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There’s gold in them there Moxies!

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I happen to like Moxie soda and no, I’m not from New England. It has a unique taste and isn’t very sweet for a soft drink.

You’d better listen to this guy!

The taste can be an off-putter to some, I guess. Their slogan is “Distinctively Different.” It is that, and I’ve heard that’s from the Gentian root in its recipe. Moxie was originally (it came out before Coca-Cola!) promoted as a “nerve food,” and we all can use that nowadays.

A few years ago, Coca-Cola bought out Moxie, which originally was produced and sold only in New England.

You can’t make this stuff up, Ladies and Gentlemen!

When our kids were little, Moxie (ordered from Amazon.com or elsewhere online) was the only soft drink I could keep in the fridge without it disappearing!!! The kids hated the taste.

The Moxie website states that the stuff is sold in Florida now, at Publix. Not in the ones in our area, and we’ve looked.

So to get it I have to still go online. The 12-pack of Diet Moxie cans I bought this morning was $30.00. Thank goodness the shipping is free with Amazon Prime.

Modernized, but still commanding . . .

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

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William Desmond TaylorWilliam Desmond Taylor

I know; I haven’t posted in ages and I usually post about comics or music, but this month is the 101st anniversary of the murder of film director William Desmond Taylor and I was reminded of a wonderful book centered on that compelling mystery.

This book set off a whole culture of amateur investigators and researchers, still going strong today, and how it came to be a book is also fascinating.

In the 1960s, a well-respected retired film director, King Vidor, got in touch with Colleen Moore, a brilliant actress from his days (1920s-1940s) and said, “I want to know who killed William Desmond Taylor.” Taylor had been a top actor and director, actually living a double life, who had been mysteriously murdered in 1922.

Vidor and MooreVidor and Moore

Vidor never completed his investigation and a writer researching Vidor’s career found all this research stashed in Vidor’s Hollywood home’s garage. Anyway, this book started the whole Who Killed WDT deal, which goes on to this day, especially since the Internet got started.

Colleen MooreColleen Moore

So, to whet your curiosity, here’s a great article about Ms Moore, and it’s where I got the photos in this post:

https://classicchicagomagazine.com/colleen-moore-solves-a-mystery/

And here’s a link to A Cast of Killers on Amazon.com. There are other great books about this fascinating case, and an astonishingly informative website devoted to the case (https://silentera.com/taylorology/index.html):

https://www.amazon.com/Cast-Killers-Twentieth-Anniversary/dp/1419677462/ref=sr_1_1?crid=A6BLDXYVF2RO&keywords=a+cast+of+killers+by+sidney+d.+kirkpatrick&qid=1675873760&sprefix=a+cast+of+killer%2Caps%2C209&sr=8-1

Whirlpool makes me feel like a whirled-class fool!

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In our former home in Maryland, the Kenmore dishwasher we had was amazing. We replaced certain minor parts in it, like a rack element or a water-spinning arm, but the appliance was over 25 years old and worked well, day in and day out. We could find the parts needing replacement ourselves online and could do the repairs when needed.

The folks who bought our home may still be using that Kenmore dishwasher for all I know.

In our new Florida home, we replaced our dishwasher at the end of November, 2021 with a Whirlpool unit from Loew’s. It got pretty good reviews, it fit the space, and it was white, like our other appliances. We couldn’t find a suitable Kenmore.

The Whirlpool dishwasher cost $496.44 and the install was an additional $175.00.

This new Whirlpool dishwasher has never seemed as good as our old Kenmore, or the Frigidaire dishwasher it replaced. The Whirlpool is noisy, finicky, and the cleaning cycles were very long. Once the machine did its thing, it seemed that the dishes weren’t really clean.

A week or so ago it finally stopped working at all. One month after the warranty expired! Seems like a tired old punchline, doesn’t it?

The repair (replacing the motor) cost us $454.75, which was 91.6% of the purchase price!

So far, so bad. But here’s where it gets good: The very next day after the repair, I got an email from Lowe’s Protection Plus, with this banner promoting an extended warranty on this dishwasher!

As Lincoln used to say, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. But don’t bother to ask me if I’ll ever buy a Whirlpool product again.

Here’s some parting advice to Whirlpool:

Don’t let your customers be in charge of your quality control. They already control your reputation.

We’ll meet again . . .

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Some of our dear friends lost some family members in the last month or so, and this drawing is dedicated to them and those they loved.

