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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member sine_wave's Avatar
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    You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    So I recently played a Gibson Johnny Smith model that an acquaintance of mine has. It sounded really nice. It got me thinking about floating humbuckers... How are they made in comparison to regular routed buckers? What kind of magnet do they generally use? I'd assume it's short magnet judging by the size, but I dont know. Are they usually Alinco 2, 5, etc..?
    Basically I want to know the structure of whats inside. I wish I could find an exploded view like they have for regular hums.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member AndyC's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Hey Sine Wave,

    I don't know anything about the floating humbuckers, but I wanted to comment when I saw your avatar before that I'm a big fan of "The Master", Johnny Smith. A good friend of mine is Chet Atkin's nephew, and he introduced me to Johnny. I actually went down to Johnny's place in Colorado Springs and got to jam with him in the bar in his house. Was fun to actually be playing Johnny Smith's Johnny Smith model Gibson. Was a thrill for me for sure. Amazing musician and a great person.


  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member sine_wave's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Quote Originally Posted by AndyC View Post
    Hey Sine Wave,

    I don't know anything about the floating humbuckers, but I wanted to comment when I saw your avatar before that I'm a big fan of "The Master", Johnny Smith. A good friend of mine is Chet Atkin's nephew, and he introduced me to Johnny. I actually went down to Johnny's place in Colorado Springs and got to jam with him in the bar in his house. Was fun to actually be playing Johnny Smith's Johnny Smith model Gibson. Was a thrill for me for sure. Amazing musician and a great person.

    Hi Andy. Wow! What an honor! If that was me I would've had like 100 questions for him! So you jammed with him? When was this? I read a sad interview where Johnny said that he refuses to play anymore. He said something like "if you're not gonna give it your 100% then don't bother." Something like that. So how was it! How did the guitar feel? I'm also very interested in what amps he might have been using. Did he mention or did you see any of his D'Angelico's? Thanks for the great story! I'd love to hear anything else you are willing to share. If you want shoot me a message.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member AndyC's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    I've met Johnny a few times, but only went to his house that one time. It was in about 1995 or so. We sat in the bar in his house and drank gin and tonics and played - no amps, just jamming with two Johnny Smith model guitars (one was Johnny's the other belongs to the friend I mentioned - Gary Atkins - Chet's nephew). Gary also had a Heritage guitar that Heritage had built for Johnny, and that Johnny had given to Gary.

    Gary is a great player, and he and Johnny showed each other a few things, then Johnny gave me his guitar and picked up the Heritage. I played a solo that sounded pretty good on top of the changes Johnny was playing. Johnny looked up at Gary and said "Where'd this kid come from?". Greatest compliment of my life. I'm sure he was just being kind, but it thrilled me.

    We drank a few gin and tonics that day. Johnny is the consumate professional, but when he's done for the day, he enjoys a drink or two. He made three gin and tonics by filling 12 ounce Manhattan glasses with a few cubes of ice, a lot of gin, and then waved a bottle of vermouth near the glasses. My eyes bugged out a bit when I saw these drinks. He looked at me and said "Son, I don't make children's portions".

    He made dinner for us that night - spagetti with a wonderful homemade vodka sauce. Incredible.

    He stopped playing out years ago. He always took it very seriously of course. Anyone that has knowledge of Johnny knows he doesn't fool around. You learn the hard way, and you practice, and you perfect your craft. He doesn't do it part way. He still plays, but he doesn't play enough to be at the top of his game anymore. The quote you have certainly sounds like something he would say.

    I was also fortunate enough to meet Chet Atkins a couple of times. Also an incredible man as well as unbelievable talent. Chet was a ham radio operator, as are Gary and I. I ended up with Chet's ham radio power amplifier that was left to Gary when Chet passed away. I use it with pride.

    Anyway, I was kind of a third wheel on that day at Johnny's, but it was a real thrill, and Johnny and his wife were really sweet and wonderful to be around. I was a bit intimidated knowing Johnny's background and his discipline as a musician, but he was laid back, funny and cool as could be.

    I have a couple pictures somewhere, and if I can dig them up I'll post them soon.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Wow that's a great story. I love Johnny Smith. That story reminds of a few I could lay down about playing with well known Jazz musicians. I had the pleasure of playing well several world famous jazz cats in New York when I was young. And although I grew surrounded by world famous professional musicians, and have spent my whole life playing with and/or working on their gear or recording well known players, my fondest memories are of getting to work with some cool jazz cats. I never met Johnny Smith, but always wanted to. He's incredible.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Froum Member
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    I don't believe the floaters are different.

    I have my grandfather's L5 that has a Gibby Deluxe pup, mounted to the pick guard (thus floating) by Tony Nobles. It works fine, but I've been lusting for the Lindy Fralin jazz pick up.

    Now, the story about Johnny Smith .... you'll have to excuse me, I have to go find a defibrillator and restart my heart. AndyC, that's some very spell-binding mojo/karma.

    More detail please.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member ES345's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    I bought the Moonlight in Vermont album in '59 or '60, incredible playing, my main inspiration, great story, what a talent and nice man. Thanks for sharing the story.


    peace

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member sine_wave's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Hey Andy,
    Thats some story man! Just to think... you got to play with one of the best guitar players of all time. I know the Heritage guit you're talking about. After the Johnny Smith Gibson came out it set the tone for so many other companies. You sure as hell started seeing floaters a lot more often! I'm wondering if the JS floater was the first ever humbucker type? I know that De Armond had their floating Rhythm Chief ages before, but it was a single coil and operated quite different than the JS. At least one of the Rhythm Chief's was literally like a microphone, with mesh screening and all. Bit different from the stuff we use today. Later on they started integrating pole pieces though. Jeez, I digress. I still wonder why there is barely any info/documentation on the JS floater. What kind of magnet do they use? Maybe I'll post a seperate topic for that question.

