being the non-traditional girl she is, she decided that if she got an engagement ring, that I should get a Carvin guitar. So, as engagement gift, in 2001 I finally got the Carvin I had been dreaming about since the early 90s. (It’s the guitar in the video at the top of this page.)
In 2002 I joined The Bottom Dollar Blues Band (of which my cousin Seth was a member) and used my G&L Legacy, Carvin DC-200, and Peavey Classic 50 exclusively. We played a plethora of blues covers, and my rig at the time was perfect for that genre. In 2004, BDBB decided to “go rock” so we changed the band’s name to High Fidelity, dumped most of the blues covers, and became a classic rock band covering everything from Cream to Weezer. Needless to say, my rig had to change. I needed something more versatile.
WOLFGANG AND THE AMP SIMULATION
After changing music formats I needed a guitar and an amp that could play all the different kinds of rock & roll that High Fidelity was playing. I ended up trading in my Peavey Classic 50 and my G&L for a Line 6 Flextone III modeling amp. I also purchased a 1998 “Patent Pending” Peavey Wolfgang with high output pickups (customized with a coil-tap feature) and a Floyd Rose tremolo. The Line 6 covered a huge spectrum of amp sounds, and the Peavey Wolgang allowed me to go into the “heavier” realm of rock. Both served me well for several years in High Fidelity.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
The stress of having to maintain my somewhat expensive guitars (the Peavey Wolfgang and the Carvin DC-200) encouraged me to purchase 2 low-cost guitars for use with HiFi. For $150 each (regular price $300), I purchased 2 Floyd Rose Discovery Series guitars. These guitars featured the patented Floyd Rose Speedloader tremolos and 2 different pickup configurations for versatility. (DST-2 had 2 humbuckers, the DST-3 had 3 single coils.) I used the guitars for about a year, but got tired of their sterile tone, and the more expensive strings for use with the Speedloader trem. I sold them on eBay for the same price I bought them for. Around this time I also bought a Line 6 POD XT Live and used it in conjunction with my Line 6 Flextone III to add to the number of amp sounds in my arsenal. The time I spent tweaking tones began to frustrate me, however.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
While I enjoyed the versatility my Line 6 equipment afforded me, in 2007 I became tired of all the time I spent tweaking the metric butt-load of settings that the modeling equipment possessed. So, in a fit of practicality and nostalgia I went to the music store, and purchased a 2005 Peavey Classic 50. Almost identical to my old 1998 Peavey Classic 50 which had 4 10” speakers, this Classic 50 had 2 12” speakers. I purchased a set of matching JJ tubes from Eurotubes to replace the stock tubes, and the amp sounded awesome. I quickly sold my Line 6 Flextone III after I realized that I didn’t use it anymore. I kept the Line 6 PODXT Live to use as an effects board.
ONCE A CARVINITE, ALWAYS A CARVINITE
eBay is a dangerous thing. Always looking for a good deal on a Carvin guitar, In 2009 I came across a 2008 Carvin DC-127 for $650. Is was ONLY 2 MONTHS OLD. New, that guitar would have cost $1200. Well, needless to say, I bought it, as it had all the options I would have chosen if I were to have another custom Carvin built from scratch. (12” fretboard radius, flamed maple top, 2 classic humbuckers, Floyd Rose locking trem, maple fretboard) It’s now my favorite guitar, and gets used daily. It’s a great match with my Peavey Classic 50, and the rest of the guys in HiFi seemed to think so too.
END OF AN ERA
December 2009 was High Fidelity’s last gig. Seth, my cousin and co-lead guitarist had moved to Boston; Justin the bass player had joined another band, Vague Us; and Larry, HiFi’s lead singer, had just become a father. So, with everyone’s changing lives, HiFi couldn’t be a priority anymore. For the first time in 5 years, I was band-less.
BACK TO FENDER
In the summer of 2011, I got the itch for another Fender. While I love my Carvins, they just couldn’t produce a Strat “quack” when I wanted a Jimi or Stevie vibe. My opinion is that the sweet-spot for quality instruments is $800. Above that, you’re no longer paying for quality, you’re paying for fancy finishes, custom options, or limited-run models. So, I sought out a Fender Strat at that price point. I’ve played several MiM Strats in music stores, and for some reason they never felt “right” to me. When I’d play an American Strat in a store, I was always able to get a good groove going on, the guitar vibrated in my hands in the way I wanted. So, my criteria ended up being an AMERICAN Strat around $800, in a HSS configuration. That pointed me directly to the Highway One Strat line (which at the time of this writing are no longer produced). At a MSRP of $750 it perfectly met my criteria. I went to my local Sam Ash, tried one of their Highway Ones, and immediately loved it. When asked what kind of deal they could do for me, the sales guy said that he could go as low as $738. I didn’t think their “deal” was good enough, so I headed home and hit the internet. I ended up at Sweetwater.com, and found a floor model for an irresistible price of $578. I bought it on the spot, and am loving it. (See video at the bottom of the page.)
CHANGE OF BANDS, CHANGE OF HARDWARE
After HiFi disbanded, I sold my POD XT Live thinking I wouldn’t need all those effects since I wasn’t in a band. I should have known better.
In the Fall of 2011 I formed a band with a former co-worker of mine, and 2 other musicians. Named “The Big Lewinski”, the band covers rock tunes from the 90s. Well guess what? 90’s rock is very broad sonically, so I needed my effects back. So, bought another Line 6 POD. This time it was the newest model, the HD300, with new amp sampling technology and a plethora of effects. I can play everything from Tom Petty to Alice in Chains with ease. Lesson learned. Don’t sell musical gear. You’ll want it back.
BACK TO CARVIN
I’ve had a revelation. STOP SETTLING! I purchased the Fender Highway One strat because it was a good deal. It was a great guitar, but I just didn’t connect with it. So, I sold it and purchased a new Carvin Bolt-V. (Carvin’s version of the Strat) I’ve learned that I should just buy Carvins from now on. That’s where I’ll always end up anyway.
THE CURSE OF GAS
I’m not saying that I won’t ever get Guitar Acquisition Syndrome again. After all, it IS a syndrome. I will end this narrative by saying that I’m currently very happy with my guitar rig. My Carvins are super-quality instruments. My Peavey Classic is great for classic rock, and whenever I need more gain, or some funky effect, my Line 6 PODHD 300 does the job nicely. If only I could have gotten to this point sooner. Oh well, I guess like most things in life, it’s the journey, not the destination.
PS – I still have my 1991 Fender Squier. Unfortunately, it’s in pieces in my storage building.