It’s ALIVE!!!

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Hey, there! Now that I’m mostly retired and resettled in my old stomping grounds of SW Somewhere-or-other, I’ve decided to start drawing again.

What prompted this insanity was reading some old “Thimble Theatre” cartoons by the brilliant EC Segar. My drawing style, 35 years ago, was like a bad combination of George Herriman, R Crumb, and Segar, and that won’t change. Don’t expect too much!

So here is my first effort: Our backyard oak tree with a squirrel and a blue jay eating peanuts, provided by Patty. Shortly after her first toss yesterday morning, we had—at one time—four doves, three squirrels, a bunny, three woodpeckers, and a blue jay.

Enjoy and more to come!

Yard-O-Led goes the extra mile!

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Shipping a lovely fountain pen hand-crafted with care by a few skilled English artisans back to the factory became an expensive lesson!

How could that happen?

As much as I hate to admit it, I should have looked into the process of shipping something overseas from the US. You can perhaps benefit from my ignorance, and it won’t cost you a dime!

Follow this story here!

Background: This lovely Yard-O-Led pen is a 2001 Viceroy Standard lined fountain pen with a #5 medium nib. Absolutely gorgeous pen! I purchased it used and it just didn’t write as well as it should. It was a hard-starter and railroaded, which means it sometimes made a parallel double line of ink when pressure was applied during writing. I decided to send it back to Yard-O-Led in England to have the pen inspected and a broad nib installed.

If you are unfamiliar with YOL pens, they are crafted with astonishing care by a small operation in Birmingham, England. Made of solid and hallmarked sterling silver, the looks, balance, and obvious craftsmanship of these pens are second to none. I have many wonderful fountain pens, some of which exceed the Yard-O-Leds in price, but nothing comes close to how nice these pens look and feel in the hand.

The nibs are solid gold, plated with nickel, so the nib color matches the rest of the pen. Nice!

Yard-O-Led fountain pens can use either a international ink cartridge or the provided ink converter. The cap is not threaded, but closed with a satisfying click when slipped on. I like that a lot!

First update! The shipping from the US to Birmingham, England, was PRICEY! Even using the cheapest rate offered by UPS, my chosen carrier, the shipping was $135.

I insured the pen for $1,300, and that was probably a mistake. Even though the pen was just being sent to Yard-O-Led for repair, my package was hung up in UK Customs. I had to create an invoice for the package. Then, I was charged by UK Customs $400. YIKES!

Of course, all this took a week of back and forth.

I must say the folks at Yard-O-Led were as helpful as they could be. Once the pen was finally in their hands, I was emailed an extremely detailed list of what was wrong with the nib and feeding mechanism, exactly what needed repair or replacement, and, because of my out-of-pocket costs, YOL very kindly waived my repair fee and the return shipping.

They did not have to do that.

Neither the high shipping cost nor the UK Customs fee was going into their pocket.

The Yard-O-Led staff I emailed with could not have been more helpful and kind. And, though I hate to admit it, I was cranky at this whole situation. So the YOL staff maintained a totally professional attitude while dealing with an upset client who clearly didn’t understand how to ship something overseas in a cost-effective way.

Should I have guessed what would happen with my shipment to YOL? Probably, but I have not shipped to the UK before, and was unfamiliar with the process.

The YOL staff said my repairs, including a week of testing the pen, should be completed and the pen shipped to me the week of Labor Day!

Please check in a few days and I’ll give a review of the pen and how it writes with its new broad nib.

The return of my Yard-O-Led pen!

Wow! My pen came back a couple of weeks ago. Many things prevented me from writing this, and I apologize for that. I could not be happier. First, some photos:

The new nib—broad, this time—rocks! Of course it’s smooth, but it seems to use any ink with no problems and I just love the line width. The line it produces might be a tad thinner than some other broad nibs I have from other makers, but it’s just perfect for me. Starts perfectly, no railroading, and perfect in terms of wetness. Yes!

I’ve used several inks so far, and have settled—for now, at least—on Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris, which I’d describe as a dark blue-green/black. I love it. I got mine from Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens in a sample assortment, and immediately bought a bottle. Great ink and perfect for this pen.

Perhaps I have far too many luxury pens, but this one takes the cake and the others are, sadly, being ignored. This Yard-O-Led is my daily writer now and I can’t imagine that changing. Here’s why:

I told you how well it writes. Beyond that, there is a serene elegance that no other pen I have can approach. Look at the photos of either end of the pen. Classic design and proportions. I find myself just gazing at this thing. It soothes me. Just so perfect!

