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  1. #1

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    REVISED JANUARY 2017:
    We're starting with "Blues in C", the first solo (five or six choruses) from Herb's book "Swing Blues." We're going four bars at a time. (Four bars per week.) Posts videos of your progress and comment (constructively, please) on the posts of others. Talk about trouble spots, realizations, whatever. [Go to page 12 or beyond for most current posts]

    REVISED DEC 2016:::: The emphasis is on what we can learn from Herb's playing / teaching and what we can do with it.


    Herb Ellis published three books late in his career that comprise the Herb Ellis Jazz Guitar Method. Those books are: “Swing Blues,” “Rhythm Shapes,” and “All the Shapes You Are.” (See links below.) In them, Herb makes use of what he calls the “Shape System.” What the heck is that?


    “The 'Shape System' relates melodic ideas to basic chord shapes instead of relating them to endless scale patterns, modes and arpeggios. This convenient and simple approach saves the player from the drudgery of practicing scales in all positions, including all of the unnecessary, awkward and impractical fingerings. In addition to being an efficient use of practice time, this system allows the player to sound more natural and musical instead of sounding like somebody playing scales.” (From “Swing Blues,” page 4.)


    I love these books and now know some others are using them. A study group would be a good way to encourage practice, share results, and give as well as receive feedback. (No one is required to post audio / video for review by others, but I hope most take advantage of the opportunity.)


    We would start with “Swing Blues.” This book features 3 solos by Herb: “Blues in C” (-five choruses), “Bounce Blues” (in F, six choruses) and “Bay Blues” (three choruses of slow blues in Bb).

    The Herb Ellis Jazz Guitar Method : Swing Blues: Herb Ellis, Terry Holmes: 0029156204568: Amazon.com: Books

    The Herb Ellis Jazz Guitar Method: Rhythm Shapes: Herb Ellis, Terry Holmes, Harry A. Hess: 0029156204551: Amazon.com: Books

    The Herb Ellis Jazz Guitar Method: [b*] All the Shapes You Are: Herb Ellis, Terry Holmes: 0029156204544: Amazon.com: Books

    A book that has come out since this thread started:
    Amazon.com: Best of Herb Ellis: Artist Transcriptions for Guitar (9781480383647): Herb Ellis: Books

    In case you're wondering whether Herb's shapes are the "CAGED" shapes, the answer is no. They are closer to the "FAD" shapes Fred Sokolow uses in his "Fretboard Roadmaps" books. Herb doesn't name the shapes. In the books, they are "Shape 1, shape 2, shape 3..." You may call them whatever works best for you.

    A taste of Herb's approach to the blues:

    Last edited by MarkRhodes; 01-17-2017 at 09:07 PM.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Glad to hear it, Jeff!
    Let's give this a day to see who else wants to join and then we'll get started. (Others may start later, of course.)

  4. #3

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    I'm in. I've spent ages cherry-picking random lessons from the web and I'm getting nowhere. This will give me a specific lesson regimen to work from.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by lazybones
    I'm in. I've spent ages cherry-picking random lessons from the web and I'm getting nowhere. This will give me a specific lesson regimen to work from.
    Great! Welcome aboard.

  6. #5

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    I just ordered the book. Let's do this.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whirly
    I just ordered the book. Let's do this.
    Great! It's officially on, then.

    Tomorrow, I'll make a post a short vid, show some of the shapes and demonstrate a few lines so that some of those who aren't sure what the heck we're talking about will have a better idea. Maybe they'll join us.

  8. #7

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    I already own the three books, but I just picked some licks here and there... I think some method in my approach would be a great thing! You can count me in.

  9. #8

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    I just bought the book from Amazon, and will try to follow along.

  10. #9

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    Hi Me too

    Alan

  11. #10

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    I have some old Herb Ellis books but not these...I'll have to check them out....

    I've gone through about 100 books or more in my 50 years of playing the guitar ( and 15 other instruments)..methods...single note playing...chords & progressions...rhythmic etudes...improvisation..etc...

    need some new (more) material to go through as if I did not have enough...

    I learned the "shape system" from a Charlie Christian article some years ago..it really works...

