Pat Blythe: For The Love Of The Guitar

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Tuesdays are “writing day”…..supposedly. Then all hell breaks loose. Why can’t it be on Monday, or even Wednesday AFTER I’ve filed my column? Deep breath…..inhale. It’s the exhale I sometimes forget. Okay, crank up the music. Ah, there’s nothing a little two-step around the kitchen floor that won’t cure whatever ails ya. ….and breathe….. Way behind on photo reviews and albums, so much to do, so little time. …and now for the column, something a little different.

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I’m part of an event happening this Sunday, July 24th, For The Love of the Guitar, that celebrates an instrument that has given us centuries of pleasure. Doing some research inspired me to make today’s column all about the guitar. To find out more about the event you can check it out here https://www.facebook.com/events/254762328237165/  My musical adventures and celebrations will return next week. Bear with me as I deviate from the apparent ‘norm’.

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Gretsch guitar courtesy of Sam Taylor

As most of you know I spend a great deal of time shooting (as in photographing) bands, singers and various entertainers in all sorts (and I do mean “all sorts”) of venues around the GTA and her outer-reaches. Live is what I shoot and it’s definitely the most enjoyable. I get to hear some great music and do a little cha-cha-cha if the chance presents itself. I’m constantly challenged by the performances and the performers, trying to catch a moment, a glance, a smile or a feeling.  Watching, waiting, looking at everything, including the other photographers. But it’s all about what’s happening on stage, all facets of the show, that captures my attention. The facial contortions (known as guitar face), expressions and body language are fabulous and when I when I see them for the first time in black and white, many of them are startling, some are mind-blowing, some surprising but most are just frigging amazing! You can almost experience the intensity, the profound passion, the love, the unmitigated joy but especially the oneness the musician has with his or her instrument. It’s a special kind of bond that is close to indescribable. The execution of the perfect riff, sound, solo….Of all the instruments that seem to evoke the strongest emotion for the instrumentalist, the guitar is star.

Get your guitar face on….

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Michael Zweig – The Carpet Frogs

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June Millington – Fanny

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Jeff Jones – The Carpet Frogs

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Rob Robbins – Moxy

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Sam Taylor 

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Suzi Quatro 

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Julian Taylor 

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Matty Lazy (The Lazys) 

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Lee-La Baum – The Damn Truth 

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Paul James

The camera manages to catch various angles of the instrument as it’s being played. Most guitar players bring a selection of guitars with them to each performance….at minimum two different guitars, three if an acoustic is involved. My “thing” is to capture the guitar itself in action. I can pretty much tell with certainty which one is the favoured guitar. She (yes she) is caressed, stroked and strummed with varying degrees of tenderness and forcefulness, just like making love to a woman. She’s then placed very carefully back on the rack or in her case where she waits patiently for her man to love her again. All guitars are “shes” and as I focus more and more on this instrument, I can see  why. Did it really all start with Lucille?

All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You – Heart

So, a little history lesson….

An instrument that has been around for about 4000 years….from the Egyptians to the Moors to the Spaniards, acoustic to electric, from Memphis Minnie (one of the first blues guitarists to go electric) to Jimi Hendrix, the guitar has a history like no other instrument. Bent, broken, smashed, set on fire, slept with, made love to, the guitar has survived for centuries. Stroked, plucked, picked and strummed, in the hands of a skilled player, the guitar produces sounds that aren’t possible on any other music-making device. Mellow to raucous, a single instrument that can be made to weep, growl, scream, squeal, sigh, whisper, and yes….even sing. The voice of jazz, pop, Latin, blues, rock, calypso….every genre imaginable, it’s the instrument of choice for many young, budding musicians today and the favoured writing partner of many songwriters.

