Melancon Joy, Pretty Pedals, & Blasted Humility

As I hinted at in my previous post, in which I did nothing but post the first thought into my head and every subsequent thought thereafter, I’ve been looking into getting my priorities straight. No, no, I’m not selling my gear to spend more time with people or something stupid like that…… not those priorities, the important priorities….. like which part of my rig is the most integral to good tone.

And since my last post was so incredibly like, the king of town of boredom-ville, I’ll recap–hopefully using a little thing I like to call coherent thought…….. eh……… hopefully.

See, for a long time I had more money in my pedalboard than my amps and guitars combined. Especially in my delays….. oh, how I love delays. But here’s the thing…….. no matter how good a delay is, it is delaying the sound from your guitar, and processing it out of your amp. So if the guitar and amp aren’t sounding good, the delay isn’t ever going to sound better than your rig. Same with overdrives. Pedals are enhancers….. and they can get in the way sometimes, which is why it’s usually a good idea to have some sort of buffer, or clean boost, or bypass loop, or effects loop (maybe), or what have you. (Sorry, that’s a different subject.)

(Some guy’s cool collection….. doesn’t look like too many, right? But check this out… they’re all fuzz pedals! I should be laughing at him. But I’m envious. Very sick.)
And that makes a ton of sense to me. But! Pedals are beautiful….. and I also suffer from always wanting to be different than the other guitarists….. and find that magical tone from some far-off land that makes grown men cry like schoolgirls and then everyone will ask, ‘From what realm of splendor did you lure that toneful wonder?’ To which I always respond (in my head) with a Clark Gable smirk, and I whip out my vintage piece-of-junk guitar that I’ve expertly modded and the amp I’ve found behind the old guitar luthier hermit’s garbage can, and everyone kisses each other from the sheer glory that is my brilliant mind at having found such tone in those diamond-in-the-rough instruments that no one will now ever be able to reproduce.
And then of course, to preserve such tone, I have to have the best sounding pedals to go with that awesome rig.
Ya. And that really goes on in my mind. I’m serious….. I just closed my eyes for a second and imagined my sweetest dream, and then typed….. and that’s, then, my sweetest dream. Now, somewhere along the road a few years back, reality made a small break-in…… and I sold some pedals and bought a really good amp. But, I was still reticent on buying a decent guitar (and ‘reticent’ does not fit in that context as far as the dictionary goes, but it does sound really good there). And it wasn’t that I didn’t think the guitar was the most important part….. it was just that I convinced myself that I could buy some one-off guitars or vintage guitars and mod them into sounding just as good as a handmade guitar or something.
(Now that’s tone, right? Of course, that’s Willie Nelson’s guitar…. so I’ll let you decide whether that means tone or not.)

And that may be absolutely true. My point is not that we should all go out and spend thousands of dollars on a guitar. My point is that I (just a thought) might want to sell two or three delay pedals and buy a decent guitar instead of looking specifically for the half-broken, knockoff guitar that has the cult following. If you like those kinds of guitars, then awesome. But if you’re like me, and like them so that you can bask in the genius of the fact that you are so much better than everyone else because you found the guitar that sounds better than the culturally accepted ones and all for only $50, you just might want to give it some second thoughts. Just in case. :-)
And I can almost hear Mike Huffman applauding right now. (He’s a friend who has been after me for years to get what he calls a ‘real’ guitar and get rid of my (he gently calls them) junk guitars.
So, for me, this is not a ‘tone revelation’ or getting more snobby and only buying high-end everything. This is for me, finally getting humble and admitting that I am not the prodigy musician who can listen to six Squire guitars at Guitar Center and pick out the one that was accidentally crafted from better wood than the American-made Fenders. (I know you think I’m kidding….. I will let you think that, because I would hate to have to actually admit to many of the things I have pontificated on over the years. hehe) I know it’s a good thing to want to be original…… but I also think that as musicians in general (especially worship musicians), we need to be humble enough to not think we have it all figured out. That sounds really basic, but it’s something I struggle with.
So!!! Sadly, some dear children must go in order to pay for a new guitar. Goodbye vintage Fostex reverb unit that never really makes a difference but makes me feel better running my digital keyboard through a ‘true spring reverb’. Goodbye Moog phaser that I turn on once every two months but is the most beautiful looking and sounding phaser I have ever seen. Goodbye HBE Dos Mos that I bought to fix my tone instead of looking for the much more important new guitar. Goodbye 1982 Ibanez Strat that I modded. (Actually, that guitar gave my new one a run for its money….. I was pleased that my pride hadn’t hurt me too badly. Kinda. But I would still recommend that guitar to people.)
And the new edition is this Gerard Melancon Strat with Jason Lollar pickups. Picked it up for an incredible deal, considering that Gerard handmakes these one at a time. (And I’ve been told that it’s pronounced Mel AHN sawn Important….. nothing worse than trying to impress your tone friends with your new guitar and calling the builder by his first name like you know him (hehe…… I never do that), and then mis-pronouncing his last name. Yep. Definitely did that for the first week.)
Melancon1small-1.jpg picture by rypdal95     

Melancon9small-1.jpg picture by rypdal95

But it had everything I was looking for.

–One piece of wood body.
–One piece of wood neck and headstock.
–Body is Louisiana swamp ash. And Gerard lives in Louisiana, and has his logger harvest the wood from the ash trees’ bottoms right near the roots where the wood is close to 200 years old. So, it definitely has the aged wood thing going on. (Well, someone told me that some of the wood at the base of those trees is 200 years old….. it sounds kinda fishy to me, but I guess it might be true. But he does say on his website that they only use the lower parts of the ash trees right above the waterline because the wood is the oldest and the best. 200 years? Not quite sure yet.) 
–Maple neck.
–Wood finish, so I can be sure it’s one piece of wood. :-)
–Lollar blonde pickups.
And I really can’t say enough good things about this guitar…… and nothing I say will make much difference without hearing it. It sounds incredibly sweet and beautiful. And it plays extremely nicely, I almost never have to tune. But I’ll suffice with this story………
The day I got it, I’m playing it in my wife’s and my office. And my wonderful wife, who when I ask her each week if she noticed how my new pedal reacted with the new amp or guitar or whatever, always smiles and says, ‘Oh, I can’t tell the difference. Your tone always sounds good, Sweetheart’, hears me playing this guitar, looks at me in her most serious don’t-cross-me face, and says, ‘Babe. Never sell that guitar.’
It takes me a lot longer than most people to get it knocked through my head that my pride is influencing my ears.
But right now, I am happy.
For the moment. :-) 





17 thoughts on “Melancon Joy, Pretty Pedals, & Blasted Humility

  1. Sweet Axe! I just put a Lollar in the bridge of my MIJ Tele… WOW! I don’t think it gets any better as far as pickups go.

  2. Thanks, Travis! Nice…it’s good to hear that you’re liking Lollar’s, too. Gives me confirmation that I’m not just suffering from the ‘it-sounds-the-best-because-I-own-it’ syndrome. hehe :-)

  3. Hey Karl…….I just ran across this article and had to respond because I also have a Mel. Mine is a custom artist Koa w/ 2 single coils and a humbucker. I love it. We have to talk sometime! Rich.

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