Friday, February 6, 2015

MORE SHOT SHOW 2015 TALK

Since my last post about stuff I would've liked to see at SHOT show 2015, I thought of a few more items.

For whatever reason, I sure do like the Sig Sauer 220 line in 10mm with the 5" barrel that was introduced, particularly the ones in SAO. I've seen their various smaller offerings in the 220 line in SAO have have almost bought one a time or two, but I'd sure love to see a .45 ACP in the same size frame as the 10mm with the longer barrel.

And although for years, like so many others, I've been asking Glock to make a single stack 9mm that actually was thinner than the 17/19/26 series. They gave us a .380 instead. But a couple of other guns I'd like to see are some thinner single stack but full size 10mm and 45 ACP with a 5" barrel. If they could figure out a way to get that width down just a bit and knock the grip size down to a single stack size, it'd be a great carry gun.

THE YEAR OF EL FISHO

Since my January was one of the most dreadful months I have endured in slightly over a half century on this planet, I have recently declared that MY new year officially began February 1st and I have dubbed it The Year of El Fisho.

Without going into details, if you knew them, you'd certainly agree that my January sucked more than a high dollar Dyson vacuum cleaner. That being said, at some point I'll have a post on it, because someone very near and dear to me passed on.

After the funeral, my longtime friend Billy Ray and I were standing in my driveway. He'd driven me and the family around to and from the funeral. He'd come in from out of town and after being great friends for the past 34 years, well, he came through yet again.

As we were enjoying the rare nice late afternoon day with lots of sunshine, we were both ruminating on how little fishing we'd done lately, and in particular, how little fishing we'd done over the past several decades of the type we like. We began to talk about where we wished we were living right now, instead of where we actually live.

I pointed to the driveway, two cars wide, and said I just want to live near a good size creek about the width of my driveway in some area where trout live year round, not like here in Texas where they get stocked in winter and die in the spring once it warms up. I'd like it to be a creek rather than a river because if I'd like something small enough that if I fell in I wouldn't be swept away or drown, something 2 or 3 feet deep.

We both agreed that such a creek with smaller trout would be just fine and that we didn't need some quest for giant, legendary sized trout. We both use lots of ultralight tackle and again, our love of fishing isn't entirely about the catching. Sure, I like to catch fish, but give me a bunch of miniscule trout on a 1 weight rod any day over stalking some huge old fish that needs to be left alone in his elder years. Besides, especially on super ultra light weight tackle, small fish not only fight well but are also more likely to recover from the stress of being caught due to their age. We're mostly catch and release with barbless hook kinda fishermen with the occasional steamside meal of fresh butter fried or grilled trout. 

So to have that, i.e. the mystical creek, I have to move somewhere north of the snow line. Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho are three places where my professional license will transfer and I can work, and there are appealing locations in all of those states. And jobs for me in all three states. I've been in my retirement system for awhile, and am still young enough that, God willing, I could vest in another government retirement system as well by the time I'm ready to take down my shingle.

And there's lots of places for sale that fit the bill. Near towns where I could work. Some have ponds, creeks and cabins or small homes. It's always a big plus when you have electricity and water and septic set up, so even if you plan to build your own place, having a nice, tolerable house to start with would really be ideal. 

The caveat that goes along with living on property with a creek is that you want to be residing HIGH UP above that creek, so that should the creek have a 100 year flood you would still be high and dry. Also, the creek should not limit your road access to your property when flooded, meaning no low water bridges between your place and the highway. You want a place you won't getting flooded out of or into.

I'd like a pond to go along with the creek, and  a fresh water spring to me is one of the main things I want in a property. A pond means that trout and smallmouth bass could be fished for when creek fishing wasn't great or when you felt like some still water fishing. A spring fed pond would be great, and from experience I know that you don't want your creek too close to your pond in case of flooding and your pond fish get washed into the creek. But in these times of concern about water, a live spring would be a great thing, even if you also have a water well and/or piped in water and a water catchment system.

