A 1936 Gibson EH-150 Amplifier

































        Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:10:32 -0400


I just want to thank you once again for bringing our 1936 Gibson EH-150
amplifier back to life.  Even though the EH-150 was one of the first amps
made for the electric guitar (this particular amp was most likely an early
prototype production model), it would not be right just having it sit around
as a antique "museum piece" not being used and just collecting dust.  It was
meant to be played.  The tone this little amp produces is very warm and
expressive. Plus you were "right on" when you said the overdrive through the
microphone channel is KILLER.  Thanks too for checking out and repairing my
1948 Gibson BR-6 amp which had gotten busted up pretty bad.

I was originally referred to you by a well respected amplifier/guitar
technician located in North Carolina. I initially took the EH-150 amp to
him, but he said he did not feel comfortable in taking on the project.  I
appreciated his candor, but I am very thankful for the referral to Time
Electronics.  Your extensive experience as a musician, technician and
craftsman gained my trust, and your philosophy about music, instruments and
people earned my respect.  I am most appreciative for the personal attention
you gave my equipment, and the generous time you took to discuss your
approach to this project and the few modifications which had to be made to
insure that I could continue to enjoy this treasure for years to come.  You
are the real deal.  Ann (my wife) was so impressed when she saw the photos
of the amp on your website that she exclaimed "WOW..., there's a man who
really loves his work"  Your pride in what you do really shines through!

I read the draft of your first article for guitaramplifiermagazine.com, and
a few thoughts come to mind.  I have three vintage Gibson amplifiers (the
third is a 1946 BR-4) which are similar in size and configuration, yet each
has its own unique palette of sound. This is true even when using the same
guitar with the same pickup selection blend, and the same tone and volume
settings.  As you put it, each has its own sonic identity or sonic
signature.  To me each amp seems to have its own distinct character.  Much
like each of my guitars has its own sound persona.

It does not surprise me that an average person might think that distortion
is the sound of the guitar itself.  Consider the design of the 1936 EH-150
in a historical context. Even though the EH-150 was one of the first
electric guitar amplifiers, it was designed to enhance the tonal qualities
of the guitar through the use of the tone switch, and through the use of an
"echo"  extension speaker. (see John Teagle's article in VintageGuitar.com
http://www.vguitar.com/brands/details.asp?ID=21)  It seems the starting
point of guitar amplifier technology was based in tone manipulation that is
trying to make the sound of the guitar's tone more pleasant. (I seriously
doubt the Gibson engineers would have ever imagined trying to create
distortion by playing the guitar through the microphone channel though)

I'm fortunate enough to be able to plug a guitar into some of the newer
digital modeling and amplification technologies (Crate DX Series, Line 6
Spyder II and POD XT, and Bose Personal Amplification System). These produce
hundreds of tones and effects depending on the selection and setup.  But
even with the number of sounds that I can produce, I don't feel the
individual character or persona in that tone.  I feel that the tone from the
new digital technology is nondescript, sterile, in a word...binary.

Here's a little personal background: My first guitar I found in the back of
the stockroom at the drugstore where I worked at nights during high school.
It was solid plywood with a big chunk chipped off the edge of the body, and
a bolted neck that was not exactly straight. The manager of the store sold
it to me for $10 - What a deal!  When I got it home the strings laid very
low and buzzed horribly on most of the frets near the nut, and the action
was probably 3/4" or more above the neck near the single coil pickup.  I
performed the following mods: First, I found a truss rod and twisted it
until the neck seemed reasonably straight. The truss rod stuck out about an
inch beyond the truss rod cover hole. Next I unbolted the neck and sanded it
down until the angle it fit against the guitar body seemed about right. I
raised the nut about 1/8" to get rid of the fret buzz using a few layers of
cut strips of a playing card which I then super glued the strips as a
laminate to the nut and neck.  Next, I loosened the screws on the bridge,
rolled up a few playing cards and slid them under the bridge tightened down
the screws thus raising the bridge about 3/8".  I removed the pickup cover
and found some looses wires which I soldered (a first time for everything)
heavily back onto where I thought they went. What a Luthier!  At least the
action was improved, it didn't buzz, and the guitar could be played close to
nearly in tune. I hacked around with a buddy a few times along with some
albums and then threw the thing in the back of my closet.

The guy in the room next to me during my second year in college had a nice
Fender Strat he got when he was twelve. He had upgraded a couple of the
pickups and he played it well. He let me play his guitar a few times and
showed me a couple of barre chords and how to move them up and down the
neck. On a trip home I brought back my guitar to show him.  He tried to tune
and play it but quickly handed it back to me and said "Man, you need to get
you a better guitar."  I was saving up my money for one when I won a couple
of nice stereo speakers in a raffle from a new stereo store near campus.  My
money went toward a new stereo amp, turntable and cassette deck.  At the end
of the following summer, I finally bought a used guitar and amp from the
local pawn shop. The guitar was a Les Paul copy made by Royce, and the amp
was a tube combo about 25 watts.  The guy who had taught me a couple of
chords dropped out of school. So I tried desperately the next semester to
teach myself to play Eric Clapton's "Cocaine."  I was a very poor player,
and repeating the song became very monotonous for folks near my dorm room.
they begged me to please try to learn some other songs.

