Posts Tagged ‘Stratocaster’

Yep, that’s $155 combined for the guitar and the amp. Both were made in Meridian, Mississippi back in the late ’70s to mid ’80s, and the guitar cost me 75 bucks, and the 55-watt amp $80 off of Craigslist.

And they sound fantastic, proof that you don’t need a $2000 boutique tube amp and a $2000 ultra-high-end boutique guitar to sound good. I think my $155 rig would beat the crap out of any such combo. (Check out the video of tonight’s gig — which should be coming within a day or two, friends willing.)

What are the magic ingredients? A slightly upgraded Peavey Patriot solid body electric guitar, with SuperFerrite pickups (a beginner-level bolt-on solid body with ultra-hot, quiet pickups) and a slightly downgraded Peavey Bandit 65 solid-state amp. (“Downgraded” refers to the speaker.)

Tonight, I played a gig and ran into the guy I bought the Patriot from seven or eight years ago. He did me a huge favor by selling me that guitar for 75 bucks; he wasn’t mercenary, and decided to do some random guitar player — me! — a solid. I love the guitar: it’s fantastic; since then, I replaced the original crappy toggle pickup switch with a high quality knife switch, replaced the scratchy volume pot, and had it professionally set up. That’s all. Another 75 or 80 bucks.

As for the amp, it cost me 80 bucks off of Craigslist about ten years ago. These things originally had very high quality Sheffield Scorpion speakers, with heavy magnets. For no apparent reason — I hadn’t played it above about “5” and no one else had touched it — the speaker started buzzing a couple of years ago. I disassembled it, reassembled the magnet assembly a couple of times (yes, you can do that with these speakers), and the buzz didn’t go away, so I pulled the speaker, checked out what I had on the shelves, and replaced it with the only one that’d fit: a cheap, no-name 12″, 50-watt Chinese speaker (yes, lower wattage than the 55-watt Bandit’s rating) from a complete piece of shit Crate tube amp (but I repeat myself) I’d cannibalized years earlier after the power supply blew up because of construction defects. (As an aside, don’t bother with the more recent Peavey “trans-tube” models.)

Anyway, if you’ve ever heard an old Silvertone Twin from the 1960s, with tiny output transformers that super-saturate very easily, and deliver an incredible blues-distorted tone, this rig with the shitty Chinese Crate speaker essentially delivers the same. This is probably a one-off, so please don’t buy a Bandit and pull the high quality Sheffield and replace it with a random piece of shit speaker — you’ll likely be very disappointed. Bandits typically go on Craigslist for between $75 and $150, and they sound way-good as is.

As for the guitar, the Peavey Patriot comes in two flavors: one with two single-coil pickups, the other with a single bridge pickup, which is as useless as you’d suspect. (Anyone who’d buy such a guitar is forgiven as a 14-year-old moron who might eventually learn better, but it’s useless nonetheless.) Look before you buy. You should be able to find one on Craigslist for somewhere in the $100 – $250 range depending on condition and on whether it has a case.

There’s a near-equivalent model, which should sell for about the same: the Peavey T-15, which has a slightly shorter neck and slightly different body shape. Other than that, they’re identical.

As for the other Peavey “T” models, the Peavey T-60 has become fashionable in recent years, is the most in-demand, and typically sells in the $500 to $600 range. It’s the guitar Jerry Reed used on the “Smokey and Bandit II” album — with the great cut “East Bound and Down.” It has the two SuperFerrite humbucker pickups, but with a split switch to give you a single-coil tone if you want  it. The downside is that these thing play great, sound great, and, unless you’re young, strong, and will learn better by the time you’re 30, they’ll give you major back problems. The weight varies, but they’re far heavier than Les Pauls, with some weighing over 13 pounds. If you have the money and will use it only in the studio, get one. For day-in-day-out bar gigs, get something lighter, unless you have masculinity issues.

As for still other “T” models, I’ve owned Peavy T-25s, T-26s, and T-27s. I didn’t like any of them. The Strat-like T-27 (I believe, could be wrong about the model number) wasn’t good — equivalent action, but noticeably worse tone than my standard Strat. I’m rebuilding the one with SuperFerrite humbuckers (I believe the T-26), and, once I have new tuning machines in it, will set it up for slide (which is about all humbuckers are good for). Sorry for the confusion about the “T” Peaveys — the only ones I like are the 2-pickup Patriot, T-15, and T-60.

Enough for now. Time to pull apart my Peavey Classic 30, see why it’s howling, and fix it.

Cheers, Chaz

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel and an unrelated sci-fi novel, and is the author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory. He also was the guitarist in Ass Deep In Hippies (in San Francisco), Pinche Blues Band (In Tucson), and is the guitarist in an upcoming a yet-to-be-named blues/rock/jazz/country band, mostly featuring old bandmates and both originals and covers in Tucson. Should be huge fun. For a sample of the originals, click here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free mp3s.)

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

Let me preface this by saying this post is entirely my own. I’ve never been in contact with the manufacturer and am receiving no compensation for this from anyone. I just want to turn other guitar players on to a great, inexpensive guitar.

Teton guitarI’ve long been unsatisfied with the acoustic guitars I’ve owned — cheap pieces of shit that played and sounded as bad as you’d expect for what I paid for them; they were useful only for songwriting and for practicing when I couldn’t use an electric for fear of being lynched by the neighbors. (These junk guitars included a 1967 or ’68 Gibson LGO [very good action, lousy muffled sound] — with that brand, you’re paying for the name — which I had to sell about 15 years ago when I was broke; I haven’t missed it for a second.)

