Lancer/Ace Conan the Usurper: Rereading and Reminiscence

Posted in Conan the Barbarian, Frank Frazetta, L Sprague de Camp, Robert E. Howard, Uncategorized with tags , , on Saturday, November 21, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

When I discovered, and started reading, the Lancer editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, many volumes in the series had already been in print a good five or six years, but it wasn’t old news. It wasn’t passé. No, on the contrary, Conan was at his peak in popularity and these editions were being reprinted on a regular basis and a few of the books were still scheduled for their first printing.

It was an exciting time for us sword and sorcery buffs. Conan’s literary popularity pawned the floodgates for all the other S&S heroes to be reprinted from their pulp days or for authors to create new characters and adventures.

By the time I read Conan the Usurper, I was already reading the novels and anthologies of Michael Moorcock’s Elric, Fritz Leiber’s Fafard and the Gray Mouser, and John Jakes’ Brak the barbarian (0ddly enough, despite my love for Lin Carter, I never read any of his Thongor of Lemuria books), to name a few.

And Sword and Sorcery made its way to comics with Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian, being the most successful, but there were also others. DC put out Sword of Sorcery, which featured Fafard and the Gray Mouser adventures and there was Dax the Warrior with art and writing by Esteban Maroto in Warren’s successful black and white comic magazine, Eerie, which was followed by Marvel and it’s B&W comic magazines, such as Savage Tales and the Savage Sword of Conan.

It was an exciting time to be alive.

But let’s get to Conan the Usurper which is book 8 in the Lancer/Ace series of Robert E. Howard’s Conan published back in the late 60s and 70s. This edition was reprinted seven times between 1967 and 1973, the year Lancer went bankrupt.

Frank Frazetta did the cover. It depicts Conan in chains straddling a monstrous serpent that is rising above him to strike, which came from this passage: “Slowly, a huge, hideous, wedge-shaped head took form before his dilated eyes, and from the darkness oozed, in flowing scaly coils, the ultimate horror of reptilian development.”

Conan, in this book, is now in his early to mid-forties.


Conan the Usurper, 1967

Conan the Usurper (1967) by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

“Introduction” (L. Sprague de Camp)
“The Treasure of Tranicos” (Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp)
“Wolves Beyond the Border” (Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp)
“The Phoenix on the Sword” (Robert E. Howard)
“The Scarlet Citadel” (Robert E. Howard)

Introduction. As always, de Camp starts things off with a little essay on Howard and Conan.

The Treasure of Tranicos. The manuscript was found in the house of the Howard estates’ late literary agent, Oscar J. Friend. It started life as a Conan story that kept getting rejected, so eventually Howard changed it to a pirate tale. L. Sprague de Camp took the original story, edited it, and it was published in Fantasy Magazine for February 1953. It was then published in hardcover in the anthology King Conan (1953, Gnome Press). It was then reedited once again by de Camp, where he added elements such as the wizard Thoth-Amon to make it fit biographically into Conan’s life, then published in the paperback edition of Conan the Usurper. The story was then republished in The Treasure of Tranicos (1980, Ace Books), Echoes of Valor (1987, Tor Books), The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935-1936) (Del Rey Books, 2005).

The story was adapted in Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan #47-48 by Roy Thomas and John Buscema.

The story starts with our hero on the run from the savage Picts, having made his way west from his last adventure in Conan the Warrior in the frontiers to the coast.

To escape the Picts, he clambers up a steep stone crag, which turns out to be feared b the Picts and they abandon the chase.

Inside a cave, Conan finds a tunnel that has several chests in it and a closed door. Opening the door, a blue mist solidifies and black hands try to choke him, but he manages to break free to run down the passage. He realizes the demon isn’t following and is confined within the room; a room filled with dead men and treasure.

Meanwhile, the story shifts to a coastal fort, where Count Valenso of Korzetta is in hiding from something. Suddenly, Baracan pirates appear, seeking a treasure they believe the count has. They try to storm the fort but leave when another ship appears on the horizon. That ship contains Zingaran buccaneers, who had been following the pirates to find the treasure.

Add Thoth-Amon, the cave’s demon, Picts, and Conan finds himself in a rousing adventure against five adversaries.

Wolves Beyond the Border. The story is from an unfinished fragment and a one page synopsis that Howard wrote and de Camp finished to fit into Conan’s history. It was republished in The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

The story was adapted in Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan #59 by Roy Thomas and Ernie Chan.

