BillyRadd Music

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


In the three years I’ve been lucky enough to be back into playing stringed instruments, I have been fortunate to amass quite an eclectic collection.

Starting from the left:
  1. Kala California Ubass (more bass, less space) 
  2. Utah Plates Electric 4-String Guitar
  3. Fender Telecaster Custom Guitar
  4. Fender CD60CE Acoustic/Electric Dreadnought
  5. Fender 1964 DuoSonic Guitar
  6. Cigar Box Guitar by Milton Cable
  7. Kala KA-CG Acoustic Concert Ukulele
  8. Kodakaster4 3-String Electric Canjo
Note: Click on the links above to read more about each instrument.

I am finding that each one brings me happiness through playing them in their own individual way. I try to practice at least once a day with one or more of these instruments. Along with all my great family members, friends, experiences, and occurrences in my life, I find it particularly meaningful and humbling to recognize, especially during the holiday season, the many advantages, both spiritually and physically, that I have had.

In short, I've got it made and I know it.

I hope you all have a wonderful time this holiday, and see that most of us have much to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Flatpup4 - U

I'm happy to report that I received another Flatpup4 Humbucker in the mail today from Elmar Zeilhofer in Vienna, Austria, but this one is a new model Elmar has designed for use specifically in the bridge position of guitars. I am very excited to try this out and see how it works, or rather listen to how it sounds on my Kodakaster4 3-string canjo and the Utah Plates 4-string guitar. If the previous Flatpups I have purchased from Elmar are exemplary of his expertise, this new model should be very hot, warm sounding, and full-toned when amplified and with no hum, of course.

His flatpups are perfect for application to the outside of any electric guitar (or one that you want to make electric) since they are only 4mm thick and require no modification of the surface to which they are attached besides a very small whole to put the two power wires through.

I am honored that Elmar wants me to report to him how this new U-model sounds since it is a new addition to his line of very cool inventions, Flatpup Humbuckers. Of course, I will also report my findings here on my blog.

Stay tuned, Boys and Girls. The fun continues!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Canjo Gig Bag

A few weeks ago I was visiting the Acoustic Corner Music Shop in Black Mountain, NC. They are always worth a visit when Anita Gayle and I make the 15-minute drive from Asheville to shop in Black Mountain, which is a wonderful place, BTW.

This particular day I was looking for a new brass slide to use with my cigar box guitars. As always, Acoustic Corner had a few nice ones to choose from so I picked one up to take with me. On my way to the cash register I noticed a blue banjo gig bag hanging on the wall so I went over to check it out.

One of the interesting things about cigar box guitars is that, by nature, they are "non-standard", which is part of their charm as hand-made, rather rustic instruments. Because of this fact, I have been looking for a gig bag that would fit and protect my funky stringed creations that wouldn't have to be custom made and therefore, expensive.

Well, as my fortune would have it on this particular day, I had my three-string Kodakaster 4 Film Canjo in our Big Red Jeep in the parking lot so I went out, got it and brought it in to the shop. To my happy surprise, it fit perfectly, even where the neck sticks out of the bottom of the film can. So, I snapped that baby up faster than a bee-stung stallion and took it home.

Not only does it protect my canjo, it's well-made with a luggage-grade nylon exterior, soft no-scratch interior lining, has a number of roomy zippered pockets on the front, a water bottle holder, and removable back pack straps for hand's free carrying. It's a Boulder Alpine Series Deluxe Banjo Gig Bag. You can find them online from various suppliers, but if you're anywhere around Western North Carolina, I'd head on over to the Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain. They've got a great selection of most kinds of stringed instruments (except cigar box guitars or canjos) and the folks working there are nicer than your grandma with a glass of ice tea.

Sho' nuff!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Riverwood Pottery Guitar Slides

Ceramic Guitar Slides from Dillsboro

Anita Gayle and I recently spent a few days in Dillsboro, NC to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and found a great pottery shop in our exploration of this beautiful little mountain village, Riverwood Pottery.

Brant and Karen Barnes, along with their daughter, Zan, produce amazing purpose-driven art like kitchen and tableware. The talented, inventive trio also produces decorative and functional vases, oil lamps, face jugs, and much more.

