For those of you who read Guitar of the Week each week—thank you. And yes we did do this guitar last week. But given the nature of the accompanying story and the amount of response we received, we felt it only proper to follow with an update at the end of this original text. If you didn’t catch it last week, it is all here for you now and if you did, here’s the latest. Either way, thank you for your friendship and support.
When life is lived from a physiological point of view it is a great and often frightening mystery. But the quiet realization of the animating force of all life automatically brings clarity and an intuitive sense of connection to the whole of life, which transcends mere biology, or any situation we believe we are facing alone.
As I write this to you, I am sitting in the Clinical Cardiology waiting room at Huntington Memorial Hospital. My father is undergoing an angiogram and a possible angioplasty. An angiogram is used to determine if a serious, unseen problem exists within the coronary arteries. My mother is sitting beside me. She is a brilliant woman who is trying not to appear worried. She has no idea that I am speaking to you of such matters. She thinks this is just another Guitar of the Week.
My father is 84 years old. It is hard sometimes to see him grow old. Since I was in the 4th grade he has always been totally supportive of my music. He has been to so many of my gigs that we have both lost count but it numbers in the hundreds. My studio is in the basement of his house and he is delighted to listen to us rehearse. What can I say, he loves music. He is also a huge fan of Tom Anderson. If you have spent your life paying attention, with age comes wisdom. My dad believes that Tom Anderson makes the best guitars in the world. With this I cannot argue.
The guitar that has accompanied us to the vast majority of my earlier gigs is a Black Classic that was completed at Tom Anderson Guitarworks when it was just beginning. The neckplate had to be robbed from the very first experimental Hollow T and to this day that guitar lives here without a neckplate. This Black Classic is a spectacular sounding instrument. In those early years, everywhere I would play I’d hear, “Man that is a great sounding ‘Strat.’ How do you get that tone?” “Thanks”, I would try to humbly reply, “but it is not exactly a ‘Strat.’ It is a Tom Anderson Classic equipped with all the vintage options.” Tom had certainly changed the way I looked at and approached achieving great tone and playability. I was so happy.
It is really satisfying to be pleased with your sound. It inspires you and helps you to more effectively execute what you love to play. So there I am, on top of my sonic world. But something appeared and began to shake me down to the very marrow of my tones. It was that darned Tom Anderson again. First came the new generation VA pickups that are arguable the best vintage pickups on the planet, the Buzz Feiten Tuning System and then bridges with piezo pickups hidden in each saddle to add wonderful acoustic guitar sounds to the already magic electric tonality. It was time to get a new Classic—a very risky thing. At that time the old Classic had 12 years of age on the wood to richen its tone. How could a new one even compete?
But I did it. I ordered one. If all went well, it would replace my existing Classic as my main guitar so I decided to make it cosmetically very similar to the old one. The new Classic is also painted solid black. The body wood is alder. Alder does not have an accentuated grain pattern so a solid color seemed to make sense. I chose this time-tested body wood because of its strong lower-mid and articulate upper-mid frequencies. It makes single coil-type pickups sound huge and I love a giant, slightly overdriven clean tone for my rhythm stuff. I selected a solid maple neck because it tightens and controls the top and bottom frequencies while pushing the mids forward a bit. I opted for the T/A Standard +.030 neck backshape with a 1 11/16th nut width because I love the way it feels in my hand. But, I could have chosen almost any neck backshape we offer. Although they vary in depth, they all feel sleek and fast and are effortless to play.
I wanted to present these naturally beautiful wood tones in a traditional way so we loaded the white pearl pickguard with our VA1 and VA1R for the neck and middle positions. These single coils are lush and rich true-vintage pickups—the best I have ever heard. The tone is perfect! For the bridge position I opted for the VA2. I usually have a strong aversion to over-wound vintage-type pickups. They don’t have the correct character but the VA2 is not merely an over-wound pickup. It breaks all the rules and delivers a slightly hotter output without loosing any of the vintage vibe—absolutely no compromise here. It actually creates a better and more balanced bridge tone than ever before. Also there is the added benefit of slightly thickening that “in-between sound” on position 4 of the 5-way switch. But if you want to have position 4 remain true vintage, you can opt for a VA12 pickup which leaves position 4 unaltered but thickens and balances position 5. It is fabulous too.
I could not have a guitar capable of creating the best vintage tones ever heard and not have the ability to blend them with a plugged-in acoustic guitar sound so I added an acoustic/electric bridge. The hidden piezo pickups allow me to run an unaltered electric tone, a blended electric/acoustic sound or acoustic guitar alone. If you ever enjoy acoustic guitar sounds live, this is the option to have.
The guitar was finished in August of 1998. I could not believe my ears the first time I heard this guitar unplugged. It was huge, rich and full and seemed to want to sustain forever. That is one way to tell, blindfolded, if you are playing a real Tom Anderson guitar, they are acoustically very loud and rich with an “Extended Bandwidth” and want to ring forever. Okay, that was enough for now. It was off to rehearsal to see what it would be like in the real world. When I arrived, my father was there waiting to hear the new Tom Anderson Classic. How would it compare to the old master?