This is a jarring tale compared to everything else in this series. For one thing, it’s told in first person. For another, Conan never appears in the story at all and is only mentioned by way of the characters talking about Conan and his followers rising up against the king of Aquilonia.

The Phoenix on the Sword. Originally published in Weird Tales, December 1932. It was republished in King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953), The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

Known to any Conan afficiando as the very first published story about the Cimmerian. Also known is that it is a rewriting of the rejected Kull story, “By This Axe I Rule!” Now I enjoyed this story, and consider it among the best Howard Conan stories. After all, it is fast-paced, exciting, and introduced the readers of the day to Conan for the first time. Nevertheless, I think the Kull story was somewhat superior. The Kull story is longer, adding more details of the treachery of those who would slay the king, whereas the Conan story is pretty much just the battle between the king and his betrayers. Also, there is a love story between a slave girl and a noble that shows more of Kull’s character as a caring monarch. In comparison, Conan is almost one-dimensional.

The Scarlet Citadel. This was the second Conan story ever published, and again, he is king of Aquilonia, betrayed by two neighboring kingdoms and placed in a pit to die. But this is Conan! There is sorcery, monsters, and plenty of great battles and skirmishes.

I wonder how readers of the day greeted these last two stories, being introduced for the first time to Conan, king of Aquilonia, only to have Howard write the next 16 Conan tales out of biographical order as a younger man, just learning the ways of civilization. Personally, I would have found it somewhat jarring and just a little off-putting.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Howard and think he’s a fantastic story teller, but I just find it baffling that he would start writing about Conan toward the end of his life, then proceed to write the rest of the stories sort of willy-nilly throughout the character’s younger years.

This is why I really like the Lancer editions because they follow Conan’s life chronologically from beginning to end. Say what you will about how de Camp and Carter edited the Hell out of Howard’s words, at least they tried to arrange the tales in a sort of biographical timeline that makes sense.


Lancer/Ace Conan
Lancer/Ace Conan of Cimmeria
Conan the Freebooter
Conan the Wanderer
Conan the Adventurer
Conan the Buccaneer
Conan the Warrior


Going to the dark side

Posted in AT&T Uverse, Time-Warner Cable with tags , on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

In two days, I’ll be going to the Dark Side.

Right now, we have AT&T Uverse, and we’ve had them for probably 7 or 8 years, ever since they came into our neighborhood and talked us into changing from Direct TV satellite to their cable system. Even with Direct TV, however, we still had to have a phone line and our internet through AT&T because satellite is only a one-way communications system.

“OK, but why did you get Direct TV in the first place? Was that our only option?” I heard someone ask and I’m glad you did, otherwise I would have been stuck for a segue into my main point.

We could have chosen Time-Warner Cable (duh duh duh duuuuh!) when we first moved in, but I have been anti-TWC since they first wired Milwaukee back in the 1980s. Why? Because when Milwaukee chose to go with TWC for the city’s cable system, TWC made them sign a contract that TWC would always only be the cable provider for the city, that no one else could string cable upon the telephone poles. In other words, the city signed a No-Compete Clause with TWC.

I know, by rights I should really be mad at the Mayor at the time and the city alderman for signing such a stupid contract, and to be honest, I was, but they’ve all been voted out by now. So, I only had one participant in that debacle to hate: TWC.

So I went with Direct TV, then chose to go with AT&T Uverse. To be truthful, AT&T Uverse at the time, was much better priced than the competition.

And once we were strung up, Uverse was actually a pretty darned good service. For about two years. Then the problems started. The freezing of the screen. The pixelating of the picture.

So we called their service and they came out promptly. They changed a few archaic parts out of the box outside the box and we were good to go.

For about a year. Then the problems returned. They came back and ran fiber optics from the pole to our house and we were again good to go.

For about a year. Then we’d start losing the signal altogether. Right when Columbo was announcing who the killer was the TV signal would disappear, the internet connection would disappear, and my patience would disappear.

So they came out and replaced the home portal. Again, that solved the problem.

For about a year. (Seeing a pattern here?) Once again the entire signal would just vanish. We’d have nothing, nada. Our TV and internet went kaput. And they came out and ran their diagnostics and couldn’t find any problem. They came short of accusing me of imagining the whole thing. One of them came in from outside and said, “One of your neighbors has a big antenna. Is he a ham radio operator?”

How would I know? All I know is the guy is a hoarder and his garage is filled wall-to-wall, floor-to ceiling with crap.