Of particular interest to me were beautiful ceramic guitar slides made by Karen that I use while playing my home-made 3 and 4-string canjos, one of which is the background of the pic above. I now own three of karen's slides and those babies work "real good". Hand-made to provide some beefy weight, but covered with a pretty glaze, they come in different sizes to fit the finger size and use requirements of any slide player. But, each one is a bit different which appealed to me as a crafter myself, and they will likely be around longer than I will.

If you ever get the chance to visit Dillsboro, don't miss stopping by Riverwood Pottery on the Craft Circle, a small group of artisan shops just a short walk over the bridge on Scott's Creek from downtown Dillsboro. Brant will likely be "throwing" pots on the wheel in his studio attached to their shop and, besides being a real kick to talk with, he might even give you a demonstration on the art of pottery that he knows so much about.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wicozani - Land of the Long White Cloud

Total Healing for All

Last night at Asheville's Dobra Tea, Anita Gayle and I witnessed a growing phenomenon - the well-deserved rising popularity of an eclectic trio of Western North Carolina artists/musicians that have dubbed their collaborative talents Wicozani, which is the Lakota Sioux word (an indigenous people of the Great Plains of North America) meaning total healing for all. As a fan of this group since they formed about a years ago, I can affirm that healing is what their unique sound is all about.

Wicozani performing live at Asheville's ARTery Gallery

Consisting of Linda Go with vocals, drums, and strings, Carl Peverall on his hand-made Magus Tone Drums, and Geri Littlejohn playing her own hand-crafted Green Grass Flutes, Wicozani weaves mesmerizing melodies that lowers blood pressure, calms the soul, and provides healing sound meditation to anyone fortunate enough to come within hearing distance of their mystical sonic synergy.

And now, anyone can experience Wicozani's relaxing musical musings through their new CD, Land of the Long White Cloud. Do your mind and body a soothing, centering favor and wrap yourself in inner connection and peace with Wicozani.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Knoxville Inspiration

Found this blank-canvas of a brick wall in an alley in Knoxville's Old City district. I'm musing about a new album of funky songs with the above cover art inspired by my one-day trip there. After all, a town with a main thoroughfare called Gay Street has to spur some original ideas, right? 

Comments? Questions? Discuss amongst yourselves. But, please remember, some of my best friends are streets.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Utah Plates Tenor Guitar

4-String License Plate Electric Tenor Guitar with African Lacewood neck
and Bare Flatpup Humbucker

Anita Gayle and I recently got our North Carolina drivers licenses (we both scored 95% on the written test, thank you very much) and a new NC license plate for Big Red, our Jeep Wrangler. Utah doesn't require sending back their old plates so I decided to recycle-reuse the the two I had "rented" from the Utah DOT and build a 4-String License Plate Electric Tenor Guitar. (More pics below)

In case you are unaware, a tenor guitar's standard tuning is DGBE, or the same tuning as the highest (or lower strings when you are looking at a guitar from the front) as a standard 6-string guitar. But, you can also use various other tunings.

I ordered an African lacewood neck, a set of gold-plated tuner machines with classic half-moon buttons in a nice mocha color, a brass tailpiece and gold strap buttons (that I thought would compliment the bright colors of the Utah plates) from C.B.Gitty in New Hampshire. I also bought a Bare Flatpup4 Humbucker from Elmar Zeilhof in Vienna Austria, a cool, thin (4mm thick) innovative electric pickup that is easily glued right on the surface of any guitar for low-profile amplification.

Last night I was finally finished building this personally nostalgic screamer and mounted a new set of strings, also made and supplied by Gitty. I plugged her into my trusty old Ampeg Portaflex combo amp and quickly discovered that my new build has sound/tone characteristics unlike any electric guitar I have heard before - kind of like an electric banjo/dobro, which I expect is because the two thin, metal license plates, attached together as the front and back with metal machine bolts, act as resonators.

