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Michael Jackson Biography June 27, 2009

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in full Michael Joseph Jackson (1958–2009)

in the news…

June 26, 2009

Pop superstar Michael Jackson died on June 25 at the age of 50. Sources say Jackson went into cardiac arrest and had to receive CPR in the ambulance. Joe Jackson, his father, told multiple news sources that his son is not doing well.
Paramedics responded to a 911 call at around 12:26 PM, the Los Angeles Times reported. Jackson was apparently not breathing at the time medical experts appeared at the scene.

An autopsy is planned for today (June 26), but results will unlikely be final until toxicology tests can be completed.
In addition to an outpouring of fans around the world, many stars such as Madonna and Paul McCartney, have expressed grief about his loss as well as celebrate his life.


Singer, songwriter. Jackson was born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, to an African-American working-class family. His father, Joseph Jackson, had been a guitarist but had put aside his musical aspirations to provide for his family as a crane operator. Believing his sons had talent, he molded them into a musical group in the early 1960s. At first, the Jackson Family performers consisted of Michael’s older brothers Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie. Michael joined his siblings when he was five, and emerged as the group’s lead vocalist. He showed remarkable range and depth for such a young performer, impressing audiences with his ability to convey complex emotions. Older brother Marlon also became a member of the group, which evolved into the Jackson 5.

Behind the scenes, Joseph Jackson pushed his sons to succeed. He was also reportedly known to become violent with them. Michael and his brothers spent endless hours rehearsing and polishing up their act. At first, the Jackson 5 played local gigs and built a strong following. They recorded one single on their own, “Big Boy” with the b-side “You’ve Changed,” but it failed to generate much interest.

The Jackson 5 moved on to working an opening act for such R&B artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, James Brown, and Sam and Dave. Many of these performers were signed to the legendary Motown record label, and it has been reported that Gladys Knight may have been the one to tell Motown founder Berry Gordy about the Jackson 5. Impressed by the group, Gordy signed them to his label in 1968.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Michael and his brothers started work on their music and dancing with their father as their manager. They lived with Gordy and also with Supremes singer Diana Ross when they first arrived there. In August 1969, the Jackson 5 was introduced to the music industry at a special event, and later served as the opening act for the Supremes. Their first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, hit the charts in December of that year. It’s first single,  “I Want You Back,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1970.

More chart-topping singles quickly followed, such as “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There.” At the age of 13, Jackson launched a solo career in addition to his work with the Jackson 5. He made the charts in 1971 with “Got to Be There” from the album of the same name. His 1972 album, Ben, featured the eponymous ballad about a rat. The song became Jackson’s first solo No. 1 single.

For several years, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 maintained a busy tour and recording schedule, under the supervision of Berry Gordy and his Motown staff. Gordy wrote many of the songs recorded by the group and by Michael Jackson as a solo artist. The group became so popular that they even had their own self-titled cartoon show, which ran from 1971 to 1973.

Despite Jackson’s individual achievements and the group’s great success, there was trouble between the Jacksons and their record company. Tensions mounted between Gordy and Joseph Jackson over the management of his children’s careers, and their level of participation in making their music. The Jacksons wanted more control over their recordings, which led to most of the Jacksons breaking ties with Motown in 1975. Jermaine Jackson remained with the label and continued to pursue a solo career, having previously released several albumsnone of which had matched the success of his younger brother Michael.

Now calling themselves the Jacksons, the group signed a new recording deal with Epic Records. With 1978’s Destiny, Michael Jackson and his brothers (which by now included younger brother Randy) emerged as talented songwriters, penning all of the record’s tracks. Working with producer Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson wowed the music world with his next solo album, 1979’s Off the Wall. It featured ann infectious blend of pop and funk with such hit tracks as the Grammy Award-winning “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough,” “Rock with You,” and the title track. He also found success with the ballad “She’s Out of My Life.”

The overwhelmingly positive response to Michael’s latest solo album also helped buoy the Jacksons’ career as well. Triumph (1980) sold more than one million copies, and the brothers went on an extensive tour to support the recording. Jackson, however, began to branch out on his own more. Teaming up with rock legend Paul McCartney, Jackson sang on their 1982 duet, “The Girl Is Mine,” which nearly reached the top of the pop charts.

The song also appeared on his next solo album, Thriller (1982), which generated seven top 10 hits. On a television special honoring Motown, Jackson performed “Billie Jean” — eventually a number one hitand debuted his soon-to-be-famous dance move called the moonwalk. Jackson, a veteran performer by this time, created this step himself and choreographed the dance sequences for the video of his other No. 1 hit, “Beat It.”

His most elaborate video, however, was for the album’s title track. John Landis directed the horror-tinged video, which featured complex dance scenes, special effects, and a voice-over done by actor Vincent Price. The video for “Thriller” became immensely popular, boosting sales for the already successful album. It stayed on the charts for 80 weeks, holding the No. 1 spot for 37 weeks. In addition to its unparalleled commercial achievements, Thriller earned 12 Grammy Award nominations and won eight of those awards.