    Luck to those signing on to this endeavor...

    time on the instrument...

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre richard
    I have some old Herb Ellis books but not these...I'll have to check them out....
    Pierre, I would love to see those other Herb Ellis books. I've seen them mentioned here and there but I think they've all been out of print for decades. If you check out the more recent stuff (---published in the '90s), I would love to hear how they compare with the older material. I would imagine there's much overlap: it's not as if he changed styles in his '80s.

  13. #12

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    A disciplined approach ...... staying focused ....... maximizing practice time ...... I bring none of these attributes to my love of jazz improvisation. Just ordered the book on Amazon. I'm in!

  14. #13

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    Sorry, I'm already up to my eyeballs in the Van Eps trio of books "Harmonic Mechanisms for the Guitar." I'm on page 44 after about 2 months of daily study and practice...about 900 more pages to go to finish all 3, which at this pace will take me another approximately 45 months. This is on par with what Steve Herberman told me - that it took him about 5 years to go through all 3 of those books. I gotta long road ahead of me.

  15. #14

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    Hi Mark

    I have the blues shapes book from the 80's and a video from the same era (I don't have a vid player any more though) the vid is on the net somewhere . If you can't get the old book I could scan and email it too you

    Alan

  16. #15

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    As of now I can't afford the book for these lessons. But I will follow this thread and hopefully gleam some information from the postings.

    So....I guess you could say I'm semi-in.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by edh
    As of now I can't afford the book for these lessons. But I will follow this thread and hopefully gleam some information from the postings.

    So....I guess you could say I'm semi-in.
    Semi-in is better than completely out!

  18. #17

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    While we're at this, who here is adept with music writing software? For this group, something that makes (chord) diagrams would be ideal. If we all (or nearly all) have the book, it's not needed, but I would like to post a few shapes for those who don't have the books so they could see what we're up to, maybe join in....

    I downloaded MuseScore, which is free, but frankly, I suck at using it. (That's mainly for the Chordal Pattern System material...)

  19. #18

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    I'm interested.... but I made a New Years Resolution to not buy any more music books this year until i worked through some very specific 6 month goals i've set. Luckily i've stuck to them so far, so I guess i follow along and see what happens...

  20. #19

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    Me in as well!

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by djangoles
    I'm interested.... but I made a New Years Resolution to not buy any more music books this year until i worked through some very specific 6 month goals i've set. Luckily i've stuck to them so far, so I guess i follow along and see what happens...
    Ha! I've made that same resolution before, though not this year. This year was different: in December I bought the Garrison Fewell book, about which I've heard no end of great things, and that was going to be my focus but as it turns out, I haven't opened it! Instead, I'm working on my picking (-adopting the Benson technique, with the aid of Fep, Philco, setemupjoe and others on a thread devoted to that topic) and going over the Carol Kaye / Herb Ellis material. If I get my picking ironed out, I'll be okay; otherwise, nothing new is going to go as well as I'd like.

    As for Herb's stuff, you can pay attention and pick up things without it interfering with anything else you are studying. It's not that strict a system. One of the best things about it, though, is that Herb's book indicates fingerings and that's important to how he plays. Not that he has a weird fingering system but I've noticed more than once that, "Hey, I don't think that fingering is a good one," only to realize later it was better than the one I thought was "obvious". Anyway, stay tuned and see if there's anything helpful to you in what we do.

  22. #21

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    I'll throw my hat in here. I'm back to learning jazz guitar after a few years off the instrument, played for 25 years now I guess, but never had the gumption to really sit and learn theory and such. Herb has always been one of my favorites, so seems like a good place to re-start. I've got a copy of the Swing Blues book, so time to delve in.

    One of my favorite albumns is "Triple Threat", and I'm in the process of transcribing Herb's guitar on Body and Soul. I'll post that somewhere around here if anyone's interested. Herb seems like a great place to start learning, he's so tasteful and doesn't seem overly complicated in his playing.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    Welcome! I don't have "Triple Threat." Would love to see a transcription of Herb soloing over "Body And Soul." Love that tune. YouTube offers a video of Herb and Barney Kessel playing that---good stuff
    IMO Herb's treatment of the head of Body and Soul is the best I've ever heard. That video is pretty similar to the record. Triple Threat is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan. His solo on When Lights Are Low is also one of the best.

