Thanks to all who checked in through social networking sites including Facebook and wished me a happy birthday! As a Leo born on August 14, I share a birthday with musician David Crosby and football player Tim Tebow. However, I'm sure I also share quite a few additional aspects of my life, such as many of my musical experiences and much of the gear I've collected and used throughout the years. with others as well.
At this early stage - chronicled by the early tracks on the anthology album Satan's Spawn, I used a variety of cheap effects, instruments, and microphones to craft an individual sound.
My parents did not know anything about gear so, when they first started buying it, the hardware consisted of guitars containing in-line battery powered speakers and the worst of the digital sounds of the '80s. I recall a horrific sounding distortion pedal that sounded like a bunch of white noise. However, this 'white noise' should not be confused with the 'white noise' of such classics as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat.
This was coupled with a horrid delay pedal and an unspectacular Boss reverb. I was on the road to sounding like everyone else out there so, as you might imagine, the only truly 'individual' character of the sound I had, at the time, was the fact that I was playing it - not the FX or tonality.
From Satan's Spawn, 'Happy Moments,' 'King Down Under,' and a cover of the Temptations' 'My Girl' capture a period in which I had absolutely no formal musical training.
Some albums I listened to, during this period:
Bad Company, Bad Company
Black Crowes, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
Black Sabbath, Paranoid
Black Sabbath, Greatest Hits
Jim Croce, Photographs and Memories: His Greatest Hits
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (first album)
MC5, Kick Out the Jams
Queen, Greatest Hits
By the '90s, I had received my first Fender Stratocaster - a red Mexican model that cost under $300. I would not recommend buying one. The guitar never, ever stayed in tune, and wouldn't even if properly set-up by a pro luthier. The tone was what you would expect: not great at all. The pickups were bad stock models, but I did enjoy the heavy metal essence of the whammy bar.
I had moved on from the red Strat to a blue Ibanez EX, which was one of the worst guitars ever with terrible intonation even after revitalization. Remarkably, its tone was consistent as, to me, it sounded a bit like the crunch Ronnie Wood used in the early '70s. I had to replace this guitar, though, after it was stolen at a tow lot following a car accident. So, I went to a private dealer in Chicago and picked up a pehlam blue 1966 Gibson MelodyMaker SG. The pickups were obviously replacements, but the rest of the guitar was pretty awesome for at least the next ten years or so.
In college, I used two DOD digital delay pedals - one single delay, and one double delay - on top of each other in order to get a 'layered' sound. Ultimately, though, the EX became a frustrating experience ('EX,' in this case, certainly was not an acronym for the term 'excellent.') After it was stolen, I was happy, because some stupid thief received a guitar that I had just smashed into concrete in order to purposefully destroy it.
Several basses were used during this era, including a 1966 Harmony - an instrument I received many years before as a gift. Unfortunately, its finish is tattered today as, in elementary school, the students would sneak back into the school and scrape it with metal objects in order to chip away the original paint. Nice folks. Later, I bought a cheap red Ibanez that was used on many gigs in the blues clubs.
The tracks that capture this phase, from Satan's Spawn, include 'Raise the Roof,' 'Bastardina Skank,' 'We, the People,' and 'Silver Lining.'
Some albums I listened to, during this period:
Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach
Allman Brothers 2nd Set
Grateful Dead, Grateful Dead (first album)
Faces, A Nod's as Good as a Wink (to a Blind Horse)
Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
Rolling Stones, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story
Steppenwolf, 16 Greatest Hits
Quicksilver Messenger Service, Comin' Thru
I brought most of my gear to Hollywood with the exception of a mid-sized electric Kimball organ, which I could not fit in the U-Haul. I did lug a 12-string Epiphone acoustic, but it was smashed in 2001 against the side of a building.
At this time, I preferred using amp-gain (in the style of Jeff Beck) over artificial sounding stomp boxes. The digital delays had been ditched by the latter half of the '90s also, in a quest for more 'pristine' sound. Beyond the smashing of the 12-string, the next acoustic was an early 2000s Ovation Celebrity Series. It was great for a few years, but began to short out after about 48 months of use and, instead of paying for repairs several years after buying a guitar that had been manufactured long before I bought it, I just settled upon a brand new acoustic.
In 2003, I was so disgusted with the direction of the popular music I was hearing on the radio and on television that I simply threw away my TV. I wish I had smashed it, in order to actually experience what that is like, or thrown it out the window like Keith Richards but that would not have worked out very well, as I was living on the first floor. Instead of sitting around, watching TV, though, I mostly practiced and visited friends who turned me on to the music of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and would throw on any combination of the following artists: Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, Larry Coryell, Wayne Shorter, Mahalia Jackson. I thought this was massively impressive for a bunch of white guys from the East Coast, but I also learned about some amazing fusion artists with whom I had not previously been familiar, including Jimmy Herring, Col. Bruce Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit, Frogwings, Jazz is Dead, Schleigho, and many others.