This guitar was beyond anything we had ever heard or I had ever played. It did it all. How could this guitar sound better than my original Classic and also sound better than my friend’s @#*%*@ vintage guitar? It was brand new. It needed time to age didn’t it? It needed time to mature. The thought went through my head, “How will this thing sing when it gets some years on it if it is this overwhelming now?”
I saw Tom the next day and expressed my total displeasure that he had once again, without any regard for my feelings, ruined all my old guitars for me—the nerve of some people. We laughed out loud and I got him to play it so he could confirm that it truly was the best Tom Anderson guitar that we had ever built. Ever! He played it. He finished. I asked, “What do you think? Is it the best Classic that you have ever played—the very best?” He just smiled and said, “Yea,” with a grin. We both knew. It was just like all the other Tom Anderson guitars we make—amazing, perfect, plays like butter—the best guitar for the player who’s playing it.
It has now been 2 ½ years since I first got this “new” black Classic. My son named it King Kong and has decided that the old one belongs to him. The latest one has continued to improve, just like fine wine.
Sorry to interrupt but the doctor just stepped into the room to tell us of my father’s condition. It is not as good as we would have hoped. Apparently immediate bypass surgery is needed. This was rather unexpected and rather tough to hear. This whole day has got me thinking about my father and I wanted to share my dad’s favorite Tom Anderson guitar with you. If you could send an extra prayer our way it would be much appreciated. We will get through this and it will be good!
When I returned to the shop to type in this Guitar of the Week, I was reminded why I am really here at Tom Anderson Guitarworks. I was greeted with such an outpouring of concern and love from people that truly care about others and the quality of life that it lifted me and filled me with hopefulness. I mentioned to Tom how much it meant to me and he replied, “That’s what families are suppose to do for each other.” It is no wonder perfection flows freely from this shop. It is the nature of everyone here and for that I am grateful.
UPDATE:My father underwent quintuple bypass surgery on Monday, December 4th . The surgery began at 7:30 AM. My mother and I arrived at his hospital room at 5:45AM so we could be with him during the preparation process. When all was ready, they wheeled him down the hall and out of our sight. As I watched him disappear, I tried to feel only hopeful but I was aware of the hidden tension and anxiety in my body. He’s my dad.
We sat in the waiting room. They said they would call down during the procedure to keep us updated. It had been about two hours when the phone rang. They told us they were now going onto the bypass machine. This is the machine that would breathe for him and pump his blood while they performed the actual bypass procedure on the heart. All we could do was pray. It was very comforting to know that many of our friends were doing the same. In fact there are many recent scientific studies, done by some of the most prestigious medical institutions in this country, that show that people who are prayed for heal and recover approximately 70% better than those who are not. At first the medical community was surprised by these possible findings but with more studies producing the same results, it has become medical fact.
Three hours later the phone rang again and they informed us that he had just come off of the bypass machine and his heart was beating on its own once again. I felt as though the first major hurdle had been successfully completed. No matter how controlled we tried to be, the emotion at this moment was overwhelming. An hour later the doctor appeared at the door and said that all had gone well and we could see him in a little while. He would not be conscious for several hours.
We entered his room prepared for him to look like he just went through 6 hours of intensive surgery. To our surprise he looked quite good and was sleeping peacefully. He was hooked up to a lot of machines, monitoring him and keeping him alive until he could regain consciousness. I did not want to go home that night but I finally had to. When I returned the next morning, I stepped into the room. My father opened his eyes and said, “Hi Bub.” I said, “How do you feel?” and he replied, “Like a million bucks.” Jubilation and gratitude filled me. I called everyone I knew and had him talk to them on the phone. It was fun. His doctor said he may end up as their “poster boy” if he keeps up this progress.
Of course he has to rest a lot but is starting to get back on his feet. He will be coming home on Saturday, December 9th and if all continues to go well, will resume a normal life.
Thanks to all that called, wrote or thought good thoughts, it is making all the difference. George Harrison may have already known what the medical community is just now embracing, “After all we’re all one and life flows on within you and without you.”
MODEL: – The Classic
FINISH: – Black
BODY WOOD: – Alder
BODY WOOD BACK COLOR: – Black
NECK WOOD: – Maple
HEADSTOCK COLOR: – Natural
NECK BACK FINISH: – Satin
NECK BACKSHAPE: – T/A Standard +.030
NUT WIDTH: – 1 11/16th-inch
SCALE LENGTH: – 25 1/2th-inch
FRETS: – Heavy
BRIDGE: – Vintage Tremolo with piezo pickup
HARDWARE COLOR: – Chrome
PICKGUARD: – White Pearl
NECK PICKUP: – VA1
MIDDLE PICKUP: – VA1R
BRIDGE PICKUP: – VA2
SWITCHING: – 5-Way with Add-Bridge Switch
PICKUP COVERS: – Coffee
PICKUP RINGS: – n/a
STRING GAUGE REQUESTED: – .011