Sounds of the guitar

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The ancient Sanskrit word for “string” is “tar“.  Many stringed folk instruments that exist today in Central Asia, unchanged for centuries, bear names ending in “tar“, with a prefix indicating the number of strings.  The four-stringed Persian chartar (direct translation means “four strings”) arrived in Spain where it acquired a pair of unison-tuned strings and became known as the quitarra or chitarra. The word guitar is derived from the Old Persian chartar. Enter the Italians and the five-course guitarra battente. (If you got this far that means your eyes are not quite glazing over yet) Gradually replacing the four-stringed instrument, the standard tuning settled at A, D, G, B E which are the top five strings of the modern guitar. Beginning with eight frets free of the body, the guitar evolved, increasing to 10 and then 12 frets . The sixth string was added to the guitarra battente, again by the Italians, and everyone followed suit. The transition was a fairly simple task. Modifications were to replace or rework the nut and bridge and plug four of the tuning peg holes. So to all my Italian guitar-playing friends (and there are soooo many of you)….. stand proud! The country is more than Sophia Loren, pasta and Vespas. You gave us Jimi, Brian, Jimmy, Johnny, Richard, B.B., Keith, Eric, Stevie, Eddie, Prince, Slash….the list is virtually endless.

Top 10 Male Guitarists of All Time

Antonio Torres, a Spanish guitar maker gave us the modern “classical” guitar that is essentially unchanged to this day. Increasing the body size, altering its proportions and introducing the “fan” top bracing pattern, the design radically improved the volume, tone and projection of the instrument. Then came the German immigrants to the U.S. with X-braced tops. When steel strings first appeared around 1900, the beefed-up X-brace could handle the tension (unlike Torres’s design) and it rapidly became the industry standard for the flat-top steel string guitar.

Moorish Dance – Liona Boyd

Enter Orville Gibson who married the steel-string guitar with a body constructed more like a cello (the bridge exerts no torque on the top, only pressure straight down), allowing the top to vibrate more freely, subsequently producing more volume. The 1920’s saw the entry of the “jazz” guitar with f-holes, floating bridge and cello-type tailpiece. Pickups were added to Hawaiian and jazz guitars in the late 1920s and the electric guitar was born. The first patent for the electric guitar was awarded to George Beauchamp for a guitar he made with partner Adolph Rickenbacker in 1931.Gibson introduced the ES150 model in 1936 and the electric guitar took off, its success glaringly evident 80 years later. Add a little amplification (turning it up to eleven) and they could do away with the soundbox. There is still controversy all these year later as to who constructed the very first solid-body guitar — Les Paul, Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby or O.W. Appleton. Whatever you chose to believe, the solid-body electric guitar is here to stay.

Little Wing – Stevie Rae Vaughan

Ladies….

An instrument that has long been associated (and somewhat commandeered) by the male gender, there are just as many women who have mastered the four, six or twelve strings. Loretta Lynn, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Suzi Quatro (bass), Joan Jett, June Millington (first all female rock group Fanny), Memphis Minnie, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt…. this list too is endless. Rock and roll in particular became a boys club and women weren’t much welcome except as vocalists or groupies. A female guitar player….phfft! Women weren’t meant, or was it made, to play those oh so lovely Les Pauls, or Gibsons, Rickenbackers or Fenders…. They’re still not taken seriously  in the rock arena, even now in the 21st century. Even I don’t think of a woman if someone asks me who my favourite guitarist is. That needs to change!

Top 10 Female Guitarists of All Time

This Train – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Although my fav is the bass guitar and drums, the six-string, hard-bodied guitar has always fascinated me. Sometimes annoyingly loud and screechy, it is also a beautiful instrument that has given us so many years of inestimable pleasure. We wouldn’t have the music we enjoy today without it. So I will sit patiently through those too long guitar solos and wait for the good bits of which there are many. This is one of them.

Orchid – Black Sabbath

Any questions? There’s a test on Sunday night, July 24 where we are gathering to celebrate this incredible instrument. Oh…and there’s a birthday too!

Cheers!

All photographs by Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera “The PictureTaker” except Suzi Quatro and the sleeping kitty

Sources

Paul Guy, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7In “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also workedpblythealongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance!

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