I dropped out of school during that year and went to work. I hacked around
on the guitar and could occasionally figure out parts to various AC/DC
songs, and such.  Nobody I hung around with played, and I got bored with my
own lack of knowledge and talent.  Time passed, I made a few job changes,
and the guitar saw limited use.  I met Ann when she came to a party at the
house I was renting with a couple of roommates.  It was LOVE....  I saved up
a few bucks.  I got a better job.  I bought a HUD foreclosure for my first
house. I tried to save up enough money to buy Ann an engagement ring.  An
opportunity to purchase a very beautiful ring at a good price came along,
but it was a lot of money. I was a little short of what I needed. I didn't
have much in the way of belongings - used furniture, hand me downs, an old
car. With the mortgage I couldn't get another loan. I looked at my guitar.
An acquaintance had once offered to buy the guitar if I ever wanted to sell
it.  I had to make a decision on the ring.  I called the guy up.  He came
over, and he played it better than I ever had.  At least my guitar and amp
went to a good home.  I put my life savings including the proceeds from the
guitar and amp on Ann's finger.  I never had a doubt that I made the right
decision.  We married.  Years passed.  Life goes on.  Still, I missed that

A couple of years or so back, I was visiting a buddy and he mentioned that
his kids had gotten him guitar lessons for his birthday present - he had
always wanted to learn to play.  He brought out an old Yamaha acoustic
twelve string, strung up as a six.  He asked if I had ever played and handed
me the guitar.  I had never played an acoustic.  The action seemed a little
high, but I was able to strum a few chords.  I actually played it a little
better than he could, even though he had taken a few months of lessons.  My
buddy began to bug me to get a guitar so we could play together.  Well if he
isn't too old to learn to play....

You know, I guess I felt like I had to sacrificed something years ago, so I
think I might have gone a little over board to make up for it.  I researched
and compared and shopped for a long time.  Finally I settled on a Gibson Les
Paul Standard on closeout special from Musician's Friend.  What a beauty!
Three high distortion Seymour Duncan pickups, solid mahogany body and neck
with a vintage mahogany finish and cream binding.  I bought a cheap used
5-watt Crate tube amp to go with it.  My buddy and I played together a few
times.  He said he thought it would work better if we both played an
acoustic.  Plus Ann had shown some marginal interest in learning to play.  I
bought an older used acoustic Epiphone Excellente from a guy in Nashville
"for Ann."  Of course I knew Ann would let me use it if I ever wanted:)  It
has a rosewood body, spruce top, and wonderful tone.  Well that did it, I
developed a mildly severe case of GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.)

I found a small solid body electric Epiphone with a Pepsi Cola logo on eBay.
After all, Christmas was coming, Ann works for Pepsi, and she did complain
that my Les Paul was too heavy for her, plus now we could both play the
electric together.  Then, I fell absolutely in love with a barely used
Custom Shop Reissue '57 Gibson Switchmaster.  Gawd its gorgeous!!!  Next was
factory second Epiphone jumbo acoustic with a cutaway (so that Ann and I
both had an acoustic.)  Solid spruce top and a huge rosewood body.  Man, I
love that deep rosewood tone.  I actually wanted a Gibson jumbo acoustic
with a rosewood body, but that meant a Custom Shop Guitar and major bucks,
and one with a cutaway meant an actual custom order.  The Epi was less than
one-tenth the cost of the non-cutaway custom.  Felt like I needed a
12-string, and a used customized factory second Epi dreadnought in maple and
spruce did the trick.  I have an interest in Bluegrass so a bell brass
Johnson Tri-cone, Gold Tone 12-string banjo, and a Gold Tone (Rigel
Licensed) mandolin round out the herd.  All of them but the Dobro have
pickups installed. I've got a pickup for the tricone that I may try to
install myself. I'm pretty sure I now have all the toys to make noise that I
need, and some for Ann to learn on as well, wherever her level of interest
takes her.

Now my starting point is the music itself.  I have recently learned that
some of those chords I've been strumming over the years are named after
certain notes, and I'm actually trying to learn to read music and tab:)  I
think that I've always had an ear for music, and I know that I have always
had a love for it.  I feel very blessed to have acquired all the tools that
I think I will ever need to find my musical focus, and to try and develop my
own sense of musical style within the limits of my talent.  At least I have
the rest of my life to try.  Wherever my musical journey leads, I am certain
that I will learn a great deal and enjoy every minute of it.

I have a deep abiding respect for those that have been there, done that, and
continue down the road. That means you my friend.  My one regret is that I
didn't get a chance to hear you play.  Hopefully, I will have that chance.
Who knows, if we both live long enough, I might even have put in enough time
and effort on the guitar so we could play a little together.  (I'm certainly
not ready for that yet, so please don't embarrass me by asking when I come
up to see you play.) You know I'm kind of a slow learner, remember how many
tries it took me to crack that whip?

On the serious side. I really enjoyed both of my visits, and Ann enjoyed
meeting both you and Karen. You have developed an awesome website.  I am
equally impressed with your archery skills.  I look forward to reading your
future articles. Doing business with you has been a real pleasure.  Time
Electronics is truly a unique place.  You have taken a treasured object, an
important piece of musical history, and brought it back to life.

Thanks man, from the Heart.
Be Cool, God Bless
Bud Cheney

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