I've mentioned before a friend in East Texas has a very nice spring on his place. He uses mostly solar power to pump the water from where it arises in the earth up to his house and his purification system. His well water is ok, but it's nothing like the stuff coming out of the ground. Funny how two sources of water on the same place can differ in taste and smell. His spring flows from a small pond into a much larger multi-acre lake that overflows through a complex set of screens and a waterfall made of rocks into a small seasonal creek.

He backs that all up with a water catchment system, and used that filtered water through the drought of recent years to keep his garden in great shape, his smaller pool nice and fresh and the yard around his home nice and green. If you know anything about gardening, you know nothing grows nature like rainwater.

On one of the Alaska homesteading shows, I saw a very simple power generation system based on flowing water being diverted through a series of large pvc pipes containing electric generators using gravity and the slope of the hill it was on to drive the water into and back out into the creek after cranking out some pretty serious power. 

Likewise, although still I think any significant amount of solar power and battery storage systems they would require are out of our financial reach, some use of solar panels could probably take care of some needs without significant battery storage system investment. 

We had a solar water heating system in the late 90's for about 5 years. We had problems with it, but I think a lot of those issues have been resolved in the newer systems they have. When it was working, our gas bills for the backup home water heater and storage unit were tiny tiny tiny. The sun did most of the work, even powering the pump that brought the water up through the collector on the roof.

We don't want to live off the grid but we'd like to BE ABLE TO live off the grid if we had to, power and water wise. Foodwise too, but that's another post.

We'd like to be on some small acreage, something manageable. Something big enough to shoot guns on, although the only hunting I'm interested in is predator control. I'm not into game hunting of any sort, although I've done my fair share and enjoyed it in my younger years. 

Nowadays, I'm fascinated with animals. Not only our cats and dogs, but wild animals in particular. The chance to observe from afar how other mammals and other animals and creatures live just captivates me.  I watched this same thing fascinate my father decades ago when he was the age I am now, and animals are very cool to watch. 

I let a HUGE water moccasin go recently while fishing on the San Marcos River, mainly because it went the other way when it became aware of us. I've never been bitten by a poisonous snake, but have been with folks who have, and it's not pretty. Minutes later, I caught a nice sized bass under a lily pad right where the snake had been, and had I shot the snake the bass surely would've been gone baby gone.

So yes, unavoidable predator hunting is part of the package when living in the sticks, but other than that my shooting would be for paper, wood and steel targets. So a nice ravine or cliff would be great for locating an extremely safe shooting area with no danger of escaping bullets, and lots of the places in our range that I've looked at have similar terrain on the property for safe shooting.

The areas we've been looking at have vast amounts of public land near them, and sometime adjacent to them. This means lots and lots of various fishing and shooting locales in addition to what's on your own place.

So yeah, for the The Year of El Fisho, I'm gonna find a place where we can get to as soon as possible with a creek and maybe a pond and small house, with trout nearby.

Friday, January 30, 2015

THE MOSIN NAGANT CHRONICLES OR POSSIBLY FOLLIES

I want to blog a bit about the Mosin rifles I have. I have one the is the Model 91/30 with the 28" barrel configuration and one that is a Model1938 carbine with an 18" barrel. I think the 91/30 was made around 1917 or so. I looked up some internet information regarding design and stamps and serial numbers and so on. 

The M1938 carbine will remain mostly unaltered. It is in excellent condition. I was so impressed by a recent drop in trigger module, and they swear it IS actually a drop in trigger replacement, for the Mosin (in a post over at All Outdoors where a guy spends a grand to get a pretty rocking Mosin) that I'd like to have the trigger addition. 

I'm lucky. Both of my guns, which cost a combined total of less than $200, are in great shape. The trigger on the 91/30 is fair, but it's the one I'd like to replace first. The bonus about this replacement trigger I read about is that it has a nice safety built in, so you don't have to use the cumbersome safety of the Mosin.

For all the Mosin or Russian gun haters out there, I have more expensive, more attractive and very nice rifles that rival every aspect of the Mosin but one: incredibly cheap ammo, that happens to be a highly effective large feral hog round. Cheap ammo means lots of practice at long range predatory hog shooting. 

