WILLIE’S BEAT UP OLD GUITAR
Has a mystical connection to him. Decades ago I noticed that big gape in it and wondered when he’d move on to something more whole than hole. Little did I know… Here’s the fascinating story:
“Trigger” is the name of his Martin N-20 nylon-string classical acoustic. Earlier in his career, he played a Fender Telecaster, Jaguar and a Jazzmaster, and he later moved on to Gibsons. In 1969 the Baldwin Company gave him the new 800C Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar model with a Prismatone stereo pickup and an amplifier, to test. It was love at first sound, the sound and playing style of the great French Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt that Willie was so taken with.
During a concert, an intoxicated music lover stepped on his Baldwin. Smashed it irreparably. Willie told the luthier, who offered him the Brazilian rosewood Martin, to transfer the Baldwin’s pickup to the new guitar. That allowed him to get the amplification and acoustic sound he had come to think of as his signature, and he bought it unseen for $750. Yes, he named it after Roy Rogers’ horse.
The following year, he had to rescue it from his burning ranch in Bandera, Texas, and when the IRS came after him in ‘91, looking to confiscate everything he owned to pay a huge tax bill, he somehow managed to keep Trigger tucked away, even as he toured with it. Trigger now defined his sound, and he declared, “When Trigger goes, I’ll quit.”
That should have happened years ago, but the talents of Mark Erlewine of Austin, whose delicate surgical skills have resuscitated and revitalized Trigger for so long, during emergencies and in yearly maintenances, are unique and remarkable. The biggest problem is that huge hole you can easily see, that’s been there for ages. It’s because Willie strums hard with a pick instead of plucking his classical guitar. Erlewine has reinforced, glued, and probably prayed over it, and Willie and Trigger ride on, an inseparable pair. Considering Willie Nelson’s awesome guitar playing prowess, we all owe Erlewine a huge thanks, and encouragement to keep them both doing what they do so well.
TONIGHT! — WILLIE NELSON, ALISON KRAUSS (two of the great voices in pop-country music, we all figure Willie will be around forever, make it to 100, he’s 85, not so sure about that beat up guitar with the hole in it, but you never know so go see him, he always puts on a good show even when he’s doggin’ it, he is one of the meanest guitar pickers there is, people sometimes forget that but he doesn’t, that unique vocal style of his is jazz-like, inimitable and unforgettable, and Krauss has developed from a sterling bluegrass singer to someone who glides easily and movingly across any genre, a remarkable, pure voice, a treasure), 7:30 p.m., Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, $105-$412.
TONIGHT! — SON MAYOR (one of LA’s best salsa and Latin fusion bands, still holding court decades later Monday nights at Hollywood’s famous salsa palace El Floridita, invading the Autry’s Sizzling Summer Nights series, outdoor parties that include free dance lessons, access to museum galleries, a separate children’s dance floor, and tacos, margaritas and more for purchase, you know you’re in LA now!), 6 p.m., the Autry Museum of the American West, Griffith Park, $14, no cover for Autry members.
TONIGHT! — QUETZAL (East LA small combo formed by Quetzal Flores set out 25 years ago to upend Latin music by throwing Mexican and Afro-Cuban rhythms into rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock, with a feminist bent and political activity, and they’re still at it), 7 p.m., Levitt Pavilion, MacArthur Park, no cover.
TONIGHT! — SOUNDWAVES CONCERT: Anne Rhodes and Carl Tesla (these are always very interesting concerts, and good, it’s at the library, it’s free, just go), 7:30 p.m., Main Library, downtown Santa Monica.
CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO (if you’re a guitar aficionado Hunter may blow your mind for his skill and innovation on his custom-made seven- and eight-string guitars on which he simultaneously plays bass lines, chords and melodic leads, better get your tickets early because those whose minds he’s already blown will be filling the place), Fri 8 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $25.
BEN VEREEN (the very definition of showman, “Sweet Charity”-”Hair”-”Pippin”-”JC Superstar”-”Chicago”-”Wicked,” TV and film, two Tonys, three Emmys, two Golden Globes, Usher’s godfather, I used to hear him sing at the Agape Center in Santa Monica, survived three accidents in one day on PCH in ‘92 — car hit a tree, he staggered out, had a stroke, fell into the highway and was struck by producer David Foster’s car — and you don’t get to see him often at such an intimate venue), Fri-Sat 8:30 p.m., Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood, $35-$40.