So he said, “We think that’s your problem. He probably broadcasts and that interferes with your signal.”

Is there anything we can do about it?

“Well, if we could determine that was the cause, we’d have to replace your wiring with super-special, industrial purpose, insulated cable.”

Why don’t you do that now?

“We have to be sure. That stuff isn’t cheap.” Meaning AT&T didn’t want to pay the expense if these two bozos were just blowing theories out of their ass. “So if you could keep a log of when it happens, that’ll give us ammo to hit the purchasing department with.”

Well, lo and behold, the problem subsided after they left, so I never really got around to creating a log, however, that didn’t last very long, because …

Six months later the problems came back. They came out, couldn’t find a problem using their computer diagnostics, and left.

And now, the problems are back again. And I’m tired of calling for service. I’m tired of idiots coming out and either saying I’m crazy, there’s no problem, or troubleshooting the problem by Easter Egging it. I’ve had it. I’ve reached the last straw and I’ve just been mentally keeping a running tab of how many television show endings I’ve missed because our service was disrupted.

So, yes, I’m going to the dark side on Friday. I’ll have twice the internet speed. I’ll be able to record six programs at once instead of just four. We’ll get HD TV at no additional cost. Plus, I’ll have that really cool feature where when you turn on the TV and are in the middle of a program, you can start it from the beginning. That seems like a god-send.

Friday can’t get here fast enough. Oh, yes, and I know. It’s Friday the 13th. You know what that means? Bad luck for AT&T Uverse.

(And if you’re adding up all my time references to see if they total seven or eight years, they probably don’t.)


Lancer/Ace Conan the Warrior: Rereading and Reminiscence

Posted in Conan the Barbarian with tags on Thursday, November 5, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

Conan the Warrior is book 7 in the Lancer/Ace series of Robert E. Howard’s Conan published back in the late 60s and 70s, even though the top of the cover says “Volume Two of the Complete Conan.” It is a collection of three stories edited by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.

This novel again is adorned with a beautiful piece of art by Frank Frazetta. I assume it’s from the story “Beyond the Black River” showing Conan battling a horde of Picts.

All three stories in this collection were written and published by Howard in his lifetime, so if you pick this one up you will be pastiche-free. These are his stories; maybe not his words, not completely, because de Camp and Carter were supposedly editing whores when it came to the Conan stories, at least according to the Howard purists. I don’t know how true that is, I haven’t compared these story versions to the clean Del Rey versions from 2005. Suffice to say, however, these aren’t fragments or unfinished stories. The man wrote them in their entirety himself.

Of the three stories, “Beyond the Black River” is the best of the three, yet I have always had a soft spot for “Red Nails” despite its flaws as I’ll explain below. It was adapted most admirably by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith in the black and white magazine, Savage Tales.

Conan, at this point, is in his late thirties.

Conan the Warrior

Conan the Warrior

Conan the Warrior (1967) by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

“Introduction” (L. Sprague de Camp)
“Red Nails” (Robert E. Howard)
“Jewels of Gwahlur” (Robert E. Howard)
“Beyond the Black River” (Robert E. Howard)

Introduction. As always, de Camp starts things off with a little essay on Howard and Conan.

Red Nails. First serialized In Weird Tales, July through October 1936. Republished in The Sword of Conan (Gnome Press, 1952), Conan the Warrior (Lancer Books, 1967), The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and The Conquering Sword of Conan (Del Rey, 2005). It was also adapted in Marvel’s comic magazine, Savage Tales issues #2 and 3, by written by Roy Thomas with art by Barry Smith.

This is probably one of my favorite Conan tales and mostly because it introduces us to Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, one of Howard’s great female protagonists and in my mind, a much better character than the bastardized Red Sonja the comics created. Never made any sense to me why they had to create a warrior woman within Conan’s world when they already had one in Valeria.

The story opens with Valeria, stopping at a pool to slake her and her horse’s thirst. She then climbs a promontory to get her bearings. She sees a distant city beyond the jungle. As she descends, she runs into Conan, who had followed her after she had repulsed the advances of a Stygian officer and killed him. Good thing he did, too, because the officer’s brother had been tailing her, but was no more.

Then they hear the sound of the horses being torn apart by what Valeria thinks are lions, but Conan doesn’t think so. It turns out to be a dragon that chases them back up the promontory. Conan poisons the dragon with some deadly apples and while it drinks from the pond, they race for the city, but enroute, the dragon reappears, blind from the poison, but alive and following their scent. Conan battles it and it ends up slamming into a tree and dying.

