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Winters Passed…

Sep 23, 2013



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I woke up this morning to a text from Yulie telling me Johnny Winters just passed on… I first heard him in early 1969 on my friend Glen Madara’s stoop. We were listening to FM. Second Winter was about to be released (I found out later) and I’m Not Sure came in on the transistor radio. It’s the song Winter plays Fender electric mandolin on, while his brother plays harpsichord…
I’m sure it’s on You Tube – check it out for yourself. Even now,  even tho you’re old and cynical, you’ll still find it amazing.
I was fifteen, and thought it was the coolest singing I had ever heard in my life. The way he bent notes, repeated phrases, sung in falsetto, like a girl – it physically affected me, actually frightened me, as here were life’s secrets, made into sound and vibration, thru electricity. I should have been scared.
A few months later, as I was meeting my girlfriend, Susan, at Jamaica High in Jamaica, Queens, walking up the hill from Hillside ave., there was a little record store there, the size of my store now. They had his Second Winter album stuck to the inside of the window. I couldn’t believe his appearance – I couldn’t believe he was white, first of all, as I had never heard a white man sing like that. And he was….Uber White! So fucking strange but the coolest looking (what?) I had ever seen..I remembered the name, as the song I had heard back on Glennie’s stoop still haunted me.
I remember, soon after, going to see him at the Fillmore with his trio. He was electrifying, and alien-like in his appearance. He was the first big-time white(!) guitarist I had ever seen, in person. He had such a effect on me I remember every little thing about discovering him, and through him, the Fillmore East. His was my first concert there.
It’s amazing, in this time of instant knowledge, how slowly I discovered the blues world. All I had was a radio, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice, but no older brother who could steer me to cool music. No one in my neighborhood in Queens Village was into blues, as far as I knew at the time.
He was the first ‘blues’ player I ever heard and saw, in person. Not only was he not black but he was the whitest motherfucker in the world! Hard to believe, now, I still hadn’t discovered Albert King, et al, but I was a naive kid. He opened the door for me, tho – a door I’m still not able to close. I listened to what everybody else did at the time – soul, and rock music – but this stuff, this electric blues shit, was on a whole other level. For a young white kid who still went to church on Sundays, this was like stepping off a cliff….
I think, looking back, what astounded me about the idiom was the way strong and virile men had the ability to express their emotions, so deeply, so heartfelt and with so much conviction. And, most amazingly to me, who still had no hair on his balls, with such astounding confidence. Now, that was something I had not experienced in my working class Catholic Queens family. I mean, I shook my dad’s hand – not kiss him on the cheek. That was unseemly, ya know? And here are guys literally screaming about their heartache, and loneliness! Fuck – talk about a  religious conversion….
I was physically moved when I heard about his death this morning. I think it was more about my lost youth, how long ago it was, and remembering how much I burned for this truly magic, secret and mystical knowledge that I had to earn and work for on my own, and work harder for it  than anything I had yet learned to strive for. Except maybe women – the other side of the same coin…
 So naive, so clueless, so frustrated….yet I’m still reaping the benefits ( and the pain) of that search.
Can’t say for sure, but part of me thinks I wouldn’t know any of you, who all share in some way my passion for music, if it wasn’t for that spring Saturday after basketball that I heard Winter on the radio, on the  stoop in Glennie Madara’s back yard.
May he rest in peace.
                                        Dan Courtenay
                                                   Owner, Chelsea Guitars

So much knowledge, so little wisdom….

Gibson LG-2

This is a very interesting LG-2, 1943 was the only year they produced them with maple back and sides (spruce top), and a three piece maple neck with strips of walnut in between. When we first got this guitar in, I thought it was a reissue because it was so clean. I thought ‘that’s an interesting year to reissue’; upon further inspection obviously I realized it was the real deal. Nice fat bulky D shape to the neck. This one is much more trebly and a tight bass due to it being mostly maple. The banner logo looks brand new and the tuners work perfectly.

1966 Guild Starfire III

May 5, 2013



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86 Guild Starfire

This guitar drove me crazy.  The original owner, who ordered the guitar in 1965, did not want it in red – the way pretty much all of them came in ’65. It was his first guitar, his heroes played Guild, so he wanted it in Sunburst just like their Artist Awards. Took him a year to get it. He was insanely happy with the guitar – the most beautiful thing he possessed – other than his wife – His words, not mine….The guitar had pride of place in his home – in the case, under the freakin’ bed. when I first saw the guitar I could see it had really never been played. Considering how much he liked it, why didn’t he play it? Too pretty, he said. Other than a coupla strums, he’d take it out of the case to admire it once in a while – that’s it.He had beat up Guild classical that he banged around on once in a while, but, he says now – “Shit gets in the way…”     The guitar, with its special ordered Sunburst finish, is dead mint and plays and sounds fantastic. Comes with the original case and cool case candy. $3500

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