Jackson’s Grammy victories showcased the diverse nature of his work. For his songwriting talents, he received the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for “Billie Jean.” Jackson also won Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for “Thriller” and Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male for “Beat It.” With co-producer Quincy Jones, he shared the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

At the top of his game creatively and commercially, Jackson signed a $5 million endorsement deal with Pepsi-Cola around this time. He, however, was badly injured while filming a commercial for the soda giant in 1984, suffering burns to his face and scalp. Jackson had surgery to repair his injuries, and is believed to have begun experimenting with plastic surgery around this time. His face, especially his nose, would become dramatically altered in the coming years.

That same year, Jackson embarked on his final tour with the Jacksons to the support the album Victory. The one major hit from the recording was Michael Jackson’s duet with Mick Jagger, “State of Shock.” In 1985, Jackson showed his altruistic side, co-writing and singing on “We Are the World,” a charity single for USA for Africa. A veritable who’s who of music stars participated in the project including Lionel Ritchie, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, and Tina Turner.

Releasing his follow-up to Thriller in 1987, Jackson reached the top of the charts with Bad. It featured five No. 1 hits, including “Man in the Mirror,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and the title track, which was supported by a video directed by Martin Scorsese. Jackson spent more than a year on the road, playing concerts to promote the album. While successful, Bad was unable to duplicate the phenomenal sales of Thriller.

Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Jackson was a shy and quiet person off-stage. He was never truly comfortable with the media attention he received and rarely gave interviews. By the late 1980s, Jackson had created his own fantasy retreata California ranch called Neverland. There he kept exotic pets, such as a chimpanzee named Bubbles, and had his own amusement rides. To some, it seemed that Jackson perhaps was exploring a second childhood. He sometimes opened up the ranch for children’s events. Rumors swirled around him, including that he was lightening the color of his skin to appear more white and slept in a special chamber to increase his life span.

In 1991, Jackson released Dangerous, featuring the hit “Black or White.” The video for this song included an appearance by child star Macaulay Culkin, and was directed by John Landis. In the video’s final minutes, Jackson caused some controversy with his sexual gesturing and violent actions. Many were surprised to see the Peter Pan-like Jackson act this way.

Jackson’s music continued to enjoy wide-spread popularity in the upcoming years. In 1993, he performed several important events, including the half-time show at Superbowl XXVII. Jackson gave a rare television interview, which aired that February. Sitting down with Oprah Winfrey, he explained that the change in his skin tone was the result of a disease known as vitiligo. Jackson also opened about the abuse he suffered from his father.

Allegations of child molestation against Jackson emerged later that year. A 13-year-old boy claimed that the music star had fondled him. Jackson was known to have sleepovers with boys at his Neverland Ranch, but this was the first public charge of wrongdoing. The police searched the ranch, but they found no evidence to support the claim. The following year, Jackson settled the case out of court with the boy’s family. Other allegations emerged, but Jackson maintained his innocence.

In August 1994, Jackson announced that he had married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of rock icon Elvis Presley. The couple gave a joint television interview with Diane Sawyer, but the union proved to be short-lived. They divorced in 1996. Some thought that the marriage was a publicity ploy to restore Jackson’s image after the molestation allegations.

Later that same year, Jackson wed nurse Debbie Rowe. The couple had two children through artification insemination. Son Prince Michael Jackson was born in 1997 and daughter Paris Michael Jackson was born in 1998. (Jackson later had a third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, nicknamed “Blanket,” with an unknown woman.) Rowe and Jackson divorced in 1999 with Jackson receiving full custody of their two children.

His musical career began to decline with the lukewarm reception to 1995’s HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I, which featured some of his earlier hits as well as new material. The record spawned two hits, “You Are Not Alone” and his duet with sister Janet Jackson, “Scream.” “Scream” earned Michael and Janet a Grammy Award for Best Music Video, Short Form that year. Another track from the album, “They Don’t Care About Us,” however, brought Jackson intense criticism for using an anti-Semitic term.

By the release of 2001’s Invincible, Jackson was better known as an eccentric whose quirks were reported in the tabloids than as a performer. The album sold well, but stories of his odd behavior started to overshadow his talent. He often appeared in public wearing a surgical mask, and he hid his children’s faces under veils.

In 2002, Jackson seemed confused and disoriented on stage at an MTV awards show. Soon after, he received enormous criticism for dangling his son, Prince Michael II, over a balcony while greeting fans in Germany. In a later interview, Jackson explained that “We were waiting for thousands of fans down below, and they were chanting they wanted to see my child, so I was kind enough to let them see. I was doing something out of innocence.”

Jackson’s reputation was served another blow in 2003 with the television documentary, Living with Michael Jackson. British journalist Martin Bashir spent several months with Jackson, and he got Jackson to discuss his relationships with children. He admitted that he continued to have children sleepover at his ranch, even after the 1993 allegations. Jackson said that sometimes he slept with the children in his bed. “Why can’t you share your bed? That’s the most loving thing to do, to share your bed with someone,” Jackson told Beshir.