The city seems deserted and they get in through a rusting entrance. Inside they soon discover there are two rival populations that have been feuding for 50 years. Conan and Valeria aid a city native, Techotl, from rival clan members and here it gets kind of muddy. He’s of a group called the Tecuhltli. The rivals are called Xuchotl. And there is an extensive infodump (of who lived in the city before these clans arrived, how a slave named Tolkemec helped the newcomers overcome the city and how he and two brothers ruled the city until they came to blows over a beautiful woman, Tascela, which started the feud) blah blah blah. I hate to say it, but I think I fell asleep during that. Too many new names with Ts and Cs and such.

Conan and Valeria are welcomed as heroes for killing the Xuchotl and they meet Prince Olmec and his consort Tascela, but the welcome is short-lived and the pair are separated and many bloody battles ensue until the end.

It’s a shame that this was one of the last Conan stories Howard wrote because I’m sure he would have done more with Valeria than just this lone story.

Jewels of Gwahlur. Originally published in Weird Tales in March 1935 as “The Servants of Bit-Yakin.” Republished in King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953), Conan the Warrior (Lancer Books, 1967), The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) as “Jewels of Gwalhur” and The Conquering Sword of Conan (2005) under Howard’s original title, “The Servants of Bit-Yakin”

Conan is searching for the Teeth of Gwahlur, sacred jewels kept in the abandoned city of Alkmeenon, ahead of several other factions who all want the jewels as well. It’s a race to find them, then a race to stay alive as people begin to die mysteriously.

It takes all of Conan’s intellect and his ability to read and understand different languages to survive.

Beyond the Black River. First published in Weird Tales in May and June of 1935. Republished King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Warrior (Lancer Books, 1967), The Mighty Swordsmen (Lancer Books, 1970), The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935-1936) (Del Rey, 2005). The story was adapted in Savage Sword of Conan #26 and #27 by Roy Thomas, with art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala.

Conan is a scout for an Aquilonian outpost on the edge of civilization. He meets, and saves, a settler named Balthus from a Pict and together the two become embroiled in the beginning of a border war involving a Pictish witch doctor, Zogar Sag, who is gathering all the Pictish clans to sweep over the outpost and settlers on their way to wiping out the Aquilonian intrusion into their lands.

Many regard this story as one of Howard’s finest and it is a rip-roaring yarn the equal to any Conan story he wrote.


Lancer/Ace Conan
Lancer/Ace Conan of Cimmeria
Conan the Freebooter
Conan the Wanderer
Conan the Adventurer
Conan the Buccaneer


Lancer/Ace Conan the Buccaneer: Rereading and Reminiscence

Posted in Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Cimmerian with tags , , , , on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

I know I’ve been a little lax in continuing my recollections of these Lancer Conan novels that I read in high school and I apologize. So after much delay, here is my recollection of Conan the Buccaneer.

I read this one probably after having read the first several novels that I’ve already reviewed, but not in their order. As I had stated, the first one I ran across was Conan the Adventurer, and then having fell in love with Robert E. Howard’s barbaric hero, I then read the first four books. That put me on track to read this one.

At the time, I probably had no clue this was a pastiche. I just assumed everything was written by Howard and didn’t realize how much of their own work L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter added to the Conan histories.

Therefore, at the time, I thought this was just a really good story without any of the baggage many Howard purists attach to it. I’ve defended de Camp and Carter previously and don’t feel I need to continue doing so, except that I still firmly believe if they and Lancer hadn’t created these paperback editions with Frank Frazetta’s paintings, then Howard’s Conan, and probably all his writing, would be forgotten like many of his contemporaries.

Conan the Buccaneer

Conan the Buccaneer

Conan the Buccaneer (1971) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

“Introduction” (Lin Carter)
“Conan the Buccaneer” L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter)

Introduction. Lengthy introduction to Robert E. Howard, the Conan stories, sword and sorcery in general, as well as an explanation of where this book fits into the timeline of Conan’s life. Conan, incidentally is 37 or 38 and “the story serves to cover an otherwise inadequately chronicled period of Conan’s biography, those two years in which he was a buccaneer at Zingara.”

Conan the Buccaneer. First publication, 1971 by Lancer Books. According to the inside title page, this novel is “number eleven in the Lancer Uniform Edition of CONAN. Chronologically this volume is Number Six in the Saga of CONAN, following CONAN THE ADVENTURER and preceding CONAN THE WARRIOR.

