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Author Topic:  Billy Hew Len
David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 5:34 am    
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Billy Hew Len has been one of my all time favorite players for some time now.

There doesn't seem to be more than a few things in print or on the web about him and his amazing playing.

Any suggestions for learning more about his music?
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 7:46 am    
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 7:52 am    
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 8:01 am    
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 8:06 am    
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 8:06 am    
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A big thank you, Michael, I appreciate the pics.

That "Steel Guitar Magic" recording is one I've treasured for years.

It's nice to see the cover with tunings written out.

The last set has Billy with the pedal steel - is it true that he stopped using it because the pedals mechanism rusted out?
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 8:14 am    
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 8:55 am    
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Pretty sure Billy had two Fender 400 PSGs. The one he's usually pictured with had four pedals from the factory with two more added on. He used this at The Blue Dolphin Room with Sonny Chillingworth and Myra English. I saw it there with him several times circa 1974 and he had the tuning written on the LP jacket on it then. He also used an original Rickenbacker Fry-Pan at the time but mostly a Sho-Bud eight-sting as pictured in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza photos. Probably because it was portable and he could be playing two. three,or even four jobs in a day. Back then in 1974 through about 1977 he was playing a lot of promotionals for Aloha Airlines and flying from one island to another so the Sho-Bud was perfect for that. I did see a second Fender 400 case at his home on one visit, also a Carvin like the one pictured in the catalog. Note the names and photos got reversed by Carvin. IDing Pua as Billy and vise-versa. They supposedly had a doubleneck version as well, at the time Billy played a lot with Pua. Billy's brother Buddy, pictured with the Gibson ES-175 in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza photos, also played steel and owned an original Rickenbacker Fry-Pan of his own. I never did see the second 400 but the one he used at TBDR was in fine working order. I didn't think to write down his pedal changes at the time. I did get two copies of the LP at the Sears store in Ala Moana Shopping Center and when I showed the one to Billy to have him sign it he told me he didn't even have a copy himself so I went back to my hotel and got the second one for him.
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Kirk Francis


From:
Laupahoehoe, HI
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 9:50 am     billy hew len
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and talk about an aggressive vibrato... watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IrSq1rOoL4

what a guy!
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 10:34 am     Re: billy hew len
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Kirk Francis wrote:
and talk about an aggressive vibrato... watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IrSq1rOoL4

what a guy!


I love that video. I recall seeing it on Network many years ago.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 10:43 am    
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Michael Lee Allen wrote:
Pretty sure Billy had two Fender 400 PSGs. The one he's usually pictured with had four pedals from the factory with two more added on.


Do you have any idea what his copedent setup was?
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 2:17 pm    
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Michael Lee Allen wrote:
I didn't think to write down his pedal changes at the time..


Sorry, I should have seen this first read-through.

Does anyone know if Billy's copedents differed from the Fender 400 stock manual?

I looked at the manual and it seems to be based on the A6 tuning....not E9 or C6.

I might like a pedal steel set up that way!
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basilh


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 2:40 pm    
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His other was a shortscale MkII with the cast pedals. It also had longer legs and rods fitted and 9 pedals.It was on sale in a pawnbrokers in Honolulu in early 2005..The mechanism was seized up with ? Salt/sand ??
It now looks like this:-->





CLICK THIS

AND THIS





Last edited by basilh on 5 Dec 2016 3:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 3:06 pm    
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Thank you guys!

I never had chance to meet him.
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 5:38 pm    
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The "standard" A6th tuning is low to high...
F# A C# E F# A C# E
Billy always called "his tuning" an "A6th added b5 added 9th"...
G Bb C# E F# A C# E
although you could give it other names as well.
I have a Fender 400 and one neck of a Fender 1000 set up either in A6th with a pedal or two raising to the BHL tuning. Or in his tuning lowering to A6th. Not sure which way they ended up, they've both been in storage 2000 miles away for about ten years. Along with a medium scale triple neck Fender Stringmaster that has one neck gauged so that it can be retuned from A6th to BHL without string breakage. I don't have the paperwork here with me, all the pedal charts and string gauges are probably with the guitars. I just had ten cartons of papers shipped out from California arriving Friday and have been through most of it. Not there. Have another twenty cartons or so to be shipped in the near future. The instruments will be shipped back at some point and disposed of. I have a battered 1970's Japanese Fuzzy S10 PSG with 6 pedals and a RKR here, my only PSG here in town, that is a prime candidate for getting a combination A6th/BHL tuning put on it as soon as I have space and time to work on it. I knew that I was not going to put any kind of E9th or C6th setup on this, now this thread gave me the A6th/BHL combination as a workable idea, just have to chart out some useable changes before I tear it down and start redoing it.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 5:59 pm    
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Michael Lee Allen wrote:

Billy always called "his tuning" an "A6th added b5 added 9th"...
G Bb C# E F# A C# E

...... a prime candidate for getting a combination A6th/BHL tuning

.... now this thread gave me the A6th/BHL combination as a workable idea, just have to chart out some useable changes before I tear it down and start redoing it.


That tuning with the A6 on top and a dim 7th chord on the bottom is way cool - I just tuned my 8 string to that , and between B11 and the BHL tuning, you could sure play a lot of music.

I had a chance to look at the Fender 400 manual...man, that's a cool axe.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 6:01 pm    
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David M Brown wrote:
Michael Lee Allen wrote:

Billy always called "his tuning" an "A6th added b5 added 9th"...
G Bb C# E F# A C# E

...... a prime candidate for getting a combination A6th/BHL tuning

.... now this thread gave me the A6th/BHL combination as a workable idea, just have to chart out some useable changes before I tear it down and start redoing it.