A couple of years ago, I wandered into one of the local guitar shops, Lessons n’ More, and told the owner I wanted to buy a decent acoustic-electric but didn’t want to spend a lot of money. He said, “Try this.” He hauled out a Teton, a huge, made-in-USA, strangely shaped, single-cutaway dreadnought acoustic-electric (considerably deeper toward the tail end of the body than the neck). I took it, went into a practice room, started playing, and went “Damn!” It sounded and played great, but I was near broke at the time, and was reluctant to spend the $375 (plus approximately $30 tax) for the guitar. So I put it on the back burner.

Eighteen months ago, I could afford it, bought one, and fell in love with it.  It’s easy to play, bright, projects like crazy, and sounds just as good, maybe better, amplified than unamplified. I’ve changed the strings once since I got it, and people still remark on how bright it sounds. This pretty much says it all: I prefer playing it to playing my Strat (which I’ve had for over 20 years, have used on innumerable gigs, and which I love).

Yesterday, I got together with friends for a few hours. We started off with bass, drums, and yours truly on acoustic-electric, and it totally cut through. After an hour, another friend showed up with his Strat, and I decided to stick with the Teton. (We were both playing through Peavey Classic 30s — probably the most cost-effective working bluesman’s tube amp [I greatly prefer them to Fenders] — so this is a good comparison.) It held its own with the Strat.

To put it back in acoustic terms, the Teton acoustic-electric (model STS105CENT) will more than measure up against purely acoustic Martins and Taylors costing four times as much.

There are, however, downsides to the Teton. The first and most serious is that the finish on the body is very soft (satin finish — the neck has an acrylic finish) and it scars easily. I use light gauge strings (.009s on electrics, .011s on acoustics), don’t pick hard, never break strings, and I’m still scarring up an area around the sound hole. That’s aggravated by the Teton’s lack of a pick guard. I’m thinking about gluing one on, but am concerned that it will muffle the sound — so I probably won’t do it, and will just accept the cosmetic damage. There are also some dings that wouldn’t have appeared on a guitar with an acrylic finish. Another telling fact: my Strat is near perfect despite 20+ years of heavy use, while the top of the Teton is already getting close to Willie Nelson territory.

The other downside is that the Teton can be awkward to play, even sitting down. I find it sliding further and further down my leg, within minutes. and the only sure way to stop that is to put my foot up on something. There’s no strap button at the base of the neck, so that’s not a solution. (I just looked on YouTube, found a safe way to drill into the neck and add a strap button, and will do it after trying it first with the old p.o.s. [Rogue] acoustic-electric I was using  prior to upgrading to the Teton.)

Enough said. Despite its minor drawbacks, if you’re looking for a great, reasonably priced acoustic-electric guitar with easy access to the upper frets and don’t mind probable cosmetic problems, try a Teton. They’re probably the best buy in the world on acoustic-electrics.




I’ve been playing for decades, and have never paid more than $300 for a guitar or an amp. Why? Aren’t some higher priced guitars and amps better? Yes, they probably are. But there’s a point of diminishing returns with damn near everything, including guitars and amps.

My main guitar for the last 20 years has been a 1986 Japanese Stratocaster for which I paid $300 including the (now incredibly battered) hardshell case. My other guitars are an early 2000s Godin SD, for which I paid $200 including the hardcase, an early 2000s OLP Wolfgang for which I paid $100, and an ’80s Peavey Patriot (the T-15 with a slightly different body shape) for which I paid $75.

Sure, I could have paid more, but why? I just had the Strat set up, and it plays and sounds like a dream. The Godin is a beautifully built Canadian/American guitar that’s perfect for blues and rock. The Peavey is a Telecaster on steroids — ideal for country and surf. And the OLP is a great humbucking rocker built to the same specs as the Musicman originals that cost four or five times as much.

In recent decades, the price of reasonably good guitars and amps has fallen drastically. When I was a kid, cheap guitars were exactly that: cheap, usually hard to play, sounded like shit. Now, there are tons of good cheap guitars, Squiers, the better Epiphones, Ibanezes,  Peaveys, Yamahas. If you know what you’re doing, you can get a pretty good guitar (check craigslist) for $100 to $150, and you can find the guitars anyone in their right minds would want, Fender Stratocasters or Telecasters (if you play country), for under $300 on craigslist. (These are mostly made-in-Mexico guitars and the quality varies — some are great, as good as anything made in the USA, others are simply awful.)

You can pay far more, but why? Once you’ve passed a Strat or Tele, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. Buy a Gibson, yeah they’re good, but you’re almost certainly paying two-thirds of the price for the brand name. Same with other pricey electric guitars.

As for amps, again don’t pay more than $300 for one. My main amp is a Peavey Classic 30, an all-tube 30-watt amp that might be the best blues amp you can buy. I paid $250 for it used. My other main amp is a Peavey Bandit (solid state and 65 watts) that sounds almost as good, for which I paid $80.  (The other solid state amp I’ve owned and would recommend is the Fender Stage 100.)

And, yes, you don’t need to pay more than that. About 15 years ago, when I was already in my 50s, I was using a Marshall half-stack (JCM 800 or 900 head [for which I’d paid $200 20 years ago]; I forget which), and had to lift by myself  the cabinet’s 4X12 100 or so pounds into the back of my pickup whose gate didn’t work.

The last time I dd that, I said to myself, “Self, why in hell are you doing this?” I sold the amp immediately after.

Guitars and amps are so good nowadays that you can buy cheap and get something better than “gigable” for almost nothing. If you know what you’re doing. Check craigslist, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, find a friend who does.

It’s incredibly easy to get going on guitar. I wouldn’t recommend it — the world needs more guitar players like it needs more people — but if that’s what you want to do, don’t waste money.

(If you just want to play, and get there fast, learn the easiest instruments, learn sax or bass, or drums — harder than sax or bass, but not that hard — not guitar.)