To be honest, the best part of this book is the Frank Frazetta cover with Conan in the middle of another battle, strangling a foe.

I mean, the story isn’t bad. In fact, it kept me wanting to read more and I finished it in record time, but there is nothing by Howard here. It’s not a fragment or unfinished story that they expanded and completed. It’s their own work so it’s as much fanfic as any of the more current non-Howard novels written about Conan.

Next up, the sixth book in the series, Conan the Warrior, which contains three exciting Robert E. Howard Conan stories that had originally been published in Weird Tales.

And here are the previous Lancer/Ace Conan novels:

Lancer/Ace Conan

Lancer/Ace Conan of Cimmeria

Conan the Freebooter

Conan the Wanderer

Conan the Adventurer


Kull the Motivator

Posted in Conan the Barbarian, Kull, L Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Robert E. Howard with tags , , , , on Thursday, September 24, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

Fiction-wise, I haven’t written a word since March. And I was contented with that. It isn’t writer’s block so much as writer’s hiatus. I just haven’t been motivated to write. Much of it has to do with too much rejection and not enough acceptance. It has me questioning my ability to the point of just giving up.

Unlike writer’s block, however, I haven’t felt any anxiety about not writing. I’ve felt relief. It is relaxing not struggling every day to be creative, to submit stories, to wait for rejections. Some might say, “But I need a creative outlet! I just can’t stop writing. You must be a freak!” Well, yes, I am, but I have a creative outlet. I’ve been relearning guitar. I’ve had more free time to focus on that activity.

And I’ve been reading. A lot. I’ve read more this year than I have in a long time, possibly while I was in the Navy or high school even.

And I just finished rereading the 1967 Lancer edition of “King Kull” by Robert E. Howard, edited by Lin Carter. I read it in high school back when I was voraciously devouring anything by REH and Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you know those are not only my two favorite authors, but the reason I started writing in the first place. I read their works and came to the realization that that is what I wanted to do. Write.

In conjunction with the Lancer edition, I’m also reading the 2006 Del Rey edition of “Kull: Exile of Atlantis.” This version has all the stories REH ever wrote about Kull, whereas the Lancer version is missing a few stories, while other stories are heavily edited by Lin Carter.

Now, many REH fans loathe Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp because they did heavily edit Howard’s stories when they were involved with the Lancer Conan series of books. At the time, the late 60s and 70s, I had no idea the original stories were so edited, nor did I pay that close attention to realize that they finished fragments of stories or added their own stories to the lexicon.

At the time, I admired them and still do, because I believe, despite their meddling with REH’s golden words, if it weren’t for their versions it is quite possible that Robert E Howard’s writings would have faded away like many of his pulp fiction contemporaries did. If it wasn’t for Lancer making these books available in supermarkets, and if it weren’t for eye-catching covers by Frank Frazetta, REH and his characters might have been forgotten. So I won’t diss them because they did some heavy editing.

Which brings me to the Kull stories. Kull was written prior to Conan, when Howard was in his 20s, still perfecting his craft, and yet, Kull seems more fully-developed than Conan, and he is accompanied by an ensemble cast, unlike Conan who is pretty much a loner most of the time. Kull has his right-hand man, Brule, the Spear-Slayer, who is a Pict, a savage like Kull, and his close friend. There is Tu, his stuffy court councilor who is unbending when it comes to tradition and ancient laws, and Ka-nu, an aging Pictish chieftain and one of Kull’s trusted advisers.

The stories are as lush and lively as any Conan story and its a shame Howard abandoned writing them when he started writing his more commercially successful character.

Anyway, back to Lin Carter and his penchant for editing when none is needed. I’ve heard this before, but I’ve never really noticed it. Until today. Here are two versions of the same story, one edited by Carter, the other as written by Howard, from “The Striking of the Gong.”

Carter: Somewhere in the hot, red darkness a dim, faint vibration was born. A pulse of sound, a sourceless whisper, a dim drumming cadence like the beating of a hot, red heart amid the blackness.

The man stirred, prodded toward consciousness by the throbbing echo. He sat up, reaching about with blind hands through the blur of hot darkness, but could feel nothing.

The sound was clearer now, sharper, almost a substance, almost tangible. As it pulsed, it cast forth long rippling tendrils that stirred the hot, breathless dark as a black lake stirs to spreading ripples.