Another quality of my Yard-O-Led is the oddly satisfying click it makes when you replace the cap. I much prefer a non-threaded cap for some reason, and have few: a wonderful 1990s ST Dupont Fidelio, a 1960s Montblanc 14 (broad italic nib!), my Parker 51s and 75s, but none have this distinct quality when being closed. I guess my Parker 75s come closest to this feel and sound, and perhaps it’s because they, too, are sterling silver. This pen posts perfectly, by the way.

Finally, a huge thanks to Alex Roden, Yard-O-Led’s workshop manager, and Sandra Floyd for the unmatched service they provided for me. Their pride in their product and their commitment to quality are a benefit to Yard-O-Led, and to us—the happy Yard-O-Led owners!

Visit my Gizmo-Planet LLC site!

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How can you resist?

Here!

 

This old guitar

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If I had the time, the talent, and the contacts, I’d start a TV or YouTube show called “This Old Guitar.” To those of us who look at life as sort of a Dickens novel happening on the fly, some of these instruments have a story to tell. Here’s one for you.

JBP 1940 Epiphone Zephyr 1

What a beauty. In its original Lifton hardshell case, my 1940 Epiphone Zephyr archtop. A wonderful neighbor of mine (Thanks, Joe!) rescued this fine old Zephyr from the trash of another neighbor. I shudder to think if he hadn’t . . . Joe is an ace guitar picker and singer, and knew what he had found.

Joe kept it for a year, repairing the old Lifton hardshell case and putting the guitar in better shape. He added a Bigsby tailpiece, made some replacement surrounds for the tone and volume controls, replaced the control knobs with vintage-correct ones, and so on. Joe is skilled, and puts it to good use!

JBP 1940 Epiphone Zephyr 2

Note the pickups: The bridge is a 1940s Epiphone New York Tone Spectrum single-coil and the neck is a surface-mount CC Rider made for me by Pete Biltof of Vintage Vibe Guitars. These guitars didn’t come with a neck pickup, but I had my brilliant buddy Bob Shade install this one and a pickup switch, too. Joe added the Bigsby but saved the original tailpiece. I saved the vintage mermaid decal Joe added; it really enhances the look of the guitar.

In time, Joe realized he wasn’t playing the instrument as much as some of his others, and passed the guitar to me at a most reasonable price.

I was going to write an article about archtops, and Epiphones, and some famous players, but decided instead to just show you some photos, from the Web and ones I’ve taken, and add captions to tell the story. Here goes:

Charlie-Christian-and-Benny-Goodman

The brilliant and dapper Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman, circa 1939, Check out that very early neck pickup. Christian turned the guitar from a rhythm to a a lead band instrument. Electricity! Question: Is Mr. Christian making a C chord in this photo in reference to his initials? Who knows? His guitar is a 1936 Gibson ES-150, which cost about the same as my Epiphone back then; with amp, case, and cord: $150; hence the name. The ES stood for Electric Spanish.

Charlie Christian Pickup

The Charlie Christian pickup was a massive thing with most of it under the guitar’s top when installed. Those cobalt magnets made a low-powered but smooth and musical sound. Lennon had one installed on his Les Paul Junior post-Beatles.

Epiphone New York Tone Spectrum pickup

I found this vintage Epiphone New York Tone Spectrum pickup on the Web. It looks like a mini-humbucker, but those weren’t invented until many years later.

Django's Epi[hone

Gypsy-jazz wizard Django Reinhardt also played with Benny Goodman’s band. Here he’s shown playing a 1940 Zephyr made a few months before mine, based on the serial numbers. Same exact model!

Good Enough HS

Epiphone was a major competitor to Gibson before Gibson bought them out in the mid-1950s. When Gibson said “Only a Gibson is good enough,” Epiphone countered with “When ‘Good Enough’ isn’t good enough.”

Prefer Blondes Ad

Gibson was famous for their beautiful sunburst finishes, so Epiphone’s line had blonde archtops in the late 1930s. They also made their guitars 3/16″ wider than a comparable-model Gibson. Very competitive!

Les' Log

Les Paul hung out at Epiphone’s NYC factory, and cut up a Zephyr to make his 4″ by 4″ log solidbody prototype look more like a real guitar.