Jackson faced more legal woes in 2004 when he was arrested on charges related to incidents with a 13-year-old boy the previous year. Facing 10 counts in all, he was charged with lewd conduct with a minor, attempted lewd conduct, administering alcohol to facilitate molestation, and conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. The resulting 2005 trial was a media circus with fans, detractors, and camera crews surrounding the courthouse. More than 130 people testified, including Macaulay Culkin who appeared on Jackson’s behalf. He said that he had been friends with Jackson as a young teen. While he had stayed over at the Neverland Ranch, he told the court that Jackson never tried to molest him. Jackson’s accuser also appeared via videotape and described how Jackson had given him wine and molested him.

On June 14, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of all charges. He stayed at Neverland for only a short time after the trial and then moved to Bahrain. A friend of the king of Bahrain’s son, Jackson was able to avoid the intense media scrutiny he had been subjected to during the trial. Plans were made for Jackson to record a comeback album with the king’s son’s record company, but the album never materialized.

Reportedly in dire financial straits, Jackson sold his Neverland Ranch in 2008. He, however, sued to block the auction of some of his personal items from the home the following year. Around this same time, the largely reclusive Jackson announced that he would be performing a series of concerts in London as his “final curtain call.” There had been some speculation regarding whether often fragile-appearing singer would be able to handle the rigors of 50 concerts. However, despite all of the allegations and stories of odd behavior, Jackson remained a figure of great interest, as demonstrated by the strong response to his concert plans. Set to appear at the O2 Arena beginning July 8,2009, Jackson saw the tickets to these shows sell out in only four hours.

Michael Jackson, one of the most popular artists of all time, died suddenly of cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles just before the concert series. He was 50 years old.

© 2009 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.

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ROCK STAR FAMILY June 21, 2009

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kurt cobain

Kurt Cobain with daughter Frances Bean Cobain outside of the 10th Annual MTV Video Music Awards on September 2, 1993 in Universal City, California. Mazur/WireImage

dave grohl

Dave Grohl spends some quality time with his daughter Violet at the Los Angeles Fair on March 1, 2009. Photo: FAME PICTURES

james hetfield

Metallica's James Hetfield and his brood attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Loccisano/Getty

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Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and his son Joseph on April 1, 2006 in Westwood, California. Photo: Winter/Getty

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Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis hikes with son Everly Bear in Malibu on February 16, 2009. Photo: X17Online.com

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Gene Simmons with son Nicholas backstage at a Kiss concert on October 17, 1988. Weiss/WireImage

chris martin ( could play)

Chris Martin rides with his son Moses in Disneyland on April 3, 2009 in Los Angeles. Photo: National Photo Group

eddie van halen

Eddie Van Halen with son (and future Van Halen bassist) Wolfgang in the early 1990s. Smeal/WireImag

gavin rossdale

Gavin Rossdale holds son Kingston Rossdale on September 29, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. Millan/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic

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Joel Madden holds daughter Harlow at the Kidstock Music and Arts Festival on May 31, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Wong/FilmMagic


Slash passes the hat to son Cash Anthony at Nickelodeon's 2009 Kids' Choice Awards on March 28, 2009 in Westwood, California. Kravitz/FilmMagic


Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea with daughter Sunny Bebop Balzary. Mazur/WireImage

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Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and his daughter Alabama on July 29, 2007 in Los Angeles. Covington/Getty

rod stewart

Rod Stewart and son Liam play football on January 1, 1999 at his house in Essex. Hogan/Getty

John Lennon and His Iconic Guitars Live June 17, 2009

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Ted Drozdowski | 06.15.2009


It ain’t the Beatles, but a new DVD of the Plastic Ono Band’s historic 1969 Toronto concert provides a close-up look at a severely bearded John Lennon during a pivotal time in his career, playing raw rock and roll on his Epiphone Casino with primal abandon.

The Beatles were already well in disarray by Sept. 13, 1969, when the concert was filmed. As Lennon later put it in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, “We were tired of being sidemen for Paul.” And Lennon was already exploring more daring territory, rebelling against the Beatles polished sound via recordings with his second wife Yoko Ono — the two Unfinished Music projects and Wedding Album.

The new John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto ’69 DVD is the visual corollary to late ’69s Live Peace in Toronto LP, capturing the interplay between Lennon and guitarist Eric Clapton as well as the performance art antics of Ono, who covers herself with a white sheet to dramatize a state of selflessness and to perhaps illustrate “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow),” a tune that translates elements of expressionist free jazz to voice and almost always alienates Beatles fans.


Lennon’s appearance at the concert, which celebrated ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, was a last-minute affair. He finally gave in to the pleas of promoter John Brower and jumped on a plane with Ono, Clapton, bassist Klaus Voorman, and drummer Alan White (who later replaced Bill Bruford in Yes) — and no set list.