The M1938 is a solid gun. It's iron sights are highly accurate, and for what it is, i.e. a five round mag carbine powerhouse, it's a great gun. Visually, to some extent, the Mosin Nagant carbines with their shorter barrels reminds me of the more expensive H-K hunting rifles of the 1980's. 

 I like having iron sights on a carbine. I'd like to have it machined to accept a shoot through mount for a scope, where I could still use the stock sights. A

The trigger on my M1938 compares with any fine rifle I've shot. A great trigger. I don't want to replace it, but I'm just going to have to add the above-mentioned trigger module that includes a built in safety, just to avoid the onerous safety on the Mosin. I just don't have complete confidence in it, and it's just not conducive for me to use. Some like it, others don't. I'm in the latter.

 Likewise, I've been using a slip on recoil pad, but would like to fit a Pachmayr pad to it and cover the small stock with a big cheekrest in a leather cover. I really do like the fit and feel of the regular stock on this gun, and with a substantial recoil pad the LOP is just right for me. The grooves in the forestock are in just the right places for my fingers for shooting the carbine, or so I have found.

As far as the 91/30 goes, I'd like to put a modern, lighter weight stock with a bi-pod for the long and heavy barrel. Something with a nice adjustable, padded cheekrest. As did the author in the All Outdoors post, I'd like to get the bolt modified for scope use and have the receiver milled for a shoot through scope mount, because even though the trigger is not near as nice on this gun as on the M1938, it does shoot well and is quite accurate.

El Fisho Jr. hit a knot in a recently downed tree on the Brazos River shoreline a few years ago, and dang if that hit didn't put a substantial crack in that still green and hard tree. I've seen the damage the round can do with a large feral hog, and it's a good round for them. Some of my friends with farms who suffer damage yearly from these hungry and overpopulated hogs like their Mosins for the power and the cheap ammo.

So I want to get the 91/30 milled for a scope and I want to use a shoot through mount so that the stock sights can be used alternatively. I've had this type mount on my first deer gun, a Marlin 30-30, and have always used the shoot through when possible.

Of course, the 91/30 will need a mounted folding bi-pod. It's a big and heavy gun.

Anyone the least bit knowledgeable about Mosin rifles and carbines know that the bolt must be altered so that a conventionally positioned scope can be mounted. There's companies that will take your bolt and rework it to a bend 
bolt handle to accomodate a scope.

For those not wanting to go to that trouble, there is some sort of scout scope type mount that replaces the rear sight mount on the gun, thus removing the rear sight. I have been really impressed with the stock sights of these guns. 

Both of these guns have proven their reliability over time. The Glock did it in relatively few years, but guns like the Mosin rifles and AK-47's and Smith and Wesson and Colt revolvers and the 1911, to name a few, are still shooting many decades after they were made.

The spare parts, of course, are good to keep around, properly labeled and stored away with proper procedures like greasing or oiling if necessary.

So I'll update you on just how far I get with either one. I've got a rubber bolt on replacement pad for the M1938, that's frankly not much improvement over the metal butt end of the stock gun and I've been using a slip on recoil pad from a junior sized .410 shotgun. The pad fits well but the rubber sleeve is too big for the odd shaped Mosin stock and it's not a big problem as it stays put but I'd like to trim the rubber sleeve down or cover it in a leather cover. 

The recoil pad issue is the main improvement needed for the M1938, because frankly everything else is working excellently.

These days, for a hundred dollar gun, more or less since the carbines do sell for a bit more most places, it's a great gun. Also considering you can buy 440 rounds for a $100 and get some change back. It's a great camp gun to have handy to deal with a surprise crazy hog or rabid skunk or bobcat who doesn't want to stay away from you as most normal wild animals do. My M1938 is handy enough and light enough and certainly accurate enough to take out any poisonous snake that won't leave you alone, although some kind of shotgun is always the preferred weapon for me with large, fast moving, poisonous snakes.

Again I'll state that I'm not a hunter, but I do fish a lot in wild places that feature critters that are sometimes sick or aggressive and in those cases, when it's me or the critter, and I'll do everything I can to avoid an encounter, but if unavoidable in a fishing camp a good 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot and a large caliber rifle are two good things to have handy for wild surprises. 

