Jeff Beck finds Cliff in an old Gretsch! New "Mystery Train" Recording Is Proof
Story by UEC
Did you know that Jeff Beck recorded his version of “Mystery Train” on the new release, “Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records”, with a Gretsch Duo Jet! A recent review of the record from Guitar One Magazine says, “Moment of Truth: Jeff Beck and Chrissie Hynde, “Mystery Train”, Beck shows off his Cliff Gallup influence with some flashy yet tasty electric fingerstyle licks soaked in slapback delay. Jeff Beck’s Gear: Gretsch Duo Jet straight through a Fender Bassman.
This is not Jeff’s first encounter with a flying Gretsch! Jeff was able to capture the authentic “Cliff Gallup” sound when he discovered a couple of old Duo Jets! Here in his own words, Jeff discusses both the unique sounding Duo Jets and his early influence from “hero” Cliff Gallup.
Excerpt from `The Guitar Magazine’ Vol 3 No 4, June 1993
Jeff Beck ‘For ‘Crazy Legs’ I used a Gretsch Duo Jet – I knew Cliff [Gallup] used one ’cause there’s quite a good picture on the sleeve of the album ‘Blue Jean Bop’. At the time it was a mystery guitar because you couldn’t see the headstock so there were all these rumours flying around about what it could be. Once we’d established it was a Duo Jet we made inroads into getting one. I bought a totally wrong one – a ’63, which is now sitting upstairs in my attic. Someone said the one to get was the ’56 Duo Jet so I asked for one with a fixed arm Bigsby, only to be told that they don’t exist. I kept looking and now I’ve got two – one with a swivel arm Bigsby, which I used on the album, and one with an original fixed arm factory fitted Bigsby, which I got after the album. When I got the fixed arm guitar – by golly! – it was a lot closer to the Gallup sound. I don’t know whether it’s the resonance through the Bigsby arm or what, but it seemed far closer.
From Jeff Beck…
For the lover of the style of Cliff Gallup,
here is an interview of Jeff Beck talking about Cliff’ s technique:
“When I was learning guitar, Cliff Gallup was the biggest influence on my playing – the cut was pretty deep and the scar has never healed! It was just so radical – it probably doesn’t sound metally or threatening now but if you were back in June ’56 and turned the record right up… Boy! The term “rock ‘n’ roll” had hardly been bandied about and all the other “rock” records of the time were very polished and audibly nice and round. Then you put on Gene Vincent and had this guy screaming and these raucous guitar solos – it was unheard of and no one has done anything like it since.
“I had the right sort of guitar for when we started the ‘Crazy Legs’ album – a Gretsch Duo Jet – so I thought if I’d gone this far I may as well try to pick in the same way as Gallup. I remembered reading this interview with Cliff Gallup in a magazine years and years ago [‘Guitar Player’, December ’83] where he talks about his playing technique but I couldn’t remember where it was. I had a stack of magazines but I just couldn’t find it! In the end I had to get in photocopied and faxed from the States. It was a bit smudgy and right where he was talking about picking the page was blurred! So I still couldn’t use it!
“Then something amazing happened – an American journalist who had some of Cliff’s picks gave them to me along with a little letter. He used metal fingerpicks on his middle and ring fingers, but to fit them in an envelope to post them Cliff had flattened them out! He also used a huge, triangular plectrum with his thumb and first finger. Now, I tried that but it was hopeless – I couldn’t do it at all! I found myself using the pick only and the other two fingers were just hanging around doing nothing. My normal style is using thumb and first two fingers, so I put fingerpicks on my fingers and a thumbpick on my thumb.
“The guitar parts were all difficult to get right. Some of the harder sounding things like the triplet runs were not hard at all but it’s what you do after the runs that counts. I put myself in Cliff’s shoes for a month and I’ve got to take my hat off to him – if he came out with those solos off the top of his head then the guy was more of a monster than I ever believed. Having said that, I’ve tried to copy myself sometimes and it’s not easy to copy something spontaneous.
“If people are disappointed with the album ’cause I didn’t do my own thing then they’re missing the point. I wanted to show people what Cliff was doing and I wanted to be Cliff when we were doing it. The solos are so beautifully formed with a beginning, middle and end that they’re like small miracles.”