What’s most fun is watching Lennon and Clapton — who plays a black Les Paul — tear through songs they half know, with Lennon grinding out nasty chords and Clapton tossing off fleet pentatonic solos on “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” the kind of material that fueled the early Beatles.

These are preceded on the DVD by one-song performances culled from the sets of the formative rock legends who appeared before Lennon’s ensemble: Bo Diddly romping through his signature tune, Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out “Hound Dog,” and Little Richard squealing “Lucille” — all aces.

After the early rock numbers at the beginning of the Plastic Ono Band’s set Lennon delves into his own catalog with a rip-up of the Beatles “Yer Blues,” where he bites hard into his Casino’s strings to conjure gravel-throated riffs. And the group feels its way through his then-new “Cold Turkey” and “Give Peace a Chance” before diving into Ono’s improvised numbers, drawing on feedback and slashing chords to make their musical points.

The natural finish Casino Lennon plays for Live in Toronto was paid homage by Epiphone in 1999 as the John Lennon Revolution model, a historic recreation accurate right down to the pole position spacing of its biting P-90s single-coil pickups and the serial number stamped in its neck: #328393. Lennon’s 1965 Casino has the distinction of being one of the few guitars to be reissued in two incarnations, since it was originally acquired by Lennon in 1966 — and used on Revolver — as a sunburst model. The original version of the instrument, a match for George Harrison’s first Casino save for a Bigsby tailpiece, was reissued as the John Lennon Epiphone Casino, with the same exacting details.

For the record, two iconic Gibsons also played a major role in Lennon’s career. He used his acoustic J-160E, which he acquired in 1962, throughout the rest of his life. In 1967 the J-160E got a psychedelic paint job, but by 1969 it was stripped back to its original appearance, albeit with a volume and tone control for its pickup. That version was reissued by Gibson in 2002.

The other classic Lennon instrument is the modified ’50s Les Paul Junior he used for much of the ’70s. When Lennon acquired the guitar it was in original factory condition, with a tobacco sunburst finish, P-90s, and a wraparound tailpiece. Lennon had it sanded down to unfinished mahogany and replaced one of the pickups with a Charlie Christian. He also replaced the wraparound tailpiece with a Gibson tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece before using the guitar for his classic 1972 Madison Square Garden concert. The Gibson Custom Shop created a painstakingly correct reissue of Lennon’s Junior in 2007.

Gibson’s 5 Sexiest Custom Shop Signature Models June 15, 2009

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Ted Drozdowski | 06.08.2009


Signature model guitars have a special allure: the aura of a certain artist’s musical magic. But which are the most alluring?

Judging by the reactions of players at trade shows, festivals, auto races, and other events visited by the Gibson Custom Shop’s traveling 40-foot exhibit trailer, the five six-string Signature mojo machines that draw the most interest are:

Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye

This Bullseye beauty is a hard-core rock guitar with active pickups, an EMG-81 and an EMG-85, and an unfinished maple neck — Wylde’s variation on the Les Paul Custom. Since it was first issued in 1999 the guitar’s been a magnet for Ozzy and Zakk influenced shredders.

Take a closer look at the Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye.

B.B. King Lucille

B.B. personally oversaw the development of this refined take on the classic ES-345, including the elimination of f-holes to reduce uncontrolled feedback, a TP-6 fine-tuning tailpiece, and ebony good looks. Typically these guitars are plucked off their display mounts by older players who grew up on blues, but lately the genre’s been reaching a younger audience — and so have Lucille models. This guitar sports its name on its headstock and has stereo/mono jacks. And of course there’s the Vari-Tone, a six-position midrange notch filter. The Lucille is a larger bodied guitar, yet its lighter weight and burnished tone make her loveable for fans of Les Pauls and SGs.

Take a closer look at the B.B. King Lucille.

Johnny A. with Bigsby

This guitar is a real attention getter on its own terms and offers some fairly unique characteristics. The fully hollow body is one-piece mahogany and the inside is flat in the back to increase natural projection. The Bigsy vibrato tailpiece that A. uses is optional, but not so the guitar’s distinctive 25-inches long scale neck abetted by double cutaway horns. And the neck’s profile, at A.’s insistence, is slightly flatted in the back for easy playability. When the guitar’s on display jazz, blues and rock players all relate to its blend of tone, feel, and light weight. And this six-string, birthed in 2003, is often described as “art deco” for the modern-yet-classic look of its crown shaped inlays, angular pick guard and singularly shaped f-holes.

Take a closer look at the Johnny A. with Bigsby.