The Mosin Nagant rifle and carbines remind of an earlier times, when these were state of the art weapons. Later, as they were replaced by the SKS and the AK-47 and the Dragonov and the PSL rifles, as I understand it they made their way to countless third world nations and rebels and just everywhere. I think I saw a Mosin in the hands of a rebel in one of the numerous African uprisings and unrest on a web photo.

Certainly, you see PSL and AK-47's of many variants in the various mid-east wars going on. I noted some of the Kurdish fighters had PSL rifles, and remembered how much I like it's stock design. The PSL is no Dragonov, but it's a great rifle, shooting the same cartridge used by the Mosin-Nagant.

So I'll update if and when I get around to working on the Mosin rifle and carbine. I do think I'll take the M1938 out shooting tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2015

SHOT SHOW 2015: BROWNING GUNS I DIDN'T SEE, BUT WANTED TO

THE BROWNING BARE BAR BEAR (and Hog) GUN

First of all, I'd like to see what I call the Browning Bare BAR Bear gun. Years ago, noted gun writer Massad Ayoob gave his opinion for those out backpacking or fishing as far as bear protection, particularly from a charging bear. Mr. Ayoob opined that the venerable BAR rifle in one of it's hard core big calibers fired rapidly four times into the bear's center of mass was the best weapon for that circumstance.

From what I've read about Alaskan bush pilots and homesteaders and those who live off the grid, a combination of large caliber rifles and hard kicking handguns are their choice. Some that come to mind from recent readings include the Glock 10mm, the Ruger  Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum and the S&W .500, a 12 gauge pump shotgun shooting slugs or any number of rifles.

Lever and bolt actions I've read about backwoodsmen near grizzly's include .45-70 and others.

And just to make it clear, I'm not talking about hunting bears in any way, shape or form. I believe in avoiding them when fishing or getting to/from fishing spots. But if an encounter is unavoidable, I'd like to be the one walking away.

I agree with Mr. Ayoob. A reliable semi-auto BAR in a large big animal hunting caliber with at least 4 rounds is probably great, backed up by a S&W Model (6)29 or a Glock Model 20. 

So although Browning makes an interesting hog hunting gun, it's not in big enough calibers for bear defense.   It's also built sorta like a tactical shotgun would be, with a pistol grip. And by the way, the same suggestions below would make an awesome lesser caliber gun for hog hunting, instead of the tactical grip camo one you're selling now. The one EXCELLENT idea on your current hog BAR is the extended magazine.

Just expand this mag size to bigger guns. It doesn't even have to be detachable. Just replaces the stock mag. 10 rounds of .300 Win Mag would be plenty for a charging grizzly or any other number of ill meaning predators.

Here's my suggestions for the Browning Bare BAR Bear gun:

1. I call it Bare because it has a minimum of finish frills and is ultra heavy duty. It's a gun built for the woods. But by the same token, it include the bare necessities that a gun of this nature needs.

2. Make the stock like the Ruger Gunsite with add on fitting pieces and plenty of recoil padding.

3. Consider developing a higher capacity magazine for the large calibers that traditionally hold 3 in the magazine. I noticed the Hog BAR has a quick detach magazine. This gun isn't for combat, but if a charging bear were coming at you, how many rounds would you want on tap? 3? 5? 10? I'd think five was so much better than 3 and if it held 10 it'd be great. Make it a ten round fixed mag if you must, like an SKS. 

4. Of course, detachable stock rails for the front and top of the rifle to mount a red dot if desired (fold down sights) and a laser/light on the foregrip.

5. I'm thinking traditional wood stock design, maybe with a synthetic option. Perhaps an ultra lightweight model featuring a skeletal kind of folding stock.

6. 16" or 18" barrel.

THE BROWNING HI-POWER PROBLEM

Browning, restore this gun to some level of greatness, and see your sales boom. I have one, and have owned several, and desire to own a few more.

First, just where is that Hi-Power replica in .22 LR that you've made so well regarding the 1911-22? The 1911-22 is the finest .22 auto I've shot since my Huntsman and Woodsman and Ruger Marks. Enough said. You're sitting on another little goldmine with a Hi-Power scaled down .22.

