It was a cold dark moonlit night…

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

Actually, it was a cold dark moonlit night back in April. I was trawling a few pages on ebay when I spotted a Gibson Explorer that I liked the look of. It had very little interest. I put in a half-hearted bid and thought no more of it. A few days later I got an email to tell me it was mine! Great, just the slight problem of how to get hold of it.

I asked my buddy JW at Pearce Cycles if he would collect it for me from the seller in Cheltenham. JW knows a bit about guitars so he’d know if it was OK or not. I bribed JW by telling him that he’d have to look after it for me until I could collect it, and naturally it would need playing. JW agreed. JW duly collected the guitar, and reported back to me that it was a little grubby, but apart from that was solid, and played well.

So, I’m running through all the scenarios of how I could get it to France, some of them involving it being sent part of the way, and ending up missing or broken. Plus trying to factor in the cost of fetching it. Weeks turned into months. Then I got an email from an old friend. He was driving down through France on his way to the Picos de Europa in Spain for a cycling holiday. He asked if I needed anything from Pearce Cycles as he would be calling in there a couple of weeks before leaving the UK, then driving down right past our doorstep.

Last weekend Duncan and Trish arrived with my guitar. Not only that, but they thought we might be missing a few things from the UK so they’d brought us some Marmite, some Heinz Baked Beans, some proper tea bags, Marmalade, and Famous Grouse whiskey. Flippin super heroes or what? They stayed for a couple of days, so I dragged them all over the trails of the Monts de Blond by way of a thank you.

Back to the guitar. Just like JW said, she was a little grubby, but she played well. I gave her a birthday clean up and a new set of strings. She plays just great. Now in case you don’t know, white Gibson Explorers are different, they have an ebony fingerboard, assuming that they’re not a refinished guitar, which this one isn’t. Explorers are great, I love them, your just 10 times cooler as soon as you strap one on, and they’re so much more than just a ‘Metal’ guitar. Though if you do a search on youtube that’s what most ‘players’ tend to do with them. So to redress the balance slightly I’ve posted a few bars of Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” to show her gentle side. Here she is…

Trish, Duncan, if you’re reading this I hope you had a great holiday, and many thanks again for bringing my guitar.

A new axe to grind!

It had been raining for days. I’d played my guitar until my fingers were raw. Cabin fever was upon me!

I’ve been thinking about buying a new acoustic guitar for years! My old Jap built Epiphone FT135, that I bought in the late 70s is great for bashing out chords, but she’s hard work when it comes to finger picking. Actually, I’ve tried to buy a new acoustic before, tried 100s, can’t find one I like.

Après avoir accompagné des jazzmen célèbres (Bill Coleman, Stéphane Grappelli, Don Bayas, Albert Nicholas…), écumé les salles et usé ses cordes de gala en gala, Georges Suchod décide de raccrocher sa guitare pour créer le premier vrai magasin de musique limougeaud. savoir plus…

Anyway, with dreams of a new acoustic I set of in search of Suchod Musique in Limoges. Never been there before, but surely they’d have something. Little did I know what was in store…

As soon as I walked through the door I just knew it was gonna take some time. Just hundreds of gorgeous guitars, like an aladin’s cave. Electrics and acoustics, Yamahas, Takamines, Taylors Godins…..”Oh look Carla, that Fender Tele, lovely”… Strats, Teles, Arch top Jazz guitars from Ibanez and Gretch, birds eye maple, cool. Beautiful flame top Les Pauls……. and then, there she was, waiting for me…a Gibson Explorer!!!

I asked if I could try it. I’d dressed to try guitars, no zips, studs, or watch, only soft clothing, I pointed this out to the sales assistant. He goes off to get Monsieur Suchod, I dunno why. So, this old fella hands me this gorgeous guitar, and ushers me to a stool next to an amp. By the way, it’s a nice Fender tube amp, not some nasty transistor thing. As the amp warms up, the old fella is telling me what a great guitar it is, and how they’re so versatile and much more than just a rock machine. Yea, I know that.

My 68 Cherry Explorer - a peach of a guitar

It’s a great guitar that’s well set up. I’ve owned Explorers before, this is a good one. Monsieur Suchod is still extolling it’s virtues. I ask him if he plays, “a little”, he tells me. I get up and offer him the guitar, he declines, but I insist. He plays a few stiff notes. What happens next is amazing…

As we chat, Monsieur Suchod starts to play some fabulous jazz stuff. Super lines, and some chord inversions I’ve never seen before. I try to clock them for future reference but they’re gone in a flash. He stops for a second, asks if we mind him smoking, lights a cigarette and continues to play. He’s away now, playing with the casual style and confidence that only comes from years of playing. I wish I’d had my camera with me at that moment because the sight of this old jazzer, ciggy hanging from the corner of his mouth while he rattled out a few tunes on an Explorer was quite surreal. Yes, they really are a versatile guitar, and Monsieur Suchod sure can make it sing.

Turns out that the 79 year old Georges Suchod has been playing guitar all his life. He’s played with all the big names of the jazz world. There’s a picture of him backing Bill Coleman on his office wall. He opened his first music shop in 1968 the year that Carla was born! Oh yes Georges knows his way around a guitar alright.

A young Georges Suchod (on the left) backing Bill Coleman

I bought the Explorer. How could I not buy it. She was there waiting for me, the only one in the shop, a proper cherry one, and a peach of a guitar. It was meant to be, and sold to me by Georges Suchod. You can’t change destiny. I’ve been in hundreds of guitar shops and bought nothing. Tried hundreds of guitars and walked away. But this one, she’s mine, it was meant to be.

Georges Suchod and me.

If you are ever in Limoges, I reckon a visit to Suchod Musique is a must. Even if you’re not a player, go in and meet Georges, ask him to play. He’s a great bloke, a superb player, and you’d be in for a real treat. If you are a player, they’ve got everything you could possibly need. I recommend them highly.

You’ll find Suchod Musique at 6 rue du General Cerez, Limoges.

Gibson Explorer headstock

It’s not all bikes y’know….

When I’m not biking, or boozing, I like nothing better than playin’ me geetah! Been playing a long time now. In fact, I first started playing after a motorbike crash put me out of action! What a suprise. 😉

Anyway, before I moved to France I stoopidly sold most of my small collection of guitars. The only electric I have left is the one that nobody wanted, a Fender Big Apple Stratocaster. Here she is…

My Big Apple Stratocaster - Blue on Black

A beauty eh? In the right hands such a guitar could make a grown man weep, and make a young woman go weak at the knees.

So, with a gig coming up i’m getting some practice in, wringing every last emotion out of her when my B string snapped. It’s nearly always the B that goes first. Ever tried buying guitar strings in rural France? Not easy, especially when I’m fussy about what I play. So instead of treking into Limoges and supporting the local guitar shop, which I know I should do, I went online at Strings Direct and ordered some of my all time favourites – Fender Super Bullets. Thanks to Rick at Strings Direct for the rapid service – they arrived within 48hrs.

GHS fast fretWhile I was on, I ordered some new Fast Fret. It’s a String and neck lubricant. That…

lets fingers slide freely, keeps strings clean and is good for wood. Glides on wipes off, specially formulated for stringed instruments.Fast fret cleans strings, lets you play faster, brightens sound, prolongs fingerboard life, long lasting, won’t damage your frets…

Last time I bought Fast Fret it came in a tin! If you’re into guitars you’ll know how long ago that was. 😉