Slash Les Paul

Although there are several Slash Les Paul models available, the granddaddy — and big draw in the Custom Shop’s traveling display — is the dark tobacco burst model introduced in 2004. Slash, of course, was almost single-handedly responsible for the skyrocketing popularity of Les Pauls in the ’80s. But this is a distinctive beast, with a pair of Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro pickups and a Fishman Power Bridge to provide an optional acoustic guitar sound. A mini three-way switch between the rear two pots — one a third volume control, for the level of the acoustic setting — allows toggling between acoustic and electric settings. But most players who pick up the Slash model wanna blast — and often the classic intro to “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”

Take a closer look at the Slash Les Paul.

Peter Frampton Les Paul Custom

When players pick up this baby, it really comes alive. The Frampton Paul has three humbuckers and a chambered, lightweight body. And it’s unusually wired to get that distinctive out-of-phase style Frampton sound. The middle pickup is always on, but has a dedicated master volume knob so it can be dialed in or out. That tone should theoretically appeal more to players influenced by classic rock, but the variety of tones this black beauty produces captures the ears of just about anybody who hears or plays it.

Lesson Review: Learn & Master Guitar: Expanded Edition by Steve Krenz June 15, 2009

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Dave Hunter | 06.10.2009


Amid the books and DVD packages that promise to take you from beginner to intermediate to advanced guitarist, the “complete package” is nothing new. Few instructional courses pull off a comprehensive tutorial like Learn & Master Guitar by Steve Krenz, however, and the newly updated package — Learn & Master Guitar: Expanded Edition (Legacy Learning Systems, list price $249/discounted price $149) — is one of the most thorough multi-media lesson sets available. Having occasionally browsed and sampled other systems that promise to be a one-stop shop for mastery of the instrument, and too often turned away with doubts about the veracity of such claims, a test run through Learn & Master Guitar: Expanded Edition leaves me confident that this package really is capable of taking the non-player all the way from the basic steps of tuning the instrument and fingering notes and chords, to executing advanced songs in a broad range of styles.

The “Lesson Book” included in this package is a useful tool in and of itself, and a motivated learner could go a long way with the book alone. The book is certainly not alone, though, and comes accompanied with 20 instructional DVDs, five Jam Along CDs, and unlimited access to the online support site. Here in the age of YouTube any guitar teacher with a Handycam and a tripod can pull off an instructional DVD. But Steve Krenz — a Nashville-based session guitarist and teacher — is backed by a professional video production and editing team that help to maximize the learning potential of each recorded lesson. Clear shots of left and right-hand positions are supported by on-screen musical notation, while explanatory segments are frequently underscored with notes and addendums to expand the teaching.



Throughout, I found Krenz’s gentle, low-key style evocative of the kind of “bedside manner” that would really encourage the new player. Rather than pushing to be too cool or overly hip, — Learn & Master Guitar gets right down to the business of teaching you how to play the guitar, through a clear, logical, linear series of “Sessions” (lessons). From the simple necessities of hand position, basic scales and chords, and beginner’s picking techniques; to the intermediate learning of barre chords, blues scales, power chords, and basic fingerpicking; to advanced techniques such as blues bends, country chicken pickin’, and jazz progressions, this set not only takes you a long way down the road as a player, it does so in a smooth, seamless fashion that underlines the relationships between many different playing styles.

In addition to the time-tested abbreviations and short cuts that help so many students become guitar players — tablature, block chord diagrams, and so forth — Krenz’s book and video lessons also take the time to explain the building blocks of music theory, but do so without getting bogged down in the potential stodginess of such efforts. Note values and time keeping, major and minor scales, modes, keys and key signatures, parallel major and minor relationships, and more are all absorbed seamlessly, as the lessons require.

The Jam Along CDs are a real bonus, too, and provide that feeling of “really making music” that can take the effort of learning an instrument out of the dry and academic realm and into the creative. Performed with a full band and mixed with a reference guitar track in the left channel, they allow the learner to follow a correct example of each song exercise in the book then dial out the instructor with their CD player’s balance control to take over the guitar parts themselves.

All in all, it’s an impressive package, and primed to take any wannabe player a long way down the path to success.

For more information on the Learn & Master Guitar course, click here.

For a chance to win your own free copy of the Learn & Master Guitar course, and a beautiful Epiphone Casino hollow body guitar, click here.

Miranda Kerr naked on Rolling Stone: Is green a good enough cause? June 5, 2009

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Jun 3, 2009, 04:16 PM | by Jennifer Armstrong

Categories: ShePop


Model Miranda Kerr — you know her from Victoria’s Secret, most likely — got her picture on the cover of a Rolling Stone by going naked for the its “green issue.” Having policed mainstream mag nakedness a time or two before, I’m torn: Green = good, for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body — not that she has even an ounce of reason not to. Incidentally, I also love that she says she did it, quite specifically, for the koalas: “Something like 80 percent of the koalas’ habitat has been destroyed since Europeans arrived in Australia.” Fair enough. However, I wonder more about the magazine: On the rare occasions when there happens to be a female on Rolling Stone‘s legendary cover, it’s rare she isn’t naked. (Just a few examples: here, here, and here. Implied girl-on-girl courtesy of shared ice cream cone doesn’t count. Pretty much the only way to be female and not naked on RS is to be Taylor Swift — good girl! — or a mid- to post-breakdown Britney.) I say it’d get more attention for any given “cause” at this point if they put a lady out there wearing something more than underwear.What do you think? Is green a good enough cause to go nude? Or do you even need one at all? Anyone else notice that Stone has a history of requiring nakedness for a female to appear on their cover?