As far as full size Hi-Powers, I'm just glad you're still making them. 

Secondly, please make a gloss blue finish Hi-Power with FIXED SIGHTS. Your current high end model with the blued finish has adjustables, which are great but add the option. Perhaps consider the converse for those buying the cheaper gun that might want adjustable sights.

Third, the use of the BHP as a concealed carry handgun AND a weapon of soldiers (see many pictures of Prince Harry and his Hi-Power) proves the BHP is a relevant defensive weapon still to this day. 

How about a factory model that has some great features for those of use who couldn't afford a Novak custom back in the day. Let's see a REAL BHP Practical model with the Novak FBI modifications. As I recall, there were other models but the Novak stands out.

Fourth, bring back the consumer level BHP practical from the early 90's, both with fixed and adjustable sights. One of my favorites ever.

Fifth, how about re-introducing the compact line? Along with that, I am aware that some lightweight BHP frames were recently on the market, possibly from some foreign maker like Israel. An alloy framed full size BHP would be a very attractive carry gun for me personally, and I am on the lookout for an alloy frame to constuct my own lightweight model in the near future.

Sixth, I wish the beavertail was a tad big longer. Barring that, and I doubt that would change, including the option of an extra round hammer for those of us who, despite the greatest of care and lots of BHP shooting experience, have been "hammer bit" with the traditional hammer.

The BHP is a great gun, and given the huge 1911 market, and the 1911 market in 9mm guns, I really think some innovative introductions to your product line would be well received and profitable.

While my sister might think the 1911 model in .380 is a great idea for her, I'd sure love to have a full size alloy framed deep blued BHP with fixed sights.

And of course, I've always longed for a BHP with a deep, gorgeous blue finish on with a gold plated hammer, trigger, safety, slide release, mag release and a custom buttplate on the bottom of the magazine. Some pimped out thin-ish ivory grips with my initials inlaid wouldn't be so bad either.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

THE MYSTERIOUS SEEKER AND EL BAR

I recently got a couple of comments I haven't published seeking contact with a legendary musician friend from Houston. I decided I would screen that person and refer their info to the mysterious drummer and guitarist and vocalist from too many Houston bands of note to mention for five decades.

SO Mac, send a comment with your real name and an email address and I'll get it to L Bar for you. Read on to see just how arduous that will be.

His name is El Bar, or also spelled as L Bar. I've also been known to call him El Barrio if I've had a few Jack Daniels. There's a long and complex and frankly, a quite boring story attached to how a man we'll call John Doe became known to his friends as L Bar. Of course, as the seasoned reader might imagine, it might possibly have some slight connection to a bar, as in a bar where Coors Light and liquor flows, or as in bars, meaning multiple such establishments. Mostly bars where live music is played but generally any bar will do.

He's a slippery one in recent years. His fans from his music days will not give him peace. In the what seem like long ago now, in those pre-cartel days on Mexico's west coast in a small fishing village north of Acapulco, he found much solace from those who sought his counsel and advice. But after the cartel violence started, he had to relocate.

Sadly, his absence from Houston and the music scene for the past 10 years has not waned the desires of his fans. If anything, they became and are still more obsessed with locating him.

Lots of folks don't know that before Ron Wood was asked to replace Mick Taylor in the Stones 40 years ago, L Bar was asked and refused. Yep. Little known fact. The past few years, in between the adventures he's been having as outlined below, he's been filling in for Ronnie Wood on the perpetual world tour that the Stones have been on now for the past 15 years or so when Wood was illing. L Bar slaps on a bad wig and nobody notices the difference. Sometimes, Keith Richards doesn't even notice that it's not Ronnie Wood playing. L Bar even did one gig on the drums when Watts had a prior conflict.

For awhile in the not too distant past, he was in Belieze with wildman and virus software pioneer John McAfee, before things went south for McAfee down there. Look closely in some of the photos from those carefree first days when McAfee could do no wrong with the government there, and there's some shadowy fellow always in the background that to me looks a lot like L Bar.

After that, a few months before McAfee and the authorities there got crossways, L Bar could see some kind of trouble coming and he bid that crew goodbye. 