  24. #23

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    If you get on to the other books, especially "All the Shapes There Are aka All the Chords There Are," real title "All the Things You Are by Jerome Kern", there's a book by Mimi Fox called "Arpeggio Studies on Jazz Standards" that takes you further, in that it helps you deal with m7b5, 7b9 7+ etc. They should be part of the same course. It also gives guidance on superimposing what seems to be an unrelated chord over the given chord to come up with all the outside extensions. If anything it's less "down home and bluesy", (my real reason for liking Herb's playing) and more bop oriented.

    Hope this helps.

  25. #24

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    Just another thought.
    When you try to imitate Herb and sing what you want to play, do you end up like me and sing what you're playing?

  26. #25

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    This thread is coming back to life...I find the 'Shapes' book to be hard to get started on - not sure why but the instructions suggest just getting a quick feel for the various lines in the first part, but to then concentrate on getting the full solo off, note for note. I've learned solos from others before but somehow this one seems difficult to listen to (the sonics are a bit harsh on that CD) and I'm not grabbed by it enough to follow that instruction fully - prefer to work on the various lines over specific chords.

    Agree, the Mimi book is also helpful, if you have the discipline to work through the arpeggio studies. Ha, I think discipline must be my problem

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by odel
    This thread is coming back to life...I find the 'Shapes' book to be hard to get started on - not sure why but the instructions suggest just getting a quick feel for the various lines in the first part, but to then concentrate on getting the full solo off, note for note.
    You're talking about "Al the Shapes You Are," right? Yes, he does say just play each 'vamp' a few times, then learn the solo (-three choruses) and go back to learn the vamps. I think the idea is that once you learn the solo, the vamps are easier to learn.

    That solo is a bit tricky at times, especially since Herb plays it without any rhythmic backing, so you don't hear chords as he plays the solo. The good thing is that you learn to play three choruses of solo material for "ATTYA" without harmonic backing----when you can make people hear the changes when no one is actually playing them, well, you've reached a high level of jazz.

    It took me awhile to get the first chorus down.

    As for the vamps, I learned a few of those anyway. The dominant 9 vamps are good for bridges of rhythm section tunes (-among other things). That book is full of great jazz guitar 'vocabulary.' Really, just jazz vocabulary.

  28. #27

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    Yes, that's the book...based around ATTYR. Just gave the track a listen again...might take another swing at it.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by odel
    Yes, that's the book...based around ATTYR. Just gave the track a listen again...might take another swing at it.
    There's a lot of great stuff in there. I found "Rhythm Shapes" useful too. I know a lot of those 8-bar phrases by heart and they sure come in handy when I'm singing a tune and want to take a break to solo but have nothing backing me---the lines have to carry themselves, so to speak, and Herb's tend to do that.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by nu_mike
    Just another thought.
    When you try to imitate Herb and sing what you want to play, do you end up like me and sing what you're playing?
    Herb Ellis said " When I'm playing I sing what I play or I'm playing what I sing"

  31. #30

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    This is a great series and is really making fretboard visualisation "click" for me in a way that other approaches haven't. It's particularly enlightening when you get Herb's shapes down and then go back and look at some Charlie Christian solos.

    I'm currently making my way through 'Swing Blues'... it's a shame the study group fizzled.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jehu
    This is a great series and is really making fretboard visualisation "click" for me in a way that other approaches haven't. It's particularly enlightening when you get Herb's shapes down and then go back and look at some Charlie Christian solos.

    I'm currently making my way through 'Swing Blues'... it's a shame the study group fizzled.
    I'm working in "Swing Blues" again too. I love lots of the lines in that book. (And there's a phrase here and there that still can trip me up.)

    As for the study group, yeah, it hasn't been all that I had hoped, but then, there's not a lot to SAY about the material: get the books, learn the lines, play 'em.