6 Incredible Blind Guitarists June 4, 2009

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Russel Hall | 06.02.09

The number of sightless guitarists who helped forge the American blues tradition is extraordinary. Featured below are six guitarists, three of whom helped pioneer the blues, who rose above their blindness to make great music.

Blind Boy Fulle


During his brief but prolific recording career, which extended from 1935 to 1941, Blind Boy Fuller was one of the most popular musicians in the Southeast. By the time he lost his eyesight — while in his late teens — he had perfected an impressive fingerpicking style, which ultimately brought him to the attention of the American Record Company in the mid ’30s. Fuller subsequently recorded more than 120 songs that ranged from ragtime to blues to novelty tunes. Several of his original compositions — including “Lost Lover Blues” and “Step It Up and Go” — have become standards of the Piedmont blues genre. Fuller died in 1941, at age 33, from kidney failure brought on by blood poisoning

Blind Willie McTell


As the man who wrote the classic “Statesboro Blues,” Blind Willie McTell influenced hundreds of country bluesmen, folk singers, and blues-oriented rock bands. It’s unknown whether McTell was born blind or whether he lost his sight as a child. What is certain, however, is that as a youngster he became proficient on 12-string guitar, combining fingerpicking and slide work to create sophisticated arrangements. In 1940 folk music historian Alan Lomax traveled to Atlanta to record a handful of McTell’s songs for the Library of Congress. Although he was signed briefly to Atlantic Records in the late ’40s, McTell never garnered substantial earnings from his recordings, and he often performed for tips on Atlanta’s Decatur Street. He left music in 1956, at age 55, and worked as a pastor in a local church until his death in 1959.

Jeff Healey


A teen prodigy, Jeff Healey rose to prominence during the late ’80s, when shredders dominate the guitar scene. A rare form of cancer, known as retinoblastoma, claimed his eyesight when he was just a year old. As a result, when Healey took up the guitar as a child, he forged an unconventional playing style in which he usually rested the guitar in his lap and placed his left hand over the top of the neck. Healey’s best-selling album, 1988’s See The Light, was rock oriented, but the late guitarist’s heart lay mostly with jazz. Healey was just 41 years old when he died in 2008 from cancer.

Jose Feliciano


A pioneer for Latin musicians who strived to make inroads in the American music scene, Jose Feliciano will always be best-known for his seasonal tune, “Feliz Navidad,” and for his top-selling cover version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” Blind since birth from congenital glaucoma, Feliciano moved with his family from Puerto Rico to New York’s Spanish Harlem, where he became a fixture on the early ’60s Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene. His dazzling, flamenco-inspired playing talents were achieved through relentless practice sessions, during which Feliciano would lock himself in his room and emulate such players as classical great Andres Segovia and jazz legend Wes Montgomery. During an impressive stretch in the ’70s, Guitar Player magazine honored Feliciano as Best Pop Guitarist five years in a row.

Doc Watson


Best known for his flatpicking skills — although he’s also adept at fingerpicking — Doc Watson forged his multi-dimensional style as young man living in the hill country of North Carolina. While rooted in the traditional music he grew up with, Watson’s playing also bears the influence of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Jimmie Rodgers, and the “fiddle tune” lead style popularized by Hank Garland and Grady Martin. An eye infection robbed Watson of his sight before his first birthday. His first guitar, a $12 Stella, was purchased for him by his father after a young Doc learned “When Roses Bloom in Dixieland” on a borrowed instrument.

Blind Lemon Jefferson


The son of sharecroppers, Blind Lemon Jefferson lived a life shrouded in mystery, although talk of his prowess as a bluesman was legendary among all musicians who heard him. Around 1912, when he was 18 or 19 years old, Jefferson was befriended by Leadbelly, who through the years credited Jefferson for giving him a rigorous tutelage in blues guitar. Jefferson’s recordings — made between 1926 and 1929 — showcase his extraordinary six-string virtuosity. He made extensive use of single note runs, often picked with his thumb, and employed a variety of keys and tunings. His place in the Texas blues tradition is profound, and his influence has been acknowledged by artists as diverse as T-Bone Walker, Carl Perkins, and even the Beatles. It’s unknown how Jefferson lost his sight, or indeed whether he was in fact totally blind.

Back to Basics: Using Effects Pedals, Part 2 June 4, 2009

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dave hunter | 06.03.09

In Part 1 of this two-part feature on the basics of using effects pedals, we looked at the accepted standard order for connecting stompboxes in front of your guitar amp, as well as a few alternatives. This time we’ll examine ways to connect more complex setups and pedalboards and throw in a few tips and tricks.