That tuning with the A6 on top and a dim 7th chord on the bottom is way cool - I just tuned my 8 string to that , and between B11 and the BHL tuning, you could sure play a lot of music.

Technically I think the Bb is a b9, though, if A is the root.

I had a chance to look at the Fender 400 manual...man, that's a cool axe.
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 9:53 pm    
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As long as you don't want want or need to play "modern music" a Fender 400 is fine. There were plenty of them made, in a factory, on an assembly line, for well over a decade. The later shorter scale guitars have less of a string breakage problem. You can get away with playing retro country on those as long as you tune down to Eb9th or D9th. The main thing is they're not hard to find or work or or experiment with. Parts? Pulleys, turnbuckles, and cables from somebody who deals with small planes. Cables from any bicycle mechanic. Most other parts from a full-line old-time hardware store. If you have enough spare strings and the space to flip the thing over you can real-time change a tuning almost as fast as you can chart it out on paper. They turn up on eBay, Reverb, and Craigslist regularly. If you're patient you can get a deal on a buggered refinished one. People messed with them, repainted them, added knee levers,lost parts, and so on. Easy enough to dismantle it, respray the cast Al-Mag frame black again, and make the wood body whatever color you want. Put it back together again and start messing around. Parts turn up too. Also trashed instruments that can become parts donors. I may still have some parts stashed in storage. The cases are the PITA. Made with the same materials and hardware to transport an 8 to 10 pound Stratocaster or Les Paul, they are not going to hold up as well with a 30 to 40 pound Stringmaster, Console Grande, or Fender cable-drive PSG inside. But you've seen the manual, it's butt-simple. The old Carvin "cable-drive" PSGs are similar but parts don't interchange and there were fewer of them made, but they do turn up and are usually in the same price range.

And changing the subject, the "SG" you're pictured with on your website...is that a triple pickup set-neck Davison copy? That's what it looks like to me. I work or worked for the company. On layoff all month because the Christmas rush stuff is done and don't know when or if I'll be going back. I have three of those and a double pickup version in pink. Wider and flatter necks than any Gibson SG i've ever seen. Plus the aesthetics of symetrical cutaways.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Dec 2016 11:53 pm    
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Michael Lee Allen wrote:


And changing the subject, the "SG" you're pictured with on your website...is that a triple pickup set-neck Davison copy? That's what it looks like to me. I work or worked for the company. On layoff all month because the Christmas rush stuff is done and don't know when or if I'll be going back. I have three of those and a double pickup version in pink. Wider and flatter necks than any Gibson SG i've ever seen. Plus the aesthetics of symetrical cutaways.


The red SG has been sold, but it was a 2 pickup model, and I had replaced the pickups with Gibsons. I got a lot of use out of that guitar, but moved on.

So you helped work with Davison? Cool. They make a decent instrument for the price. I was surprised how nice the neck was.

That SG model was interesting because it had the 70's pickup placement rather than the older and now re-used pickup placement.

And thanks for the info on the Fender 400.
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Jeff Au Hoy


From:
Honolulu, Hawai'i
Post  Posted 6 Dec 2016 1:14 am    
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From studying the recordings I've gotten this much...

A6 tuning

Pedals (order I have no clue)
1. dropped the two Es a half step giving a dom9 chord
2. dropped the A down to G# and E down to D giving an E13 or "C#m7" kind of sound
3. raised the F# to G giving a dom7 chord
4. raised the A and F# up a whole step giving a maj7/9 (this also gives a nice 6th chord with the root on the top string)

He also used an augmented chord in the beginning of Lena Machado's "Ho'onanea" that when released resolved nicely to the tonic. Only heard him use this once. I think this was accomplished by dropping the top C# and A down a half step. It wouldn't be a full-across-all-8 chord of course.

I'm not sure if his 400 afforded him multiple pulls on a given string, so it's probable that he didn't have all these pulls on the guitar at the same time. I've just heard them used on various recordings.
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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post  Posted 7 Dec 2016 7:47 am    
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Hi Jeff! Still got that triple neck Magnatone? Going through the boxes of papers that arrived over the weekend I found some Fender catalogs and manuals for the 400 and 1000. Most of what you figured out is possible. The 400 and 1000 only have a half-tone raise or lower capacity. The 800 and 2000 will do a full tone. I may still find my string gauge/tuning charts later on today unless they're in the next batch of boxes that are to be sent out. It's been over ten years since I used those guitars and put them into storage so I really don't remember anymore. I had two 400s there, one I added another 4 pedals from a "parts donor" guitar to bring it up to 8 total and loaded it down with changes. Not sure if I had a whole-tone raise or two on it using two half-tone raise pedals or not. If I find the charts later today I'll know what was possible.
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basilh


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 7 Dec 2016 4:11 pm    
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Michael, the 400 and 1000 can raise and lower MUCH more than a half tone, more like 1 1/2 to 2, BUT the limiting factor and the difference between them and the 800 and 2000 is you can only have one raise and lower on each string, the 800 and 2000 have the capability of two raises and lowers per string.

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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 7 Dec 2016 4:16 pm    
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Great responses, thank you all so much.

But y'all still have not explained why Billy's music seems relatively, shall we say, un-TAB'd compared to other players?
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 7 Dec 2016 4:36 pm    
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I have an audio DVD made by Hal Smith, a real gentleman from Canada, who recorded hours of lessons with Billy and also some of his performances. It's really great to listen to Billy's off the cuff demonstrations on his Frypan, changing his tunings drastically and showing the effects. A real treasure that I can't find at the moment.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 7 Dec 2016 4:49 pm    
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Mike Neer wrote:
I A real treasure that I can't find at the moment.


Man, I'd LOVE to have a DVD of Billy's lessons.

Yeah, a real treasure!
Billy's style needs to be carried on!
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