    I have talked to Frank (fep) about the great success of his group about Joe Elliott's book on learning to improvise. Frank pointed out that that book is unusual in that it gives you exercises to play but there's not just one way to play them. There are many ways. So lots of guys made videos of how they played this or that exercise. There was a lot more to talk about, more notes to compare, so to speak.

    But hey, this group could catch fire any day. Herb's licks still sound good, and his way of organizing the fretboard remains very handy.

  33. #32

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    Yeah, I think that's probably the issue. The heart of the method is internal: visualising those shapes as you play Herb's lines (and eventually your own).

    I do wish that Herb and/or the author would have been more explicit with what to do with all of this once you have those solos down. Sure, we can come up with things on our own: improv your own lines over the shapes/progressions, isolate some of Herb's and come up with variations, use the lines over different chords, etc. But the fact that this is the 'Herb Ellis Method' implies that he has, well, a method in mind for what the next step should be. (Maybe he does in the next two books, but I haven't made it that far yet.)

    Probably the biggest challenge is the fact that those transcriptions are very inaccurate. They're helpful in that they give you an idea of where the notes are, but if you want to learn what Herb is actually playing in the recordings, you need to transcribe it yourself. Which is probably good practice anyway.

  34. #33

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    Wondering what could the user of this book could be expected to learn as a result of finishing it.....be able to play in a bluesy way over the changes in jazz standards perhaps? Thanks for any input!

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by angelpa
    Wondering what could the user of this book could be expected to learn as a result of finishing it.....be able to play in a bluesy way over the changes in jazz standards perhaps? Thanks for any input!
    All three books contain a lot of great lines, the very sorts of lines Herb played live and on many, many recording sessions both as a leader and sideman. They're great "jazz vocabulary."

    I'm learning some solos from the new book of Herb Ellis transcriptions put out by Hal Leonard and I see a lot of stuff in those lines that is like what is in his books.

    I apologize for not being more active with this thread. I started it but took a long detour to work on Benson picking and haven't stuck with this like it deserves. (Well, I still play Herb's lines a lot but I haven't stuck with the thread.)

    Give me a week and I'll post something from the book and something not from the book that shows how Herb used the same sorts of ideas "on the record."

  36. #35

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    I am back to Swing Blues now with a bit of a vengeance as I am determined to isolate some key sounds to improve my routine blues playing e.g., making the transition to the V sound more interesting. That first solo in the book is actually quite interesting. It sounds easier than it plays but the layout makes it easy to parse the sections that really catch my ear and I've found that working slowly through the exact lines can give me phrases to throw into my own playing nicely. OK, it 's not the recommended way of memorizing the exact solo first but I'm getting there.

    If there's interest still, maybe we can share a few experiences/questions with each solo as we go?

  37. #36

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    Mark (and anyone else): being a, well, not so good improviser, my main question though is what you all might think might be accomplished by someone with my.....ahem...limited skills after completing this book. Of course I'm not expecting it to do Everything, but would it help in teaching someone to improvise over the changes in jazz standards? Thanks again!

  38. #37

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    OK, at the very least, if you learn the solos, you will have some good lines to play over typical progressions. Don't underestimate how empowering that alone can be. But the real value, as far as I can tell for me, is not the memorization of nice sounding solos but the ability to visualize shapes or patterns that take me out of pentatonic boxes or root-sourced arpeggios. Even something as simple as viewing shape 1 in Herb's scheme as a way of handling dom7 or maj chords had me sounding different in a basic 12 bar blues from the outset. While I've not worked through everything, I can start to see the neck differently and feel confident venturing out from the basic shapes I always used. Now, I don't even really think about what scale to employ over what part of a tune, I think back to chords and shapes and find a way of sounding that works within the tune from there. It's sort of taken me backward and forward at the same time, if that makes any sense. All I can say is try one of the books. I think Swing Blues might be the most appropriate but others can probably speak to that better than I.
    Last edited by odel; 02-10-2015 at 09:45 PM.

  39. #38

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    Thanks Odel. Very helpful

  40. #39

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    I like this method a lot. I've gotten the first 2 solos to sound pretty good, timed to the chords.

    Now I have to get a lot deeper into the linking of the chord shape with the line, and memorize a whole solo (I've just done 1 page at a time so far). It helped me to really slow it down (I mean, 50 on the ticker) to be able to play the line from memory and say out loud "F shape, high F shape" etc. as they pass.