I invested in a 2001 Gibson ES-335 Limited Edition, featured on the cover of the Marcus Singletary Rocks CD. The tone was exactly what I desired, for the first time ever, as the MelodyMaker SG is a single-pickup device that wound up not outputting a high enough signal for my own personal tastes (in recordings with a second guitar player, my leads would always sound 'thin' during playback as opposed to the thickness of what was being heard, on stage, in the moment.)
My amp of choice was a Fender Hot Rod DeVille, and it was used at venues such as the Henry Fonda Theater and the Whisky a Go-Go in LA. As the '66 Harmony was having some technical issues, the night of the Fonda show, I picked up a brand new Peavey bass with jumbo frets earlier in the day specifically for the performance. This instrument can be seen in photographs of shows at the Viper Room also.
Hear this collection of instruments on recordings from Satan's Spawn that range from the electronic dance grooves of 'Anytime,' to the rock depth of 'Can It Be Real' and blues edge of 'Shame.'
Some albums I listened to, during this period:
Larry Coryell, Spaces
Miles Davis, A Tribute to Jack Johnson
Eleventh House, Introducing the Eleventh House with Larry Coryell
Herbie Hancock, Sextant
Love, Forever Changes
John Mayer, Room For Squares
Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life
Wes Montgomery, Tequila
Weather Report, Heavy Weather
An interest in jazz was nothing new, but obviously it became predominant during the '00s, leading me to study the genre in-depth at Musician's Institute in 2007. I was pleased with the quality of the private lessons, and the rapid rate by which I was learning was astonishing. One of my most important listening exercises was sitting in a rehearsal room, quiet, while hearing other players attempt a single scale in the adjoining rooms. It really confirmed my suspicions that most people, realistically, were not cut out for being musicians - even if their hearts were set on it.
That few of them could even pull off a sequence of five notes was incredible to me, as I had been playing for several years and had not really had those types of struggles, even at the very beginning. You would hear people swearing loudly while attempting to play anything beyond a few simple notes.
By 2012, I had advanced my recording techniques to include music tracked in proper studios with session players. For instance, the previous year's album, Smokin', featured musical contributions from drummer Chet McCracken, a player I used to watch wail, daily, after school on an old VHS copy of the Doobie Brothers' Farewell Tour from 1982. The Ovation acoustic guitar died a nasty death during those sessions, and I replaced it with a Takamine G that has been reliable, thus far.
Electrically, I have used Steinbergers since 2009; There are many photos out there featuring me playing this white headless instrument mainly known for its use in progressive rock circles. I'm using the same basses as in the '00s, but have expanded my guitar arsenal to include a Fernandes and a Fender Telecaster modded with a bender added by former Byrds drummer Gene Parsons (a featured player on cuts such as 'Ballad of Easy Rider,' 'Chestnut Mare,' and 'Lover of the Bayou.')
During a visit to Guitar Center, I brought the Tele in for repairs to a guy hired by them to perform such work; In reference to my questions about fixing a noise problem in the pickups, 'Oh, you'll just have to play with a whole bunch of noise, like Jimi Hendrix.' Nice. While I'm not a huge Hendrix fan, I am certain his guitars were either professional custom builds, or factory models during his time in the spotlight and, therefore, were not generating any aspect of unwanted 'noise' produced by faulty craftsmanship. Following this guy's pronouncements of absolute lunacy, I switched over to Noiseless pickups, as Tele's stocks weren't right for me. This fully rectified the problem, and I did not have to simply accept anything less than what I ultimately wanted to hear.
My 'floor components' have expanded greatly beyond where they were, before, and are inspired by both Robert Fripp and Vernon Reid. My rig includes several Roland guitar synth units, a Roland expression module, a Line 6 Spyder IV modeler, several MXR equalizers, the classic Cry Baby wah (which has been replaced nearly 75 times since the '80s), an array of analog phasers and digital compressors by companies such as Behringer, and a few 'surprise' parts I cannot mention without spoiling the secret of my sound!
I can point you, though, in the direction of 'Meditate' and 'Get the Dance Gene' (from Smokin') to hear some of this gear at work on an Epiphone electric guitar, and also towards the Marcus Singletary Sings Country Music Standards album, which only features me backed by my Tak G. When you get there, start with either 'Proud Mary' or 'Muleskinner Blues,' two of my favorites from that disc, and then discover.
Some albums I've listened to, during this period (so far):
Albert Ayler Trio, Spiritual Unity
Glen Campbell, Greatest Hits
Fairport Convention, Fairport Convention
Hot Tuna, Burgers
Waylon Jennings, The Restless Kid: LIve at JD's
Elton John, Rock of the Westies
John Lennon, Mind Games
Redbone, Message From a Drum
Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
Enjoy the musings of Marcus Singletary? Catch up to some of the recordings currently in-print by visiting Singletary's Amazon Storefront. He has recorded in a variety of styles, resulting in a music catalog that contains something for everyone!