From The Desk Of Richard Barone: Gibson J-160E

RichardBaroneLogoRichard Barone is an example to all of us who get trapped in our daily grind. He seems to be the perpetual glass-half-full kind of guy. He admits he feels pretty much the same way he did 30 years ago when Barone on lead vocals and guitar along with bassist Rob Norris and drummer Frank Giannini gave birth to the Bongos, a wonderful, jangly power-pop combo that could light up any room with its overflowing energy. It’s difficult to believe that their new album, Phantom Train (Jem), is not really new at all. With guitarist James Mastro added to the band, it was cut in 1985 and 1986 and has languished on the shelf ever since. Barone has also kindly agreed to serve as guest editor for all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him.


Barone: The last time I was guest editor of MAGNET, in 2010, I wrote an article about Gibson‘s digital Les Paul, the HD.6-X Pro, and their “technology” guitars. Since then, they’ve released the Les Paul X, which has robot tuning and 55 amazing pre-set sounds you can edit right on the guitar, not to mention wireless Bluetooth effect pedals. It is literally awe-some. But this year I’ve been out on the road a lot, playing solo in clubs and, getting down to basics, the guitar that gets me through every song every night is my Gibson J-160E, John Lennon model. Originally released in 1954, the J-160E was one of the first “electro-acoustic” guitars with a built-in P-90 pickup (same as on my 1955 Les Paul Special) and a unique construction that doesn’t allow for the same kind of resonance and vibration as a “normal” acoustic guitar, to avoid feedback. It’s tighter, with ladder bracing behind the top, and sounds more like an electric guitar. Maybe it’s because of my love of misfit instruments, but I love this guitar. It’s only recently I realized that on the early Beatles records, John and George are often playing these instruments plugged into Vox amps, not necessarily the electrics I imagined. And John played it for the entire Beatles career, from 1962 on. The same guitar, even on his first solo single, “Give Peace A Chance” (he had it sanded down from its original sunburst finish). The guitar uses a primitive electronic set up really, not remotely high-tech or modern. When I do my soundcheck, sound dude often has to fiddle with the tone; the J-160 seems to be both brighter and darker than a normal acoustic guitar. I play through an amp onstage plus give him a direct signal to work with, so there is a lot of sound, and by showtime, the thing rocks like a monster. Sound dude is blown away. Just me and my J-160E, and the sound fills the house. I couldn’t do that with any other guitar.

Video after the jump.