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member AndyC's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Quote Originally Posted by sine_wave View Post
    I still wonder why there is barely any info/documentation on the JS floater. What kind of magnet do they use? Maybe I'll post a seperate topic for that question.
    LOL, that was the original topic for this thread before I hijacked it! Sorry!

    I have a picture of Johnny and Gary with the Heritage. I'll post it later tonight. It was the Heritage Johnny Smith model that he endorsed for quite a while. One of the most beautiful sounding guitars I've heard.

    Sorry again to hijack the thread!

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    I have a johnny smith pickup- going by gauss only it looks like alnico 5. Its lacquered together so there is no other way to test the magnet.
    There is no long or short magnet on these, it uses one firebird magnet in the "slug" side, the magnetism is transferred along a steel plate on the bottom of the pickup making the screw side magnetic in the opposite direction

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member AndyC's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    As promised earlier, here's a photo of The Master - Johnny Smith along with Gary Atkins. Gary is holding one of the Heritage Johnny Smith guitars - one that Heritage had presented to Johnny, and Johnny then gave to Gary.

    Gary is Chet Atkin's nephew, and grew up with Johnny Smith and Les Paul around the house a fair bit. Gary's Dad was Jimmy Atkins, who was a guitar player and singer in Les Paul's trio and with Fred Waring. Gary has great stories about growing up with that group around.

    Anyway, with Chet Atkins for an uncle, Gary still always preferred the Johnny Smith's playing, and for decades Johnny has been Gary's mentor, teacher and friend. This photo is from the day Johnny gave Gary the Heritage (he had also previously given him a Gibson Johnny Smith model of course).



    Here's a shot from the late 1980's when Johnny played at a Colorado State University event (where Gary was chief TV engineer). I was chief engineer at Umass, Amherst, and had met Gary through that connection. Gary invited me to do some work at CSU, and go to the concert during that same week. So, I flew out, went skiing, hung out at CSU, and met Johnny and went to the concert. This picture is from a wine and cheese event at the concert:



    Johnny is a really great person. I told Gary that I really liked the song "Ashoken Farewell", which was the soundtrack for the "Civil War" series by Ken Burns. I was trying to work out a nice jazz arrangement of the tune. He told Johnny, and Johnny worked out some changes and sent the sheet music along.

    By the way, the white guitar pick that is stuck in the Heritage in the top photo is a "Johnny Smith Music" pick - a small thick jazz pick favored by Johnny, and sold from his (now closed) music store in Colorado Springs. I have a couple of those left. It's been near impossible to find any just like it. I got some that were similar from Gruhn's last summer, but they aren't exact...

    Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble. Hope you like the photos.

  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member Jignant's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    My father was a guitar teacher and salesman at Johnny Smith Music in the 1960s and has an L7 with the JS pickup mounted that he purchased there in 61. Johnny wanted all his teachers to have the JS model as it had just been introduced by Gibson. My dad was raising a family...and went with the L7. Not that the L7 is a slouch but a 61 JS model would be smokin now! What a big magestic beautiful archtop.

    I can remember as a kid, cruising thru that store and seeing what are now vintage jazz boxes, 335s and other assorted goodies hanging on the racks. My dad and I had a conversation recently about the equipment Johnny stocked in the store (Iwas too young to remember) and he was not big on solid body guitars but he had the archtops.

    We have several of Johnny's LPs autographed to my Dad and some assorted photographs of the store crew and some bluegrass guys all hanging together at his home. I reference his method book occasionaly and enjoy his precision and facility on these old records. The JS pickup on a vintage jazz box...priceless!
    The SWEET DADDY Band...Classic Rock, Southern Rock & Blues.

    STEELER NATION. Love that BLACK n GOLD

  13. #13
    Les Paul Froum Member
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    Shoot me now boys, it doesn't get any better than this!

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member Jignant's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    AndyC,

    It's funny that you mention the white pick because I have a white teardrop pick at home that says Johnny Smith Music in green lettering. It is beat and has been tucked away for some time. If I get motivated, I'll scan some of this autographed stuff AND take some pics of Dad's L7 and share.

    On topic, the JS pickup on my dads guitar has the old coil cord with the scew in jack that connects to the guitar. I have not played this thing electrically for some time. Is the hardware available to make this kind of cable today? As far as I know the cable is fine but it is also over 35 years old...

    I would like to find an old Polytone or something and give that old guitar an electric road test! What are the jazzers using these days if they wish to amplify? Somehow my DSL50 doesn't seem to apply. Maybe and old Ampeg or Fender tube amp...
    The SWEET DADDY Band...Classic Rock, Southern Rock & Blues.

    STEELER NATION. Love that BLACK n GOLD

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member ES345's Avatar
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    Re: You Pickup Gurus/Johnny Smith

    If there was a thread for great stories/photos of vintage "dudes" this would be on the top. I sometimes get a little nasatalgic for the old days, but without the internet we wouldn't be able to share these great photos and stories.

    Thanks.


    peace

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