L Bar next surfaced in Australia, winning a cross continent motor cycle race on his fancy-dancy Aprilla dual sport. It's a nice one. After taking up with some kind of Aborigine go-go dancer while there, he decided to take up surfing and headed up to Asia. Apparently, he also achieved some notoriety as a kangaroo wrangler in his down time down under, and was referred to as that "Roo-Rangler wanker" by his friends.

After that, it was on to Goa, where the Indian beaches have lured hippies worldwide since the sixties. He won some kind of contest there for having the most back hair, even around a bunch of hippies who have not shaved in decades. I hear that he gave an impromptu "unplugged" gig there after a few too many Coors Lights and blew his identity and had to move on.

Next, L Bar was in Ibiza, and it seemed he had found his place in modern music. He was doing DJ'ing at some of the biggest spots on the island, and almost all the private parties there. For awhile, I heard he had an identity crisis and began calling himself Herr Von Elle Baer and fancied himself to be Dutch. He really got into Dutch clogging as a hobby then merged it with his DJ act and then accidently whacked himself in the head with an errant clog and gave that up. But for a few months, he was heralded as the "great white hope of Ibizian DJ clogging" for the future.

After that, he next surfaced in one South American country after another. You know the story. One broken heart after another. For awhile, some friends and I went looking for him on our vacations. Peru. Columbia. Argentina. Chile. Brazil. 

We were always one step behind him at every port of call, an trail of crushed Coors Light cans, the silver bullet, empty, like the trail leading to the next locale of L Bar.

He ended up somehow on the Faulkland Islands, trying to broker an agreement between the UK and Argentina. The President of Argentina, Christine whatshername, is a big fan of L Bar. Likewise, half of Parliament and their parents were raised on bootleg tapes of L Bar playing with Euro favorites like I.P. Sweatt.
So L Bar was a natural and after some negotiation it appears secret agreements have been reached.

I'm sure there are spots I've missed. Lots of his work can't be talked about.

I know that if this commenter forwards their information, It'll take a few weeks for me to make arrangements to fly to large city in Asia. From there, it will be small planes, trains and automobiles to get me near to the remote beachside jungle where L Bar now resides. Three more days by animal, several more upriver by boat and another two on foot and there he resides, the great L Bar. Far from internet, cell phones and for the most part, civilization.

The final part of the journey to see L Bar involves one of those scary trips up a cliffside in a rope pulled basket, after being screened down below by the former Mexican Navy Special Forces female bodyguards who now guard L Bar. 

You've seen those towering islands of rock off the coast of Thailand? Well, you go past those by plane early in the journey. His place is many days past there.

Like some kind of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Sitting on a throne of Coors Light cans.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

JIMI HENDRIX, GIL EVANS ET AL, LITTLE WING AND ME

One of my favorite Jimi Hendrix songs, and if you're a Jimi fan you know that's a tough choice, but one of the all time favorites of mine is Little Wing. It's also one of his shorter tunes.

I've been loving that tune since I was a single digit aged kid, back in 1967 and 1968. My next door neighbor and classmate Brad had a very cool high school aged sister with a substantial music collection. 

Although my elementary music favs also included the Monkess (still a fan) and the Banana Splits, I liked lots of rock. CCR. The Stones.  Like lots of others, I really liked the Beatles.

Back then, my parents had quite an album collection as well. They had lots of great Elvis, some really good big band stuff, Sinatra, Gene Krupa and even a little known gem by guitarist Al Caiola wherein Al interprets the Theme to the Magnificent Seven on electric guitar and created a masterpiece. There was lots of stuff I didn't care for, as my parents were fond of show music and organ duos. I actually did find a show where Miles Davis played in their stacks later in life, but the fact he was on the record was not known to them, or for that matter, who he was.

Then, I got myself an acoustic guitar, no doubt japanese, from one of those green stamp deals. I was able to learn some chords and was really ready to learn to play multiple instruments and especially drums.

So then this momentous event occurred. A friend of my dad's, grateful for a favor done by my dad for him, decided to gift my dad with his fairly state of the art stereo and extensive 8-track and album collection. He was moving out to California and there was no room for it. My father hesitated, but as a fan of rock and roll already at age 9, I chimed in and my dad easily changed his mind.

