We don’t know if someone told Dave Grohl to “break a leg” before he took the stage in Gothenburg, Sweden, but that’s exactly what happened. After falling 12 feet, Grohl’s fibula snapped “like an old pair of take out chopsticks.” Now that the Foo Fighters’ European tour has been cancelled, perhaps guitarist Chris Shiflett will spend some time with his country side band, the Dead Peasants. Just in time, too, because Fender is releasing two new colors for the Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe.
Originally out in Arctic White, Black and Shoreline Gold will now be added to the mix. Modeled after his original ’72 Telecaster Deluxe, the Shiflett Tele features a rosewood fingerboard (12″ radius) with medium jumbo frets, a 6-Saddle vintage-style Strat string-through-body hardtail bridge, plus CS1 and CS2 humbucking pickups. Street price: $699.
For more, head over to Fender. And check out the sounds right here:
Guitarists often want the things they don’t have. You might own the most amazing Tele, but wouldn’t a second one with humbuckers be nice, too? You’ve got a great digital delay, but there’s just something about a vintage Echoplex. Another thing we crave is the sound of a cranked amp at bedroom level. It’s like searching for Bigfoot—does it even exist? Well, Zeppelin Design Labs of Chicago thinks it has cracked the equation with the Percolator, a 2 watt tube amp, available as a head with optional speaker cabinet, or a combo. We sat down with company co-founder Brach Siemens to find out more.
What kind of tube is in the Percolator?
We use the 6AF11 Compactron tube, which was developed by GE in the early 1960’s to compete with the rising popularity of transistors. The idea behind Compactrons was to pack as many active sections into one bottle as possible. One Compactron could take the place of several tubes, which made them the tube equivalent of an integrated circuit. The tube we are using in the Percolator was originally designed for various parts of a color television circuit. But tubes eventually did become obsolete in televisions which left large stockpiles of unused Compactrons in warehouses. We acquired a large batch of these tubes which allows us to re-purpose a piece of tube history and create a unique sounding little amp.
How does the Percolator circuitry compare to say, a Fender Champ?
A Fender Champ uses two tubes for the audio signal: one dual triode (a tube containing two triode gain stages), and one power pentode to drive the speaker. That’s the exact same tube arrangement as the Percolator, except it’s all packed in one bottle. Obviously the types of triodes and pentodes are different which necessitates different values of supporting components, but the tube arrangement is the same. But just because they have the same topology doesn’t mean they are similar sonically. The Percolator has much more of a high-gain sound than the Champ.”
What tones did you have in mind while making the Percolator?
I started shaping the tone to be a little on the darker side. I did this because for a guitarist playing by themselves, which is how I envisioned this amp mostly being used, I tend to prefer the lows emphasized a bit, creating a fatter sound.
The Percolator is also available as a kit. What kind of skills do you need to assemble it?
To build one of our kits the most important skill you need is to be able to read and follow directions. You also need to be able to solder electronic components to a circuit
board, use some basic hand tools, and be able to use a multimeter to measure voltage, resistance, and continuity. If you want to build any of the wood cabinets for the head, combo, or speaker cabinet you need some basic woodworking skills. It’s not as hard as it might seem. I think kids as young as 13 could do a fine job, though they may need some supervision or assistance. All the instruction manuals are available for download from our website so anyone potentially interested in our products can look though them to see if it’s a project they would like. All the products are also available “ready to play” for those not interested in building a kit. As far as we know, that makes us unique amongst kit manufacturers.
Your company is called Zeppelin Design Labs. Are you worried about Led Zeppelin coming after you?
Ha! Believe it or not, I never thought about Led Zeppelin when naming this company. A while back I stumbled upon an amazing website that had tons of pdf files of old science magazines from the early 1900’s. One of the articles I read was about these new “flying machines” (called zeppelins) which would soon allow passengers to get from New York to Chicago in 6 hours! It was a fascinating article, especially when you consider how magical and spectacular this technology must have seemed to the original readers. So when trying to think of a name for this company that would convey the original wonderment of vintage technology the word “Zeppelin” came to mind.
So, what does the Percolator sound like? After firing it up, I got great Clapton-esque tones right out of the box. Backing up on the volume brought back some cleans, but honestly, it’s more fun cranking it full blast. Think crunchy leads rather than articulate rhythm parts. One very fun use—a singer/songwriter friend invited me to back him up at a coffee house gig. Normally, I’d bring my Martin, but this time, I took the Tele and the Percolator. I’ll tell you this much—we got more tips with the Percolator!
Here’s what it will set you back:
Head — $259 unassembled/$349 assembled
Combo – $339 unassembled/$489 assembled
Speaker cabinet— $89 unassembled/$149 assembled
(The speaker is an 8″ 25-watt, 8 Ohm Jensen C8R)
You can check it out in action here:
For more info, head to Zeppelin Design Labs—and tell ’em TDPRI sent you.
“I’m shocked. I never had any clue.” Those are the words of a Santa Clara, California man upon learning the value of a old guitar passed down from his Grandma. Of course, it wasn’t just any guitar, but a 1953 Fender Telecaster, black guard, along with an original hard shell case, ashtray bridge cover, and a Fender Deluxe amplifier. Grandma was no rocker like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but she did teach guitar for 50 years. She saved the original purchase receipt, too, and this little guitar/amp combo cost her $225 back in the day. Current value, according to Antiques Roadshow? $30,000.
On the air since 1997 (and 1979 in the U.K.), Antiques Roadshow has seen its fair share of big money appraisals—the record going to some rhino horn teacups, valued at $1.5 million. While not worth nearly as much, there have been many Telecasters on the show. Here’s a list, with links to the videos.
1951 left-handed Tele made by Tadeo Gomez
Story: Owner’s father purchased it new and played it until he was 95 years old.
Appraised value: $30,000 to $35,000
Response upon learning value: “Wow.”
Watch the video:
1957 Telecaster with case
Story: Owner’s father was a professional musician and Fender dealer, who sold Fender guitars and amps out of his house.
Appraised value: $25,000 (2013)
Response upon learning value: “Really?”
Watch the video:
1960 and 1964 Telecasters
Story: Owner bought ’60 Tele in 1963 for $50 from a man down on his luck; 1964 Tele purchased new.
Appraised Value: $30,000 – $35,000 (2013)
Response upon hearing value: “Wow. I didn’t pay too much for them then, I guess.”
Watch the video:
STORY: Owner’s father played in a a cowboy band in the ’50s. Purchased the guitar in 1954 for $300. Played it for several years, then put it in the basement for half a century.
Appraised Value: $35,000 (2014)
Response after hearing value: “Oh, my gosh. Okay. My husband will be very happy. Wow. We had no idea it was worth that much”
Watch the video:
Cheers to you if you own a Telecaster worthy of Antique’s Roadshow. Just don’t celebrate with a drink in a rhino horn teacup!
“I happen to think that the great spirit God made us all, put us all here for a reason. And all of us have something to do, and I think we have — there’s a word I used to hear a lot called “Your Brother’s Keeper.” So I believe that I am my brother’s keeper. So, I think that there’s a place for playing the guitar. There’s a place for singing the blues.” – BB King
September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015
If it ain’t dead
Maybe in the here after
Instead of tears
I’ll learn all about laughter
But meanwhile I’m stuck out here
It just ain’t fair, but I know
I said I know
Oh yes, I know
There must be a better world somewhere
There’s just gotta be
Gotta be a better world somewhere