Les Paul Log Solidbody Guitar

I’ve read that Les Paul fiddled with this guitar for years. When my son and I went to see it at the Smithsonian, I was surprised to see he had replaced the original Epiphone neck with a fancy Gibson one!

JBP 1940 Epiphone Zephyr 5

Enough trivia! Time for photos of this lovely guitar. How do you like that finish? No Botox on this 77-year-old beauty!

JBP 1940 Epiphone Zephyr 3

Those original tuners are snazzy, aren’t they? Still work great, too. Those are real mother-of-pearl inlays on the Brazilian rosewood fretboard.

JBP '40 Epi Back Headstock copy

Love the art-decoish sealed tuners on this guitar, with the Epiphone curved-E design element. I guess the knobs are Bakelite, as plastics were not all that common in 1940. Joe recreated that aluminum plate, which covers Epiphone’s processes for laminating wood. Looks perfect. At that time, tone-wood lamination (not to be confused with plywood) was an expensive and gee-whiz factor in making guitars. I’ve read that one reason Gibson bought Epiphone was to get hold of that process, as well as to eliminate a worrisome competitor.

JBP 1940 Epiphone Zephyr 7

Cool bridge. Joe, the finder and prior owner, made the black surround under the bridge pickup. Looks great. Joe’s a talented graphic designer by trade, and he has a super design sense.

So that’s the illustrated story of this old guitar. It plays easy and sounds sweet. I feel privileged to own it and love the history behind it.

Are you distracted?

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Probably are. I am.

I was listening to a friend, a couple of years older than I am, and he was describing how few the distractions were when we were kids.

In the United States, particularly in the rural South, there just wasn’t a lot going on. If you lived in a remote Southern town, as I usually did, there was often no television because the broadcast stations were too far away for you to get a decent signal. Telephones, if available, were usually party lines, because private lines were pricey, if available at all.

Long-distance phone calls were placed through an operator, not directly dialed, and were expensive.

So a young kid had time to kill. We’d read a lot. If we had neighbors nearby with kids our age, we’d get together and have little adventures. If you loved to draw, as I did, you’d spend plenty of time doing that.

One summer, in East Texas, I’d save up my allowance to walk a mile or so on the dirt road to the nearest general store. I’d saved up my allowance so I had 50 cents to spend. That meant I could buy five funny books. That store, like most of that type back then, was a weathered wooden building set on cement blocks, and carried everything one could want, from a gallon of porch paint to a $4 pocket watch.

Kid walking

Only grownups wear shoes in the summer.

I’d spend an hour or so checking the spinner rack for what comic books I absolutely had to have. If I had 50 cents, I’d be able to buy five comics. So I chose wisely.

Usually, I’d buy four comics and two candy bars. I’d eat one of the candy bars sitting on the front porch of the store before walking home. Then I’d only have to share one of them with my little brother. After all, I had done all the walking and spent my own money. So Jeffrey would have to be content with half a Payday or Butterfinger.

Then I’d wander home and spend the next few days reading those comics over and over. Nothing to really distract me. If I saw a picture in one that captured my eye, I’d spend a couple of hours trying to draw it; seeing what it was that made that image special and compelling.

Superboy 091

I remember buying this and reading it over and over until the covers fell off. Summer, 1961. I still have what’s left of it.

We lived at the intersection of the Sabine River and the Intercoastal Waterway that summer, so I’d play around in or near those if my mom wasn’t looking.

I’d try to catch fiddler crabs. I’d be on the lookout for snakes, who were surely on the lookout for me. I’d chase my dog around and then she’d chase me around. I’d make lists of all the birds I saw. Sometimes my brother and I would make a tepee out of sticks and a blanket and we’d spend the night on the front lawn. Trying to learn to play a harmonica was kind of fun, but also frustrating.

Old Mr Toad

It wasn’t all comic books. These and Doctor Dolittle were my favorites. The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift Junior came later.

All this is in the way of an apology for not posting anything new for such a long time. I get caught up doing other things. I get distracted by the day-to-day that I’m involved in. I love the new technology and wouldn’t give it up, but I’m going to try to find more time to just kick back and mull things over in a leisurely way. There’s good in that.

Nacho nails it

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Anyone who’s read my eclectic blog knows my love and reverence for Leo Fender and his creations. Here’s the story of a gentleman who shares that and uses it to make the world a better place.

Tragic but true:
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, there were few who had much interest in older instruments. You could buy ‘em cheap, because they were just old guitars.