So before I was even 10  I got a great collection of music from back in the early 60's to basically stuff that was recently released and a very nice stereo to play it on. In those days, and now as well, I'd rather have a nice stereo going then a tv. Even in the 1960's when it was unheard of for a kid to have a color tv in his bedroom, I'd have taken a stereo over a tv any day. And now I had one. And all this accelerated my desire to play the drum set and my parents soon had me taking lessons.

But one of the songs that I became entranced with in those days was Little Wing by Hendrix. A short song, although back then many of the early Hendrix hits were radio friendly and thus short tunes. Nonetheless, a moving and compelling song. It's always had a calming effect on me personally, and for more than forty years now I've enjoyed listening to it.

During the 1970's, I heard other folks do their versions of the song. But it wasn't until I discovered the Gil Evan's Orchestra version of Little Wing (and many other Hendrix tunes) from the mid-70's that I really, really made that one of my favorite songs of all time.

As a band member from 6th grade through graduation, playing in rock bands on the side and orchestral, marching and stage bands at school, I was well acquainted towards the use of horns in rock and roll and jazz. One song the stage band played from pretty much junior high into high school was Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" which I've always loved playing and hearing. 

Sting, like me, is a big Gil Evans fan in general, and specifically I think he's enamored with Gil's version of Little Wing. So enamored that in the 80's Sting did a concert with Gil, which exists on CD, and of course their arrangement of Little Wing rocked.

On Gil's Little Wing version, which appears on the album after Gil Evan's Orchestra plays the music of Jimi Hendrix, an album called "There comes a Time",  THE LATE MR. TONY WILLIAMS plays drums on that version.  Drummer Bruce Ditmas handles drum set duties on most other Hendrix covers, but the Williams version has some great drumming.

This is actually a song where I can emulate more or less exactly the drum part the late, great Tony Williams plays. He was a far more talented man than I on the skins, and far more conversant in many more genres of music than I on skins. But, since this was a more simple rock tune, and he was obvious playing for the song, it's a part I've just loved, particularly the hi-hat work and his drum fills.

I've written about why I love Gil's treatment of Little Wing as well as all other Hendrix tunes. There's many reasons. Gil's Fender Rhodes playing. The whampum-stompum horn section, which comes in so powerfully at times.

Ryo Kawasaki handles the electric guitar duties, and although his solos are fantastic, his interludes where he does heavy rhythm guitar work are just magical. Really grooving. Likewise, the sax solo by David Sanborn (Yeah, that Sanborn) and the trumpet solo by Hannibal Lokumbe are so deep. Hannibal's rendition of the vocals in a single stanza at the end of the tune haunt yet embrace.

In the background, percussion by Susan Evans and Bruce Ditmas add all kinds of colors. There's synth and keyboard work going on by others and since the song stretches out for nearly 3 times the original version, there's room for some very cool interpretations of Hendrix and his Little Wing.

The Evans Orchestra mix isn't traditional. The two electric bass guitars on Little Wing are more in the mix and louder than Ryo's quietly blazing guitar work. The drums are fairly prominent but keys and percussion create a canvas to paint on. The horns, at times soulful and soothing and at times powerful and moving, make me sing along with the lyrics that they are interpreting.


Tons of folks have covered this tune, including several bands I've been in. One of those bands I was in had a great guitarist who really had a great version of this classic. Years ago, I made a CD from my favorite versions of Little Wing by famous artists and by the several bands I'd been in. I still enjoy listing to that compilation of Little Wing. Of course, the first song on the disc is the real "thang": Hendrix.

 Certainly, there's other stellar ones that deserve mention, like Stevie Ray Vaughn. Just truly soulful, especially if you ever saw it live. I omit others not because they're not stellar, but because memory fails at this hour. Maybe some will comment with other great versions.

I urge readers to go to youtube and listen to some of the different versions available by the above artists as well as those I've omitted. I'm sure there are numerous great versions I've failed to mention.

