Thursday, October 16, 2008

“A Jazzmaster for the King”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: I’ve written frequently in this column about Davie Allan and The Arrows. Though we live on opposite sides of the continent, our lives have become intertwined through a shared love of tonal expression. What follows here is evidence of how the music can bring people from distant places together for a single purpose.

Who carries the torch for Rock ‘n’ Roll?

With Elvis, Hendrix, James Brown and Bo Diddley gone to oblivion, who can be said to embody the spirit that sired America’s most popular cultural innovation?

In the hearts of those inspired by the electric guitar, and its undeniable connection to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, there is but one reigning individual.

Fans call him ‘King Fuzz.’

He is Davie Allan, graduate of Grant High School in Van Nuys, California. Master of the amplified plectrum and an icon of sixties-era rebellion. Champion of melodic innovation. Yet still ‘one of us’ in a sense that few gifted artists can accomplish.

Those who have been privileged to share his journey feel a particular sense of ‘oneness’ as a result. Because he is accessible, with no pretentiousness to stain his character. A genuine correspondent. Active in the social circle he created. And a genuine participant in the lives of his admirers.

Owing to this unique bond between the artist and his audience, the ‘Arrowheads’ are loyal to excess.

Especially when considering the subject of honor for the ‘king’ of melodic grunge.

During a recent online discussion, some in the group reflected on the fact that Allan had never been honored with his own ‘signature’ model of guitar. This seemed odd in view of the fact that he has played a 1965 Fender Jazzmaster for over forty years.

Our conversation inspired one member to locate a contact in the company offices.

It was the sort of opportunity I could not ignore. I composed a letter almost immediately:

“Dear Fender, I am a writer in the Cleveland, Ohio area. I've been privileged to review works by many popular and successful musicians over the past twenty-six years, including the recordings of legendary guitarist Davie Allan.

This skillful player first gained national attention for 'Blues Theme' from the 1966 film 'The Wild Angels' with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. Since then he has amassed an impressive catalog of compositions that have helped define the very nature of modern Rock 'n' Roll instrumentals.

Davie still resides in southern California, and is active as a performer and recording artist. Fans revere him as 'King Fuzz' because of the tonal distortion that comprises much of his recorded history. In addition, he is familiar to listeners because of his signature use of the tremolo (whammy bar) to bend plucked notes into tuneful submission.

I mention all of this because Davie is also notable for one other habit – gigging and recording with a 1965 Fender Jazzmaster. His enduring history with this instrument is touching, and inspirational. One that I believe deserves to be commemorated by the company, itself. Your company, to be specific.

I make this observation as a Fender fanatic myself – owner of three precious Fender guitars and a vintage Fender amplifier. I am very conscious of the legacy that you hold as a manufacturer of great distinction. America reveres your products. And, those who have employed them to bring joyful melodic expressions to the general public.

I invite you to visit and consider the enduring career of Davie and The Arrows. You could do no better in seeking an advocate for Fender, and the Jazzmaster guitar. I believe that a DA signature model of this guitar would not only be cherished by musicians and collectors around the world, but indeed, would uplift the overall standing of your company.

Sincere thanks for your kind consideration in this matter!”

Our campaign was humble in its beginning. But when Davie shared news of our correspondence, other voices joined the chorus, including some from the record business:

“My name is Bob Irwin and I'm the president of Sundazed Music, which has been one of the world's leading reissue record labels since 1989… Davie Allan's guitar style is one of the most recognizable, revolutionary, and widely imitated sounds in the history of rock 'n' roll. It is my understanding that there is an effort currently underway to persuade Fender to manufacture a Davie Allan signature Jazzmaster guitar. I can think of few other musicians—and few other makers of musical instruments—more deserving of such an honor. I sincerely hope that Fender will consider this proposition.”

Eventually, other guitarists began to speak out on Allan’s behalf, including ‘Little Steven’ Van Zandt, a veteran of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band:

“I would like to respectfully ask you to consider, and I would enthusiastically recommend, a Special Edition Davie Allan Signature Jazzmaster.

He is without a doubt one of the most exciting, accomplished, and inspiring guitar players that has ever lived and remains tirelessly active, having been recently featured in the prestigious opening position at our International Garage Rock Festival… Davie's classic Christmas collection, Fuzz for the Holidays, remains everyone's favorite holiday party record…”

The most amazing of these letters came from Mike Curb, the music industry mogul. Allan and Curb had both come from Grant High School, with prodigious amounts of talent and vision. Yet while Curb enriched himself through a hard-charging business philosophy, King Fuzz often found the pathway to 21st Century life strewn with misfortune.

Allan sought to make a creative contribution to the world. Meanwhile, his erstwhile partner wanted to spin the globe for profit.

Over the decades, Curb seemed disinterested in the fortunes of his former classmate. But then came an unexpected message from his office in Nashville:

“Davie Allan has been playing the Fender 1965 Jazzmaster for as long as I’ve known him. He’s had many amazing musical moments, including being a part of some of the most influential West Coast soundtrack albums, such as Peter Fonda’s ‘Wild Angels’ and many others. All of his chart hits, including Blues Theme utilized the Fender guitar and many articles have been written throughout the country about the influence Davie’s guitar style had on numerous others. It would be a great tribute to Davie’s nearly 50 years of innovative sounds involving the Fender guitar if a Special Edition Signature Jazzmaster was named after him.”

Curb’s letter was like a cannon-shot that echoed for days afterward.
The merit of a Davie Allan Jazzmaster could no longer be denied!

Postscript: In responding to our cry for the ‘D. A.’ guitar, Fender has not yet offered their endorsement. But the chant is growing in volume. To join the campaign, send your personal observations to:

Fender Musical Instruments Corp.
8860 E. Chaparral Road, Suite 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

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