Here’s a photo of our old Boy Howdy Band, taken in Naples, Florida, in June, 1972. From left to right are my still-best friend, John Klingler, drummer Mike Collins, and me on bass. My bass back then was a used Gibson EB-3. The guitar John’s holding is a 1952 Fender Telecaster.

John, Mike, Jim Boy Howdy Band, 1972

Old Teles and their predecessors — made by Leo Fender’s small company from 1950 to 1954 — are now reverently called “Blackguards,” because of the single-ply black pickguards Leo fitted them with. These early Fender guitars — the Esquire, Broadcaster, one with no model name now called a “NoCaster,” and the Telecaster — all looked much alike, sharing the neck headstock, body shape, pickguards, and control layout.

Today, John’s Telecaster, if in nice condition, would be worth $50,000 or more. John bought it in Tampa for $250 in 1972 and proceeded to sand it to bare wood, stain it, route a hole for an old humbucking pickup in the neck position, and fit it with a pickguard he made.

I watched him do it and neither of us gave it much thought. John was handy and was just customizing an old guitar.

After playing the modified Tele for a few months, John sold it to someone for $250 and bought a beautiful Gibson Firebird. But this little anecdote just proves that old Telecasters were not, at that time,  recognized as being particularly valuable . . . except by a few unusually perceptive people.

52_Telecaster

Meet Nacho Baños:
Let’s meet someone who was not only perceptive, but went on to “write the book” on old Teles and related Fender guitars. He’s regarded as the world’s foremost expert on Leo Fender’s guitars, and, happily, is generous enough to share that info with anyone.

Nacho Baños

Nacho Baños, a native of Spain, was in the U.S. working on his MBA in the early 1990s. He fell in love with the Telecaster, especially the original Teles. He scrimped and saved to buy them when he could, and over the years began to amass an incredible amount of info. He took photos of Teles and their component parts, and talked with others who shared his enthusiasm. Nacho is an absolute gentleman with a engaging personality, and soon gained a worldwide reputation for his knowledge and the kindness with which he shared it. The attached ToneQuest Report magazine has his bio and an interview, and I urge you to read it. They call Nacho The King of the Telecasters, and he is, of course, that and more:

TQRJun15_01_Page_01

TQRJun15_01

The book:
Eventually, Nacho decided to write a book, and THE BLACKGUARD — Telecaster Style Guitars from 1950- 1954, was published in 2004 or so and is considered the bible of Telecaster lore. At over 400 pages, the 12” x 12” book, with its slipcover, weighs over 10 pounds and has over 2,000 highly detailed color photos of 50 early Esquires, Broadcasters, NoCasters and Telecasters. The amount of info in this volume is stunning.

Blackguard Book And Sleeve

Nacho self-published 5,500 of these books, and, knowing print production like I do, I suspect that he sold them at about half of what they cost him to print. Proceeds from the book went — I told you Nacho was an absolute gentleman — to establish a foundation building homes and a school for the poor in India and providing clean water in Africa.

I treasure my copy (#3196), not only for the images and information in it, but for the gracious inscription Nacho penned in my copy. The book is out-of-print  — if you see one for sale, buy it — but this website has many photos and gives you an idea of Nachos’ love and knowledge:
The Blackguard Book

Blackguard 2

Blackguard 1

Blackguard 3

Nacho nails the Blackguard:
With the help of some famed guitar-slingers and old-world craftsmen, Nacho has somehow arranged to make a few reproductions of some early Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. They are jawdroppingly accurate, and — best of all — they are sold at about a tenth of what a vintage guitar costs. As lovers of fine old paintings revere every crack in the varnish on an old masterpiece, so do those of us who love the old Fenders.

Nacho and Billy Gibbons

Two gents who know their Teles! Nacho and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

Using the best components money can buy, and guided by years of examining — and owning and playing — hundreds of the old Fenders, Nacho has nailed the look, feel, and tone of these old classics. Uncanny. He also recreates Statocasters from the days of Buddy Holly.

Here’s the website to learn more and see some photos of these guitars:

Nacho’s Guitars

Nachocaster 2

Nachocaster 1

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 12.41.08 AM

Labors of love from a man whose love for Leo Fender’s creations have shaped his life and brought joy to so many other guitar lovers. And, along the way, homes for families, and a school for their kids, and clean water for whose who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

Leo would be proud.

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