JAMES INTVELD (McCabe’s typically has one good show on a weekend, maybe two, but this weekend they score three, #2 being a rare solo acoustic show from James Intveld, the Dutch-born rockabilly musician, singer, songwriter, performer, actor, and film director, played guitar for the Blasters, staple of LA country and Americana stages for at least the almost-40 years I’ve been camping out in front of them, starting as a teen at the famous Palomino, he’s usually one of many on a stage so it will be interesting to see how much of that long diverse local career he brings to this show), Sat 8 p.m. McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, $20.
BUDDY GUY (we’re running out of the old blues masters but this is one of them, nuff said), Sat 9 p.m., the Rose, Pasadena, $78-$98.
SHOOTER JENNINGS (Waylon’s, and Jessi Colter’s, boy but his own man, had a crib on dad’s tour bus with coochie-coo from the likes of Willie, Kris, Johnny Cash, at 5 was playing drums, at 8 piano, guitar at 14 and would sometimes play percussion in dad’s band, left Nashville for LA at 22, now Southern rocks his country, this could be a memorable show at the historic Troub), Sat 8 p.m., the Troubadour, West Hollywood, $20-$22.
A DOWNTOWN HOEDOWN with Rick Shea, Xander Hitzig, Paul Chesne, Sara Petite, Molly Hanmer, Lacey Cowden, Madeline Rosene, the Hawthorns, Alice Wallace, Nocona, Rob Leines, the Pasadena Playboys (this is bound to be a hoot, all these bands for 10 hours at a TX BBQ joint downtown LA — I can tell you Rick Shea is worth the trip alone, as is multi-instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Xander Hitzig, first seen locally at the Ruskin Group Theatre’s fun hit “Sneaky Old Time”. Paul Chesne’s a local staple and the rest, well, if you don’t like a band, just get a beer and more barbecue and settle in for the next one), Sat 12 noon-10 p.m., Pearl’s Texas BBQ, downtown LA, $10-$15.
LIBRARY GIRL: LOOK OF THE LONER with VINCE BELL, Vinny Golia, Ratzo B. Harris, Mason Summit, playwright-poet-essayist Leon Martell and others (don’t want to give away too much, Bell will be reading from his original show “One Man’s Music” and performing songs from his new, critically-praised album “Ojo,” produced by Bob Neuwirth who just graced the McCabe’s stage with a memorable band and performance, but Texas troubadour Bell has quite the story, of the long road to all sorts of recovery after an accident in ‘82 left him “brain damaged,” this is yet another bold move by Library Girl to expand the notion of what spoken word is — LG Susan Hayden is very music oriented, as is her nearly 10-year LG series here, and after last month’s very successful departure in format she is surprising us again, and I hope she continues), Sun 7 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, Santa Monica airport, $10 (includes a cupcake!).
ROY ZIMMERMAN: RiZe Up (thanks Jerry Rubin to hipping me to this, was not familiar but praise like this gets my attention: “Roy’s lyrics move beyond poetry and achieve perfection” — Joni Mitchell, “Lyrical brilliance, just excellent” — “Weird Al” Yankovic, “You’re brilliant, just brilliant!” — Terry Jones, Monty Python, “He simultaneously inspires me and makes me laugh my ass off” — Paul Krassner, laughter and encouragement for progressive-minded people who need a lot of both), Sun 8 p.m. McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $20.
JAZZ ON THE LAWN with Scambooty (“swing, folk and blues with vocal harmonies, pre-concert swing dance lessons at 4:30, food trucks, with families and friends bringing blankets and picnic dinners, spreading out all over the park and lapping up one of the great perks of living here), Sun 5-7 p.m., Gandara Park, Santa Monica, no cover.
BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: Jane’s Great Dane, So Many Wizards, Dante Elephante, Sssssss, Bratty & Jackass, States & Capitals, He Is We, Spookey Ruben.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com