Stereo Pedals

Many delay and chorus pedals, and a few others, come with stereo outputs that enable you to make the most of the wide soundstage that these effects can produce. If you only have one amp you will of course use only the mono output from such effects. With two amps and a single stereo pedal on the floor, you obviously just connect one to the left out and one to the right out, but often it’s not quite so simple. Effects chains with multiple pedals might throw up conflicts in connecting order — perhaps you have a stereo chorus or Uni-Vibe-style pedal that you prefer to use before your overdrive, but you also want to make use of the width of the stereo field. Ideally, you would connect any stereo pedal last in the chain, but in the above scenario you would have to decide either to run the overdrive after only one of the stereo outputs and keep the other output clean, or compromise your tonal ideals and put the overdrive before the stereo effect. That, or buy a second overdrive pedal … and deal with the tap dance of stepping on both at once!

Other conflicts arise when you have two stereo pedals in your setup. Sometimes more complex stereo delay and reverb units will have stereo inputs as well as outputs, and this makes it easy to — for example — connect a stereo chorus pedal before it and get the full stereo effect of both units. Otherwise, you will have to decide whether the sound of stereo chorus or stereo echo or stereo reverb, whatever the case may be, is most important to your sound. Try all the alternatives, and go with whatever feels like the least obtrusive compromise.

Split Chains

Sometimes it’s extremely useful to split your signal chain to achieve an asymmetrical, non-identical (ie non-stereo) sound from two amplifiers. For example, imagine your pedalboard runs compressor –> stereo vibe –> overdrive –> echo. With two amps to play through, you could split the left output of the vibe pedal to amp 1, and send the right output on to the rest of the effects chain and ultimately to amp 2. Now, when you step on the overdrive that’s after the vibe pedal, you get crunch and lead tones in amp 2, while amp 1 stays crisp and clean to retain better definition. Or, set amp 1 to always be a little crunchy, to beef up your clean and rhythm tones, then you’ll go into a thick, rich lead tone when you step on the overdrive, which will result in pedal-based clipping in amp 2, and milder amp-based clipping in amp 1.

If you have two non-identical amps, or one big amp and one smaller amp, try using the smaller, less powerful of the two in the amp 1 position (with the split from earlier in the effects chain) and cranking it up to achieve some natural tube distortion. Often this blend works great with a larger, cleaner amp (which, again, can still be kicked into overdrive with the use of a pedal). Many artists have achieved their signature tones with a similarly mismatched amp setup, notably Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who often paired a cranked Fender Champ and a cleaner Twin in the studio.

Parallel Paths

You can also make use of multiple signal paths with just one amplifier, providing that amp has two channels, or even two inputs. Say you want to maintain some definition and clarity in your tone, even when you’re using overdrive for leads, and the dirty amp/clean amp blend described above appeals to you. With a two-channel amp (that is, an amp with two independent channels, not a channel-switching amp), split your signal before your overdrive or distortion pedal, and run it to channel one set for clean, then send it on to the rest of the effects and out to channel 2. Even two channels in the same amp, but set with different gain and EQ levels, can yield a richer, more complex tone than just one channel. (Note: when doing this, ensure that the two channels are working in-phase of each other; if your sound is notably thin and “hollow” sounding when you try both channels together, one is most likely out of phase. Some effects pedals reverse phase signal between input and output, so splitting the signal before that pedal could cause such a reversal; many Fender blackface and silverface amps of the ’60s and ’70s have two channels that are out of phase with each other — splitting to different signal paths might cure this, or retain it. You will have to experiment to see what works. Also, you can often use input 1 and input 2 in a single-channel amp with two inputs to achieve some of the same results.)

Effects-Loop Pedals

Looper pedals, which are really just signal-chain-routing devices with footswitches to select either of one, two, or even more “loops,” can be very useful if you have a lot of effects on your board, and don’t want to run your signal through them at all times, thus potentially depleting its quality. If you use pedals that are notably noisy even when off, or that result in a loss of highs, lows, or general signal fidelity when they aren’t switched in, a looper is a great way of rectifying the situation. And you can use any number of pedals within even a single loop, to take them out of the signal path when not in use. Run a patch cable from the loop pedal’s “send” to the input of the first pedal in the loop and string the rest together as normal, concluding with a patch cable to the “return” of the loop pedal. Any pedals that you use frequently and which aren’t problematic regarding noise or tone sucking — a good overdrive or compressor, for example — can still go before the loop pedal (ie between guitar and loop pedal). If you have just one pedal in the loop, leave it on at all times, and let the loop footswitch take it in and out of the signal path. With more than one pedal in the loop, you’ll need to switch effects on at the start of the song that requires it (with the loop still off), and bring it in with the loop switch as needed, or use a looper with multiple loops to, once again, leave all the looped pedals on all the time.


