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Even the Queen Liked This Story

(This is a true story.) A few years ago a friend of mine, a dapper British gentleman who had just taken up the bass guitar, moved to the United States from the U.K. He was quite enthusiastic about learning to play. It was with great anticipation that he had taped an instructional cable TV special, so that he could watch it when he was home practicing. It was called "Bass Masters." My friend, (we'll call him "John") arrived home, got out his bass, pen and paper, and prepared to take notes. His heart sank however when, much to his surprise, the TV special turned out to be a fishing show...
Sure, We Can Fix Your Martin

Here's a story of an event that occurred during the building of my upright six string electric Ram Bass. If you read about it's origins in the Bass Gallery, then you know it was created in a little guitar shop in Orlando, Florida, run by two guys. One was the shop owner and the other did the repairs and built instruments on the side. During one afternoon I was in the rear work area of the shop working on the bass with the latter, Doug Montgomery, my luthier friend and co-builder. We had just finished rough shaping the core wood plies but had not yet glued on the mahogany sides (called the "wings") to the body. We decided that, before attaching the wings, we needed to trim some more wood from what would become the hollow center of the bass to enlarge the sound cavity and reduce the weight even further. The center core of the Ram bass is laminated maple and purple heart, which are both dense, heavy woods. It was with great difficulty that we sawed through the body center section and were not making quick headway. After a few tries with a variety of tools, Doug stood up, dripping sweat, and exclaimed, "I've got something that'll cut this stuff." He went out the back door into the parking lot to his truck and returned with a chain saw. While he was getting the bass set up for our next phase of sawing, I went to the front of the shop to use the phone. As I did, a guy came into the shop holding a guitar case and set it on the counter. He then opened the case, revealing his prized old Martin acoustic guitar, and asked the owner about doing some repairs on his instrument. The owner always consulted his repairman before giving work estimates on instruments such as this, so he told the customer, "Let me get Doug, he's in the back working on one now." About that time, Doug cranked up the chainsaw. The customer turned somewhat pale, closed the case, said "Let me think about it.", and left. The owner and I laughed until we cried. I've always wished I could have had this incident on video...
A Little Gravity Is a Dangerous Thing

Long ago, I learned never to leave my basses around drummers who are setting up or tearing down their drumkits. Quite a while back I was setting up for a gig, and had left my bass case lying flat on the ground in front of my amp, as usual, next to the drumkit. Our drummer for that gig, who was setting up his cymbal stands, was not paying particular attention to the tightness of the thumbscrews holding his cymbals in place. I bent down, took my old Jazz Bass out of it's old wooden Fender case and turned around to place it on it's stand. I then heard a thundering "CRASH!" I looked over to see a very large crash cymbal imbedded in the case I had just removed the bass from seconds before. Makes you shudder to think about it, doesn't it?
Well, You Could Always Just Set It On Fire

also learned long ago that, for me, the simpler my bass rig, the better. I used to carry around a large rack full of lots of special effects, eq's, stereo power amp, everything but a toaster oven. My rig also employed two full frequency speaker cabinets and a big pedalboard. In the dark the blinking lights looked really cool. Very impressive. For one of my bass solo spots I had a special midi patch set up with a slapback echo that I could use to create interesting rhythmic patterns to build my solo off of. One summer afternoon, our band was playing a large outdoor jazz festival and I had planned to use this patch for my big exposed bass solo. It was a very nice afternoon and we were playing to a capacity audience that really seemed to like the band. Halfway through our set, as the band grooved quietly behind me, I walked up to the front of the stage to take my big solo. Musically, I set it up pretty well, and got ready to launch into the "OH MY GOD, BOARD UP THE WINDOWS AND HIDE THE CHILDREN!" section of my solo. I hit the footswitch to cue the special effect, and....nothing. I turned around and saw the little LED's in my rack effect endlessly looping through the 128 patches while emitting an awful, shrill alien-like sound. And no matter how many times I stomped on the footswitch I couldn't shut it off. As I helplessly shut down my rack, I pointed to the guitar player to take the solo....
Keepen Der Finger Poken Offen Der Blinken Lights!

Twice during my Ringling tenure, the circus played the old (now torn down) Boston Garden arena. The end ringside seats were placed almost at arena floor level, unlike modern arenas, where those seats are placed much higher. At that time, the bandstand was at arena floor level right in front of an end seating section. During one of our matinee shows, there was a large schoolgroup of kindergardeners seated directly behind the band. One youngster decided that he liked watching the lights in my rack better than watching the show. In the middle of the show, my bass amp suddenly went silent. I looked around to find that this young man had found the lighted power switch to my amp. Apparently his curiosity had gotten the best of him, so he pushed it...
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