The pulse rose and fell about him, within him: it was as if he rose and fell on the moving surface of a black ocean, riding on the drumming waves. He coul dnot decide if the soundless pulsation was in the darkness about him, or if it drummed within his brain. His very skull rang with the throbbing as a beaten gong. A fantastic thought sent needs of ice through him . . . being alone here in the pulsing red darkness was like being imprisoned within his own brain. . . .

Howard: Somewhere in the hot red darkness there began a throbbing. A pulsating cadence, soundless but vibrant with reality, sent out long rippling tendrils that flowed through the breathless air. The man stirred, groped about with with blind hands, and sat up. At first it seemed to him that he was floating on the even and regular waves of a black ocean, rising and falling with a monotonous regularity which hurt him physically somehow. He was aware of the pulsing and throbbing of the air and he reached out his hands as though to catch the elusive waves. But was the throbbing in the air about him, or in the brain inside his skull? He could not understand and a fantastic though came to him — a feeling that he was locked inside his own skull.

Now seriously, why did Lin Carter have to alter that paragraph so much? I had heard that Carter and de Camp had done much editing to remove bits that readers of the 60s might have found offensive out of context of Howard’s time. So unless he thought all that throbbing was too sexual, I can’t think of any reason for his changes.

But either way, Kull, and his adventures, are worth reading and you can read them with or without the context of Conan.

And, as I’m rereading them, I’m finding that they are tickling a part of my imagination, giving me that writing itch I thought was gone. Howard inspired me to become a writer in the first place, and now I’m finding that, when writing has become the furthest thing on my mind, his writing is again inspiring me, reminding me why I wanted to become a writer.

Thank you, Robert.


Hi Ho Silver!

Posted in Gibson, Gresch, guitar with tags , , on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

I’m about to drive all the Gibson fanboys crazy.

Remember back when I wrote Eenie Meenie Minie Mo, Which Guitar is Going to Go? and I had decided to trade in my 2000 Gibson SG Special for a Gretsch? But then in SG Update I decided not to sell the Gibson? Well, guess what?

A few weeks back I traded in my 1980s Peavey Backstage Plus and was able to get a brand spanking new Peavey Vyper VIP2. It was relatively painless. And it got me to thinking about the SG again.

On Saturday (4 days ago)  my wife and I went to the Half Price Books across town. Next door to this is a Music Go Round, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll just go in and look. No harm in that.

They had a wide assortment of guitars, mostly cheaper things like Epiphone, Squire, Luna, First Act, Oscar Schmidt, Cort, but also some Fender, Ibanez, LTD, Schecter, PRS, and a 2008 Gibson SG Faded Cherry. I pulled that one down and started playing it. It was in pretty good condition and actually felt better than my SG.

The next day, Sunday, I came back and brought my SG with me to get an estimate. While they priced it, I played with a few other guitars, a Carvin DC150, an Ibanez AFD75 Artcore, an Ibanez AFJ95VSB, a PRS SE.

And then I saw it: it had a silver speckle finish and a welcome glow. I plugged it in and it purred like a kitten, while the tremolo bar gave the purr a nice wavering warble.

About this time, the salesman came up and said they could offer $349 cash for my SG or $360 in trade, which was close to the ballpark figure the guy at Cream City Music had quoted me.

I said, OK, I was interested in the SG Faded, but I noticed it had some fret buzz on the E and D strings when you fretted from about the 3 fret up to the 7th. He took it and played with it, then said, yes, there was some buzz, but nothing unusual. I admit I’m no expert on guitars, but I don’t think fret buzz is acceptable and it means I’d have to take it in for a tune-up. So I asked if I could get some money off of it (I was thinking at least the $50 it would cost me to get it tuned), and the manager had come over by this time and said, maybe a few bucks.

I said, no thank you, I’ll have to think about it. So I left. Over the last few days I kept thinking about that guitar. My dreams were filled with its gorgeous curves and luscious finish. I had to have it. So I went back tonight. I walked in and told them I had made my decision and wanted to trade in my SG. “For the Faded SG?” No, not the Faded SG, the silver sparkle one. The Gretsch G5246T Double Jet with the Bigsby tremolo.

So say goodbye to my SG:

2008 Gibson SG Special

2008 Gibson SG Special

And say hello to Silver:

2015-08-04 19.50.30

2007 Gretsch G5246T Double Jet

Yes, I named it after the Lone Ranger’s horse.