There’s a lot of talk about true-bypass pedals these days, and in many cases true bypass is a good feature. The term “true bypass” (also referred to as “hard-wired bypass”) means that a pedal routes the signal directly from input to output when switched off, and the feature is intended to preserve signal quality, rather than routing it through a portion of the effects circuitry even when “off,” as some pedals do. Using a lot of true-bypass pedals in a row can still deplete your signal, however, even when they’re all off (or, in fact, particularly when they’re all off), because they still route it through a lot of extra wire. Also, the use of a long guitar cord both before and after a string of true-bypass pedals adds up to a long distance for that signal to travel, with the result of some inevitable loss of fidelity. A quality buffer, either in the form of an individual unit or a buffer built within one of the pedals in your chain, can help to resolve this problem. Essentially a clean, unity gain (or low gain) preamp that is always on, a buffer enables your signal to travel through much greater lengths of wire without loosing volume level or tone. If you find your guitar sounds noticeably flatter and muddier when played through your chain of true bypass pedals (all switched off) than it does when plugged straight into the amp, a buffer might be the answer.

In the end, there are no fixed rules for the use of effects pedals, many, many variations in the “traditional” setups exist, and when rules do seem to exist, there are always exceptions. Experiment with whatever you can get your hands on, keep your mind open to the alternatives, and determine what works best for you and your music.

Former Roadie Claims Jimi Hendrix Was Murdered June 4, 2009

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russell hall

Was Jimi Hendrix murdered? That’s the assertion laid out in a new book by a former roadie for the legendary guitarist.

As reported by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, James “Tappy” Wright maintains in his book, Rock Roadie, that Hendrix was killed as part of an insurance scam.

According to Wright, Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffrey, drunkenly confessed to murdering the guitarist by filling him full with pills and several bottles of red wine. Wright says Jeffrey made the confession in 1971, one year after Hendrix’s death, saying he had taken out a life insurance policy on the guitarist that was worth approximately $2 million, naming himself as beneficiary.

“I had to do it, Tappy,” Wright quotes Jeffrey as saying. “You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about.”

Wright further quotes Jeffrey: “I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some old friends … we went round to Monika’s hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth … then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe.”

Wright goes on to say Jeffrey was fearful that Hendrix was preparing to strike a deal with a new manager, when the contract between Hendrix and himself expired in December 1970.

“That son of a bitch was going to leave me,” Jeffrey is quoted as saying. “If I lost him, I’d lose everything.”

Hendrix’s death has always been shrouded in mystery, with the official cause listed as “barbiturate intoxication and inhalation of vomit.”

In 1992, John Bannister, the surgeon who dealt with Hendrix at the London hospital where he was taken following his apparent overdoes, said that he believed the musician had drowned in red wine, even though he had little alcohol in his bloodstream.

“I recall vividly the very large amounts of red wine that oozed from his stomach and his lungs and in my opinion there was no question that Jimi Hendrix had drowned, if not at home then on the way to the hospital,” Bannister wrote.

Jeffrey himself was killed in a plane crash in 1973.

Pearl Jam Debuts New Song On The Tonight Show June 4, 2009

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russell hall

Pearl Jam offered a preview last night of their forthcoming album, Backspacer, by performing a song from the new disc on the Tonight Show.

Making his debut as host, Conan O’Brien introduced the band by saying, “Launching a show like this takes a lot of hard work and one of the things that has sustained me over the past three months was knowing that at the end of our first show I’d get to watch a performance by one of the greatest rock bands in the world.”

The song, titled “Get Some,” featured an aggressive tempo, heavy guitar work, and fiery vocals from frontman Eddie Vedder. Prior to the performance, O’Brien held up cover art that featured a painting of a human head and torso with the insides exposed. On his website, comic strip artist Tom Tomorrow, who’s been working on the cover design, revealed that the artwork is “part of a greater whole.”

In other Pearl Jam news, Billboard.biz reports that the group performed a private concert late last week at the Showbox in Seattle. According to band manager Kelly Curtis, the secret concert served as the setting for a Target commercial being directed by Almost Famous filmmaker Cameron Crowe.

Speculation has been rampant regarding who will release the new disc, now that the group is no longer under contract to Sony. Curtis told Billboard that Backspacer will in fact come without a U.S. label, but rather will involve a consortium of partners that includes Target as the “big box” retailer.

“Target ended up allowing us to have other partners,” Curtis said. “We’ll be able to take care of all levels of the Pearl Jam fan …. We wish we could tell the whole story right now, but all the deals aren’t done. Target was cool enough to realize that little independent record stores are not their competition.”

Curtis also noted that the album would be for sale via Pearl Jam’s fan club, Ten Club. He went on to say that the Showbox session served multiple purposes. In addition to providing material for the Target commercial, some of the footage may be used in a film project Crowe is undertaking for release in 2011, in conjunction with Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary.

The manager also confirmed that the band will tour in support of the new album, and that, internationally, the disc will be distributed via Universal Music Group.

Check out last night’s Tonight Show performance below.