Thursday 24 Apr

IndianGiver - Understudies

There’s a difference between being derivative and being inspired by something, a line a lot of artists can’t seem to find — or at least don’t care to.
04/22/2014 | Comments 0

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · From Red to Randy

From Red to Randy

How did one of the most famous guitars in music history land in an Oklahoman’s hands ... and then go away?

Stephen Carradini April 6th, 2011

Most guitarists play a six-string made of wood that costs in the triple digits.

But his $25,000 vintage metal hollow-body instrument pales in comparison to a former guitar of the National brand that he once owned: Tampa Red’s.

In the early 1900s, Tampa Red was a famous and prolific bluesman, making 300 recordings of his own tunes and 400 accompanying other people. In addition, he pretty much invented the style of guitar playing known as bottleneck.

And in 1994, Clemons ended up with Red’s guitar.

After acquiring a taste for vintage instruments following the bluegrass circuit in the late ’70s and early ’80s — “The best time ever to be doing that,” he said — Clemons opened a vintage instrument shop in Belleville, Ill. He cast about for old guitars, especially metal ones. A woman called him about a six-string she couldn’t unload, not even for $65.

“I don’t know what brand it is, but it says ‘Tampa Red,”’ she said.

“And she hands me this guitar,” Clemons said.

It had the bluesman’s signature chrysanthemum design on the back, and Clemons knew he might have the famous guitar. He felt a mix of “confusion and elation,” because although the instrument was almost perfect, Red’s piece was reported to be gold-colored. The one Clemons held was emerald in color, but not in material.

“It was all green and corroded. I hit it for three weeks with polish,” he said.

But even polished, it wasn’t gold, so he verified it with an expert. Learning it was indeed the real deal, he was told to not tell anyone.

“In a way, that was my down fall, because I did talk to people,” Clemons said.

Although it may have shortened the time he owned the guitar, it introduced him to opportunities.

“I had no interest in playing before the public,” he said. “I loved music and guitars, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. But once I had this guitar, I started to hone my bottleneck techniques. I wound up doing several radio and TV shows.”

After all, when you’ve got what vintage guitar expert George Gruhn calls “the most significant National in existence,” you may get a bit of notice. With guitar in hand, Clemons met Dan Aykroyd (who wanted the guitar for his House of Blues chain) and played with Chuck Berry (“I hardly played a note,” Clemons said). The instrument was featured in magazines, which led to Clemons discovering some of the “dark aspects involved in the business world of upper-end vintage instruments.”

After three years with the piece, Clemons sold it to Washington’s Experience Music Project for $85,000.

“The guitar was worth twice that.

It’s a national treasure,” he said. “It would be somewhere where people could enjoy it. It resides behind glass.”

Tampa Red’s six-string left a mark on Clemons that remains priceless.

“The guitar opened me up in exponential ways. It opened me up to music from the dawn of recording,” he said.

He still plays a 1928 National that is “very much like Tampa’s minus the chrysanthemum” around town, occasionally busting out a few Tampa tunes on it — bottleneck-style, naturally.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5