I'm pretty positive that there has never been another tenor license-plate guitar with the letters Z41-1KA emblazoned on it so I think I have made an original.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Seeing James Jamerson's Unique Style

Here's a visual representation of the riffs played by bass player James Jamerson on Stevie Wonder's recording of For Once In My Life. One of the most influential bass players in pop music, James played on many of Motown's biggest hits with pretty much all the recording stars of that era, usually uncredited. Stevie Wonder's track of this song is often singled out by bassists as the best example of Jamerson's style (he did his own arranging) since no two bars of his bass line are played alike during the entire song.

BTW, he picked the strings mostly with only his right index finger, nicknamed "The Hook".

It is also interesting to note that, troubled by alcoholism, James Jamerson, died destitute in Los Angeles at the age of 47 of cirrhosis, heart failure and pneumonia in 1983, and was said to be bitter about his lack of recognition.

Many of us can recognize the distinctive signature of his bass playing on the dozen #1 hits he worked on for Motown from 1961 through 1973, but most of us don't know his name.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Gear We've Collected

iMac work station with M-Audio speaker/monitors and Axiom 25 midi keyboard

Cigar box kilimba - parts from C.B. Gitty assembled by Billy Radd

Peavey PV6 audio mixer
Toca djembe with African cow bells

Mojohound electric Stomp box

Alesis practice drum pad

Zildjian crash ride cymbal and stand

AC or battery powered Roland Cube Street combo amp

Battery powered cigar box amplifier made by
Dave Bustos, Black Wolf Instruments

Woodstock Percussion all - metal Kazoo

Latin Percussion multi - guiro with metal scraper
Jumbie Jam steel drum

Latin Percussion Standard & Mini Afuche/cabasas

Steel Cuica
Double African shaker, claves, and wood block

Film can snare drum assembled by Billy Radd

3-string film-can canjo with Flatpup & sanpele neck
made by Billy Radd
Fender acoustic/electric dreadnought guitar
Axiom 25 midi keyboard

Humbucker pickup on Fender Telecaster Custom electric guitar

250 watt amplifier/mixer with 12 inch Eminence speaker
built in a General Electric TV set cabinet by Billy Radd

Headstock of Fender Telecaster Custom electric guitar
Ampeg B10N Portaflex fliptop bass combo amp

Kala acoustic spruce-top U-Bass

Ampeg B10N Portaflex fliptop bass combo amp

Fender Rumbler 15 bass practice amp

Fender Deluxe Active P Bass Special

Djembe from Mali

Bowed psaltery made by Dave Lucas

One-string "Spamjo" Canjo made by Henry Hoover

Kala Concert Ukulele with tweed case
Tibetan singing bowl

Fender Telecaster, Kala u-bass & Kala concert uke

Red Giant redwood tongue drum made by Steve Roberts

Chimes, brass gong, wind chimes & triangle on c-stand rack
Fender Mini Deluxe Combo Amp & Mini Rockers Guitar

Latin Percussion Aspire bongos

Toca Surf Drum

Boghram drum

Honer Big River Harp & Opera Superior harmonica

Goodlin Accordion Squeeze Box

Kilimba made by Steve Catania with "JD" piezo pup attached
Tascam D-40 portable digital recorder

DigiTech RP 1000 integrated effects switching system
Kala California solid swamp ash U-bass
Metal tone drum made by Carl Peverall

Tone drum, Casio 465 Sound Tone Bank,  Ampeg B10N bass combo amp and Peavey Decade practice combo amp

3-String Cigar box guitar with hand-crafted humbucker
made by Milton Cable

Supro High-Gain mini amp

Hand-carved West African krin

1964 Fender DuoSonic electric guitar

Film can speaker with Behringer preamp booster
and film canjo (speaker and canjo by Billy Radd)
Mountain Ocarina, Aulos recorder & Guiness model tin whistle
Ceramic wind chimes

Keven Spears model autographed electric alto
Hugh Tracey African kalimba
Percussion Plus cajon

 Kala Tweed 5 Watt Combo Amp

Kala Ukelimba by Steve Einhorn

Gibson SG Special Bass

MoogerFoogers by Moog

Moog Sub Phatty Synthisizer

Ibanez GIO 6-String Bass

Gretsch Electromatic Hollowbody Guitar