Yesterday we attended the 4th annual New England Shake-Up!, a fantastic multi-day rockabilly event held in Sturbridge, MA. The event includes live music, venders with vintage records and clothing, a car show, and a series of seminars and listening sessions with top-notch musicians at the forefront of the genre. We enjoyed an afternoon of performances and talks from Nate Gibson, Guy Van Duser, and Deke Dickerson, hosted by Sean Mencher. Here are a few highlights from that afternoon:
Nate Gibson has dedicated a good portion of his career conducting interviews and synthesizing the story of Starday Records, an independent Nashville label that produced hundreds of bluegrass, country, rockabilly, and honky-tonk albums from 1953 to 1968. The result of this 8-year endeavor is his book, The Starday Story– The House that Country Music Built, a great resource that fleshes out the history and evolution of country and rockabilly music during that era. Nate shared some stories and photos that didn’t make it into the book, as well as a short snippet from an audio piece he put together as part of his masters thesis. Nate is now working towards his PhD in ethnomusicology. Nate is also an accomplished musician and we’re looking forward to having him in the studio later this week to track on our analogue old Event Records gear. Fun fact: Nate is 3 records away from having the entire catalogue of albums produced at Event Records.
Next up we listened to Guy Van Duser, a music professor and Chet Atkins scholar at Berklee. Guy plays using the distinct fingerstyle originally developed by Merle Travis, where his thumb manages a bass line and his second, third, and fourth fingers simultaneously perform accompanying chords and solo melodies. It is pretty mind-boggling to watch the level of independence each of the fingers on his right hand have to voice different parts and make his guitar sound like multiple instruments. Guy performed on his Custom Shop Gretsch Chet Atkins, which is wired so that he can send the bottom 3 and top 3 strings to different outputs for greater independence on the voicing from his guitar…pretty cool mod. Guy was also playing through an EchoSonic amp, made by Ray Butts, which was the first amp that had built-in tape delay. The distinct tone from that amp paired with the Gretsch guitar defined the tone of Chet Atkins and the iconic sound of Rockabilly. There were less than 60 EchoSonics ever produced and there are a little over a dozen of these amps still in existence, so it’s probably the last time we’ll really get to enjoy hearing that tone live… It was incredible to just sit and listen to Guy perform, and we definitely recommend you check out his album.
Finally, we heard from Deke Dickerson, a fantastic musician, music-paraphernalia collector, and music-history detective, who has published The Strat in the Attic, a reads-like-a-crime-novel compilation of stories about some of the crazy rare-guitar and amplifier finds. Deke shared a bit about the evolution of different guitar effects (tape delay, tremolo, reverb, and fuzz), and how these modifications evolved beyond their original concept design when some musician said, “what would it sound like if we put this on the bridge pickup and turned it up all the way??” Deke also shared some great stories about his wild goose-chases to track down famous guitars that were accidentally pawned, then sent to auction, only to re-emerge years later, recognized from a serial number…crazy stuff.
We are so grateful to Beck Rustic, the genius logistics queen who makes the Shake-Up happen each year, for having us and helping us promote the old Event Records analogue gear that is now up and running at Acadia! We’re big fans of her (as are a lot of folks in the rockabilly world)– and made sure to pick up a Beck Fan while we were there…
Oh yeah, did we mention we’re open for business?!