It's also worth researching what the song means. There's lots of info around about what Hendrix said in some interviews about it. But to me, that's inconsequential compared to the artistry of the music and the tune itself. The lyrics move me, and I have a certain story envisioned when I hear them. It moves me.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A PEDAL STEEL GUITAR IS NOT A CELLO...

These are the words my co-workers thought I might hear from my wife when she found out I had obtained a pedal steel guitar from a friend and was going to begin to learn to play it.

But I've got a great wife, an epic-ly great wife, and she has been nothing but supportive of my pedal steel guitar plans.

For the past few months, I've ruminated upon taking up the cello. There's a great blog, by the way, called Mid Life Cello, where the blogger discusses his efforts to take up the cello in mid life.

So that's where I'm at. I've been a drummer and percussionist since I was 11 years old, and have played semi-professionally with some regionally famous acts and have fallen into some great playing situations over the years. To help my tuned percussion abilities, I took lots of piano lessons in junior high and high school and I've kept up with perhaps an intermediate ability on the keys. With a few months of regular exercises and scales, I could be a strong intermediate or more on the keys.

Likewise, in junior high, I took lessons on bass and on both electric and acoustic guitars. I'm not a barn burner in the guitar department, but have a low intermediate ability on both, with a weak area in leads. I'm a better rhythm guitar player but constantly do try to improve my lead playing.

Bass has always come easier to me, perhaps due to my drumming and the drum and bass musical relationship. They drive the band. The last four years, I've more or less relaxed by doing some playing on a nice Fender jazz copy fretless bass with a real rosewood fretboard, not the composite fretboards used on some low end clones. 

I've enjoyed playing the fretless bass immensely. I'll never play like Tony Franklin, but that playing led me to want to take some cello lessons, and perhaps even some upright bass lessons and acquire one or both of those instruments.

I do home recording, and as I'll soon post, I'm upgrading my home studio. I've been using garageband the past five years, but want to upgrade to a platform that has more options for editing and more channels. My upcoming system will be ipad based, and I've found a DAW that has 16 channels so even recording live drums with plenty of mikes could be a viable option. Primarily, I've got a songwriting outfit with my old friends Billy Ray and Ricky Ray, and having more channels available for simultaneous recording would be a boon.

Back in the mid-eighties, I got into midi based recording and performing instrumentation big time. Midi drums. Midi drum programmers. Midi keyboards and samplers. 

So maybe now I'm taking a step back. I've long wanted to play the pedal steel guitar, particularly in the context of rock and blues bands. For instance, on Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty", David Lindley's solo on the pedal steel just rocks. 

So I've got to get a volume pedal, and I'll do that in the next couple of days. I've got a friend with one that is supposed to work well with pedal steel, so I'm getting into this low budget. 

I've got several amps to choose from. In reading extensively about both performance and practice amps for pedal steel, there's a split between Fender and other tube amps and solid state amps.

I've got a Fender Super Champ XD, which gives both a tube sound and some modeled versions of different amps, including clean Fender amps. I've also got a large Roland Keyboard mixing amp that I use for electronic drums, and that's a fairly wide range solid state amp with a 15" speaker. 

Oddly enough, my favorite practice amp for bass is a tube guitar amp, a cheap Epiphone model with 5 watts. This same amp is recommended by many as a practice amp for pedal steel. My Roland micro-cube is not recommended, but the similar Vox model is.

Finally, I've got a small Ampeg bass practice amp that gets a nice sound, so I'll have my choice of amps, but my guess is the Epiphone for quieter practice and the Fender for when I'm home alone.

I'll put it together tomorrow evening. It came in a nice old school heavy duty case. It's a Sho-Bud model, and I have not bothered to research the year but it's decades old. It's in great shape. The fretboard has some really cool insets of hearts, diamonds, spades and clovers. So it's gotta be 60's or 70's when that was cool to have on your axe.

I have a lot more research to do. My friend sent a basic steel and some finger and thumb picks, and I've gotten a few instructional dvd's off ebay. I also ordered some tab for more modern music with instructions. I'm sure there are instructional videos for pedal steel on youtube, but I haven't looked yet.
It's an incredibly hard instrument to play, the pedal steel, by all accounts. We'll see how this goes. I'll let you know.