    The lines are great, and I love the little chord stabs that Herb puts in.

  41. #40

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    Thanks JazzinNY!

  42. #41

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    As much as I like the book, some of the printed shape sequences are a Real Head Scratcher (TM).

    I think they're actually typesetting errors.

    Example, in Swing Blues, page 24, top line, 2nd full measure: the notes F G A G don't square with the shape and the tab/fingering below. BUT if you play it all on the second string, with fingering 1 - 3 - 3 - 3 then it fits the shape better.

    Another one: page 27, 2nd line. That Shape 2 doesn't work for me there. It seems to really fit in middle of next measure. You slide hand from 5th to 6th position in middle of the 2nd measure. And the fingering for that measure should be
    1 4 1 2 (shift hand) 2 1 3 4.

    This is the same movement he does suggest on page 24, second line, and I really like it there because it shows how you can smoothly shift position to position with chromatic help.

    Just my opinion ...

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by angelpa
    Mark (and anyone else): being a, well, not so good improviser, my main question though is what you all might think might be accomplished by someone with my.....ahem...limited skills after completing this book. Of course I'm not expecting it to do Everything, but would it help in teaching someone to improvise over the changes in jazz standards? Thanks again!
    Having some good lines over blues progressions, for starters. Many such lines will work in other contexts too. More, you learn how to play out of the shapes. (There are many ways to mentally organize the fretboard; that is, to get around it in a smooth, convenient way: this is one that worked for Herb and many other great players.)

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzinNY
    As much as I like the book, some of the printed shape sequences are a Real Head Scratcher (TM).

    I think they're actually typesetting errors.

    Example, in Swing Blues, page 24, top line, 2nd full measure: the notes F G A G don't square with the shape and the tab/fingering below. BUT if you play it all on the second string, with fingering 1 - 3 - 3 - 3 then it fits the shape better.

    Another one: page 27, 2nd line. That Shape 2 doesn't work for me there. It seems to really fit in middle of next measure. You slide hand from 5th to 6th position in middle of the 2nd measure. And the fingering for that measure should be
    1 4 1 2 (shift hand) 2 1 3 4.

    This is the same movement he does suggest on page 24, second line, and I really like it there because it shows how you can smoothly shift position to position with chromatic help.

    Just my opinion ...
    As for the first one you mention, I agree that it is played out of the "F" shape. I think the diagram refers to Bb7 (what I call the "F" shape and what Herb calls Shape 2) because that's the chord for that measure of the tune. (That's the shape for the chord you play in that measure.) I think the ending phrase (beats 3 and 4) anticipates the coming F7 chord. Herb does that a lot.

  45. #44

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    Excellent information. Thank you all. I'm going to work on his Blues book.

  46. #45

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    I'm in. Anyone else still on the blues book??

  47. #46

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    The guitar, a Harmony H6600 was passed on to me
    20 years ago by his very good friend, co-author and plaing
    partner Terry Holmes while Terry lived up here in Seattle
    during the late 1980's and early 1990's. He left it with me
    when he moved back to Little Rock a few years before he
    passed away from cancer. Terry was an Awesome fellow
    and a dear friend which is why I have held on to the guitar for
    so long.

  48. #47

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    I have the Blues book and am getting back into it, working through Blues in C, so if there's interest, I'll join in....

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by pizzaman011
    The guitar, a Harmony H6600 was passed on to me
    20 years ago by his very good friend, co-author and plaing
    partner Terry Holmes while Terry lived up here in Seattle
    during the late 1980's and early 1990's. He left it with me
    when he moved back to Little Rock a few years before he
    passed away from cancer. Terry was an Awesome fellow
    and a dear friend which is why I have held on to the guitar for
    so long.
    Quite a story! I didn't know Terry was from Little Rock.

  50. #49

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    Odel (and others): I'm in.

  51. #50

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    I'm between computers. As soon as I get a camera added to the new one, I'll make a short vid to get the ball rolling. Probably just my take of "Blues In C".

    Thanks for the interest, guys!