Now I don’t want to argue whether or not some of you experts think this was or was not an upgrade, because for me, it was. I was never truly happy with that SG and I’m very happy with Silver.

And it would seem that in the process I’ve become a Gretsch fanboy.

Hi ho, Silver! Away!


These were a few of my favorite stores

Posted in album art, books, vcr with tags , , , , , , on Friday, July 10, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

As a child, my favorite store to hang out and just browse all the cool shit was the hobby store at Capital Court mall. It was called The Hobby Horse, I beleive. Both it and the mall are long gone, just childhood memories now.

But back then I was into plastic modeling and racing HO cars (those little slot car racers made by Aurora). HO cars, like trains, were a huge fad back in the 1960s. Unlike today, where you get a cheap race track set for a few bucks that runs on batteries, has crappy cars that won’t stay on the track or even run half the time, and you end up throwing the whole piece of shit in the trash in a month, the HO cars of the ’60s were well-made, durable, and customizable.

Everything on the car, from the chassis itself, to the wheels, magnets, bushings, and the conductor rails, were replaceable with higher end accessories designed to give you an edge in a race. (I still have my cars and parts.)

Many  a Saturday afternoon was spent in the Hobby Horse just window shopping for all the latest car designs or the newest plastic model kits.

Then, sometime around when I was 14 or 15-year-old, my tastes drastically changed. It happened when I heard my first Black Sabbath album and read my first fantasy novel (Tarzan or Conan, can’t remember which was first). My new favorite stores to browse in became Walden Books and 1812 Overture, a record store on the corner near my home (as well as downtown’s Radio Doctors).

I’d spend hours at each, just browsing, picking up books that caught my attention, or flipping through records in the bins. Walden’s then had a great selection of current books in the science fiction, fantasy, and pulp adventure reprints. Back then, it seemed like every visit brought a plethora of new paperbacks that smelled fresh off the presses: a new Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, or Conan.

And the record store as well was an aural and visual delight. The store’s staff always had some new music playing and just browsing through the bins was an adventure. This was back when album covers were truly worthy of being called art. Many artists of the day created some frame-worthy pieces, most notably Roger Dean.


Yes’s “Tales from Topographic Oceans” by Roger Dean

Then in the 1980s, the VCR became affordable for consumers and video stores opened up, like Suncoast Pictures, where you could go and browse for your favorite movies, TV shows, or musicals, and to reserve copies of the newest upcoming releases. Browsing a Suncoast was a movie-goers dream: they offered not only videos, but posters and other Hollywood memorabilia.

For many of us, browsing is a thing. We could spend hours sifting through records, or videos, or perusing books. It was a truly enjoyable experience and one that has in many cases gone away.

Today, everything is digitized and available on the Internet.

Record stores are just a memory. No one buys albums any more (except for the current nostalgic fad). Music is just a bunch of binary 1s and 0s and album art is also a thing of the past. I mean seriously, is it possible to appreciate a postage-sized graphic representation the way we could a 12 inch by 12 inch gorgeous piece of artwork?

Video stores are all gone and book stores, like Walden, B. Dalton, and Borders are all out of business. Only Barnes and Noble survives, but they’re becoming just a shadow of their former self, catering less to bibliophiles and becoming more of a gift shop, specializing in action figures, Legos, and manga. For book browsers like me, a trip to B&N takes mere minutes now.

For those of us who love to browse, the Internet and digital technology is our bane. Its sad because people need that adventure of discovering new music, or a new author, or what have you, that only comes from physically holding the object, enjoying the tactile feel, appreciating the visual aesthetics, reading the cover blurbs or liner notes. You can’t do that online, not like in real life.

In comparison, online shopping is one-dimensional. You can only see what they want you to see. The experience is static, artificial, and unfulfilling. Maybe one day businesses will realize this and attempt to give customers more of the old-fashioned, hands-on shopping experience. Sure, they’ll never return to brick and mortar stores, those are proving to be too inefficient, but maybe three-dimensional holographic stores could be the answer. With a pair of glasses, you can log-on to Amazon (or online retailer of choice), choose books or music, and voila! You’re transported to a virtual bookstore, with shelves lined with books, just like the good old days, and you can pick them up, look at the front and back, open them, peruse them, and discover books you wouldn’t have just scrolling through page after page online.

Maybe. One day.

A fella can dream, can’t he?

But, until that day, at least I still have guitar stores to go to and browse.



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